Nargis Khatoon: A New Kashmiri Singing Sensation With Celebrity Fanbase

Nargis Khatoon

From Pakistani star singers to Bollywood celebrities, a young Kashmiri singer-songwriter is sweeping praises from all and sundry for her melodic performances on the Internet.

IT was turning out to be another dreary day for the 21-year-old budding Kashmiri singer on July 5, 2020, until a top Pakistani celebrity singer Ali Sethi reposted her song on his Instagram stories.

Within hours, Nargis Khatoon’s inbox was flooded with messages. The people from all over the world including Pakistan, UAE and India fell in love with her voice.

The raging response didn’t stop there.

A few days later, another Pakistani singer Ali Zafar retweeted her song on his twitter handle, and praised her voice.

“It was crazy,” Nargis told Kashmir Observer. “I got so much love and support from people that I could never imagine.”

The appreciation and praises for her voice didn’t only come from the other side of the border.

On July 14, Bollywood actress, Sushmita Sen while retweeting her song wrote: “Uffff! @nargisKhatoon Love you!”

The Kashmiri girl’s singing power and prowess was also appreciated by Bollywood singer Ehsaan of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy fame on a Live Instagram show. 

Nargis was born and brought-up in Jammu region where her father was running his business. She now lives in Srinagar with her family.

As a small girl, she used to sing on her school functions and radio shows. She sang around 9 songs for a children show broadcasted by Doordarshan.

“When I started singing, it was all natural,” continues Nargis, who’s currently pursuing her BBA. “Singing was always a part of my life.”

At 17, the singer—who has till date performed in different states of India—started learning the basics of Indian classical music.

“Right now, I’m learning and playing guitar simultaneously,” she says. “I’m also taking western vocal lessons. And I started learning ukulele [a small four-stringed guitar of Hawaiian origin] exactly from the day the lockdown started.”

Since the outbreak of pandemic, the singer-songwriter—who keeps sharing her musical content on Instagram and Twitter—has kept the audience glued to her social media profiles. Her online performances are being eagerly awaited by her growing fanbase.

“I’ve had so many rollercoaster moments since this pandemic took over and the lockdown was imposed,” Nargis says.

“People have been showering so much of love and support that I’m just overwhelmed and grateful.”

The fact her voice “soothes” people and gives them a good time, as she has been hearing throughout in the form comments and messages on social media, makes her extremely happy.

The singing sensation calls a Pakistani-born British singer Salma Agha, who sang as well as acted in Bollywood films in the 1980s and the early 1990s, as her first ever inspiration. She follows songsters like Adele, Mamie Smith, Shafqat Amanat Ali, Lata Mangeshkar, SEL and Shameem Dev.

“These are the people I started listening to as a kid,” she says. “A lot of music got into my ears without me realising that I’m getting used to it. My ears are getting familiar with some styles, poetry, the ways of expression and voices.”

As someone who wants to carve her career in playback singing, Nargis reckons that she hasn’t yet started. However, she makes no bones about how internet is aiding to her singing growth and graph.

The singer is also exploring new genres, styles and techniques. She’s also meeting new people and exploring options of collaborating, jamming with different musicians, live arena, and the studio experiences.

“All of these add to one’s core talent, and this is what I’ve exactly been doing and experiencing for years,” she says.

“Nobody can teach you the way experiences can, and that’s what makes it a beautiful process for me.”

Musical training, she says, is all about ears. “How well your ears can identify music, the smaller nuances, and also, any art is mostly heart and soul,” she says.

For a female singer, however, there’s a “lack of opportunities” in J&K bereft of the Live Scenes, she rues.

“I could see guys doing music, but I didn’t see any girl around pursuing it,” Nargis says. “That was not a problem for me but I’d just wonder how come no other girl is trying to break into the scene.”

In her case, however, it was her late mother who would encourage her from the word go: “Tche chhay asl aawaz” (Your voice is very nice).

“What more did I need at that time?” she says. “But yes, my family was a little hesitant upon seeing my seriousness about music.”

Despite knowing challenges in the field of music in the erstwhile state, Nargis remains upbeat about her singing journey.

“I believe we, especially Kashmiri girls, shouldn’t give up,” the vocalist says. “Ours isn’t a conservative society. So, it doesn’t hurt to explore more and get better.”

Besides, she says, there’s no dearth of art in the valley.

“Bad times we’ve passed through has made a part of our society bitter to some extent, but our resilience for life, liveliness and love for the art and culture remains the same,” she says. “And that’s what keeps us going.”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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