Embedding Fragrance of Culture in Sufi
As Gaffur Khan starts explaining the system of Raagas, his eyes light up with excitement and one can’t help but keeps listening to this man’s deep voice for hours. According to him, the Maanganiyaar folk music is based on 6 main raagas, namely Sarang, Maru, Suvabh, Dhaani, Sorath and Goondh Malhar. According to musical history, these 6 raagas have 5 wives each, known as “Raaginis”, making it a total of 36 raagas in their folk music.
Gaffur Khan is 56 and belongs to the Maanganiyar community of Rajasthan, a community of folk singers who were the musicians in the Royal court of Jaisalmer. Tutored under Ustaad Nihaal Khan, Gaffur Khan has been singing since he was 8 years old, and has been the recipient of Radio Station Aakashwani Rajasthan Award too. Like all musical families, music has been transferred through the generations in his family, and he drew his inspiration from his father. So far, Gaffur Khan has performed in about 40–45 countries and wants his children to continue this tradition of the “Guru-Shishya” (Teacher-Disciple) parampara(tradition).
He also teaches music at home to his children and to over 50 students. Apart from vocals, he and his group are also proficient in playing other instruments like Dholak, Khadtaal(castanet), Harmonium and Khamaicha. Talking about the importance of music in his life, he says, that even when a newborn cries in their family, it’s in a perfect melodious pitch! Everyone in this group is A-Grade certified artists as per All India Radio. His group also comprises of Mushtaque Khan on Dholak and Feroze Khan and Dilawar Khan on Khadtaal, and three kids, Aaraf Khan, Roshan Khan and Insaaf Khan.
Their songs comprise of themes from almost all aspects of the royal life, childbirth, marriage, love and longing for one’s beloved. At times, the songs are customized for special occasions for the royal family. Personally, his favourite genre is Sufi music. As is the case of most popular manganiyaar singers, his patron is also Komal Kothari. While he has performed in many countries to date, his favourite place to perform in Paris.
As he lights up another beedi, he fondly speaks about the importance of education in his and his children’s life. Apart from music, this talented man from Jaisalmer wants his children to be well educated apart from providing them with a training in music. His children are equally passionate about music and want to pursue it further. As Ashraf Khan (his son) says, he mainly sings in Raag Sorath and is learning harmonium as well. His guru is his father. Gaffur Khan also takes music workshops in training camps. His musical themes are deeply inspired by and embedded in the culture of Jaisalmer.
Sundar yun bhi rang mahal mein
Rann mein yun..
Rann mein.. mukhdo
Din din sukho jaayein
Dushman ki kirpa buri
Bhali sajan ki thaath
Dhomat pe garmi hove, oh rey..
Jab barsan ki aas.
The rang mahal stands beautifully in the ran(desert)
As the colour of my face fades away…
The foes have evil intentions,
While my beloved has only love,
The sun spreads a blistering heat,
And I long for the rain..
(a woman waits longingly for her husband to arrive with the rains)
The longing of a woman, along with the patient wait for the monsoons after the blistering Jaisalmer heat, the onset of seasons is a major theme in the Manganiyar songs, interwoven and blended with feelings of love, pain, and heartbreak. The transition between the songs is beautifully described when the cuckoo bird sings. Since Rajasthan primarily has a hot climate, the varying seasonal changes are as important to its residents and folk singers as music.
Maas syaro, seehadalo pade
Seerakh paththar no, lijiyo thaare saath
It’s the winter season, so take a blanket to cover yourself (to protect from cold)
Maas laado, luhad le pade
Jhaari ne, peenjaniyon lijiyo thaare saath
It’s the summer season, and the hot summer wind (loo) blows,
So keep a lot of water and a fan with you!
One could almost smell the aroma and fragrance of the first rain while hearing these melodious tunes. It’s interesting to note that how the mundane, daily things have been woven into this musical magic by Manganiyars. The golden city of Jaisalmer and its surrounding villages are famed for their rich history of kings and poets and is a place where Muslim and Hindu mystical traditions come together -timeless and beyond borders. True to its nickname, the music of the Golden city is pure gold as well, heated in this mystical land and honed through generations.
This is the land of music, seasons, mystery, colours, puppets, ruins, architecture, stones and love.
And this is the beauty of the folk music of these Manganiyaars, simple yet expressive and one couldn’t help but relate to it and love it more. Their songs grow on you with time, and you might find yourself humming bits and pieces of it without realizing it.
Meetho meetho bol papiha,
Pyaare pyaare bol