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Roop and Swaroop Group

Future of Folk that Ignites the Soul


Songs and dreams of two brother- Roope Khan and Swaroop Khan

They will sing their way out of this rut, they say. In fact, they repeat it so many times that they almost believe it.

Hopes and dreams should be kept alive.

The two brothers- Roope Khan and Swaroop Khan (12 and 13 years) say that their songs reach God. They have been learning music from their uncle ever since they remember.

They are a band now; they say with a big smile.

They sang the song of the royalty of the Jaisalmer wherein the queen requests the king to be kind and ride his horse slowly:

Maan lijo sa mujro maan lijo sa
Mahri raaj ri galiya man ghudla thaam lijo sa

(Please listen to my request and hold the reigns of your horses)

Eiya banana gokhru sume, saankliyo shingaar
Mahri raaj ri galiya man ghudla thaam lijo sa

(Your prestige increases with the jewellery, Please listen to my request and hold the reigns of your horses)

The songs tell the legacy of the royal Rajputana family of Jaisalmer where the kings were warriors and used to ride their horses with great vigour. These young boys have many such phantom stories weaved in their beautiful songs.

The voice of these two young boys tells the story of a carved jewel and the sweat and the toil of their families. Born and grown up in the Manganiyaar tribe of Jaisalmer, these two young boys have witnessed the struggles and the pain of the folk artisans. They refuse to tell those stories. They say we will sing songs and tell stories of dreams and hopes.

But sometimes they lose that when they have to cope up with their school, music and life. Both the young boys pursue their education in a local government school along with learning music. It keeps them busy and gives them a high as they say, but sometimes life pulls us down, when we get no work and see our father struggling for money, they say in a dispassionate manner.

But then we sing again.

This is work, this is life and this is all that matters.

They want to study further and also not give up music, as for them it is much more than life. It is the Inheritance and about 5000 years old tradition which they don’t want to lose. But they understand how difficult it is to survive just on music. It seasonal and they have no access to bigger platforms. The middlemen eat all the money. It is important to survey and find out a job.

They both have performed at in numerous grounds of both national and international venues with their group. They have made stage performance with Mame Khan also at various different countries. They have visited countries like the USA, London, France, Australia, etc. They are also part of Little Manganiyaar Classroom program by Roysten Abel. They are very young at an age still the understanding of music, especially their folk music is so deepened and strong that it can put anyone at a surprise. They want to bring take up their Rajasthani cultural music to another level and present it to a platform where one and everyone can cherish it. They want to make a platform for all their community members where they can be treated equally with respect. Roope and Swaroop wish to set an example in their community by achieving something in life by keeping the balance between both their studies and music. The dream that they have in their big sparkling eyes is to perform with legends on the international stage and bring pride to their culture and country.

Nick Hornby once said, “People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands — literally thousands — of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.”

It is an unfortunate state of affairs.

But the young boys take life in their own musical stride. They are also learning to play various musical instruments from their father and uncle. They love the warming of colourful costumes and perform at various events. They want to perform at bigger events all across the world and make their parents proud of themselves. They sing songs of various emotions and say that pursuing music is a lifelong pursuit and they are just beginners. And there is still a long way to go. Most of these artists are illiterate and unable to use technology on their own. Through education, they want to have a better life and support their family.

These boys aspire to carry forward their age-old tradition and get a pit of this vicious cycle. They don’t know how would it happen, but life is all about dreams and hope, as it is for most of us.

Bhutte Khan and Group

Remembering the Forgotten Folk


Bhutte Khan is a young musician is just 27 of age and has been learning folk music since he was 10 years old. He is a learned traditional folk singer who sings all the folk songs which his father — grandfather has been singing for ages. He says that whatever he has learned is the only way of learning in his culture that is just through listening. He tells with pride that in his community when even a just born child cries, he cries in a raag and rhythm and so there is no necessary need to teach them or send them to some teacher in order to bring passion in them for music. Everyone in his community automatically learns from one generation to another. The mere mention of the folk music brings to the mind the melodious Rajasthani folk songs. Rajasthani folk music is immensely popular and is appreciated all over the world. The folk music of Rajasthan is originated from stories and daily activities of Rajasthani people.

There is a diverse variety of music in every part of Rajasthan. Every region has its own folk entertainment including the different dance styles that differ with the songs. Among famous Rajasthani folk music Panihari, Pabuji ki Phach and Maand are the best. Maand is the most sophisticated style of folk music and has come a long way. Earlier it was sung only in the royal courts in praise of the Rajput rulers.

Bhutte Khan sings beautiful folk and Sufi songs. Sufi he has learnt from his grandfather who himself was a famous Sufi singer back then. Bhutte Khan can sing all types of songs but he prefers to sing his cultural music wherever he goes as he feels proud of it. He started singing from the age of 10 and since then there is no stopping by. His first competition and stage performance were in New Delhi, organised by CCRT in 2004 in which more than 500 talented singers participated. He has sung in various festivals organised by the Government like Marwad Festival, Desert Festival, etc. He wants to live with the passion for music alive in his life, as that is one passion which is very dear to him and keeps him going. He dreams to travel the world and spread the word about his culture with his music and passion. The Rajasthani style of music has made a significant contribution to enrich and enhance the Indian music as a whole. The music of the royal state of Rajasthan has its own flavours which have kept the 5000 years old tradition of the state still alive. Thus the folk music of Rajasthan is the soul of the land of the Royals. Bhutta says “Folk music is suffering from cruel editing. People say that they are keeping folk music alive by remixing it, modifying its story, context and even lyrics. I think that is the perfect way of destroying something of historical importance, be it culture, heritage or traditions. And folk music is India’s heritage and it should be presented without modification in its soul or essence. And if this editing continues it’ll create confusion, ultimately destroying folk music.”

He and his group is one such group which a wonderful and extremely talented group member. The group has seasoned older artists like Bhutte Khan, Rahim Khan, Mushtar Ali, Ashraf Khan and Khete Khan. 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.

Chhelamama Group

Where Music is Refuge


Mesmerising the world with his rustic flavour of the classical folk music, Thane Khan, a distinguished folk singer of Rajasthan has a unique style rooted in classical folk music form to communicate with the modern world. Music is in their veins — and with an innocent smile, Thane Khan admits even though he could have learned music from anyone — his neighbours or any of his uncles or elder cousins — no one can truly succeed without a Guru and he found one in Gulab Khan. Even today, he takes his Guru’s name before each performance. Back in his village of Chaudhraa, he teaches young talents from nearly 20 households under his informal society named Chhela Mama group. With help from friends and fellow musicians, Thane Khan is trying to help his community by providing folk artists with musical instruments and training. He has also had support from Jodhpur Naatak purchase these instruments and they hope to continue doing this in future. Thane Khan sings but can play dholak, khartaal, dhol kamaicha (which he learned from his father Mistri Khan).

His first big break was when he performed with Ghazi Khan in 1991 and Rajiv Gandhi himself gifted him a garland made of rupee-notes. After that, there was no looking back and he travelled all around the country in the years to come. Thane Khan’s first international feat was a two-month long tour de France in 2008. He formed his own group shortly after but has been actively performing with other artists as well.

His association with music goes back to the last traces of his memory. He sings songs of the past battles in the regions, the local Rajput Maharajas, love and longing. One of his favourites is the song about being a groom and the emotion and glory of being the one. He sings,

Baaga mara champo bano
Champe upar rang

(The groom looks like a bunch of flower in the garden)

Beend raja aisa bana
Tara ke beech Chand

(He looks like the moon amongst stars)

Aiso din aaj ko
Nit nit hoe

(May the day like this occur every day)

The lyrics of this song along with many others have been written by his ancestors and they pick up on the age-old tradition. In fact, he tells that most of these songs are never written and they are considered down upon for their own storylines and characters. Even though some of the characters taken are from the mainstream tradition but there are differences in the plots suiting to the local imaginations of the people. But it can still be considered as a heritage for its centuries of transmission and the belonging to the world of local and indigenous. In fact, the folk artists of Rajasthan are the forgotten storytellers of the rich culture and tradition of the area and the songs tell the stories of bravery, love, romance and everything happened and did not happen.

But Thane Khan like other folk artists of the place shares the same pain of being caught up in the rut of seasonal work and struggles for a living. He says, “We spend all our lives preserving this age-old tradition and culture. In fact, we have been learning music since birth that goes on till the time we die. But this is so unfortunate that we struggle for our living. It is very difficult. There is not much appreciation for such art and culture. Life is very different here.”

But he says, “We sing songs of happiness and royalty. We do not let our pain surface our voice. It remains within us.”

Thane Khan has performed all across the world in many countries including France, Dubai. He has now formed his own troop and music academy called “Chela Mama” and performs at various places. He also trains young children enjoys doing. He has also collaborated with Jodhpur Drama Academy and All India Radio. He sings and plays all major folk music instruments.

He has been learning music when he was 10 years and tells the most distinguished memory is when performed in front of the ex-Prime Minister of India Late Rajiv Gandhi who after seeing his performance rewarded him. He sings in all the folk raagas but Malhaar is his favourite. He aspires to take music to next level so that he can take care of his family well. He has performed along with his group in Amman, Israel, Africa and other countries. But he is still caught up in the shackles of poverty due to the negligence of folk music.

But then he says, “music is our refuge.”

Suprabhat Group

Folk from the Land of Jaisindhar


You return to those lines, and they hold the song in place.

That’s what a song is mostly.

The songs of Jalal Khan possess such captivating powers. This eminent artist is from Barmer who is carrying forward his family tradition of folk music. He has been learning and performing music from a very young age. He plays the harmonium along with singing. He was studying till 10th standard and after that, he learnt music.

He sings songs of love and betrayal, birth and death. He says, “Such is the juxtapose of artists. We delve into anomalies.”

A father of two young girls, Jalal Khan sang a beautiful song blessing for a young girl/ daughter.

Baisa mahare laad ka Ghana
Baisa mahare footra Ghana

(My daughter is adorable and loving.

She is very beautiful)

Mamosa mamera dese hai
Kakosa kariya dese hai

(Maternal uncle would give lots of gifts,

Paternal uncle would gift a camel)

Telling more about the song he mentions how the emotions and love for a daughter are beautifully portrayed in this folk piece. No wonder that artists, who render these beautiful lyrics day in and day out, get influenced by their spirit too. He says, “I see my daughters and I think that I am not able to give them all that deserve. Folk musicians struggle for a living. This is a hard reality. I am sending them to school now, but I don’t know till when I would be able to take care of them. It makes me sad sometimes.”

Jalal Khan is from Jaisindhar village in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. He has been following the tradition of singing his folk from the very beginning. He says that they after taking birth their parent’s hand over them with different instruments and thus they learn them without any formal training. 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 Jalal 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 Jalal Khans who are trying to carve a niche with their individual uniqueness.

His voice is jewelled with the gems of semi-classical tone. He sands us another beautiful song to cover his melancholy with a big and warm smile. This was the song of welcome. Such is the warmth of the Manganiyaar tribes. Perhaps, such is the life of these artists who translate their pain into beautiful folk songs.

Thana kehdi karada manvare re
Mahra mithiya mehmaan ghar aaveya
They revo to randhana shiya laapsi
Thana Chadtana Chodmo chaand re

(How should I please my guests

My beloved guests have come home

If you stay, then I’ll make sweet

But don’t make me panic like growing moon)

This beautiful song also talks about the warm welcoming culture of Rajasthan. Jalal Khan puts this in his melodious voice and sings other songs of royalty, bravery, love and pain. His songs touch a chord strongly. They reach where they are supposed to.

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. 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. He sings all kind of songs and all the ragas, amongst which is favourite is Kalyan raag which is the mother of all six the ragas. Jalal has performed almost everywhere in the country in most of the major cities. He wishes to go out of the country and spread the invaluableness of his culture in the world. He wants to make his country proud. He dreams of taking his community and the talent in them to the world and uplift them.

He also sings Sufi and hopes that his songs of prayers reach the one. Someday, he will shower his love and kindness upon him, he says with a great belief.

He calls himself blessed to have performed all across the country. But when it comes to making a living, the struggle still exists. It is not easy. Money is an issue, an impediment. But the hope is that people will find them someday on the internet; that someone will notice them, and launch them.

He will always sing. Whether it’ll give us anything or not. But you do few things because you are born to do that. Music is that for us, Jalal says.

Rasool Kan and Group

Enigmatic Tales of Folks


On hearing this song, one cannot resist but smell the air of Rajasthan:
Ghoomar hai nakrali hai maa
Ghoomar ramva mai jaasa

( Let me enjoy the dance, let me go there)

This is the song of fun and dance and all those emotions that a young girl beholds. Those emotions when translated in the beautiful and distinguished voice of the legendary Rasool Khan, they strike a chord in the heart.

Rasool Khan, an illustrious artist of Manganihar tribe of folk musicians of Rajasthan. He sings songs of love and betrayal. Songs of hope, and fear. Songs of faith, and of defiance. Rasool Khan is from Khuri, Jaisalmer and has been entertaining people from the age of 14 with his music. He is a singer and has learnt from his grandfather Baghe Khan. Simple, humble and not very talkative, Satto Khan explains about his music with a sense of calm, and with a composed articulated manner. Being a Manganiyaar he is a born musician and can have songs in his treasure right from birth to death and for all the occasions. Rasool is a very simple gentleman who believes in simple living and following ones’ passion with the whole heart. He can sing in all the raags.

When it comes to studies he hasn’t attended school after class 7th but still remembers the age-old songs coming from generations just like that. He now feels that education is very important and therefore he made sure that his children are studying. He wants his children to study more than him and become a competent person in life such that they cannot be fooled. Apart from music he also drives auto in the city of Jaisalmer for some extra earnings.

He has performed at most of the places on both national and international levels from Deli, Punjab, Haryana, Mumbai to the USA, Sydney, London, etc. 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.

Before he sings, he touches his ears, folds hands, and ask for forgiveness. In Islam, the religion he and other Manganihars follow, music — ‘ useless entertainment’ — is forbidden for it leads away from the path of spirituality, they say.

But he is a believer like others of his tribe and believes in the mystic power of music to reach God.

Music, they have been told, creates arousal, and passion. Hearts should not be moved with desire. Stretching, raising, and softening the voice could lead to sins of passion.

Rasool Khan has travelled places for his music. He has performed all across the globe in various countries. He says, “I can’t name all of them in one go. But what’s the benefit? We still struggle. May God listen to our songs (prayers).”

He has been learning music from a very young age. He first learnt it from Ustad Baage Khan when he was a child. It is a lifelong journey, he says. It never ends.

Rasool has studied till the seventh standard and could not pursue further studies. But, now he wants his children to study hard and also learn music knowing the condition of Indian tribal music he doesn’t want them to starve like himself. He feels that education will take his children ahead and would also help them take music all across. He also drives auto-riksha for a living since folk music is only a seasonal work.

“I sing while driving auto-rickshaw too. It entertains my passengers. Afterall, I have to take care of my family and money is a challenge through music.” He says.

He quotes from his song, ‘Shayanayo Badariyo jino madro baje’

Kaagaj hue to baach lu
Karm na baacho jae

(If it would have been paper, I would have read it

But I cannot read my karmas)

Though it’s a romantic song he picks these lines to convey the irony of life. It is a difficult paradox. But music is all that we love. Hope someday our songs shall be heard.

Gullu Khan and Group

Folks Weaving the Generations!


Gullu Khan is a folk singer from Jangra village in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. He is from the Manganiyaar community and is blessed to perform in Hindu’s temple and as well as Muslim’s mosque. He is welcomed by both the religions whether Hindu or Muslim. He has been singing and following his age old generation’s traditions of cultural folk songs. Talking about the importance of music in his life, he says, that even when new-born cries in their family, it’s in a perfect melodious pitch!

Personally, his favourite genre is Sufi music. As is the case of most popular Manganiyaar singers, his patron is the Thakurs. While he has performed in many countries to date, his favourite place to perform in Paris. 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. His musical themes are deeply inspired by and embedded in the culture of Jaisalmer. Gullu Khan, an illustrious singer of Manganiyaar tribe beautiful weaves various tales of love and bravery together when he sings,

Aade aade nadiyon jaddo ghanero
Teru dero betu lijiyo thaare saath

There are a lot of rivers in your front,

Take someone with you who can swim and take you across rivers

Selabandh mas dheema dheema bol
Raje mhaara raj

Talk to me sweetly, you are a Royal Rajput by blood, and you are mine.

Aade aade doongariya vana ghaner
Ghodliya lijiyo thaare saath

There are a lot of forests in your way,

So take a horse for your travel, so you won’t have to walk.

Raj dhabarnayanira sahiba

I am Your beloved with big eyes,

Raje mhaara raj

Talk to me sweetly, you are a Royal Rajput by blood, and you are mine.

Thane, 60 says that he has been learning from a very young age. This is what everyone in our tribe used to do, so did I. But I could not study much. Regretfully he says as there was no school in the village.

But life has its own way and one should not interfere much with the universal plans, he says. Music has taken him all over the world. He has performed in as many countries as he says, “Cannot be named all in one go”. He has also performed in a circus in Europe and has stayed there for four years. He says, those days were different, but now I am old and I hardly get any work. Such is the life of artists. You cannot claim your success.

He sings songs of a bouquet of human emotions meticulously weaved in folk tales.

In the song, Pehlo pehlo, he beautifully describes the sweet-salty relationship of a couple.

Pehlo pehlo dhaalo re banna sa dhaliyo
Daavdeo pad gayo kuda
Mhaaro bhanwar khile shoghti
Dhaavadlo pad gayo sudaao
Mhaaro banno sa khole shoghti

The husband and wife are playing a board game,

The husband’s move is quite a bad one and the wife’s move is excellent.

Therefore, the husband gets mad and throws the board game

So the wife gets upset and shuts herself is a room

Pehla manao nanadal, aaviya
Kholo bhabaj, kamdhajiya kiwad

The husband’s sister comes first and asks her to come out, and open the door

Mhaare beero sa kaiso roshno

She says to her, why are you angry with my brother?

Thaari manayi nanadal baesa nahi maanu
Thaare beero sa goonthiyo janjaal

In reply, the wife says: I will not be convinced,

Your brother ruined the game.

Such is the nature of folklore. They describe human emotions in the rawest but entertaining manner.

Gullu Khan has witnessed how folk music is neglected and is a subject to the vices of middleman who take innocent folk artists abroad and pay them nuts. He sadly says, there are no mediums, no platforms for us to have our copyright. Our songs are stolen. We preserve them in our blood and sweat but at the end, we are the ones who starve while others make money through that. This is unfortunate, he says.

Like other artists of Manganiyaar tribe, Gullu Khan also struggles for living in spite of being the custodian of this age-old folk art and a trained melodious voice. He is disappointed by the fact that this culture of folk music is gradually dying and it is high time to preserve this age-old tradition.

He hopes that the youth of this generation should understand and preserves the folk music. He is sad about the fact that today’s generation prefers Bollywood music over the folk music of the country.

But he says hope is something we should never lose.