Category

Rajasthan

Maga Khan and Group

TALE OF THE MUSIC BEYOND TIME

 

Mangu Khan is from a small village known as Bhadres in the district of Barmer, Rajasthan. He is lives at a place which is surrounded by 20  sand dunes. Mangu is merely 30 years old. He is a Manganiyaar and like every Manganiyaar, in Rajasthan, he is following the age-old traditions of the precious folk musical culture. To earn for a living Mangu does various shows arranged by the government, he also increases the grave of the Rajput weddings and occasions, many times he is being called up by event managers who get him shows across the country.

One thing that makes Mangu very different from rest of the Manganiyaar is that he is very much aware of lack of education and willingly wishes to do something about it. He wants to see progress in Rajasthani culture and art. He wants to eradicate the evil problems like that of lack of education from Rajasthan. He feels heartbroken that due to lack of education there won’t be much songwriting in future and slowly the folk music will die. These progressive thoughts never kept him away from completing his education, rather he was so motivated towards completing his studies that he did MA NET from the university. He realized that the artists in Rajasthan are lacking in their education, so help and support them in every way possible he established the Panihaari Folk Sansthaan back in 2010. Mangu also teaches authentic Rajasthani music to small children from various nearby villages. He trains them for national as well as international level competitions. Mangu aims at reviving old folk music amongst youngsters.

Mangu could have become a lecturer in a government college and could have had a very easy life. But his aim in life led him to his roots and he followed it for folk music. He realises that it is very important to deal with the event managers are they can be very ruthless in terms of behaviour and fairness with the artists. Although he is very optimistic about Anahad’s efforts. Mangu is very much aware of the virtual world of internet and has always been keen to make a website for himself but could never get one because of a hefty amount that web designers used to ask. He with his conscious efforts has made good contact with the Rajasthan tourism and cultural department zones.

His group follows him with his efforts of making their community and society a better world. They have been emphasising for 6 years on their mission to the upliftment of the folk music culture in Rajasthan.

Upon asking about the music they laugh and tell that when a Manganiyar cries, he cries in raag. They stated that at times it is difficult when they visit any outside city from Rajasthan as people wish to hear more of Bollywood than authentic folk. They sing all kind of authentic folk songs whether it is about any Royal wedding, for Gods and Goddess. The music that they sing is always in Marwari language. Their whole family sings, even their wife but as per their traditions, they can’t sing in front of the male population, therefore, they sing only for the female population.

The groups wish to take their children to a higher level with the help of local organisations. Mangu wants to take forward the legacy of Koma dada (Komal Kothari) whom he considers his idol. He wants to uplift the Manganiyaar community just like his Komal dada. And then he concludes with his song:

Gulla Ram and Group

SAILING THROUGH ‘SAMSARA IN THE LIFEBOAT OF’SATSANG’

 

The glory and power of Satsanga, is fathomless. It rejuvenates the heart, mind and soul with immense positivity. There is an abundance of ‘Bhajan Mandalis’ in Rajasthan, with each group exhibiting its flair and uniqueness with a different style. Likewise, there is a legion of folk deities in the region too. Worshipping any of them results in reaching out to the same cause, to enlighten human beings and lead them to the path of devotion.

Gulla Ram and his group of six other fellow musicians are no less than the perfect blend of sincerity, discipline and dedication. Their group’s forte is to perform spiritual and devotional hymns or ‘bhajans’. Gulla Ram is settled in a small hamlet in Bishala village, near Barmer, Rajasthan. He and his group members hail from the Meghwal community of  Rajasthan. A renowned clan, they claim to have descended from Rishi Megh, a sage who is known to have the potential to bring rain from the dark clouds with the help of his prayers. The word Meghwar is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘megh’, meaning clouds and rain, and ‘war’, meaning a group, son and child. Literally, then, the words Meghwal and Meghwar refer to the people who belong to ‘Meghwar’ lineage.

Gulla Ram and his family members earn their bread primarily through farming, and some minor labour work at the time of off-season. Performing ‘bhajans’ at Jamma-jagrans is not a very lucrative option for Gulla Ram’s group, as there are no standardized rates for their performances anywhere. Despite immense talent, they have never got an opportunity to perform outside of Barmer. But their unexplored virtuosity still manifests itself in the form of their passion for music. Each member in Gulla Ram’s group feels that devotion is very important in life. ‘Satsanga bhaav’ empowers one to get rid of all the troubles in life. The vedas even state that one can break the vicious circle of life and death, and attain Nirvana if one is engrossed in devotion while treading the path to seek Absolute Truth.

The most laborious person from the group is Gulla Ram’s grandson, Bharat. Devotional music is deeply embedded in their family tradition. Bharat inherited this art from his father, who, according to his community was an exceptionally talented musician. But unfortunately, he passed away two years ago. His father’s demise was a turning point in his life. He realized how important it is for musicians to record and document their art. For instance, the old folk songs and hymns tend to alter with time as they are not present anywhere in written format. This can have dire consequences and can be disrespectful to the creator of the song. For an artist, recording is a memoir of his original creations, an evidence of his hard work, an account of his passion for music.

Bharat firmly believes that there ought to be balanced in life. He fully acknowledges the role of education in one’s life. He himself as a child used to commit two hours daily to his studies and two hours to his musical training. He is making his own children follow the same set of values in their lives. He wants artists to be educated so that they are aware of their rights and are well acquainted with their art and it’s origins.

Gulla Ram gets disheartened to see deserving artists unemployed. Just for the sake of money, talented musicians have to take up other jobs to avoid financial instability, and they tend to forget the real purpose of their music. He is fully aware of how desperately musicians like him need a bigger platform to share their music.

The gist of the hymns is to learn wisdom from the saints. They are our saviours. One should follow their advice, and thereby one shall be guided to his destined goal. We can relate to the unnecessary activities as wanderings in the desert of Samsara. There are a few oases in this desert and they are the saints. One ought to drink deep from them and proceed to the source, the original home, which is the Absolute Truth. Once the ship is steered fearlessly in the ocean of Samsara, one can transcend to the other shore of immortal life.

Kehra Ram and Group

THE MELODIOUS MEGHWALS FROM SANPA

 

Kehra Raam is a 62 years old ‘young’ musician living in the Sanpa village of Barmer, Rajasthan. The team met Kehra Ram in Barmer and was pleased to see the happy and content faces of Kehra Ram and his fellow musicians in the scorching heat and soaring temperatures of Rajasthan. He has been into Meghwal folk music since a very tender age, and says ‘Even a newborn child in Rajasthan cries in Sur’ since birth’. His grandson’s innocent laugh enthusiastically gave a nod to Kehra Ram’s statement.

He has a large family of 9 people: his mother, son Ganga Ram, wife Gayidev, along with other members. Kehra Ram is associated with the Meghwal tribe of Rajasthan, which comes under the scheduled caste. He enlightened the team about how Baba Ramdevji has always looked after the Meghwal tribe, as a guiding angel. Kehra Ram was not able to complete his education because of financial instability, but always had a deep interest in music: he learnt songs from old books and memorised some after listening from others in his own family and community. His group members are usually family members or people from his community.

Kehra Ram’s interest in music heightened primarily because of his father and uncle, who inspired him to explore the avenues of religious folk music. He sings bhajans and plays tandoora, which is a folk instrument similar to Veena. The tandoora is more popularly known as the Chautara or Nissan and is a commonly played, five-stringed drone instrument. It accompanies devotional music and is a variation on the Ektaara which is one of the oldest string instruments. Tandoora is made from wood and its base is usually constructed out of the dried gourd. It is strewn with four strings that can be tuned to different pitches to the convenience of the player and the instrument is played with two fingers. The Manganiyar Meghwal, Nath Jogi and Meerasi Bhajan Mandali (devotional singing groups) in parts of Rajasthan commonly use this instrument.

Kehra Ramji has studied till the fifth standard. He used to work as a labourer earlier. He learnt hymns because of the tradition, and to some extent also because of his own inclination towards religious and devotional music and worship of Ramdevji. Kehra Ram has been performing for the past 36 years and has been deeply involved in the music. His never-ending quest to learn new instruments is simply commendable. Besides tandoora, he can play harmonium and dholak.

Kehra Ram, sometimes, plays Rajasthani folk music, but not much because according to him, he, as a Meghwal, tends to get shy while singing the regional folk songs. He finds more comfort in devotional music dedicated to the Gods and Goddesses, and how we, as human beings, should tread the path leading to the ‘Absolute Truth’.

Kehra Ram along with his group members usually performs Lok Devta’s bhajans for ‘Satsang’, and as per the tradition followed by Meghwals, distributes ‘prasaad’ after the auspicious ceremony of completion of the ‘Satsanga’. The word ‘Satsanga’ is the combination of the two words ‘Sat’ and ‘Sanga.’ ‘Sat’ means existence absolute, which is Brahman. ‘Sat’ is the essential nature of Brahman which is permanent in things that change, which is the only reality that upholds the world of appearance.

The glow and power of ‘Satsanga’, association with the wise, saints, Yogis, Sannyasins and Mahatmas is indescribable. Even a moment’s company is quite sufficient to overhaul the old vicious Samskaras of the worldly people. The magnetic aura, the spiritual vibration, and the powerful currents of developed adepts produce a tremendous influence on the minds of worldlings.

ghayal jo mai ghumti firu re

I have been injured

sarangi mare koye

Because I have lost all purpose and happiness

These lines from Kehra Ram’s bhajan about Meerabai talk about her misery, her desperation and her pursuit of Lord Krishna, and how her life is devoid of happiness and meaning. Meerabai feels that everything is worthless without the light of the Lord.

With his immense devotion and determination coupled with ‘Bhakti Bhaav’, Kehra Ram stands out of the other hymn singers with his own style of singing.

Dana Singh and Group

An Amalgamation of Folk and Culture

 

The mere mention of Rajasthan brings to the fore royalty, culture, forts and its melodious folk songs. Each region in the state has its own folk entertainment. Of considerable significance are the devotional songs and the communities who render them. Dan Singh is a name that finds special mention in the music circuit of Barmer. Highly revered by his contemporaries, he is known for singing bhajans and other devotional Rajasthani folk music.

Dan Singh is from a small village in Barmer. Belonging to the Rajput community of Rajasthan, his music skills owe much to the influence of his uncle and tutor. As a young boy, listening to his uncle perform cultivated an aspiration in him to learn and popularize devotional music. Today he sings devotional folk music with a wide repertoire. Mira’s bhajan, Kabir’s couplets, excerpts from the life of Banna Nath ji are some noted elements in his music. Such is his devotion to music that even a tiresome job of an electrician could not keep him away from his art for long. “ I was fortunate to find a few people in my office with similar music interest as mine. We would get together and sing during leisure hours,” he recalls fondly.

As he takes his position next to his fellow musicians, the benign smile on his face and the feeble fingers tuning the strings of his tandoora can trick his listeners into thinking that the 82 years old Dan Singh has lost his charm but it doesn’t take him long to prove them wrong. With a single alaap, he can enchant music lovers to no end. When questioned about what keeps him motivated, ‘ Only a person with the desire to learn in his heart can truly master the nuances of music’, he answers with a smile. He wishes to foster a sense of respect for the traditional folk music and has succeeded immensely within his community to achieve the same through his passion and dedication. His co-artists who are from different age groups and have expertise over various instruments look up to him as a source of motivation and aspire to be like him in the future. For them, singing alongside Dan Singh ji is like the biggest accomplishment of his life.

At present, Dan Singh’s group has five members, who together play on various occasions in temples and on auspicious occasions. With most of the members belonging to the Rajput community, they stand out in the music circuit of Rajasthan that largely consists of  Manganiyars and Langas. Together they have performed all over in Rajasthan and some other noted Indian cities like Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Their musical compositions find the prominent use of Solath, Dhamaal, Malhaar among other ragas. They have expertise over various percussion instruments like dholak. However, the most intriguing among them all is the Tandoora. It is five-stringed drone instrument. It is a variation of Ektara which is one of the oldest string instrument.

Dan Singh beautifully explains that singing Bhajans for him is a way of keeping his soul pure. He further goes on to say that devotional music has the power to keep one from deviating from the path of righteousness. Through his Bhajans, he believes his express purpose if to explain the essence of love for God to himself and the audience.

Resonating with his beliefs are the following verses from his bhajan:

Manva Bhulo Jaave Re

Oh Human, you are forgetting me

Bhulo tu jaave re

Forgetting me, says the almighty

Ya  sadguru dev samjhave, raste kyun nahin aave

The Guru is explaining to him, to be back on track

Par nandiya mein bak bak bole

The ignorant human speaks incessantly, belittling others

Jeebh thakave re

You exhaust yourself unnecessarily?

Ye hari ko naam leve kyon garu naa lave re

You should devote yourself to the almighty

A delight to hear, there is no two ways about the fact that Dan Singh is unparalleled in his musical prowess. But what makes him mesmerizing is the simplicity with which he expresses his joy, happiness and contentedness through his songs. One can only but be inspired by his life and commitment to devotional music.

Hassan Khan And Group

Melodic tales of the Royals

“Amar raho Jaisan-nath
Girdhar ke pyare laal
Sheesh par teehare chaaje
Dwaar par teehare baaje
Ghanan ghanan ghanan ghor
Indra ke nagare”

Be immortal, Oh King of Jaisalmer,

Beloved of Giridhar

Your throne is made of sheesham,

And clouds shower their thundering sounds at your door

Like they do in Indra’s abode

The magical words written in praise of the royal rulers of Jaisalmer, beautifully interwoven with the use of metaphors pertaining to the land of Jaisalmer, form the crux of Hassan and Akbar Khan’s music. Each time before a coronation ceremony, these artists were commissioned to prepare songs especially for that occasion, a song dedicated to the upcoming Maharaja, the heir of the royal family. These royal families have helped these musicians in their upliftment since generations, and like all other musicians in Jaisalmer, music is a tradition in their family too.

These musicians are mainly darbar artists who have been singing for the royal families for 9 generations, and their songs are based on Raagas from Hindustani classical music. They do experiment with variations in terms of taal and raagas at times. The main instruments used for their singing are harmonium, khartaal(Castanet, 4 pieces of wood, played by hand),Ghadaa(earthen pot), and dholak for keeping time. Akbar Khan and Hassan Khan describe their musical ‘Gharaana’ as ‘Alamkhaana’ a titular head of hereditary caste Manganiyar and are professional singers and musicians who traditionally perform to their Jajman (Patrons) Rajput families. As per Akbar Khan, there are several royal ‘Alamkhaanas’ in Rajasthan, namely Jaipur, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Bhuj in Gujarat, but the most prominent one amongst them is Jaisalmer, also called ‘Jaisan’ in the local Marwari dialect.

These artists are singers as well as composers and have been composing songs for the royal families for generations. As Hassan Khan recalls with envy that most of these traditional folk songs were sung by women and described their longing to be with their men. But men long to be with their women too, as love is mutual. According to them, Jaisalmer is famous for its stone, sweets and its beautiful women. The women in Jaisalmer are enchanting and seem to weave a magic on their men.

When asked about the importance of music in their lives, Akbar Khan says “Music for them is like a protein for happiness”. It’s a divine art, used for story-telling. Their songs are sung in praise of the city, its Maharajas, as well as Hindu Gods and Allah alike, once again giving us a lesson in communal harmony and teaching us that Music is not confined to the boundaries of caste and religion.

“Man sarovar, madh pak
paras bhat supher

You are as huge as mansarovar,
And as beautiful as a paras stone

Miley hamsa chug maangna re…
To maanak Jaisalmer re..

The folk singers of Jaisalmer are like Swans(hamsa)

Who sustain their lives on pearls (A hamsa, as per mythology, eats only pearls-moti)”

These musicians are the lifeline of Jaisalmer. It seems that music is imbibed in these stones, arches and majestic ramparts of the Jaisalmer Fort. Each bastion is still embedded with these melodies which will last for a lifetime. Every grain of this vast Jaisalmer desert echoes of tunes sung and transmitted verbally to their children and grandchildren. This hereditary music is transferred by their forefathers and these musicians seek to transmit this knowledge to their children. So far, they have performed and toured in numerous places in India like Calcutta and Mumbai.

As per Akbar Khan, the disciples move ahead and the “gurus” stay behind, and there is no ‘Gharaana’ which is comparable to Jaisalmer in terms of sheer melodic grandeur. He firmly believes that the gen-next should regularly interact with the veterans, learn the true meaning of the songs that they have been reciting for centuries and keep the Guru-Shishya (Teacher-Disciple) system alive.

Over the years, traditions have changed and the demand for folk music has become less, and even many members of their extended families don’t learn this art. According to them, to encourage this art, training centres could be set up or a separate department can be devoted to musical learning in schools. They are even willing to volunteer in music schools if they are well paid and earn enough to sustain their families. ‘The privileged should help the poor’, as Akbar Khan puts it. For this, public participation is very important, but sadly, folk music is losing its importance over time. The “Dharohar” or the musical foundation is endangered. They also acknowledge the importance of basic technical education which is important to sustain oneself in these competitive times. To harness this musical knowledge for the upcoming generations, a drastic change in the paradigm is needed.

From songs ranging to marriage, coronation and childbirth, these musicians have contributed to the music literature of Jaisalmer greatly, and have surely set a milestone in folk music. These musical compositions celebrate the majestic aura of Jaisalmer in a truly poetic manner which appeals to everyone. Their journeys have been full of ups and downs, but their voices will surely echo in Jaisalmer for centuries. As the poet Percy Shelley quotes it:

“Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory —
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.”

Their legacy will continue to haunt Jaisalmer long after they are gone, and their songs will still be sung on every auspicious occasion. This musical heritage deserves to be noticed more and should be promoted in a holistic manner. Recognition is necessary for resilience, and to promote resilience and self-reliance in these communities, we must realize the true importance of this musical aspect of the intangible cultural heritage of Jaisalmer.

Miley hamsa chug maangna re…
To maanak Jaisalmer re..

Champe Khan And Group

Raagas of human emotions

“Give me some music; moody food of us that trade in love.”

As Champe Khan enunciates it: That music is like an addictive worship. Music has been the lifeline of this artist from the famous Manganiyar community of Rajasthan. Champe Khan, aged 38, lives in the famous Kalakaar colony of Jaisalmer, and his family has been the pioneers of folk music in Jaisalmer since generations, and he has been singing these folk songs since his childhood, he was brought up in a musical environment.

While explaining the meaning of Manganiyar, Champe Khan says that their families used to get rewards from royal Rajput families for their singing, hence the name Manganiyar is derived from the Hindi term “Maangna”, which means to ask. Champe Khan’s eyes light up with an exquisite shine while talking about music. Champe Khan is an eminent songwriter himself and is fond of composing songs, these songs are based on several auspicious occasions, and describe the human feelings, emotions in a very subtle way.

In his songs, which are mostly played with Harmonium as a basic instrument, Champe Khan and his group members improvise on percussions with “Khadtaal”, while the time (taal) of the song is kept using two dholaks.

Champe Khan’s songs are composed in ragas like Malkaush(Malkauns). The name Malkaush is derived from the combination of Mal and Kaushik, which means he who wears serpents like garlands — the god Shiva. Other ragas which are used in his compositions are “bhairava shahi”, “Megh”, “Hindol”, “Deepak” and “Shree” and are set to “Kairvan taal”, a 6 beat cycle. Pictorially these ragas are always shown as males and each of these ragas has eight feminine consorts, always visually shown as females. They further have eight sons or ragaputras. These ragas used by Champe Khan also hints of influences from Guru Granth Sahib, According to the Guru Granth the first raga created by the Maker was Bhairav, and raga Bhairav had five raginis of which only the first, raga Bhairavi is known today and performed. The folk songs of Rajasthan have maintained the elements of Indian classical music despite the fact that they are freely composed and sung, knowing no rigid rules.

Champe Khan is greatly influenced by Sufi genre of music and cites the great Maestro Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan as his favourite. Champe Khan trained under Ustad Lakhe Khan and has been in association for over 10 years with Kutle Khan. According to Champe Khan, folk music has a power which appeals to everyone. When asked about whether he is worried about the depleting number of folk musicians, he says that nowadays, people don’t understand the importance of folk music and are more oriented towards Bollywood. So far, Champe Khan has performed all over the world in countries like Spain, Holland, Belgium, London, and is all set to go to Austrailia in a few days.

When asked if the music is enough to sustain him economically, Champe Khan said:

“Khuda uthaata khaali pet hai, par sulaata nahi”

(God wakes you up hungry, but he makes sure that you never sleep hungry)

Champe Khan and his group lose themselves in a trance as they were singing their enchanting music in a mesmerizing locale, on the terrace of Jawahar Niwas. Their songs are mostly sung for various auspicious occasions like marriage and childbirth. Champe Khan’s songs combine love with the skill of music, and the result is a masterpiece.

“Gori johe baat, Saajan likhliyo kore kaagaz ve,

Baachun ghadi ghadi”

I wait for my beloved, I write his name on a blank paper, and I stare at that paper endlessly.

Simple, yet profound and yet so deep. This is Champe Khan’s music which speaks volumes about the daily, and otherwise mundane human emotions, love, separation, the nervousness of an about to be a married woman, who stares fondly at her beloved would-be husband from her veil (ghoonghat). All these human emotions are beautifully captured and blended with the beauty of rare ragas.

“Kauno ragaj moti, main jheene ghungat joti”

The pearls which you wear in your ears, I am looking at them from my veil (ghoonghat) with admiration.

Champe Khan would like to carry forward these traditions of his family and impart this art to his coming generations as well, but like all his counterparts in this region, he also lays special emphasis on basic technical education for all. Champe Khan and his group members, Isaac Khan, Mohammed Nawaz, and Sawan Khan are skilled musicians describe music as a coherent and binding factor and vouch for their community and neighbourhood for providing a cooperative and friendly environment for sustaining this art.

For everyone who has lived, loved and lost, Champe Khan’s songs will appeal greatly as they cover a plethora of emotions.

“Haazir-ubareshon, laal bane na josho”.

I am waiting for my beloved, and I can look at him clearly if he walks slowly and gracefully.

For these artists, music is like an “Ibaadat” (worship), and this skill only improves with more and more practice. Some of the raagas are used in the purest form while some are used in combination. They also experiment with mixing various raagas like Malkaush and Bhairavi, much like a “Raagamalika” (a garland of raagas) in Carnatic music, blending them effortlessly to create more melodies. Over the years, these artists have helped in preserving and conserving this intangible heritage of the city of Jaisalmer, and this tradition should be continued with time. Truly, when love and skill combine, one should really expect a masterpiece, and Champe Khan’s music is no less than a masterpiece when it comes to explaining even the most delicate, yet heartfelt human emotions.

Bagga Khan And Group

Melodies exploring the connection of Soul and God

“Let me lose myself in this golden city,

Amongst the golden sand dunes,

And the melody of the folk tunes,

To be intoxicated with the spirit of music”

In India, real talent is found in the dingy by-lanes, in the Old cities, and in this case, it’s hidden in this medieval city of Jaisalmer, and its golden sand dunes.

The artist, Bagga Khan, fondly known as Bagge, belongs to the famous Manganiyar community of Rajasthan. Manganiyars are Muslim communities in Sindh and Rajasthan areas and are famous for their classical folk music. They are the groups of hereditary professional musicians, whose music has been supported by wealthy landlords and aristocrats for generations. In 1978, Jodhpur-based musician Komal Kothari provided the Manganiars with institutional support, allowing them to sing outside the state for the first time. Currently, several Manganiar groups tour internationally. Bagga Khan(49) has been in Jaisalmer ever since he was 20 and members of his community were have been singers in the royal court since centuries. Their music genre mainly comprises of Bhajans and Sufi songs, which are based on verses composed by various mystics like Meerabai and Kabir.

Played on simple instruments like “Tandura” (a five-stringed instrument resembling Veena) and Harmonium, Bagga Khan’s songs speak about humanity and love. Most of these songs are composed in “Chautaal” or a 4 beat cycle. According to Bagge Khan, they experiment with various ragas like “Bhairavi”, “Surth”, “Jog” without losing out on the essence and spirit of the song.

As Bagge Khan quotes the famous poet Bulle Shah “Love is of two types, one is the unending love for Allah and one is the love which we share with each other”. And this love can be best expressed through music, as Shakespeare said: “If music is the food for love, Play on”.

While explaining why music is the most powerful thing in the world, Bagge Khan says that even the highest King, will bow down to the power of music and shake his head with the rhythmic melody of a song. The whole conversation with Bagge Khan reflected his passion towards folk music, which has been a tradition in his family since centuries, and his group members wish that their future generations also carry forward this tradition. So far, Bagge Khan has performed in many places in India and abroad but cites Kolkata as his favourite city to perform in India, and Paris if we talk about the western counterparts. These performances are the main source of income for him and his family.

“Maan khero laavo leeje, mili nahi baaram-baar”

Life as a human is precious and one should use it to the fullest, as “life as a human” is granted only once.

As Bagga Khan and his group start singing, they lose themselves in a trance, a trait, which is often seen in passionate and skilled artists. Music, as Bagga Khan says, is a devotion. And one who has the knowledge of “shabd” (wisdom) by Guruji, can attain every possible thing in this universe. Bagga Khan’s eyes are filled with passion and love for his art, and he believes that humanity is worthless without humanity, he firmly believes that God gives you a “life as a human” only once. He and his group members take pride in their cultural heritage and would like their upcoming generations to carry on their traditions. While music is the primary source of livelihood for him, Bagga Khan also speaks that there should be an emphasis on technical education for the young generation, owing to the depleting demand of these folk artists.

Even though Bagga Khan is a Muslim, he has been singing devotional bhajans dedicated to Hindu Gods since a very young age. His music is beyond religious boundaries and the possibilities are unfathomable.

As Bagga Khan tunes his “Tandura”, a five-stringed instrument closely resembling veena, he is joined by his group members, Thane Khan on Harmonium, Mushtaque Khan on Dholak, and Prabhu ram and Dev Ram as accompanying vocalists. Music is a coherent factor which binds them together, and their songs speak volumes about human compassion, living and a spiritual way of life.

“Paapi milijo pachaas, nuguru miljo mate”

Fifty sinners are better than a person without a mentor (or a person who is headstrong).

Bagga Khan’s songs have a special emphasis on the possession of knowledge or “shabd” provided by the “Guruji” (God). In one particular song, based on Kabir’s couplets, Bagga Khan talks about how fifty sinners are better than a person who does not have a mentor or a guru. The relationship between a God and his disciple is a tender one nourished through sharing and spreading the knowledge wisely, and one should keep doing deeds which are as pure as diamonds and emeralds.

Even though Bagga Khan and his group member’s lives hasn’t been very smooth, yet, there is always an expression of contentment on their faces. Such content and satisfaction come through the pursuit of true passion and their devotion to their art. Their music group is invited to sing by the Royal families on all auspicious occasions in their palaces, ranging from childbirth to marriage. Bagga Khan and his group have set a milestone in the realm of classical folk music in India, and moreover, they are an ideal example of how music is free from the boundaries of caste, creed, culture and religion. Music is something which connects the soul to mind and recognises Godliness in every living being.

These golden grains of Jaisalmer and are interspersed with musical talent in every nook and corner, amongst the other aspects of the social fabric of the city as well as the “Living fort” of Jaisalmer.

Gaffur Khan And Group

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

Sakur Khan And Group

Melodies of the golden desert

Some 10 km from the city of Jaisalmer, there is a quaint, small town known as Satto, where Sakur Khan hails from. Sakur Khan had always aspired to be a musician and was mostly tutored at home. Like all other members of Manganiyaar community, his family has been singing for the royal families since generations.

Satto Khan’s inspiration has been his uncle, Nazeer Khan and he wants this art to pervade into the future generations. Satto Khan belongs to the Alamkhaana gharana of the Manganiyaars. He has been singing since the age of 8. Simple, humble and not very talkative, Satto Khan explains about his music with a sense of calm, and with a composed articulated manner.

As he talks about the Alamkhaana history, Sakur Khan explains, that there are four sub-castes even amongst Manganiyaars, namely, “Bhand”: Jesters in the royal courts, “Nagarchi”: People who play the ‘Nagada’, a sort of large drum, ‘Dagga’ people who played the dholak, and ‘Chandani’. His group has performed many times in the royal courts and the songs are customized for the Maharajas.

Unlike other groups who combine classical and folk raagas, his group is only into pure folk music, and follow the traditional system of 6 main Raagas, and 30 raaginis. (wives of raagas, as per mythology). At times, singing styles like Dadra are improvised on the spot.

This 36-year-old also teaches in Gunsaar organization, set up for musical training of the Manganiyaar community. One of his main principles has been to always lend a helping hand to others, as he believes that God watches over all of us.

“Karne waala upar waala hai”

The Almighty is the one who does everything.

True to his words, when he sings, it seems that the Almighty himself resides in his voice. Some of his songs, as he recalls, are more than 100 years old, and has pervaded through generations by musical teaching and training. Music is imbibed in Manganiyaar families since the beginning of a newborn. He sings with a powerful and moving voice as his fingers began to play on the harmonium.

Like other Manganiyar singers, his songs too have a varied range of themes, from childbirth, marriage, sweet conversations between a husband and his wife, and the transition of seasons. It’s really appalling to enhance these elements of nature through poetic words and songs.

These songs beautifully convey the emotions of women, who wait on for their husbands or lovers who promised once to come back to them soon but are far from their wives in search for material prospects. On the occasion of “Teej”, a festival in North India to celebrate the arrival of monsoons, these women gather in a group and sing songs dedicated to the rains, while simultaneously recalling about the ‘false promises’ their spouses made to them.

Aavan jaavan ro keh gayo
Kar gayo, kawal anek
Baalam ji mhaara jhirmir barse megh
You told me you will come back,

You made many false promises and you have lied to me. (kawal=lies, anek=many)

Oh my beloved (baalam ji), the clouds are pouring the heavy rain!

Likhe likhe kaagadiya
Dhola jeela, melan babuderi daakh
Baalam ji mhaara jhirmir barse megh

You wrote me many letters with promises of coming back,

“Dhola jee”, I have waited for you during all this monsoon season

Sakur khan is a song composer too, and through his songs, he pays a tribute to women and their “Shringaar”, which literally means ornamentation or the way the women deck up themselves to please their husbands. One can almost feel the pain of these women who dutifully abide by their husbands’ whims and fancies, yet, their love for them is unending, and their devotion towards them never dies, just like the music of Jaisalmer.

Bola illibor, jhoombad jhaintan
Bulo paayo naak bichre

My nose ring, the ornaments on my forehead, and my jhoombad(ornaments in the ear),

Whom can I show all this “sringaar”? (The beautification of the face)

Raag Desh is one of the important raagas in Manganiyaar folk music. Sometimes this raga is used in its pure form, while at times, its derivations are used. Raga Desh in Hindustani classical is mostly used to invoke a sense of patriotism, a sentimental patriotic feel. Most of these songs are composed in “Kairava” taal.

Such is the music of Jaisalmer, embedded in its golden sand dunes and engraved in every stone of the majestic living fort-city. Manganiyaar communities like that of Sakur Khan have kept their tradition alive through all these years through Guru-Shishya parampara, (teacher-disciple tradition). They have been entertaining the royal families since generations and their contribution to musical history is as vast as the Thar desert itself.

The elegant use of poetry and numerous metaphors is what makes them different. Every nook and corner of Jaisalmer is filled with several Sakur Khans who are trying to carve a niche with their individual uniqueness. As Jawahar Lal Nehru says, “India is like a palimpsest”, with layers and layers of thoughts and reverie inscribed on it. Such is this music of Manganiyaars, which have layers and layers of voices, history, folklore, love and melodies.

Jaisalmer Beats

Redefining folks by morphing the traditional art

 

In a land where music is embedded in the ramparts of every palace and the stones of the fort, in each nook and corner, Salim Khan’s music stands out for its sheer simplicity and the rare instruments like “Morchang” used by Salim. I want to name my website “Jaisalmer Beats”, says this 23-year-old, immensely talented man. Salim Khan is a perfectionist when it comes to music and also experiments with western instruments from time to time. Apart from playing the traditional Manganiyaar instruments like Algoza, shehnai, morchang, bhapang, he can also play western instruments like guitar, violin and jamb.

So far, Salim Khan has travelled to some 26 countries all over the world and has already filled out two passports. Salim Khan has been singing since he was 5, and has learned music from his father Bagga Khan. The royal family and its members, “Jajmaan” have been his patrons, and music is the lifeline of his family. Music is equivalent to a home for this man.

In future, he also wants to experiment with a fusion of western and traditional Rajasthani folk music. His music comprises of all genres from folk, classical, Sufi and songs dedicated to the Royal family. According to him, in their community, music is free of all barriers of caste and religion, and this is what makes their music special. Apart from being an expert in a variety of instruments, Salim can also sing in other languages like Hebrew and Spanish.

His melodious, high pitched but balanced voice, lingers in your ears for a long time.

Salim Khan believes in propagating this musical tradition and preserving it in a right manner and if given a chance, would also like to volunteer in music school. His group comprises of young children too, proficient in singing, and all the instruments and the youngest member in his group is 5. His music makes you believe that there are some things which transcend above all the boundaries and are infinite. The music is infinite, and the possibilities of his melodies are endless. The music itself is so vast that it cannot be confined to a textbook and standardized, as there are no set standards for learning music which is imbibed in his blood through generations.

Mhaaro sham ghar hatilo
Main to kene sang khelun holi

My beloved(sham) is not at home,

Whom shall I play(celebrate) Holi (festival of colours with)?

Holi Khelat mahadev
Khelat ganpat holi

Mahadev(Lord Shiva) Plays holi

Even Lord Ganesha(ganpat) plays holi…

Mhaaro sham ghar hatilo
Main to kene sang khelun holi

Like all his contemporaries in the folk music community of Manganiyaars, Salim Khan’s music also encompasses all the flavours of Rajasthan and Jaisalmer, like the transition of seasons, and the celebration of festivals like Holi. India is known for its colours and various layers of culture, and the culture of Jaisalmer is rich enough with harmonious melodies promulgating in unforgettable renditions. Raga Darbari is a very serious raga and is very difficult to master. It is meant to have a very deep, emotional impact, yet, it’s simply astounding how Salim managed to compose a playful song like Holi in this Raaga. There are recurring themes even in this light-hearted song, a longing of women for their men. As Salim Khan and his group finish a song, they introduce us to the world of Sufi music, rendered poetically by Manganiyaars, in Salaam-alaikum, where they invoke Allah, and his peace. “Peace be unto you”.

Assalam walequm walequm salam
Walequm salam en walequm salam
Wale-walequm salam
Assalam walequm walequm salam
Walequm salam en walequm salam
Wale-walequm salam

The song starts with the repeated chanting of popular greeting in Islam, Salam-alaikum, which means “Peace be unto you”. Since this song belongs to the Sufi genre, the main emphasis is on achieving peace through devotion, and in celebrating that peace through workship. This is sung in the form of a Qawwali.

As different and contrasting genres these two songs are, one couldn’t help but wonder the effortless renditions and the transition from one Raga to another, with the vibrations and rhythm of the Khadtaal, and dholak for keeping Taal.

This land of Jaisalmer, which is so rich in history, music plays a vital role in shaping their livelihood, and their life in Jaisalmer. This is the music, the culture which deserves to be preserved since it’s a part of the intangible heritage, and a vital part of the socio-economic fabric of Jaisalmer.