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Rajasthan

Pempo Khan and Group

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 it. 

Pempo Khan is an artist from the Manganiyar community of Jaisalmer. He is a leading vocalist as well as a percussionist in the his musical group. All the musicians in this group formed by Pempo Khan are expert musicians from the same community which has an ages-old tradition to teach their children music since the beginning stages of their lives.

The Manganiyars have a deep-rooted history in Rajasthan as the Rajputs have been patrons to them for centuries. They teach their children music since the beginning stages of their childhoods and instil a great passion for the art form within them. Pempo Khan himself began learning at a very young age from his father, Gaffer Khan and developed a certain level of expertise in the musical form very early in his life. He also learned most of the ragas involved in classical music such as Maad and Bhairavi, and understands the technicalities that go into the composition and structure of a song.

Apart from following his passion for music, Pempo writes poetry in a regional language known as Dingal-Pingal. He has received quite a bit of support from his patrons, The Rathore family Senawaran near the Pokhran region. Due to the unfortunate lack of opportunities within the music industry folk musicians like Pempo Khan have to find other jobs in order to earn a livelihood, especially during offseason. He works as a housekeeper at a resort known as Gorbandh palace for the time being but wishes to pursue his passion for music as his profession. Through this art form, he aims to make an impact on the livelihoods of all the musicians like him and set their lives on a course for prosperity.

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 perform in mandirs, at the dargah, they sing about Shiva, Krishna, Mira. Makes bhajan as well.   

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

Pempo Khan himself is deeply knowledgable about classical music and its components such as the ragas. He has gained this knowledge with the help of his father and passes it on to his children as their guru. He loves to sing the ‘Bhairavi’ raga, which can be sung at any time of the day. His talents and abilities show the true meaning of brilliance and dexterity. Using these abilities and a display of various emotions through his music, Pempo Khan wants to make an impact on the Manganiyar community’s presence in the world of music. The group also likes to work with different instruments and styles of music. They have played and composed a few songs along with western instruments such as guitar. 

All of these artists, despite receiving the support of the royal Rajput families that reside in the region have to work in different professions during the offseason to get the financial support needed to feed their families. Through their musical talents, they wish to pursue a career in music and promote the Manganiyar culture across the world and create a sustainable environment wherein these musicians can work with their art forms and prosper.

Pokhran Music Group

A troupe of folk musicians who belong to the Manganiyar community, Pokhran Manganiyar are quite popular in the Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan. Happe Khan steps up with his vocal ability as the lead singer of the group. He also has expertise in playing the traditional instrument called Harmonium. Along with masters of percussion instruments such as Dhol and Khartal, that are played by Ghulam, Sikander and Raees Khan, almost every individual in their group have had years of experience in performing their art and presenting it to the audiences.

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

Happe 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, Happe 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. Happe Khan plays the Harmonium which he learnt and developed an affinity towards while he was in school. 

Like any other professional singer, he has a 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 learns 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 a 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.

Happe 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.

Their community is known for musically talented and passionate individuals who have a desire to showcase their rich culture and create awareness about it in the outside world. Many are learned in the field of classical music and understand the intricacies that affect the structure of the songs that they play, including all the ragas that are involved in the composition of the melodies.

Young artists like Devu Khan and Shaukat Khan, with their incredible vocal ability, are also an important part of their clique and show an unforgettable display of their talents whenever they perform. Through their youthful drive and desire to create as well as inspire, these artists bring a disparate light to the otherwise highly experienced musicians of the group. 

Despite the struggles of living in the rural regions of the Thar desert, these artists have done a brilliant job of getting their talents together in order to form a musical group that compliments each other. Their melodies are captivating and transpire through word of mouth as most of them haven’t had the privilege to get a college education and gain the required marketing skills but they wish to make an impact on their community and livelihoods through their art form.

Kheta Khan and Group

Khete Khan and his group of instrumentalists belong to the famous Manganiyar community of Rajasthan and hail from Baiya village. Their group specializes in playing the Marawadi form of Rajasthani folk music. These musicians like to keep their music authentic in terms of the lyrics and instruments and belong to ‘Merasi’ gharana.
 
Khete Khan is a young musician who 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.
 
Their community carries an ages-old and strong bond with the Rajputs as these artists have been performing for them since the middle ages. They consider Swaroop ‘Suryavanshi’ Singh’s royal family as their patrons. They sing bhajans that praise Hindu gods as well as famous Sufi saints of the olden times. These musicians are experts in their crafts and know-how to captivate the audience with their magical display of the art forms. 
 
Their music is mostly an amalgamation of Indian classical melodies along with the Sufi creations that were performed by artists of Muslim descent and take a huge amount of inspiration from the extreme weather conditions of the Thar desert as well as the picturesque beauty of the endless sandy desert. The instruments used by this group are Dholak, Harmonium, Khartal and Kamaicha. They have been learning the art from a very young age as it has been a tradition in their families for centuries and they are only the latest generation of a long line of folk artists.
 
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 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. Khete 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.”
 
Most of these artists were taught the music by their parents and have not had any access to proper education as well as infrastructure that would make their lives comfortable. All their struggles though, have not stopped them from pursuing what they love most, which their melodies and describing their emotions of spirituality through their bhajans. Their brilliant vocals and musical finesse are unmatched as they wish to make a living out of these abilities and showcase them to the world in order to promote their culture and traditions and preserve their art form for future generations.
 
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.
 

Jaisalmer Boys Group

A chorus of village boys celebrates their musical heritage in a joyous production that challenges the rigid modern education system that threatens their traditions.

Jaisalmer Boys are a young group of child artists and musicians who are still in the beginning phases of their lives as they embark upon a path taken by almost every person living in their community. These children have already gained a substantial amount of experience in music but are still at a learning stage in their quest to master the art only due to their youthful school-going age. Not only have they developed a brilliant vocal ability, but they have also set themselves on the way toward mastering various traditional instruments.  

They sing songs that are traditional to their community, the Manganiyars. Their culture has brought these young individuals together as they play the traditional instruments of Rajasthan and learn all the skillsets and knowledge required in the field of classical and folk music. Dhol, Khartal and Harmonium are some of the common instruments that are a part of their area of expertise.

 The children, some of whom are as young as eight, make up the cast of Jaislamer Boys – a buoyant, energetic group showcasing the music of the Manganiyar people, a community of Muslim musicians from Sindh, Pakistan, and Rajasthan, India. They are the keepers of distinctive musical traditions that include vocal acrobatics, percussion and a variety of instruments, which for a long time were supported by aristocratic patronage.

 These young kids have been aspiring about becoming artists in the field of music from such an early stage. This is what sets them apart from most folk music communities and groups from the state. They do what they are passionate about and want to discover the professional aspect of it as well.   

“Life is a struggle unless you really make it. But here we’re talking about a whole community, a whole tribe of musicians. Where is the place for them to flourish?” says the eldest of them all.

One would think they are just like any other children and the innocence in their eyes does not reveal their talent. It is when they start singing together then one realises that these little bundles of joy have mastered this art of transporting you to a magical land.

 The influence of the market, which is not kind to things like tradition or heritage, coupled with the inflexibility of their children’s schooling, means the Manganiyar musical traditions are under threat. After listening to them, one realises deeply that it is essential to look after these traditions because it’s not something that you have in every other part of the world, it is a treasure we need to look after.”

They are a lovely bunch of talented and mischievous kids. One has a lot of fun working with them. But the whole point is to give them and many more like them in the villages of Rajasthan a better life. The idea is to give them choices and chances. We want to give them better infrastructure and more exposure, so they can really go places. The people from this community are blessed, in a way, and their talent shouldn’t go to waste. If you are a child born in a city with affluent parents, your parents would make sure to avail you of the best possible path. But, if you are a Manganiyar child, it can be possible that you are super talented and yet there are no avenues. They can’t go anywhere and in helplessness, they resort to odd jobs. 

Manganiyars are a part of our splendid history and the painful realisation that despite their contribution to music, these carriers of a great tradition have so far remained unnoticed, forgotten to be included in the programmes of ‘progress’. But when the children perform, they make us believe that there is still hope for a better world.  They are just so full of life and they have immense talent. Their music gives a lot of joy and it gives a lot of joy to the whole world. All they need is a good direction towards providing them with a better lifestyle without having to give up this hereditary art form in order to earn enough to survive.

Rais Khan and Group

The leader, Rais Khan had to learn to pick himself up without the support of his father who passed away when Rais was just a month and a half old. Rais describes that event as a tragic and yet transformational one as he then went on to live with his paternal uncle, Jazman Khan who taught him all the basics of traditional Rajasthani music and dance. Rais himself sings as well as plays the Harmonium even though he understands the classical music form very well and knows how to play a lot of other instruments. The whole group has great theoretical knowledge on the subject of music as well. They know how to play and sing ragas like Maad and Bhairavi. Maad raga seems to be their favourite one as they sing it in their welcome song which can be sung at any time of the day.

The roots of Sufi can largely be found in Persia, parts of the Arabic world, Pakistan and India. The qawwali and kaafi are the most popular styles of Sufi and are associated with poets such as Hafez, Rumi, Amir Khusro, Baba Bulleh Shah, Hazrat Shah Hussein and Khwaja Ghulam Farid. But still, in today’s scenario, the number of Sufi singers is much lesser than that compared to artists in other genres. Sufism, as the mystical dimension of music preaches peace, tolerance and pluralism while encouraging a way of deepening one’s relationship with the Creator. Sufi music seeks to unite listeners with the Divine. In the songs of Rais Khan, you can feel the pain of separation from the Creator at the core of Sufi lyrics and music, and hence the intense longing to dissolve the physical realm and transcend into the spiritual universe with the ambience.

Together they have performed in various regions of the country, especially all districts of Rajasthan. Their passion for the art form leads their path towards performing and showcasing their skills in front of audiences from various walks of life. From royal Rajput families to everyday street vendors, their music has the capacity to draw everyone and their songs are relatable for a large percentage of people wherever they go.

The entire ambience becomes serene with Rais Khan in the midst of his singing, narrating the story, pauses to sing a few bars in his full-throated voice and then smiles as he takes you through the twists and turns of the story. The mesmerising, uplifting voice of Rais Khan takes you on a troll to the journey with his songs which are defined usually as expressions of the longing to be close to the divine. Rais Khan recalls the time when he was 8 years old and used to accompany his father, who taught him harmonium. The same he did with his son and grandson, but what he worries the most is that what one misses is a concrete effort to educate listeners about this wonderful genre as, without that, things may well remain at a standstill.

But as a ray of hope, the group has the younger generation learning and taking a keen interest in music. If one goes around the group they can witness both the maestro Rais Khan and the young but extremely talented Dholak players — Askar Khan and Tareef Khan, Khartal by Shaukat Khan and Anwar Khan, brother of Rais Khan on backing Vocals perfectly blending with an essence of music. The young Askar Khan wants to work really hard in his field and make his family proud. He wants to learn so much that he could teach his children and other children in his society the traditional Dholak. Similarly, for Tareef Khan and Shaukat Khan the learning just never goes stop, they feel it helps you grow as a person you are from within and makes it easy to get to know ones’ soul.

Although Rais Khan has gained a lot of name and fame in comparison to others even till today if you ask him why he sings at the age of 55, he would simply look at you and smile and say “bass Khuda se ghuftagu ho jaati hai to sukoon milta hai or jab tak wo chah raha hai guftgu yunhi barkarar rahegi. Hum to bass isi mein khush hain jo wo chahta hai (it feels relaxed and contended after talking to the Almighty and till the time he wishes the conversation shall continue. We are happy with what He wants.”

They come from humble backgrounds but have a powerful desire to create and perform their art not just to make a living but contribute to their community’s musical culture. They have come together form similar walks of life and different age groups to form a clique in order to showcase their skills and abilities to promote the culture of Rajasthan and set it on a path of prosperity and welfare for the Manganiyar community.

The unfortunate demise of Rais Khan’s father when Rais was just about a month and a half old had already put him in a tricky situation right from the beginning of life. Eventually, during his childhood years, he moved to his paternal uncle’s place and began to explore the art form that is so close to his heart. He then moved on to learn and polish his vocal ability as well as musical skills through Harmonium when he turned eighteen.

About five years back, Rais Khan started his musical group in Jaisalmer along with Shaukat Khan and Muqaddar Khan. Since then he has had opportunities to perform in almost every state within the country as well as two foreign tours to the United States. Besides the traditional Rajasthani folk melodies, Rais has also understood and mastered various ragas such as Mada, Bhairavi and Kalyan.

With a humble attitude towards every performance and event, Rais Khan appreciates all the opportunities he gets. He wishes to make a substantial contribution to the Manganiyar community of Jaisalmer through his performances and aims towards more performances across the globe in order to promote this folk art form.

Shankar Khan and Group

Shankar Khan is leading a talented as well as an experienced group of musicians who have been learning music since an early stage in their lives. He as a leader himself has been playing for over two decades and has performed in various states cities of the country like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and a few districts in his native state of Rajasthan like Jaipur and Jodhpur also.

 

These musicians have learned through the art of observation of their elders at weddings of the royal families of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer and belong to the Manganiyar community of Jaisalmer. This community has evolved with the evolution of traditional folk melodies that were created in the state of Rajasthan. Every sound their music makes reverberates with raw and free aspects of human development that has the potential to touch one’s heart and soul.

 

While explaining the meaning of Manganiyar, Shankar 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. Shankar Khan’s eyes light up with a beautiful shine while talking about music. He 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.

 

Shankar Khan and his group when begins they make the audience lose themselves in a dream as they began singing their enchanting music in the auditorium of the very renowned college Birla Institute of Technology, Pilani in Rajasthan. Shankar Khan and his group members, Ashraf Khan, Devu Khan, and Rajjak 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 culture. Every member of the group is so much dedicated to their passion which is music. They write songs and compose them in such a way that the essence of folk is revived in them.

 

Their songs are mostly sung for various auspicious occasions like marriage, navatras, childbirth, etc. Shankar Khan’s songs combine love with the skill of music, and the result is a masterpiece.

Simple, yet intense and yet so deep. This is Shankar Khan’s music which speaks volumes about the daily, and otherwise tedious human emotions, love, separation, the nervousness of a woman who is about to get married, who compares of the feeling of separation with the sting of the Scorpio all over ones’ body. All these human emotions are beautifully captured and blended with the beauty of rare ragas. Shankar Khan wants to carry forward the traditions of his family and community, to impart this culture 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.

 

All the group members are close relatives of each other. They wanted to take their family together for all the performances in the future so that they can help them in earning a livelihood. They want to perform all over the world and make their family proud. They want the world to recognize India with them. They wish they could have studied when they had the chance to but for now, they are determined that they would send their children to study and become literate. They want to make their upcoming generation literate without any compromise with their passion for music, which runs in their blood.

 

On asking how would the children be able to manage music with studies he said, “Arre humare yahan to khoon mein howe hai gaana bajaana, seekhne ki jaroorat nahi padti. Humara bahcha bhi rota hai to sur mein rota hai. “(Our people have music in their blood, therefore they don’t need anyone to sit with them and teach. When our kids cry, even that they do in melody.”

 

Shankar Khan is a specialist at playing harmonium and sings along with the percussions of Khartal provided by Salim Khan and Ghulam Khan, who despite their young ages are quite experienced and proficient in displaying the art of their music. Ghama Khan is another revolutionary artist within their group and focuses on the beats through his extremely smooth manner of playing the Dholki, which a small traditional drum-like instrument used in a lot of traditional folk songs of this culture. With this he sings:

Chopa kupaar chugna

(Suryavanshis like Chopar, Chugna)

 

Midtiya, Kulmor

(Midtiya, Kulmor)

 

Jodha biraje Jodhpur

(Jodha Singh resides in Jodhpur)

 

Ranbanka Rathore

(The Rathores must emerge victorious in the battle)

 

Dusho baje re Rathoro ko ri

(The weapon of the Rathores makes the sound)

 

All of these artists, despite receiving the support of the royal Rajput families that reside in the region have to work in different professions during the offseason to get the financial support needed to feed their families and sustain their households. Through their musical talents, they wish to pursue a career in music and promote the Manganiyar culture across the world.

Jalal Khan and Group

With the grand backdrop of Jawahar Niwas in Jaisalmer, Jalal Khan and his group laid out their set up of instruments and worshipped then before placing on the carpet. It was such a beautiful sight to see all the artists who are Muslims, pay respects to their instruments by keeping a picture of Goddess Saraswati in front of them. The artists before anything said their prayers and then began with their song:

Aiso re din aaj ro

(Today is the kind of day)

 

Aiso nito nit hoy

(Which is nothing like other days)

 

Aanagan barse mehuda

(The rain falls in our balconies)

 

Hiwde thandak hoye

(The heart feels relieved)

 

As Jalal   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.

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!

 

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.

 

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. Jalal   Khan also takes music workshops in training camps. His musical themes are deeply inspired by and embedded in the culture of Jaisalmer.

 

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.

 

A talented group of musicians coming from the Dagga tribe of the Manganiyar community residing in small village called Chandan situated in the Jaisalmer district. These Rajasthani folk musicians understand music in and out as they develop and present music adapted from the traditional folk as well as Sufi songs that have survived through the passing centuries and generation. Most of the songs they play are utterly devotional towards the gods and goddesses they worship. Their devotion is evident and breaks the chains of following a specific religion as they sing praises of Hindu gods and goddesses even though they come from a Muslim background.

 

Apart from folk melodies, they have also mastered various other forms of music like Qawalis, Ghazals, Rajasthani and Bollywood fusion, etc. They have also developed a true understanding of classical music including all the ragas and talas. The group leader Jalal Khan believes that the most important thing in any artist’s life is authenticity and transparency. He has also featured in the top 15 contestants in the colours TV show called ‘Rising star’ in the year 2017 and won accolades such as the national award from Madan Mohan Sangati in Rajasthan.

 

Jalal Khan’s talent in playing Dholak along with Mustaq Khan, Sabir Khan, and Hanif Khan with their exceptional display of vocals and instruments such as Harmonium, Khartaal, and Shehnai is a sight to watch without a blink of the eye.

 

The group has performed in various cities of the country as well as abroad. Their most memorable performance took place in the city of Durban, South Africa. They have also done shows in countries like Kenya, Bhutan, Mozambique, and Tanzania. Apart from shows, these artists want to contribute to the preservation as well as the promotion of their local culture across the world.

Sabir Khan and Group

(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 Sabir’s 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.

Sabir Khan is a child artist who is currently in his early teenage years of life. At such a young age Sabir has gained extensive knowledge about music, especially its classical and traditional Rajasthani folk forms. At such a juvenile age, Sabir Khan leads a group of young and upcoming child artists. He belongs to the Manganiyar community of Jaisalmer. This community has a traditional way to teach every child the intricacies of music through vocals as well as musical instruments.

He has practised multiple traditional instruments like Dholak, Dhol, Khartal, Morchang etc. As he is still at a learning stage in his craft he still takes classes from his paternal uncle and used to play dholak with his grandfather. He has performed in almost all district within Rajasthan and metro cities such as Mumbai as well. He considers his performance in Mumbai as the most memorable one and wishes to replicate more experiences of the same kind.

Sabir Khan has set an aim to support and promote the Manganiyar culture at such a juvenile age. He aspires to do so and create more awareness as well as opportunities for the folk musicians who reside in the region through his artful display of their traditional genre of music as well as dance.

Sabir and all the members of his musical group are children who have yet to be initiated into the world of responsibilities of adult life. This gives them a substantial amount of buffer time to take advantage of their talents and make a presence for themselves in the musical sphere of the state as well as the country. Young instrumentalists like Hazur, Moti and Hanif Khan, who are quite dedicated to their art make for brilliant talents at such young ages. The vocals of Sarvar, Sohail and the leader himself have shared with each other a spectrum of knowledge in music and shall keep doing it for as long as they can.

 These children idolize the elders of their villages who have passed on their musical knowledge to them. They also idolize popular folk and Sufi musicians from the state and understand the importance of their success which brings prosperity to their culture and raises awareness about it in the outside world.

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

Edhe Khan and Group

Edhe Khan is a vocalist from the Dagga tribe of the Manganiyar community. He began to learn music during his teenage years from his grandfather. He also learned how to play various traditional instruments such as Dhol, Khartal, and Harmonium. Specializing in folk melodies that are sung and performed on numerous auspicious occasions as well as bhajans, Edhe Khan formed his group of folk artists and now these young musicians are on the cusp of gaining more popularity in the state.

Edhe Khan has only received formal education till the 5th grade. Beyond that, he began to learn and take music more seriously. He also started learning about the ragas and taals involved within the classical music spectrum and considers the Des raga as his favourite raga of all stating the reason that it involves all the seven notes while being played. He has also performed in various districts of the state of Rajasthan and his most memorable performance was when he performed at the wedding ceremony of Lucknow’s royal family’s daughter.

All the singers and instrumentalists in his group are passionate about pursuing music and intend to work in the field of music while promoting the Manganiyar culture from Rajasthan to the whole country and eventually the world. 

Ujri bhabooth ang

Mastang soye gang

His body is smeared with ash, the river Ganga rests on his forehead.

Raate rate naino aankho

Neelkanth dhaaye

One who has red eyes and has a blue throat (as per mythology, Lord Shiva has a blue throat)

Aarso hamare bhaag bhole shambho aaye

We are truly blessed that Lord Shiva has come to our abode.

Edhe Khan has performed all over India and has also spent a considerable time abroad. When asked about the current situation of folk music, he says that folk music is endangered these days due to the influx of popular Bollywood songs. Edhe Khan adds that folk music requires a lot of energy to sing, as the complex raagas like Khamaj, Bhairavi, Sorath require powerful vocals, and which should be produced straight from one’s heart and breath. Edhe Khan’s father was a poet and a storyteller, who has composed many poems with themes like various stages in the life of a man.

Edhe Khan is concerned about the future of this folk music and believes that they need good people and patrons for promoting this art, he says that the Government should help them for their upliftment. He wants future generations to revive this art. As per him, Manganiyaars are the most humble people on this earth, unlike a king, who can even kill his own brother to usurp his throne, Manganiyaars live by their talent, and they eat, sleep and breathe music.

Mathura ji mein baaje dhol

Gokul mein arak hove

Lord Krishna was born in Mathura where his birth was celebrated, with all the pomp and show,

Later on, he went to Gokul, where he was raised, and Gokul was happy to receive him too.

Dhan Dhan halariyeri maa

Blessings to you, O Mother of Lord Krishna

The ties between the Manganiyars and Rajputs are hundreds of years old. The Rajputs would protect the Manganiyaar community during times of wars and invasions which in turn helped in the preservation of the age-old art form and various compositions that originated from it. This community is quite peculiar as all of them belong to the Muslim religion but besides Sufi, they mostly sing praises of Hindu gods and goddesses such as Lord Krishna and Goddess Durga. A lot of the inspiration also originated from the extreme weather conditions of the desert as well as the dunes. 

The whole community is basically a musical family that has continued its tradition from uncountable generations and Edhe Khan is just the latest one in a long line of musicians who start learning how to sing and play music before they start going to school. At such an early age they master traditional instruments such as Dholak, Kamaicha, Morchang, and Khartaal. Unfortunately, due to a lack of financial support from the government as well as a lack of awareness about the form of music they like to present, most of them have to engage in other occupations. For instance, Edhe Khan himself has worked as a carpenter during the early days of his career in the field of music. 

They understand a lot of the theory that goes into producing classical music such as the ragas and talas. They are most fond of singing the Des Raga which involves the usage of all seven notes in a song. As a group, they have performed in a lot of places, especially in multiple districts of Rajasthan. Their most memorable performance, in their own perception, was in Lucknow. They want to continue to showcase their art form and perform their music in order to expand their horizons and promote the culture of Rajasthan and the Manganiyars.

Pepe Khan and Group

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 Pepe Khan, they strike a chord in the heart.

 

Pepe Khan, who belongs to Unda village of Jaisalmer district, is a part of the Manganiyar community. The whole community is mostly folk and Sufi musicians who have been engaging in these art forms for generations. The group has expertise in bringing to life old folklores and stories through a breath-taking display of traditional musical instruments such as Khartaal, Harmonium, and Dholak.

 

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 Dehli, 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.

 

Almost everyone in the group, as well as the whole community, begins learning the art of music at a very early stage in their lives. A lot of them are only children studying in primary classes in school. This shows how much importance is paid to grassroots development and how it helps in developing a certain level of mastery in their skills. 

 

Pepe Khan himself plays the Dholak with great finesse. Along with the percussions using Khartaal by Khete Khan and Shaukat Khan, and the rugged yet beautiful voice of Sarvaan Khan with his harmonics, they prove to be one of the most talented groups of musicians in the state of Rajasthan. Apart from Rajasthani folk, the group also likes to sing Qawalis and Sufi songs which are sometimes adapted and modified from older versions of these songs. Their knowledge in the field of classical music also makes helps with their performances and improvisation of older folk melodies. They like to perform music played in various ragas and talas but they are most fond of playing the raga Bhairavi as they believe it has the most beautiful sounding tone. 

 

They have performed not just in all districts of Rajasthan, but also done shows in multiple countries such as China and Korea. Even though the frequency of their performances has decreased in Udaipur, they believe that the art forms former prestige can be restored through the support of music enthusiasts and experts and are open to meeting, interacting and learning new ways of music composition from them.  

 

 

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.

Pepe 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. Pepe 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-rickshaw 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.