“Kashmir” is one of the words I google quite frequently for news and other information, since this refers to my lost motherland. Everytime I google it, one or two links to English rock band Led Zeppelin’s song titled Kashmir always appear on the first page. Since I am not a great connoisseur of Western music and had never heard the song, I assumed the song must have something to do with my Kashmir, its beauty, or the conflict there. So, I set out to research the topic a little bit. Turns out the song has really nothing to do with Kashmir, unless you dig deep into the meaning and try to find a far-fetched link. The word “Kashmir” is mentioned only once in the song, that too in passing.
My Shangri-La beneath the summer moon
I will return again
Sure as the dust that floats high in June
When movin’ through Kashmir
… (full lyrics)
From the context, I wonder if the singer-composer Robert Plant even knew much what and where Kashmir was. He was apparently traveling through the African Sahara when the song was written. “Dust floats high in June?” Not in Kashmir. The song was written in early 1970s, Kashmir was a tranquil place and even the metaphorical dust didn’t exist. It is hard to find a meaningful meaning to the song’s lyrics. Seems to have something to do with drugs, and Africa, and Middle East, and not much with the title Kashmir.
According to the Wikipedia page:
Originally called “Driving to Kashmir”, the lyrics to the song were written by Plant in 1973 immediately after Led Zeppelin’s 1973 US Tour, in an area he called “the waste lands” of Southern Morocco, while driving from Goulimine to Tantan in the Sahara Desert. This was despite the fact that the song is named for Kashmir, a region in the northernmost part of the Indian subcontinent. As Plant explained to rock journalist Cameron Crowe:
“ The whole inspiration came from the fact that the road went on and on and on. It was a single-track road which neatly cut through the desert. Two miles to the East and West were ridges of sandrock. It basically looked like you were driving down a channel, this dilapidated road, and there was seemingly no end to it. ‘Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dreams…’ It’s one of my favourites…that, ‘All My Love’ and ‘In the Light’ and two or three others really were the finest moments. But ‘Kashmir’ in particular. It was so positive, lyrically.”
In an interview he gave to William S. Burroughs in 1975, Page mentioned that at the time the song was composed, none of the band members had even been to Kashmir.
Nevertheless, the song is billed as “the most progressive and original track that Led Zeppelin ever recorded”. So, watch and listen: