Category

Rajasthan

Mohini Devi and Group

Nomads in the Fort

 

After travelling in Rajasthan for two years we finally met a female singer who is the leader of the group. This lady is none other than Mohini Devi from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Mohini Devi is 50 years old but still, she hasn’t let the age affect her singing at all. She loves to perform as much as she was doing when she young. She belongs from a refugee community who were called nomads/ banjara. Mohini Devi is a new age woman, she doesn’t care about society and focusses on her and her family’s happiness. Her daughters are lovely Kaalbeliya dancers who love to dance. Not only this Mohini Devi has let her daughter in law also to go ahead and follow her passion for dancing and singing too. All her children are either dancers or singers but all of them are associated with music.

Whenever she performs she has mostly Langas who accompany her for her performances. The group always has a Khartaal, Sarangi, Dholak player with her,  Harmonium she plays herself. Her songs are about weddings, love tales, etc. Telling about her and her family she started off with her strong bold and confident voice with extremely soothing and complementing music in the background –

 

Nibuli  naaketo maya charu palla madu riii

I am spreading my stole you throw the fruit

Shaukeen jeevada pardeshi maya awadu thari aawe aawe ree

My husband has gone to a foreign country and now I am missing him

Thado re karaniye maya jur jur swali pad gayi

I have become dull and dark remembering him

 Shaukeen jeevada pardeshi maya awadu thari aawe aawe ree

My husband has gone to a foreign country and now I am missing him

 

The group loves to perform and can go on and on. They have together performed at various stages on national grounds. She told us that she is always ready to perform at any time and saying this she started singing the beautiful track –

 

Ismaal khan re babu re bangale mein bataiyo laagi

Ismaal Khan, I will come to your bungalow the way lights are lighting up

Shaukeen jeevada re Batiyaa babu re bangale mein

Ismaal has put up lights so that she comes to his bungalow

bataiyo laagi re thamke aaun mara meethodi bolira

I can see the lights and like that, I am approaching your bungalow 

Ismaal khan beggara bulaya moda gana aaya

Ismaal Khan called me home early and he himself came late

 

This beautiful amalgamation of Banjara and Lagha creates beautiful music each time they perform. Unlike other groups in Rajasthan, they don’t feel different on the basis of one’s community and cast, rather, they just focus on their music.

Rashid Khan and Group

Quench of Music with Langas

 

We had just begun our journey in Jodhpur when we happen to stumble upon a Sufi group who were singing some beautiful kalams by Bulleh Shah in front of our hotel. Rashid Khan Langa and his group members were all dressed in a white coloured kurta pyjama, turban on their head and beautiful piece of stole around their neck.  Upon asking he told us that they always wear white as it is the colour for purity and like the colour, they want to maintain the same with everything in their lives. This 30 years old man, Rashid hails from Phalaudi Village in Jodhpur. He hails from the famous Langa community of Rajasthan. Langas are versatile players of the Sindhi Sarangi and the Algoza (double flute), which accompany and echo their formidable and magical voices. They perform at events like births, and weddings, exclusively for their patrons (Yajman), who are cattle breeders, farmers, and landowners. “The ‘Sindhi Sarangi’ used by the Langas, is created by four main wires, with more than twenty vibrating sympathetic strings which help to create its distinctive haunting tones. The bowing of these instruments is a skilful exercise, often supported by the sound of the ‘ghungroos’ or ankle bells that are tied to the bow to make the beat more prominent.*

During seasons they perform at hotels where they earn Rs 6000 per month and at the time also gets 4 to 5 shows per month. According to him, the Langa community has always been passionate about music since generations. They ended the day with the song:

 

Dheema mandra te aaiyi jo ho raj jore invi raja nathdi ro hero neer khardne aaijo rajj

Come slowly O King!, and stay inside and don’t go anywhere, I will keep you the same way like I keep the diamond in my nose pin

Nathni ro moti karne rakho, hum raaj bhaino raja

I will keep you like the pearl in my nose pin, O King stay here

Sadura the laayijo oh lalayijo invi raj re ,

Whenever you will come back bring a stole for me, bring it O king!

sadure saath bhalero ro ni hum ro ni ree…

the stole looks beautiful on me

Hum roni re bhaino raja

Now don’t go

 

Rashid had introduced us with his group in a very different manner while seating together each started playing their respective instruments with songs describing them. The group is highly creative in terms of music and wishes to create songs which could be cherished by the coming generations, just the way he has been doing for his forefathers’ songs.

*Wikipedia

Sanu Khan and Group

Jodhpur has a vibe which can not be compared with any other place. Searching for a place to sit and relax we came across Sanu and his group in Mehrangarh Fort. Seeing us he greeted us with a song:

 

Dhann dhann bhaage banno re

The groom is running around with happiness

 

Aree Sawa aage banni laderlo  re

Let’s welcome the procession, it has arrived

 

Dhann moh tan kedi re maya re

Money and wealth nothing matters

 

Heli Aayo re heli mori laderlo amraano

My beloved groom has come to Amar Kot

 

Pe nigare sa raaje

Lift your feet and come

 

Auto bhaaye pyaaro re banna

The groom is looking so handsome

 

Areey Jaanida shringar laaderlo re

Dress up the procession beautifully

 

Jaanida ri jode hey banide

All walk together

 

They come from the Langha community of musicians who play Sindhi Sarangi and Algoza very fondly. Their music filled with magical voices is very different from usual Langha community music. They often perform at various occasion which varies according to the life events of their patrons which happens to be the royal family of that particular area. The Sarangi used by this group was not the usual type we often encounter with. It had four main wires with twenty vibrating sympathetic strings that helps in creating the mesmerising music.  One can find more about the langhas with their visit to Jodhpur, Phalaudi, Udaipur, etc. Music is the only source of livelihood for them. In future, they want their children to be trained in music but along with an academic inclination as well. During peak seasons, their group gets 2-3 offers to perform every month and earns as much as Rs.50,000 for each show. The songs of their group encompass a wide range of themes deep rooted in Rajasthani traditions. They get shows mostly because of their contacts. They are very well-aware of Anahad’s role and work in empowering folk musicians. The group sings songs about love, romance, different timelines of weddings, etc. On asking about their favourite song they started singing :

 

Khaatireda oh ji re baitha tu to maare chuttare o ji ree

Khaati’s son is sitting and he is looking very  beautiful

 

Sidhone …Ghaniya re gholi jaaun

He looks so beautiful, may he is safe from all evil eyes

 

Taraniyo re ghar lawa oh ji more

Bring the decorate flowers to my house

 

Chandane kedo re rukhero

It should be like sandalwood

 

Re rukhero oh ji re  rukhero re mora raj

Oh King, bring me a tree of Sandalwood

 

Aundene utariyo maaro gaddo maaru sawari re ada beech

Come on a horse and get down at my house

 

Ghaniya re gholi jaaun

meri nazar na lag jaae kahin

 

Ayub and his group are so happy with their musical lives that they never see their problem as any obstacle in their lives. The strength they get in their daily life to face adversities is from their music. Ayub wants to open a folk learning music school in his village and wishes to enrol next generation there free of charge to promote their culture.

Ayub Khan and Group

Tales of a Song Giver

 

Jodhpur is one of the most enchanting cities of Rajasthan, with its mighty Mehrangarh fort overlooking the city. In this enchanting city, we found a group from Langha community which was led by Ayub Khan. Langhas are tribal people of Rajasthan who are mostly found in the Jodhpur, Phaludi, Udaipur region. Hailing from the land of song givers, they are extraordinary performers. The group sings songs about love, romance, wedding, God, and many others. We had set up a location for them in a haveli which itself was quite extraordinary and the performance of the artists added to its glory.

Langas are accomplished players of the Sindhi Sarangi and the Algoza (double flute). Their music accompanies their challenging and enchanting songs. They perform at occasions like weddings and births, exclusively for their patrons. ‘Sindhi Sarangi’ is extensively used by them and is made up of four main wires and has more than twenty vibrating sympathetic strings that creates its unique haunting hues. Playing of these instruments is a skilful exercise, often supported by the sound of the ‘ghungroos’ or ankle bells that are tied to the bow to make the beat more prominent.*

During peak seasons, the group manages to secure 8-10 shows earning Rs. 7000-8000 per performance. They have performed in all major cities across India and dreams of being a renowned musician with a large band and having throngs of people attend his performances. They sing traditional songs from their community but do not write their own songs. They sing songs that fall in the Khamai, Maru, Kilad and Des Raag family. The group wishes to be able to sing the songs forever, money doesn’t matter to them. Stating this he started in his own way the song:

 

Charkho Chandan kaathro

The spin yard is made out of Sandal

Puni lal gulal

The threads in it are of different colours

Katwari kaatan baithi kaatyo ant na paar

And made a beautiful shawl with those threads

Ho bhala re jio bhala re

May God bless you with a long life

Bhue charkha bhu

Praise the spin yarn

They receive show bookings from local contacts who forward them with opportunities in India and abroad. The group dreams of being able to work to have their group perform across all cities and towns in India and expand their footprint.

 

*Wikipedia

Rafeek Khan and Group

Musical Affairs Amidst Land of Desert

 

Roaming in the grand city of Jodhpur, we came across a wonderful Langha group who had then just arrived from their village, Phalaudi. They were looking for a place to sit and jam since they had an event in the night on the same day. Meanwhile, we had just stepped out of the Mehrangarh Fort and caught glimpse of them setting up. As the group settled Rafeek took a beautiful alaap and began :

 

Maad dhara ri revodo anokhi -2

Our land and its people are unique

Madhvan meetha ji bole

People who live here speak such sweet language

Ghar ghar hove beeyan badavana

Every house has weddings

Ghar ghar ghoomar dhol

Each house has traditional dances and plays dhol

 

Mesmerised by the wordings and rhythm of the song we decided to stay longer and get acquaintance with the group and their music. Rafeek told us that he has been singing and performing ever since he was a child with his father. He dreams of getting a chance to sing with singers like Rahat Fateh Ali and Kailash Kher. His group told us that being from a Langha community they mostly sing songs about the brides -grooms, wedding processions and various other occasions. The group is an expert in Rajasthani folk, Sufi and Ghazal forms of singing. The Sufi genre is their favourite owing to the sheer, poetic words of Urdu language. As a group they want to impart musical knowledge to their children but only after they are educated well. They get 10-12 shows per month and earns around Rs.6000 for each show. They are not very educated and so got into music because of financial reasons.

Just like all the families in their communities, music is been carried forward by mostly male members and it is the only source of income in his family. The group feels that are born to do something big and for them, it is the songs which they know they want to do good to them. They want the world to hear their music and know about their culture and traditions. Moreover, they also want their music to be so much heard that people including their children feel inclined towards learning it. Telling us this Rafeek and his group started singing one of their favourite songs –

 

Saajan aaya re he sakhi

Oh, my friend, my dear husband has come

 Kaaye manwar karan 

How should I welcome him, he has come after so many days

 Areey thaal bharo gaj motiyaan upar nain dhara

I will fill the plate with pearls and shall keep him high

 O maara bhai sonera

O my dear brother

 Maara nindiya lada

O my dear beloved brother

 Laajo maaro gale riyo haar

Bring my necklace

Kailash Khan and Group

UNDYING PASSION FOR MUSIC

 

Passion, they say is a great energizer. We are wired in such a way that many times passion and purpose comes together. Kailash Khan is a young folk music artiste. The 25-year-old is passionate and proud to be identified by this genre. His undying passion for the Rajasthani folk music is a contrast of what people his age prefer.

Kailash khan and others in his group are manganiyar. Muslims themselves, their patrons are largely Hindu  Rajputs. They are renowned as highly skilled folk musicians of the Thar desert. Their songs are passed on from generation to generation as a form of an oral history of the desert. In his own words,” The culture of Rajasthan has been recorded through songs. When we are playing folk music, we are telling stories, stories that speak to the human conditions, stories that tell us who we are, stories riddled with anecdotes of love with all its complexities and simplicities. These stories define us as a community. They help us relate to each other.” It is said that on occasion in the Rajput family is ever complete without a Manganiyar. Be it birth, marriage, family festivity, the manganiyars would help evoke the right mood with songs that have a flair of Rajasthan and many specially composed songs to praise the patron and his family.

Influenced by family traditions and his elders, Kailash khan has been singing since he was a child. He formed his group six years ago. The six group members are from his family itself. They have adapted themselves to play all kinds of instruments. Harmonium, khartaal, Bhapang, Dholak find common use in their performances. Kailash Khan plays the Harmonium which he learnt and developed an affinity towards while he was in school.

He takes pride in the fact that he is related to Daapu Ji- the revered Khamaicha player who is today a sensation and an inspiration among Rajasthani folk musicians. Showing the same dedication and commitment, he aspires to take folk music and the values they represent to a bigger platform. Through his hard work, he has been able to get his group to perform in many notable Indian states and events. Punjab, Mumbai, Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat are a few to name. Within Rajasthan, he has displayed his talent in Udaipur and Jaisalmer. He is nostalgic as he recalls his first performance in Ghuri Resort in Jaisalmer. He believes that their network grew as a result of performing for guests at those resorts. People after listening to him would ask him to sing at their family events and this is when he decided to form his own group. 

Like any other professional singer he has an generous understanding of ragas. Khamaj Raga is immensely used in their music. He says that tradition calls for the beginning of every performance in khamaj raga. When asked about how he learn songs, old and new, his answer is simple. To them, he says, the need to write and then learn songs was never required. Music is so deeply ingrained in their lives that just as little as listening to their elders sing once or twice is enough for them to follow up. However, he feels that technology today has found purpose and use in all fields and as an aspiring artist he doesn’t shy away from deviating from the traditional methods of learning music and using tech and social media to his benefit. They appreciate the fact that technology has made it easy for them to expand their repertoire in folk music.

Besides singing the traditional old folk songs, this young artist has penned down a few songs of his own and composed rhythms and tunes for others. He claims that there are few songs that only he can sing in his community. Reciting Shiv Tandav,  which is a Hindu hymn that describes God Shiva’s power and beauty, is one of his speciality. This is satisfying to observe that though they are Muslims, many of their songs are in praise of Hindu deities where the performer traditionally invokes the Gods and seek their blessing before the recital.

Despite everything, he exclaims that more needs to be done to attract youth towards traditional music. According to him, the youth are the key in the preservation of folk music. This calls for creating space for young talented Rajasthani musicians to keep old-age traditions fresh, but also relevant through music. Although many children come to him to learn music, he feels that the rush towards modernity is dwindling their interest. With more people looking up to Bollywood and western music, their audience and patronage are slacking. With most of his family members being solely into music, they want to build their art into something more sustainable.

Kailash khan envisions a bright future for his group. “ money is not an incentive, I want to take my traditions forward. We want people to see what we do and like it enough. That will truly be encouraging.”

We can’t agree more on the fact that their culture is very rich but some people are clueless about it. This is the time to know deeply about Indian culture through different mediums that are sustainable. Through loving and showing pride in it, the world will come to know of it too.

Kalla Khan and Group

TREASURE OF FOLK MUSIC AMIDST SEA OF SAND

 

Kalla Khan is from a small village called Bishala in Barmer Rajasthan. From manganiyar community. Also known as mirasi,mahaguniyar or mir. Prevalent in western Rajasthan, Jaisalmer, Bikaner. Royal families are their important patron. They feel that the rajputs or yajmaans as they refer them are the main reason that their folk culture has thrived. Sing for them on important occasions like birth, marriage, old age etc, kesariya balam, , songs from birth till death. New generation less interested in fm, they are busy in business, charts new root for themselves… because youngsters prefer new songs their style of siniging id an amalgamation of the old and new song.

About manganiyar traditional instrument is khamaicha. Going by what elders and locals say the instrument is 500 years old and originated in Pakistan before gaining importance in Ahmadabad(ws made inn these two states). Has not been made since the last 10 generations. But Komal Kothari wanted to teach folk to children , they made new kamaicha, to be given to these children so that they could learn. However, ladies of the community preffered harmonium as their instrument in public events.

He has a family of a mother, 7 brothers, children learning music from him. It is commonly claimed that the music of rajasthan is so imbibed in one’s characteristic that even the crying nof the infants is musical. He contendedly mentions that children as young as 4 or five years old are learning  and doing well in it (taking interest).

Jaha dikha bas chah tu hi

Bas raam ka naam hai

The one who has rhythm in his soul is near to god. Their culture is dependent on yajmaans. But want that it should not vanish.. feels like the younger generation is only acquainted with 25% of the music that this culture has to offer (yangrashaili, dhoda, bhaavan- traditional) . wants them to focus on studies but also cultivate respect for them and learn ithe t.  

Kabir kuan ek hai, panihari anek

Bartan sabke nyaare nyaare

Banda pani sab me ek

Follows all religions. Feels that the value of the soul is above mere traditions and norms that religions bind us in. ‘ I am a muslim. My name is fakir khan. But look at me. People say that I am a Rajput. Even though I perform at their events, I peform in mandirs , at the dargah, they sing about Shiva, Krishna, Mira. Makes bhajan as well.   

Has issues with organizers many a times as they embezzle money. He believes that there should be no mediator in between Guru shishya parampara. He wants signing schools in india so that children can learn music without compromising with their studies.

Chagna Ram and Group

THE MUSIC INGRAINED IN THE LIFE OF RAJASTHAN

 

The vibrancy of Rajasthan is never completely discovered until you immerse yourself in its centuries-old folk music. Of the different communities that are involved in the practice of taking the heritage of folk music forward, the Meghwals find a special mention for popularizing religious folk songs throughout the country. Every piece of their music resembles and respects the essence of the desert land. Our session with Chagna Ram confirmed this fact.

Chagna Ram is from Hadwa, a village 75 km from Barmer. People in the harsh scantily-populated desert areas of Western Rajasthan have very little leisure for merry-making. For Chagna Ram and his group members, music is a respite, a means of making life more pleasant. They are professional performers and being from Meghwal families, their skills are handed down from generation to generation. Chagna Ram cultivated a desire to learn music after listening to his father and elder brother sing at events and functions. His elder brother was well known in the music circuit in and outside Rajasthan. A matka player, he had performed in Holland apart from entertaining the royal patrons in important cities of Rajasthan. Inspired, Chagna Ram too began his journey in the field of music.

hari binjar høye kar betro

 baalak kini bayır

 vaari raama

 sanwariya binaa

 dayalu bina

 kaun bandhawe dheer

Today his group consisting of 6 members, some of whom are from different communities. They sing devotional as well as festive songs. Songs by the saint-poets like Kabir and Meerabai are part of the folk repertoire. They are sung all night during special occasions (all night soirees spent singing devotional songs) which are held as thanksgiving to a particular deity. The resonant singing of the Rajasthani folk is accompanied by music from simple instruments like the Matka, dholki, tandoora (a five-stringed instrument), khartaal, bhapang and morchang that usually give a beat or a drone to offset the poetry. Together they have performed in Jaipur, Kota and other areas near their village. Besides they have been able to cultivate new audiences in various other Indian states like Punjab, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Dehradun, Maharashtra. Fairs and festivals bring an even greater riot of colour and music into their lives. They also perform at events organized by Rajasthan Tourism.

Although music comes naturally to these Meghwals of Western Rajasthan, it cannot be stressed enough that Indian Folk music is filled with complexity and to truly master a skill one requires many years of study and discipline. In order to understand the fundamental techniques and feel their resonance with oneself, the teacher to student (guru- shishya) relationship is of paramount importance. Becoming immersed in raga theory and practice, a student learns primarily through oral means by listening and learning the tradition passed down from his or her guru. Chagna Ram gives credit of his knowledge to his guru Taga Ram. Be it accompanying his guru to singing events or helping him build his ashram, all the stories and memories from those days are still fresh in his mind. He expressed astonishment and delight when told about Taga Ram’s journey with Anahad Foundation.

kashi nagar se vipar bulaye

likh likh bheje cheer

jug rachayo kabir

sansar achha kaam kiya jivedan deke

All the skills and style that he acquired from his guru now enables him to create beautifully balanced exhibitions of ragas. Raga, literally interpreted as “that which colours the mind,” is the fundamental structure within Indian Folk Music. The composition is the face of the raga, defining its essence by bringing together all of its movements, parts and subtleties. But when is a particular raag used? Chagna Ram explains that a specific raag kind is used according to the time of the day because the power of the raga composition lies in its ability to evoke emotion that captivates listeners. Hence, he adds, there are two sets of ragas, the morning and the evening, each divided by the effects they have on the human senses.

On the surface, the Rajasthani folk music circle seems peaceful enough, a perfect blend of melodies. Look closer and you will see the rifts. With little resources at hand, Chagna Ram with his group has to face the challenges of cultural marginalization and urbanization. He fears that due to lack of recognition, their art form will eventually die out. In such circumstances, he understands the role a digital platform plays in an artist’s life. It is an effective method, he believes, to reach a wider audience, a new audience who would otherwise be sitting in front of their tv sets and encourage them to take interest in folk music.

Bhera Ram and Group

SOLACE OF FOLK MUSIC

 

Khojat guru re hamara

Khoj kare re jono gur kar mana re

Nahi to re murkh pasara

Re sadhu bhai

There was an era when rituals reigned supreme when folk music in Rajasthan was both a source of ecstasy and spirituality. Even today it is as awe-inspiring as ever, but with society changing dynamically and rushing towards modernity, people are left with little leisure time to engage in such entertainments. As a result, the threat of losing our musical heritage looms large.

Bhera Ram is a 58 years old singer from Barmer. Singer by occupation, he supplements his livelihood by farming. He is a storehouse of knowledge as music is concerned. Though he mostly sings bhajans, the repertoire of songs known to him is vast and exquisite. Heli bhajan, pyare, hondura are a few to list. Inspired by his father and grandfather, he has been singing since 30 years.

“There has never been an institute for folk music,” he adds. “It has always been something passed from father to son and sustained by people’s interest.” He explains that much less traditional music is being played these days and one of the reasons, he believes, is increased urbanisation. As a result, the younger generation is showing less interest in folk music. People are moving into towns, away from the villages, away from the goatherds and the way of life that sustained traditional music. Such a fall-off has a direct impact on families such as his, who make their living singing at events.

kahat kabir suno bhai sadhu re 

boliya kabir suno bhai sadhu re

Creativity is not confined to poetry or fiction. It is a quality that surfaces everywhere. Singers like him throng all hues of life. But to further the cause of Indian history and heritage, it is important to evoke similar feelings and affinity to folk music among the youth of the land. According to him, only someone who listens with his inner mind gains the knowledge and the ability to take the art forward.

Ak Achambo dekhiyo re santo kuve me lagi aag

Ak Achambo dekhiyo re santo kuve me lagi aag 

Sens pani to gale gaya

Sens pani to gale gaya 

Machhiyo re gota khaye 

Zara sa dekhana re

Navo me nadiyo doobi jaye

As the group begins to sing, everyone is captivated by their edifying spirituality. The accompanying musicians seated beside him spare no efforts to make the entire performance a delightful experience. The music emanated by the different instruments is followed by steady long, repetitive swarms that turn the entire evening into an experience like never before. Not only are the lyrics appropriate to the occasion, the time theory of the ragas is strictly maintained. This has a meditative quality and creates an ethereal ambience.

Bhera Ram’s aim is to take his music to a bigger platform. He says that music must manifest a new world on stage, taking material from this world and transforming it to re-tell the heavenly glorious saga of the emergence of the cosmos. Bhera Ram and his group were a true discovery. Sadly there are not many practitioners of this rich vibrant highly specific tradition amongst the inheritors of the tradition any more.

Thakra Ram and Group

TRADITIONS INSPIRING MUSIC

 

Rajasthan’s folk music is a living heritage. It is an expression of the people of the land. Unfortunately, the rush towards modernity in India threatens to bury this music and all that it represents. But those who seek it out strive to rekindle it and its audience.

Thakra Ram belongs to the Bhil community in Rajasthan. The word Bhil means bow and the Bhils are known as mountain tribals with bows and arrows. The stories of their exceptional archery talent are recounted in native narratives, with focus on Bhil warrior legends. In the history of Rajasthan, Bhil people are depicted as important warriors and many Rajput rulers showed faith in them, including instances during battles with Marathas and Mughals.

Bhils in Rajasthan are known for their musical rendition of the only surviving ancient traditional folk art form, Phad painting that depicts the epic of Pabuji, the Rathore Rajput chief. Bhopas are bards and also priests who are traditional narrators of this art form. The epic tale unfolds over a whole night. They recite the ancient story of the life of a god named Pabuji in front of a huge hand-painted scroll. It’s like a mobile temple. In villages of Rajasthan, Pabuji was considered an ascetic and hence his blessings were sought for veterinary services provided by his disciples, the Bhopas. The Bhopa’s singing is accompanied by two male dancers who perform in a drag. The attitude toward cross-dressing is quite different from what one would imagine. They say that those who dress up to display their artistic talent perform with sincerity and wholeheartedness. “My artistry is important to keep me in touch with my culture.” They are not restricted by traditions. Instead, traditions inspire them.

Devi Haalerio

Goddess, we call you to come and bless us

Maarhi Halerio

Oh our great Goddess 

dhoop devi halerio

Incense sticks have been lit to welcome you

aai maarhi haalerio

oh our great goddess, come and bless us  

aai maaji haalerio

 oh our great goddess, come and bless us

Thakra Ram is 60 years old and has been singing since childhood. His dedication and reverence for his art are exemplary. Encouraged by Komal Kothari of Rajasthan, he enrolled into the Rupan Sanstha and thence began his career in folk music. As his skills and talent grew he got various opportunities to perform internationally in countries like Russia, Africa, Italy, Hong Kong. After gaining popularity through his international ventures, people and organizations throughout India started calling him to perform at events. However, after Komal Kothari’s death, there was a vacuum. There was nobody in Rajasthan who could work with similar sincerity to help musicians revive and take pride in folk music. This is the reason why Thakra Ram’s own children today seem reluctant to learn traditional music and to take it up as a serious profession. Nonetheless, he has taught about 20-25 people and all he asks from his students is that they perform with earnestness. Ironically, he argues that going to other countries to perform makes them value local music more. It has yet another effect: the attention they receive gives them a sense of identity.

As unique and amusing as their entire performance is, it is their musical instrument, ravanhatha, that intrigues us the most. It is an ancient bowed, stringed instrument, that is considered to be an ancestor of the violin. In Indian and Sri Lankan tradition, it is believed that the ravanhatha originated during the time of the legendary king Ravana, after whom the instrument is supposedly named. According to Thakra Ram, it was lord Lakshman who brought it to India after Lord Ram killed Ravana. The ravanhatha is symbolic of Ravanas’ death. The coconut shell represents Ravan’s head and the wooden neck an arrow.

The big question is, can a Bhopa like him earn his living through this? Sadly not. There is a need to connect folk music with a bigger audience and music aficionados. Efforts have to be made to bring forward folk musicians and  singers and help them make a living from music, so that they don’t have to join the drift of the town.

Garbh kıya gaure jaaye 

The Bull is full with pride and arrogance for it’s strength

gale deengraaa paayaaa

But even the strong Bull has been tamed and captured to pull the cart 

dhan mayaa dhan dhartiii

the earth is richest in strength and it cannot let anyone live in its own illusion 

galiyaaa dhan maya dhan dhartiiii

The bull’s arrogance has melted away

When we asked him about what keeps him motivated, Thakra Ram replies that preserving folk music is synonymous with preserving the art of story-telling. The culture of Rajasthan has been recorded through songs and it must live on forever. He is disappointed by the fact that most people do not confer much value to it.

“What God has given you, it is important to pass that on to your children. Someone once said that one who listens with his inner mind gains knowledge which leads to release from the cycle of birth and death.”

Old traditions are like an echo of India. Folk culture is like a tree that needs nourishment at its roots. We must all ensure that the roots of the tree go deeper and deeper and the tree will be able to grow on its own.