Nomads in the Fort
After travelling in Rajasthan for two years we finally met a female singer who is the leader of the group. This lady is none other than Mohini Devi from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Mohini Devi is 50 years old but still, she hasn’t let the age affect her singing at all. She loves to perform as much as she was doing when she young. She belongs from a refugee community who were called nomads/ banjara. Mohini Devi is a new age woman, she doesn’t care about society and focusses on her and her family’s happiness. Her daughters are lovely Kaalbeliya dancers who love to dance. Not only this Mohini Devi has let her daughter in law also to go ahead and follow her passion for dancing and singing too. All her children are either dancers or singers but all of them are associated with music.
Whenever she performs she has mostly Langas who accompany her for her performances. The group always has a Khartaal, Sarangi, Dholak player with her, Harmonium she plays herself. Her songs are about weddings, love tales, etc. Telling about her and her family she started off with her strong bold and confident voice with extremely soothing and complementing music in the background –
Nibuli naaketo maya charu palla madu riii
I am spreading my stole you throw the fruit
Shaukeen jeevada pardeshi maya awadu thari aawe aawe ree
My husband has gone to a foreign country and now I am missing him
Thado re karaniye maya jur jur swali pad gayi
I have become dull and dark remembering him
Shaukeen jeevada pardeshi maya awadu thari aawe aawe ree
My husband has gone to a foreign country and now I am missing him
The group loves to perform and can go on and on. They have together performed at various stages on national grounds. She told us that she is always ready to perform at any time and saying this she started singing the beautiful track –
Ismaal khan re babu re bangale mein bataiyo laagi
Ismaal Khan, I will come to your bungalow the way lights are lighting up
Shaukeen jeevada re Batiyaa babu re bangale mein
Ismaal has put up lights so that she comes to his bungalow
bataiyo laagi re thamke aaun mara meethodi bolira
I can see the lights and like that, I am approaching your bungalow
Ismaal khan beggara bulaya moda gana aaya
Ismaal Khan called me home early and he himself came late
This beautiful amalgamation of Banjara and Lagha creates beautiful music each time they perform. Unlike other groups in Rajasthan, they don’t feel different on the basis of one’s community and cast, rather, they just focus on their music.
Quench of Music with Langas
We had just begun our journey in Jodhpur when we happen to stumble upon a Sufi group who were singing some beautiful kalams by Bulleh Shah in front of our hotel. Rashid Khan Langa and his group members were all dressed in a white coloured kurta pyjama, turban on their head and beautiful piece of stole around their neck. Upon asking he told us that they always wear white as it is the colour for purity and like the colour, they want to maintain the same with everything in their lives. This 30 years old man, Rashid hails from Phalaudi Village in Jodhpur. He hails from the famous Langa community of Rajasthan. Langas are versatile players of the Sindhi Sarangi and the Algoza (double flute), which accompany and echo their formidable and magical voices. They perform at events like births, and weddings, exclusively for their patrons (Yajman), who are cattle breeders, farmers, and landowners. “The ‘Sindhi Sarangi’ used by the Langas, is created by four main wires, with more than twenty vibrating sympathetic strings which help to create its distinctive haunting tones. The bowing of these instruments is a skilful exercise, often supported by the sound of the ‘ghungroos’ or ankle bells that are tied to the bow to make the beat more prominent.*
During seasons they perform at hotels where they earn Rs 6000 per month and at the time also gets 4 to 5 shows per month. According to him, the Langa community has always been passionate about music since generations. They ended the day with the song:
Dheema mandra te aaiyi jo ho raj jore invi raja nathdi ro hero neer khardne aaijo rajj
Come slowly O King!, and stay inside and don’t go anywhere, I will keep you the same way like I keep the diamond in my nose pin
Nathni ro moti karne rakho, hum raaj bhaino raja
I will keep you like the pearl in my nose pin, O King stay here
Sadura the laayijo oh lalayijo invi raj re ,
Whenever you will come back bring a stole for me, bring it O king!
sadure saath bhalero ro ni hum ro ni ree…
the stole looks beautiful on me
Hum roni re bhaino raja
Now don’t go
Rashid had introduced us with his group in a very different manner while seating together each started playing their respective instruments with songs describing them. The group is highly creative in terms of music and wishes to create songs which could be cherished by the coming generations, just the way he has been doing for his forefathers’ songs.
Jodhpur has a vibe which can not be compared with any other place. Searching for a place to sit and relax we came across Sanu and his group in Mehrangarh Fort. Seeing us he greeted us with a song:
Dhann dhann bhaage banno re
The groom is running around with happiness
Aree Sawa aage banni laderlo re
Let’s welcome the procession, it has arrived
Dhann moh tan kedi re maya re
Money and wealth nothing matters
Heli Aayo re heli mori laderlo amraano
My beloved groom has come to Amar Kot
Pe nigare sa raaje
Lift your feet and come
Auto bhaaye pyaaro re banna
The groom is looking so handsome
Areey Jaanida shringar laaderlo re
Dress up the procession beautifully
Jaanida ri jode hey banide
All walk together
They come from the Langha community of musicians who play Sindhi Sarangi and Algoza very fondly. Their music filled with magical voices is very different from usual Langha community music. They often perform at various occasion which varies according to the life events of their patrons which happens to be the royal family of that particular area. The Sarangi used by this group was not the usual type we often encounter with. It had four main wires with twenty vibrating sympathetic strings that helps in creating the mesmerising music. One can find more about the langhas with their visit to Jodhpur, Phalaudi, Udaipur, etc. Music is the only source of livelihood for them. In future, they want their children to be trained in music but along with an academic inclination as well. During peak seasons, their group gets 2-3 offers to perform every month and earns as much as Rs.50,000 for each show. The songs of their group encompass a wide range of themes deep rooted in Rajasthani traditions. They get shows mostly because of their contacts. They are very well-aware of Anahad’s role and work in empowering folk musicians. The group sings songs about love, romance, different timelines of weddings, etc. On asking about their favourite song they started singing :
Khaatireda oh ji re baitha tu to maare chuttare o ji ree
Khaati’s son is sitting and he is looking very beautiful
Sidhone …Ghaniya re gholi jaaun
He looks so beautiful, may he is safe from all evil eyes
Taraniyo re ghar lawa oh ji more
Bring the decorate flowers to my house
Chandane kedo re rukhero
It should be like sandalwood
Re rukhero oh ji re rukhero re mora raj
Oh King, bring me a tree of Sandalwood
Aundene utariyo maaro gaddo maaru sawari re ada beech
Come on a horse and get down at my house
Ghaniya re gholi jaaun
meri nazar na lag jaae kahin
Sanu and his group are so happy with their musical lives that they never see their problem as any obstacle in their lives. The strength they get in their daily life to face adversities is from their music. Sanu wants to open a folk learning music school in his village and wishes to enrol next generation there free of charge to promote their culture.
Tales of a Song Giver
Langas are accomplished players of the Sindhi Sarangi and the Algoza (double flute). Their music accompanies their challenging and enchanting songs. They perform at occasions like weddings and births, exclusively for their patrons. ‘Sindhi Sarangi’ is extensively used by them and is made up of four main wires and has more than twenty vibrating sympathetic strings that creates its unique haunting hues. Playing of these instruments is a skilful exercise, often supported by the sound of the ‘ghungroos’ or ankle bells that are tied to the bow to make the beat more prominent.*
During peak seasons, the group manages to secure 8-10 shows earning Rs. 7000-8000 per performance. They have performed in all major cities across India and dreams of being a renowned musician with a large band and having throngs of people attend his performances. They sing traditional songs from their community but do not write their own songs. They sing songs that fall in the Khamai, Maru, Kilad and Des Raag family. The group wishes to be able to sing the songs forever, money doesn’t matter to them. Stating this he started in his own way the song:
Charkho Chandan kaathro
The spin yard is made out of Sandal
Puni lal gulal
The threads in it are of different colours
Katwari kaatan baithi kaatyo ant na paar
And made a beautiful shawl with those threads
Ho bhala re jio bhala re
May God bless you with a long life
Bhue charkha bhu
Praise the spin yarn
They receive show bookings from local contacts who forward them with opportunities in India and abroad. The group dreams of being able to work to have their group perform across all cities and towns in India and expand their footprint.
Musical Affairs Amidst Land of Desert
Roaming in the grand city of Jodhpur, we came across a wonderful Langha group who had then just arrived from their village, Phalaudi. They were looking for a place to sit and jam since they had an event in the night on the same day. Meanwhile, we had just stepped out of the Mehrangarh Fort and caught glimpse of them setting up. As the group settled Rafeek took a beautiful alaap and began :
Maad dhara ri revodo anokhi -2
Our land and its people are unique
Madhvan meetha ji bole
People who live here speak such sweet language
Ghar ghar hove beeyan badavana
Every house has weddings
Ghar ghar ghoomar dhol
Each house has traditional dances and plays dhol
Mesmerised by the wordings and rhythm of the song we decided to stay longer and get acquaintance with the group and their music. Rafeek told us that he has been singing and performing ever since he was a child with his father. He dreams of getting a chance to sing with singers like Rahat Fateh Ali and Kailash Kher. His group told us that being from a Langha community they mostly sing songs about the brides -grooms, wedding processions and various other occasions. The group is an expert in Rajasthani folk, Sufi and Ghazal forms of singing. The Sufi genre is their favourite owing to the sheer, poetic words of Urdu language. As a group they want to impart musical knowledge to their children but only after they are educated well. They get 10-12 shows per month and earns around Rs.6000 for each show. They are not very educated and so got into music because of financial reasons.
Just like all the families in their communities, music is been carried forward by mostly male members and it is the only source of income in his family. The group feels that are born to do something big and for them, it is the songs which they know they want to do good to them. They want the world to hear their music and know about their culture and traditions. Moreover, they also want their music to be so much heard that people including their children feel inclined towards learning it. Telling us this Rafeek and his group started singing one of their favourite songs –
Saajan aaya re he sakhi
Oh, my friend, my dear husband has come
Kaaye manwar karan
How should I welcome him, he has come after so many days
Areey thaal bharo gaj motiyaan upar nain dhara
I will fill the plate with pearls and shall keep him high
O maara bhai sonera
O my dear brother
Maara nindiya lada
O my dear beloved brother
Laajo maaro gale riyo haar
Bring my necklace
UNDYING PASSION FOR MUSIC
Passion, they say is a great energizer. We are wired in such a way that many times passion and purpose comes together. Kailash Khan is a young folk music artiste. The 25-year-old is passionate and proud to be identified by this genre. His undying passion for the Rajasthani folk music is a contrast of what people his age prefer.
Kailash khan and others in his group are manganiyar. Muslims themselves, their patrons are largely Hindu Rajputs. They are renowned as highly skilled folk musicians of the Thar desert. Their songs are passed on from generation to generation as a form of an oral history of the desert. In his own words,” The culture of Rajasthan has been recorded through songs. When we are playing folk music, we are telling stories, stories that speak to the human conditions, stories that tell us who we are, stories riddled with anecdotes of love with all its complexities and simplicities. These stories define us as a community. They help us relate to each other.” It is said that on occasion in the Rajput family is ever complete without a Manganiyar. Be it birth, marriage, family festivity, the manganiyars would help evoke the right mood with songs that have a flair of Rajasthan and many specially composed songs to praise the patron and his family.
Influenced by family traditions and his elders, Kailash khan has been singing since he was a child. He formed his group six years ago. The six group members are from his family itself. They have adapted themselves to play all kinds of instruments. Harmonium, khartaal, Bhapang, Dholak find common use in their performances. Kailash Khan plays the Harmonium which he learnt and developed an affinity towards while he was in school.
He takes pride in the fact that he is related to Daapu Ji- the revered Khamaicha player who is today a sensation and an inspiration among Rajasthani folk musicians. Showing the same dedication and commitment, he aspires to take folk music and the values they represent to a bigger platform. Through his hard work, he has been able to get his group to perform in many notable Indian states and events. Punjab, Mumbai, Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat are a few to name. Within Rajasthan, he has displayed his talent in Udaipur and Jaisalmer. He is nostalgic as he recalls his first performance in Ghuri Resort in Jaisalmer. He believes that their network grew as a result of performing for guests at those resorts. People after listening to him would ask him to sing at their family events and this is when he decided to form his own group.
Like any other professional singer he has an generous understanding of ragas. Khamaj Raga is immensely used in their music. He says that tradition calls for the beginning of every performance in khamaj raga. When asked about how he learn songs, old and new, his answer is simple. To them, he says, the need to write and then learn songs was never required. Music is so deeply ingrained in their lives that just as little as listening to their elders sing once or twice is enough for them to follow up. However, he feels that technology today has found purpose and use in all fields and as an aspiring artist he doesn’t shy away from deviating from the traditional methods of learning music and using tech and social media to his benefit. They appreciate the fact that technology has made it easy for them to expand their repertoire in folk music.
Besides singing the traditional old folk songs, this young artist has penned down a few songs of his own and composed rhythms and tunes for others. He claims that there are few songs that only he can sing in his community. Reciting Shiv Tandav, which is a Hindu hymn that describes God Shiva’s power and beauty, is one of his speciality. This is satisfying to observe that though they are Muslims, many of their songs are in praise of Hindu deities where the performer traditionally invokes the Gods and seek their blessing before the recital.
Despite everything, he exclaims that more needs to be done to attract youth towards traditional music. According to him, the youth are the key in the preservation of folk music. This calls for creating space for young talented Rajasthani musicians to keep old-age traditions fresh, but also relevant through music. Although many children come to him to learn music, he feels that the rush towards modernity is dwindling their interest. With more people looking up to Bollywood and western music, their audience and patronage are slacking. With most of his family members being solely into music, they want to build their art into something more sustainable.
Kailash khan envisions a bright future for his group. “ money is not an incentive, I want to take my traditions forward. We want people to see what we do and like it enough. That will truly be encouraging.”
We can’t agree more on the fact that their culture is very rich but some people are clueless about it. This is the time to know deeply about Indian culture through different mediums that are sustainable. Through loving and showing pride in it, the world will come to know of it too.
JOURNEY OF MUSIC FROM FAR DISTANT LANDS…
As an artist, your biggest tool is your effort. Your dedication to your music and talent. Having cultivated a liking for devotional folk music since childhood, this young, yet extremely talented singer has so much depth and breadth to his music that one could go on forever about it.
Cheema Ram comes from a village near the Pakistan border. Though their village has a school, the paucity of resources for him and his companions was evident since childhood. He says he was brought up in a peaceful environment but the constant possibility of skirmishes in the nearby border area added little to the equilibrium of their daily lives. Nevertheless, nothing could deter his desire to learn music. The inspiration which he drew from other singers around him as well as listening to their cassettes in leisure time eventually enabled him to improve his skills as a musician. He went on to win many competitions in his village and outside. He beams with pride when he tells us about Bijirad Music competition where his team was declared best amongst 12 other teams. Today like any other talented artist, he dreams of becoming a famous devotional folk musician.
Megh (Meghwal) of Rajasthan are known for their expertise in bhajan recitation. By tradition, they are invited by other Hindu families to commence celebrations and auspicious events. They supplement their earnings by taking up secondary occupations like farming, weaving, working at construction sites etc. Cheema Ram’s music largely consists of bhajans about deities like Jagdamba, Shakti Ma, then there are those inspired by Meerabai and Kabir. ‘Gadi satgur ke naam ki’ is his favourite song and he loves singing it at events and ‘Satsangs’. He explains that the recitation sheds light on the Guru-Shishya Parampara that has been the very essence of our country since ages.
pal pal teri umar jaasi
(Every second, you are ageing)
bharti palak tero jug jaasi
(With every blink of the eye, the years will go)
raama gharhi palak….
ek vaar manva satsang karle
(Oh human, for once, take the name of God with others)
janam chaurasi jooni kat jassi
(Your several lives will be spent in eternal happiness)
chaal sakhi sat sangat chaal
(Come friend, let us go to the ‘Satsang’)
As he takes his seat amongst his four fellow group members, he looks calm, composed and focused. He dons the veena, an instrument that has been given immense importance in Indian history and literature, like a professional.
Although group members are forced to take up jobs at construction sites to make ends meet, they make sure to practice and improve their skills daily. Commitment and consistency are the keys to acquiring an exceptional skill and Cheema Ram seems to be leading by example in this case.
gaoaa jaaya belaya kamavedin raat
(The shepherd works day and night, takes the cows and their calves for grazing)
buddha karke bhejiya dayalu bhagvan
(And he ages gracefully, leading a simple and meaningful life, oh merciful God!)
saavra teri maaya ka
(Dear Lord, there is no measure)
payo nahi paar
(of your miracles!)
‘To find a way to happiness, you have to find a teacher that will take you there’ is an old adage. In Cheema Ram’s case, he did not have to go far and wide in search of a mentor. His father, acknowledging his acumen in music, supported him and his dreams. His wish is to see his son doing well in the field of music. And those who have seen him perform know fully well that Cheema Ram is capable enough to make this dream a reality.
Today, his group gets shows locally from relatives in and around his small village. Apart from that, they have performed previously in Mumbai during Navaratras and also in Jodhpur. Having never been recorded before, they say that the initiative taken by Anahad has boosted their morale. And for a talented group like them, it will not be wrong to say that the road ahead seems full of possibilities.
When asked about other groups and the competition they face, he immediately replies that there can never be any animosity among the various groups for they are all the torchbearers of a tradition. He likes to sit with artists from different groups as they perform. Helping and motivating each other is a way of life. ‘Though devotional music is an acquired taste, I’d like to do what I can to help it reach more people’. Indeed Cheema Ram’s style is the perfect amalgamation of devotedness and folksy.
TREASURE OF FOLK MUSIC AMIDST SEA OF SAND
Kalla Khan is from a small village called Bishala in Barmer Rajasthan. From manganiyar community. Also known as mirasi,mahaguniyar or mir. Prevalent in western Rajasthan, Jaisalmer, Bikaner. Royal families are their important patron. They feel that the rajputs or yajmaans as they refer them are the main reason that their folk culture has thrived. Sing for them on important occasions like birth, marriage, old age etc, kesariya balam, , songs from birth till death. New generation less interested in fm, they are busy in business, charts new root for themselves… because youngsters prefer new songs their style of siniging id an amalgamation of the old and new song.
About manganiyar traditional instrument is khamaicha. Going by what elders and locals say the instrument is 500 years old and originated in Pakistan before gaining importance in Ahmadabad(ws made inn these two states). Has not been made since the last 10 generations. But Komal Kothari wanted to teach folk to children , they made new kamaicha, to be given to these children so that they could learn. However, ladies of the community preffered harmonium as their instrument in public events.
He has a family of a mother, 7 brothers, children learning music from him. It is commonly claimed that the music of rajasthan is so imbibed in one’s characteristic that even the crying nof the infants is musical. He contendedly mentions that children as young as 4 or five years old are learning and doing well in it (taking interest).
Jaha dikha bas chah tu hi
Bas raam ka naam hai
The one who has rhythm in his soul is near to god. Their culture is dependent on yajmaans. But want that it should not vanish.. feels like the younger generation is only acquainted with 25% of the music that this culture has to offer (yangrashaili, dhoda, bhaavan- traditional) . wants them to focus on studies but also cultivate respect for them and learn ithe t.
Kabir kuan ek hai, panihari anek
Bartan sabke nyaare nyaare
Banda pani sab me ek
Follows all religions. Feels that the value of the soul is above mere traditions and norms that religions bind us in. ‘ I am a muslim. My name is fakir khan. But look at me. People say that I am a Rajput. Even though I perform at their events, I peform in mandirs , at the dargah, they sing about Shiva, Krishna, Mira. Makes bhajan as well.
Has issues with organizers many a times as they embezzle money. He believes that there should be no mediator in between Guru shishya parampara. He wants signing schools in india so that children can learn music without compromising with their studies.
RECITING POWER OF FOLK MUSIC
“Music is the easiest method of meditation. Whoever can let himself dissolve into music has no need to seek anything else to dissolve into.” – Osho
Shridhar is from an almost medieval village named Bhadresh, Barmer seems to share and live by similar sentiments. He is 48 years old and belongs to the Meghwal community of Rajasthan. True to what Meghwals are known for, Shridhar with his group aspires to popularize devotional folk music throughout India.
He was born into a family of singers who has been reciting devotional songs for more than three generations now. His singing style too is inspired by his grandfather and father who he says has been a source of motivation throughout his career. With no proper training institutes and almost negligible assistance, his chances of taking up music as a profession were thin. But the paucity of resources could not make him give up his passion. He started by listening to others in Satsangs. Curious as most children are, he would ask elders in his family and society to explain the meaning of the verses. “ I would write down songs with their meanings and try to take in all the values that they imparted. This was essential to connect with my art. Once I got the clarity I could then sing them in my own style.”
Devotional songs or bhajans are sung in specific ragas. A musical note or raga has its own distinct effect and is related specifically to a mood or time of the day. The sacred hymns are sung in adoration of a God. Most of the bhajans recited by Shridhar and his group members are about local deities like Ramdev and saints and seers like Ravidas, Surdas and Meerabai. However, God-realization is not the only aim of singing bhajans. It offers other advantages too. Bhajans and prayers awaken positive vibrations in oneself and in the environment. Bhajans and prayers remove the feeling of animosity or envy that one might have and replaces it with contentment. Through prayer, the devotee begins contemplating. When one sings bhajans and reiterates divine qualities, these qualities take root in the heart, creating an awakening in real life.
harak-harak gun gaya
Let us sing with joy and enthusiasm, the tales of the miracles of God
re vaalena baadava
Wise Guru, you are most welcome, to enlighten us
harak-harak jass gaavaa
And sing with joy and enthusiasm, the tales of the miracles of God
re vaalena baadava
Wise Guru, you are most welcome, to enlighten us
As he takes his seat among his fellow group members, he looks rejuvenated. He starts to sing and the scorching heat of the desert can no longer disturb his equilibrium, it is almost like a saint meditating. Bagga Ram seated beside him, though much older, shows no signs of fatigue himself. Instead, he says that music especially devotional music is a great energizer. With his manjira in his hands, he is a perfect figure of dedication and submission to God. For him, it is a way of expressing gratitude for everything that God has blessed them with.
Shridhar, however, is uncertain about the future. As he tries to introduce his kids to folk music, he has to face a dilemma. His children, despite having the talent and interest to be folk musicians after him, are dissuaded by the lack of opportunities in the music industry where young people today prefer Western beats over the rhythms and tune of ancient couplets and verses. Shridhar with his group has himself been called for a recording for the first time. “Unlike those folk musicians who have thrived under royal patronage, we have to hustle more. But as long as there is hope for the survival of our art form, we will continue singing.”
aaj humare guru aangan aaya
Our Guru has come to our home today
aaj humare guru aangan aaya
Our Guru has come to our home today
ayasohe mann bhaya
The arrival of the Guru fills my heart with happiness
re vaalena baddava aaya
My Guru, my lord, I welcome you wholeheartedly
Shridhar and his group get to perform in about 10-15 events in their village in a month. Their charges per event vary according to the financial condition of their patrons and hosts and there are times when they readily perform for free. When asked why he says that God is the only giver, they have faith in him and their music that they will fare well in the long run and get recognition.
He wants to build a culture where people are able to identify themselves with their traditions. One should not be forced to take up a profession in folk music. They should show interest on their own and should be eager to understand and adopt the values that make them who they are. It is important for everyone to know their roots because If you do not know where you are coming from you will never appreciate where you are going.