Reliving the Folk with Shehnai
The mere mention of folk music brings to mind the melodious Rajasthani folk songs. Rajasthani folk music is immensely popular and is appreciated all over the world, but what makes this music so special? The answer is unique primitive-looking musical instruments and, most importantly, the contribution from music “Gharanas.” This brief introduction to Rajasthani folk music will take you through the basics of the melodies and techniques that have captured the hearts of music fans all across the globe. Another intriguing thing is that the Manganiyars and Langas only sing specific ragas at specific times of the day, specific seasons and have different ragas and songs reserved for all occasions such as weddings, births, etc. Apart from locally inspired lyrics to songs that have been passed down through generations, the Rajasthani folk artists also master the art of devotional folk music, with compositions by the likes of Kabirdas, Surdas, Tulsidas and Meerabai. Sufi renditions by the Rajasthani folk artists are a complete pleasure, and Bulleh Shah, Amir Khusro and Latif are amongst the most popular Sufi inspirations.
Barkhat Khan is now 60 years old and is the only man from Manganiyaar community who plays Shehnai. His father, grandfather all have been playing their music for the royal families of Rajasthan. He fondly remembers his grandfather Nune Khan, who has played in almost all the weddings of royal families. Barkhat tells that no wedding procession in the royal family begins without his Shehnai played first. He has travelled and performed almost all over India, but his performance in Goa near the beach and on mountains in Kullu Manali are the ones most memorable for him. He is fond of mountains and loves going for performance which happens on hill stations.
He is the only one to perform Shehnai in Manganiyaar as only Langha play Shehnai when it comes to communities. For Barkhat, an urge started in him when he saw a Langha playing Shehnai in a wedding and decided to learn it. He started learning Shehnai when he was 14 years old and it took him 15 years to master it. Late HH Jaswant Maan Singh HH of Khuri brought him to light out of his village in Khuri. Barkhat then started playing at different venues like hotels, festivals, etc. He has played all over in India but didn’t go outside the country due to fear of aeroplane travel. He can play any track on his Shehnai. He is extremely talented. The Shehnai that he plays is different from the one that is played in classical music. He plays small Shehnai which is mostly played and built in Pakistan, in fact, the Shehnai that he plays was bought from Pakistan. His father Fathe Khan used to write poetries and further Barkhat khan has converted them into songs as well. He is the one to start the tradition of playing Shenahi in his community with Pempe Khan joining him. After so many years of staying in India and playing all over the country, he now wishes to go outside India and play on the International grounds.
Barkhat Khan and group is one such group which a wonderful and extremely talented group member. The group has seasoned older artists like Taalab Khan on Dhol, Maalu Khan with Khartaal, Sawai Khan on Dholak, Hakam Khan on Harmonium. The group together when sings create a mesmerizing atmosphere amongst the audience and leave them to spellbind after their performances. The seasoned artists in the group are responsible for the teaching and guidance of the younger artists present in the group. The group sings mostly authentic original songs of their traditional heritage which has been passed on from their forefathers to them which each generation. The group performs at various occasions like childbirth, wedding, housewarming, etc. at their patronages’ houses. The group earns their living out of the live performances they give at various different places. Apart from the music they literally don’t have any means through which can earn.
The most interesting thing about this group is their love for fusion. Each one of the member in the group wither plays guitar, drums, or synth. They all look forward to a future where they can play together for a wider audience who can cherish the music that they make and play. However, their love for fusion music a lot but they make sure to keep up their cultural heritage folk music in balance and doesn’t hurt the emotions of their elders in their community. These group of artists don’t dream of going to Bollywood and collect fame, rather they and the world to know Rajasthan and their singing is known by their music. They want to make their country proud and carry forward their legacy from one generation to another. For them all they know is music and they can never get apart from it and thus for them it a not just music it is their way of living their lives. The latest feather in their caps is the amalgamation of their music and instruments with many mainstream musical styles like house music, electro music, etc. All in all, Rajasthani folk music has a history so deep that one article can’t do it justice. This, however, is an attempt to appreciate the melodies of our childhood, of the songs that speak the language of the heart.