The influence and legacy of Basharat Shafi — A celebrated Brooshaaski poet


Asif Ali Ashraf

The soul of a poet lives on in his words and the words live on inmemories of those who listen to them. While Basharat Shafi has passed away from this mortal world, yet he remains with his devoted listeners through his poetry. Shafi left the field of political activism and began using his poetry and music as his social activism — a move which proved far more influential for inducing a change in society especially in the Brooshaaski-speaking community of Yasen in Gilgit Baltistan. He breathed new life to a language that had almost died, reinvigorating it to grasp new ideas and possibilities for the people.

He shaped a vision for the Brooshaaski-speaking people and their indigenous culture in their own mother tongue. Born in a family that was active in politics of Gilgit-Baltistan, Shafi had an innovative spirit with an ardent desire to bring about change in the ethos of his primitive and mountainous society. He began his early life as an outspoken fiery political orator and progressive writer. Later on, he softened his stance and redirected his approach and chose poetry and music to do something for a social change.

Shafi was a trendsetter who contributed to the revival of the Brooshaaski language and the emergence of Brooshaaski poetry in the modern context. In a conversation not long before his death, Shafi shared that he had been an angry and resentful man during his student life and political activism age, but he became an entirely different person when he switched to literature and music to convey his message. His ideas, thoughts napproach changed from one of a resentment person to one who spread love, affection, harmony, and unity among the people through his poetry. Shafi also strongly emphasized held that he no longer had any political affiliation. The turning point for Shafi came during his occupancy at Radio Pakistan Gilgit where he observed the poor quality of the local music as well as its low appeal to listeners. He also felt the dire need to work in Brooshaaski.

Shafi followed the calling of his spirit and entered the sphere of poetry and used his poetry and songs to address numerous issues in a way that enabled his ideas to reach to the common man at the grassroots level with a gentle, yet appealing, touch. His work was realistic and significant to the speakers of the language and reached them in meaningful ways encompassing multidimensional topics and poetic styles. Additionally, he initiated a normative shift in melodic styles, prompting the use of new instruments and rhythms in music.

Shafi was a role model and mentor for young Brooshaaski writers, prompting a renaissance in Brooshaaski poetry. He created a movement among the youth to rescue Brooshaaski from becoming redundant. He renewed the use of pure Brooshaaski in his substance, revitalizing the language through the use of vocabulary in ways that made the language relevant, expressing new ideas. He overcame the problem of the lack of a proper script for Brooshaaski by focusing on the use of digital media to disseminate his work. Shafi has left a dynamic legacy. Besides a growing number of people particularly among the youth, who have ventured into poetry, Shafi’s ideas have manifested themselves in the lives and minds of the local people. He broke the barriers of wrongly interpreted anti-artistic traditions that imprisoned expression and opened a new door to musical communication.

He was expert at creating smaller relatable images from larger topics to make it possible for people to grasp complex concerns and ideas in a wide variety of social issues. Music and poetry were the tools used by Shafi to promote unity amongst the various segments of the Yasen community while supporting the preservation of the language, culture, and traditions which he believed had fundamental value. Shafi’s poetry inspired people to look beyond short-sighted self-interest and materialism, encouraging them to act for thelarger frame of mutual cooperative benefit.

He presented the concepts of constructive expression of emotions rather than just exaggerated superficial behaviour as well as the importance of striving to improve oneself instead of tearing others down. The power of Shafi’s words has made a lasting impact on the public. Under his influence and mentorship, a new generation of Brooshaaski poets has arisen. He resuscitated the Brooshaaski language to spark a revolution of ideas using his music and poetry, giving the people of Yasen new ideological possibilities and ways to see the world. While his life was short, his ground breaking legacy will continue to open new vistas for a long time to come.