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Rajasthan

Dana Singh and Group

An Amalgamation of Folk and Culture

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manva Bhulo Jaave Re

Oh Human, you are forgetting me

Bhulo tu jaave re

Forgetting me, says the almighty

Ya  sadguru dev samjhave, raste kyun nahin aave

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

Par nandiya mein bak bak bole

The ignorant human speaks incessantly, belittling others

Jeebh thakave re

You exhaust yourself unnecessarily?

Ye hari ko naam leve kyon garu naa lave re

You should devote yourself to the almighty

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

Hassan Khan And Group

Melodic tales of the Royals

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

Be immortal, Oh King of Jaisalmer,

Beloved of Giridhar

Your throne is made of sheesham,

And clouds shower their thundering sounds at your door

Like they do in Indra’s abode

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

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

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

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

“Man sarovar, madh pak
paras bhat supher

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

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

The folk singers of Jaisalmer are like Swans(hamsa)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Champe Khan And Group

Raagas of human emotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Khuda uthaata khaali pet hai, par sulaata nahi”

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

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

“Gori johe baat, Saajan likhliyo kore kaagaz ve,

Baachun ghadi ghadi”

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

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

“Kauno ragaj moti, main jheene ghungat joti”

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

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

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

“Haazir-ubareshon, laal bane na josho”.

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

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

Bagga Khan And Group

Melodies exploring the connection of Soul and God

“Let me lose myself in this golden city,

Amongst the golden sand dunes,

And the melody of the folk tunes,

To be intoxicated with the spirit of music”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Paapi milijo pachaas, nuguru miljo mate”

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

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

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

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

Gaffur Khan And Group

Embedding Fragrance of Culture in Sufi

 

As Gaffur Khan starts explaining the system of Raagas, his eyes light up with excitement and one can’t help but keeps listening to this man’s deep voice for hours. According to him, the Maanganiyaar folk music is based on 6 main raagas, namely Sarang, Maru, Suvabh, Dhaani, Sorath and Goondh Malhar. According to musical history, these 6 raagas have 5 wives each, known as “Raaginis”, making it a total of 36 raagas in their folk music.

Gaffur Khan is 56 and belongs to the Maanganiyar community of Rajasthan, a community of folk singers who were the musicians in the Royal court of Jaisalmer. Tutored under Ustaad Nihaal Khan, Gaffur Khan has been singing since he was 8 years old, and has been the recipient of Radio Station Aakashwani Rajasthan Award too. Like all musical families, music has been transferred through the generations in his family, and he drew his inspiration from his father. So far, Gaffur Khan has performed in about 40–45 countries and wants his children to continue this tradition of the “Guru-Shishya” (Teacher-Disciple) parampara(tradition).

He also teaches music at home to his children and to over 50 students. Apart from vocals, he and his group are also proficient in playing other instruments like Dholak, Khadtaal(castanet), Harmonium and Khamaicha. Talking about the importance of music in his life, he says, that even when a newborn cries in their family, it’s in a perfect melodious pitch! Everyone in this group is A-Grade certified artists as per All India Radio. His group also comprises of Mushtaque Khan on Dholak and Feroze Khan and Dilawar Khan on Khadtaal, and three kids, Aaraf Khan, Roshan Khan and Insaaf Khan.

Their songs comprise of themes from almost all aspects of the royal life, childbirth, marriage, love and longing for one’s beloved. At times, the songs are customized for special occasions for the royal family. Personally, his favourite genre is Sufi music. As is the case of most popular manganiyaar singers, his patron is also Komal Kothari. While he has performed in many countries to date, his favourite place to perform in Paris.

As he lights up another beedi, he fondly speaks about the importance of education in his and his children’s life. Apart from music, this talented man from Jaisalmer wants his children to be well educated apart from providing them with a training in music. His children are equally passionate about music and want to pursue it further. As Ashraf Khan (his son) says, he mainly sings in Raag Sorath and is learning harmonium as well. His guru is his father. Gaffur Khan also takes music workshops in training camps. His musical themes are deeply inspired by and embedded in the culture of Jaisalmer.

Sundar yun bhi rang mahal mein
Rann mein yun..
Rann mein.. mukhdo
Din din sukho jaayein
Dushman ki kirpa buri
Bhali sajan ki thaath
Dhomat pe garmi hove, oh rey..
Jab barsan ki aas.

The rang mahal stands beautifully in the ran(desert)

As the colour of my face fades away…

The foes have evil intentions,

While my beloved has only love,

The sun spreads a blistering heat,

And I long for the rain..

(a woman waits longingly for her husband to arrive with the rains)

The longing of a woman, along with the patient wait for the monsoons after the blistering Jaisalmer heat, the onset of seasons is a major theme in the Manganiyar songs, interwoven and blended with feelings of love, pain, and heartbreak. The transition between the songs is beautifully described when the cuckoo bird sings. Since Rajasthan primarily has a hot climate, the varying seasonal changes are as important to its residents and folk singers as music.

Maas syaro, seehadalo pade
Seerakh paththar no, lijiyo thaare saath

It’s the winter season, so take a blanket to cover yourself (to protect from cold)

Maas laado, luhad le pade
Jhaari ne, peenjaniyon lijiyo thaare saath

It’s the summer season, and the hot summer wind (loo) blows,

So keep a lot of water and a fan with you!

One could almost smell the aroma and fragrance of the first rain while hearing these melodious tunes. It’s interesting to note that how the mundane, daily things have been woven into this musical magic by Manganiyars. The golden city of Jaisalmer and its surrounding villages are famed for their rich history of kings and poets and is a place where Muslim and Hindu mystical traditions come together -timeless and beyond borders. True to its nickname, the music of the Golden city is pure gold as well, heated in this mystical land and honed through generations.

This is the land of music, seasons, mystery, colours, puppets, ruins, architecture, stones and love.

And this is the beauty of the folk music of these Manganiyaars, simple yet expressive and one couldn’t help but relate to it and love it more. Their songs grow on you with time, and you might find yourself humming bits and pieces of it without realizing it.

Meetho meetho bol papiha,
Pyaare pyaare bol

Sakur Khan And Group

Melodies of the golden desert

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

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

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

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

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

“Karne waala upar waala hai”

The Almighty is the one who does everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You wrote me many letters with promises of coming back,

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

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

Bola illibor, jhoombad jhaintan
Bulo paayo naak bichre

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

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

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

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

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

Jaisalmer Beats

Redefining folks by morphing the traditional art

 

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

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

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

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

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

Mhaaro sham ghar hatilo
Main to kene sang khelun holi

My beloved(sham) is not at home,

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

Holi Khelat mahadev
Khelat ganpat holi

Mahadev(Lord Shiva) Plays holi

Even Lord Ganesha(ganpat) plays holi…

Mhaaro sham ghar hatilo
Main to kene sang khelun holi

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

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

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

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

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

Marward Josh

Zest of Folk in the Dunes

 

Sheru Khan is an all-rounder when it comes to singing and playing an instrument, but he has mastered in playing folk instruments like Morchang and Vapang. He is also an amazing singer and has also an outstanding beatboxer. The combination of Morchang and beatboxing in his performances enthrals the audience and the energy in the arena become so high, making the performance memorable for everyone. Sheru Khan belongs from the Manganiyar community of Rajasthan, particularly in Jaisalmer and Barmer region. He serves as an example of the wonderful amalgamation of rock and folk. As of now, he is part of the very famous folk singer band known as Mame Khan. With Mame Khan, Sheru has been going abroad, across seas to perform and show his talent.

While explaining the meaning of Manganiyar, Sheru 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. Sheru 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.

Sheru 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. Sheru 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. Sheru 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 Sheru 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. Sheru 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.”

Kasam Khan And Group

The Essence of Innocence in Folk Roots

Kasam Khan comes from Langha community in Phaloudi, Rajasthan. Kasam Khan is a seasoned singer whose voice touches the soul of people and can connect with them. His voice has such a throw that it grabs the attention of each and everyone in the audience. The music by Kasam Khan Langa’s group stays with you, it is so serene. Kasam Khan is an innocent — simple old soul who is happy and contented with everything that he has now. He says everything is God’s gift, if he has put you in a situation there must be a reason behind it and the reason will always be for your wellness and goodness. So everything that comes in his life whether good or bad he accepts it with grace and happiness. He is a skilled vocalist and harmonium player, who started learning music from his father from the tender age of 10.

He has two daughters and teaches them music too. In spite of knowing that he won’t be able to send them for any performances. His community and culture don’t allow so, still, he wants them to learn it and understand the meaning of music. For him, music is the purest form through which one can connect with himself and the Almighty. Kasam teaches in a Langha community school for skill development near Phaloudi. He wants to give his best for his students and wishes them to succeed in their life. Kasam is that teacher who not only give lessons to his students about music but also impart them with all the lessons of life that they should know. His first and foremost teaching to his students is to stay honest in life to themselves and with others too.

Wherever he performs, the vibrato in Khan’s voice seems to travel all the way from the sand dunes of Thar desert in Rajasthan and enthral the entire arena of the show. For this 42-year-old Rajasthani folk singer, who has been performing with his tribe of folk singers, the Langhas, for the past 16 years, fusion is the way he could reach out to the more contemporary audience. He wishes to take the folk music by his group to such a level that it is being recognized in the whole world. Born to Langhas, a Rajasthani musician clan whose ancestors have been supported by landlords and aristocrats for generations, Khan grew up listening to his father’s riyaaz. Khan’s natural gifts are indisputable. His passion for singing and harmonium playing is manifest in the way he maintains harmonies, rhythms and in sustaining the grace of his instrument and voice throughout while accompanying other vocalists and instrumentalists. There is humility, work ethic, talent and a brilliant vocal range. But the going hasn’t been easy; there are limitations he’s had to overcome, and most of them have been financial.

Kasam’s music is mostly about the original rare age-old folk. He has managed to keep the sanctity of the old folk traditions and songs. His music is a pure form of folk and describes all sort of life situations. His music is an emotional roller coaster ride that puts you in a situation where you can relate to it. Truly his songs communicate so much. Just like the “Chirmi” song he has sung illustrating the communication between father and daughter.

Kasam Khan wants to take his pure form of folk music to the west and educate people there about the reason of folk’s inception. He tells folks were sung as a way to communicate a dialogue in the entire society of the civilisation at that time. Therefore, it is very important to stick to the original folk as they tell us the right path to move on in life and teach about leading a good life. His philosophy is not to stay away from western culture but to mingle with them and impart the knowledge he has about music.

The group is newly formed by Kasam Khan with his students. They are very good when it comes to playing together. They have a deep sense of music with the instruments they play in the group. In the future, they want to travel the whole world and propagate the message of peace and love through their music.

Talab Khan And Group

Generations with Legacies

 

Drenched in the Sun of Jaisalmer’s golden city Talab Khan and his group sat down with their instruments to play the tunes of their music. For them, music is their lifeline. The group leader Talab Khan is a modest person who believes in hard work and disciplined life. He is someone who had been acquainted with music since he was a four-year-old kid. He says that he never sat down with anyone particularly to learn music, whatever he knows till date is all because of his father and brother who used to sing every day.

The group is comprised of all family members who live together and have been playing folk music ever since they started talking. The members in the group range from are elders age 48 to kids of age 12. They strongly believe in learning from hearing from one generation to another, therefore they make sure that the kids in the family sit with them after school. The children also believe in this learning and thus give time to music learning with devotion and dedication.

The group has performed at various stages on both national and international grounds at various occasions. Even after such performing abroad and sharing the stage with various famous artists like Ghazi Khan, Mame Khan, etc, still, they don’t have a single drop of ego or attitude in their behaviour. Music has such an empowering effect on them that they feel they are richest in the world, just because they were born in a Manganiyaar family and are blessed with music since birth. Like every Manganiyaar he claims,” Humare to bachche bhi jab rote ha into sur mein rote hain.”, that even the newborn when they cry in their family, they cry in perfect rhythm.

Talking about the music and traditional folk, he says that he sings songs in all kinds of Ragas like Khamaj, Bhairavi, Malhaar etc. Amongst these, his favourite is Khamaj in which he sings all the happy occasion songs. Talab says that they sing all kind of songs, for all the occasions they have traditional folk songs, right from birth to death. They are known for singing songs for all the auspicious occasions like childbirth, marriage, housewarming, etc. Since they are considered auspicious by their royal patronage, they are being called before every such occasion. They tell with pride that no happy occasion starts without their presence and performance.

When asked about the group’s future, Talab looks at the kids and says with a smile, “ ye hain bhavishya, inhe hi seekha padha rahe hain ab to sab inke haath mein hain, barbaad karein ya abaad karein (these children are the future of our traditional heritage and we are doing our duty by keeping it alive through teaching these children, now everything is in their hands to save or to destroy.).” He told that the children in the group have very much keen interest towards their traditional folk music but he makes sure that they are studying also with sincerity. He recalls his time of life when he was a child and left his studies for sake of focusing towards only music. He feels that he should have completed his studies at least till class 10th, then he wouldn’t have to face unpleasant situations in his life and thus he will put in all the efforts to make his literate.

Talab Khan and his group’s music speak for themselves. They then sit together to perform, binds the atmosphere with a magical aura that mesmerizes the audience. The group sings all kind of songs, especially the one which are original authentic folk songs. The group is known for singing songs which are very rare to be heard and thus there are few songs that only they sing and no one knows such songs. The group is one such group of Rajasthan Manganiyaar community that has a treasure of age-old traditional folklore. They are trying to pass on this traditional heritage to their next generation and have all their faith in them that they shall carry forward with them to give to their next generation.

This group is all about passing on the fire of traditional heritage from one generation to another, which has actually become an exercise drill to make it survive anyhow. The new generation in their group is also very serious when it comes to learning and the old traditional folk songs. They say that it is easier for them to learn them with their studies as they have interest in both of them. They, just like their elders have dreams of taking forward the legacy of their forefathers to a wider audience and global platform. They want the world to know Rajasthan because of them and want to become an epitome of great music of Rajasthan in the world.