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Sufi Dhoom

The Mystic Sufi


Words are less to describe the sheer poetry that is Sufism and the music which echoes as far as the sand dunes of Sam or Khuri or the ramparts of the majestic fort. Sakur Khan fondly likes to be known as a Sufi Singer and says that the colour white is symbolic of Sufism, as it is the colour of purity and the ‘ibaadat’ of Allah. Sufism is a phenomenon of mysticism, and Sakur Khan’s songs are truly mystic in nature. As per Sakur Khan, Sufism is his family tradition, and music is a divine worship.

Sakur Khan’s family has been into Sufi musical tradition since ages, and their songs comprise of songs which are a beautiful amalgamation of Hindu and Islamic traditions. Sakur Khan studied till standard 5th, and then took to music because of financial reasons. He comes from a rural area, prone to drought and describes his childhood as difficult due to the lack of basic facilities in his village. Most of Sakur Khan’s “Jajmaan” i.e. patrons are Muslims and royal families, and almost everyone in his family is trained in Sufi genre of music. Sakur Khan’s describes his family tradition as Sufi and says that Sufism is a divine medium of reaching Allah directly.

Sakur Khan’s powerful voice echoes in Nachana Haveli, as he loses himself in trance. He has performed all over India and in over 9 countries abroad including London, Turkey, Dubai and Iran. Apart from these, Sakur has also performed in Pakistan in 2006. Sakur Khan dreams of an ambitious future for the coming generations and wants his children and grandchildren to be educated. Sakur also teaches music to as many as 30 people who learn from him and is now their ‘Ustaad’. (master or teacher).

Bulle Shah is Sakur Khan’s favourite poet and he uses Bulle Shah’s poetry in his songs quite often.

Charkha pukaare ruh hi ruh
Ruh pukaare tu hi tu
Aala ilm padheya nahi
Bulla baneya to kya hua?

A charkha, is a wooden instrument used to spin thread from cotton. An intentional pun is used here as “ruh” means cotton as well as “spirit”, in Hindustani language.

A Charkha spins the thread, but the spirit calls the name of Allah.

So, it doesn’t matter if I am famous as Bulle Shah unless I have the ‘ilm’ or the desire to worship Allah. (Bulle Shah addresses himself as he leaves his signature in this composition).

Sakur Khan wants to pursue music as long as possible and is financially dependent on music. When asked about the traditional costume which he wears, and the dominance of color white in his group’s attire, he says that Sufism believes in purity and love, and they are devoid of materialistic desires, therefore they wear white clothes, and instead of wearing colorful turbans as is seen in the Manganiyaar community, they wear turbans of red color, since red is a symbol of love.

His group’s music is as unique as it is timeless, as it combines the traditions and emotions from both Hinduism and Islam, music has no boundaries of caste, creed or religion, and Sakur Khan’s music is a perfect example of that. In one particular song, rendered from a poem by the famous Sufi Poet, Shah Latif, who composed mainly in the Sindhi language, a girl wishes to leave this material world and desires to become a ‘Jogan’, (female ascetic). In the entire song, she uses various metaphors for describing a Swami, yet retaining the Sindhi-Islamic flavour. It’s interesting, yet worth noting that most of the singers from these Manganiyaar communities are followers of Islam when it comes to religious worship, yet they arHindusus in their day-to-day life.

Khufar jholiyo kulhan mein
Wajnan wayu kann

The swami carries a satchel (jhola), in which he keeps a utensil

When he asks for food.

He keeps walking and roaming till eternity.

(Swamis, in India, generally carry a satchel, and are dressed in simple clothes, they are devoid of material desires and live on “bhiksha”, on people’s generosity)

The swami usually carries a utensil which is known as ‘kista’ in the local language and lives on the food provided by the people which he carries in his ‘kista’. The most mesmerizing thing about this composition is that it’s composed in Raaga Malahari, which is an important Raaga in Hindustani Classical music and is associated with the atmosphere of rains. Yet, this is the beauty of folk music, that one raga can be used to evoke various emotions and to create a variety of moods. According to legend, raga Malhar is so powerful that when sung, it can induce rainfall. It is possible that the rainfall that the legends speak of is, in fact, metaphorical of the state of mind brought about by the recital of the raga.

Rarely does one comes to witness a beautiful palimpsest of different raagas, languages, and emotions together, and Sakur Khan’s powerful vocals enhance the poetic mood of these compositions. A staunch follower of the Sufi genre of music, Sakur Khan wants to retain this genre and wants to practice it till eternity. Sakur Khan concludes with this beautiful poem by Bulle Shah:

Sawaali hun na khaali hun
Aashiq mast jalaali hun
Khaata hun na peeta hun
Marta hun na jeeta hun
Re nashi mawaali hun
Main aashiq mast jalaali hun
Nar hun na madi hun
Na chor fasadi hun
Allah hun ni bulla hun
Maula hun na Mohammed hun
Arabi ji vich Ahmed hun

I don’t ask many questions, nor am I worthless
I am a lost lover (love for Allah)
Neither do I eat, nor do I drink
Neither am I alive, nor am I dead
I am intoxicated with the love, “ibaadat for allah”
Neither am I man, nor a woman
I am not a thief or rioter
I am not Allah or Bulla (the poet himself)
Neither am I Maula, nor am I Mohammed (Maula=Allah, Mohammed=Prophet Mohammed)

Barkhat Khan

A Legend Who Has Echoes of Traditions in His Voice


One can hardly believe that Barkat Khan is 60. When one hears his powerful, resonating voice. Simple, and hardworking, Barkat Khan’s songs are deep-rooted in the Rajasthani folk music. According to Barkat Khan, classical music is derived from folk music but the ‘riyaaz’ is more flexible and there can be many variations to it. Barkat Khan has been singing since the age of 11 and like most of the Manganiyaars, music is imbibed and transferred from one generation to the other in his family. Even though Barkat Khan is not educated, as he says that there were hardly any schools in this region of Jaisalmer when he was a kid, his knowledge about music is unmeasurable and unconquered.

Themes for his songs are mostly devotional bhajans dedicated to Gods like Shiva and Lord Krishna, and he uses a variety of Raagas in his songs, like Bilawal and Shubh. All the group members are well trained in instruments like Dholak, Khadtaal, which are the main percussion instruments and Harmonium for melody.

In one song, adapted from a song by Ustad Tansen, Barkat Khan sings the praise of Lord Shiva and his marriage to his consort, Goddess Parvathi. As someone aptly said “God lies in detail”, and these details, embellishments and poetic use of metaphors in Barkat Khan’s songs are incredible.

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.

Barkhat Khan has performed all over India and has also spent a considerable time abroad. He lived in Moscow for 3 months at a circus and has also lived for 4 years in Europe. He has also travelled to the US and says that the payments are good enough to sustain a living. 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. Barkhat 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. Barkhat 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.

Barkhat 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 the 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

While the themes in his songs are mostly devotional, but the traditions associated with the songs are very old, and are capable of evoking a huge range of human emotions. In the above couplet, the celebration during the birth of Lord Krishna is described in great detail. Childbirth is a very special occasion in India, and these singers are often invited for such ceremonies. A naming ceremony is one where an official name is provided to the infant, as decided by Joshi, “Joshis” are upper caste Brahmins who are temple priests and are called to bless the newly born, in the Hindu communities of Rajasthan, and their references are often found in Manganiyaar songs.

Barkat Khan believes in conserving and imparting this folk music to the future generations and is really passionate about preserving this folk music in its pure form.

Barkhat Khan Shehnai Group

Reliving the Folk with Shehnai


The mere mention of folk music brings to mind the melodious Rajasthani folk songs. Rajasthani folk music is immensely popular and is appreciated all over the world, but what makes this music so special? The answer is unique primitive-looking musical instruments and, most importantly, the contribution from music “Gharanas.” This brief introduction to Rajasthani folk music will take you through the basics of the melodies and techniques that have captured the hearts of music fans all across the globe. Another intriguing thing is that the Manganiyars and Langas only sing specific ragas at specific times of the day, specific seasons and have different ragas and songs reserved for all occasions such as weddings, births, etc. Apart from locally inspired lyrics to songs that have been passed down through generations, the Rajasthani folk artists also master the art of devotional folk music, with compositions by the likes of Kabirdas, Surdas, Tulsidas and Meerabai. Sufi renditions by the Rajasthani folk artists are a complete pleasure, and Bulleh Shah, Amir Khusro and Latif are amongst the most popular Sufi inspirations.

Barkhat Khan is now 60 years old and is the only man from Manganiyaar community who plays Shehnai. His father, grandfather all have been playing their music for the royal families of Rajasthan. He fondly remembers his grandfather Nune Khan, who has played in almost all the weddings of royal families. Barkhat tells that no wedding procession in the royal family begins without his Shehnai played first. He has travelled and performed almost all over India, but his performance in Goa near the beach and on mountains in Kullu Manali are the ones most memorable for him. He is fond of mountains and loves going for performance which happens on hill stations.

He is the only one to perform Shehnai in Manganiyaar as only Langha play Shehnai when it comes to communities. For Barkhat, an urge started in him when he saw a Langha playing Shehnai in a wedding and decided to learn it. He started learning Shehnai when he was 14 years old and it took him 15 years to master it. Late HH Jaswant Maan Singh HH of Khuri brought him to light out of his village in Khuri. Barkhat then started playing at different venues like hotels, festivals, etc. He has played all over in India but didn’t go outside the country due to fear of aeroplane travel. He can play any track on his Shehnai. He is extremely talented. The Shehnai that he plays is different from the one that is played in classical music. He plays small Shehnai which is mostly played and built in Pakistan, in fact, the Shehnai that he plays was bought from Pakistan. His father Fathe Khan used to write poetries and further Barkhat khan has converted them into songs as well. He is the one to start the tradition of playing Shenahi in his community with Pempe Khan joining him. After so many years of staying in India and playing all over the country, he now wishes to go outside India and play on the International grounds.

Barkhat Khan and group is one such group which a wonderful and extremely talented group member. The group has seasoned older artists like Taalab Khan on Dhol, Maalu Khan with Khartaal, Sawai Khan on Dholak, Hakam Khan on Harmonium. 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. The latest feather in their caps is the amalgamation of their music and instruments with many mainstream musical styles like house music, electro music, etc. All in all, Rajasthani folk music has a history so deep that one article can’t do it justice. This, however, is an attempt to appreciate the melodies of our childhood, of the songs that speak the language of the heart.

Thanu Khan and Group

Sublime of Folk and Culture in the Dunes


Payal geri baaje
Roshulo mehelo mein jaagya

My anklets are tinkling loudly, and the whole palace is awake.

Raaj dheema dheema bolero baalam

Please speak to me in a romantic way.

Paayal geri baaje

My anklets are tinkling loudly

Romance and abandonment are recurring themes in Manganiyaar Music. The various manifestations of these themes are seen in the beautiful Raagas blended into soulful compositions, which are simplistic in language but are complex in their themes. It seems that the music is embedded in each and every grain of this Jaisalmer desert. Often known as “Jaisaan” in the local Marwari dialect, Jaisalmer, in that sense, becomes an essential theme in itself for their music.

Thanu Khan is from Barna village in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. He belongs from the Manganiyaar community of the Rajasthan and hails from a generation of musicians where musical traditions have been transferred through generations. This talented musician started learning Morchang at the age of 8 and has already performed at various venues both in India and abroad. He started performing at Gajendra Singh’s The Mama’s Resort and Camps and started getting noticed. Thereafter, he has travelled almost half the world for his performances. He really takes pride in representing India on a global platform and feels special when people insist on getting their photographs clicked with him and his traditional attire.

One particular thing which is noteworthy in the Manganiyaar community, as many of them describe is that they are Hindu in their pattern, but are Islamic in their religious beliefs. They are indeed, a true representation of communal harmony, and their music is beyond the barriers of religion, culture and caste. Even though he hails from a Muslim Manganiyaar community, he sings bhajans of Krishna. Children here are born with the inherited passion and zeal for music.

Although, the children are not very academically inclined since they are dedicated to music since they are barely 3 or 4 years old, yet, they manage to make sufficient living by pursuing their passion for music. He sings all types of songs whether it is Bollywood, Bhajan, Fusion, Folk, etc. He has given fusion performances with Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and his son Pandit Saleel Bhatt at various shows throughout the world. He has proudly presented his folk music at various international venues.

He sings in all the raga whether it is desh, bhairavi, kalyani, sorath, etc., amongst all the raags his favourite is desh raag. Raga Desh or Raga Des is a Hindustani classical music raga. It is commonly used in songs with a sentimental patriotic feel. Thanu Khan loses himself in the trance as he renders a beautiful melody of a romantic tale in Sorath Raaga.

Oonchi medhi ujri
Maine lumdan ghaat

The high palace is decorated elaborately

Dhanne dholo potiya
Sugun siyareri raat

The king and the queen are asleep in the winter season

dheema dheema bolero baalam
Paayal geri baaje

Please speak to me in a romantic way.

My anklets are tinkling loudly

The classical Raagas used by the Manganiyaars also have some considerable influence from Guru Granth Sahib. Sorath is an India musical raga (musical mode) that appears in the Sikh tradition from northern India and is part of the Sikh holy scripture called Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Every raga has a strict set of rules which govern the number of notes that can be used; which notes can be used; and their interplay that has to be adhered to for the composition of a tune. Raga Sorath appears in the Ragmala as a ragini of Raga Megha; today it belongs to the Khamaj that. As per tradition, there were 6 original Raagas, and each of them had 5 wives known as Raginis, making it a total of 36 Raagas. Sorath belongs to the cold season and is performed in the first quarter of the night. The mood is light and cheerful, with a pleasing sound resembling Raga Desh. Originally, the texts composed to this raga show how the words of the Guru can enlighten the mind, yet here the Raaga is used in an entirely different context, a romantic one!!

All fears vanish and one is filled with bliss.

Another song by Thanu Khan, Ambavadi, set in Raag Shubh, tells the pre-wedding preparations in a house, when everything is decked up and various preparations are being made, to celebrate.

Ambavadi lagavaan baagh
Rang bangle moye

I have planted a mango orchard for you, and have painted my bungalow

Joshidero beto liyo thaare saath
Laganiya likhaao rangmahale ma

Bring a Joshi’s(pandit) son, for writing the alliance and finding an auspicious muhurat.

Ambavadi lagavaan baagh

I have planted a mango orchard for you

From the themes of abandonment, romance and marriage, Manganiyaar music has everything to offer to a music lover. It is particularly interesting how these traditional raagas from the Hindustani Classical system of music are adapted and sung and moulded into various styles of music, which may seem unfathomable, yet, the poetry in their music is what keeps the golden city of Jaisalmer alive, and the musical tradition will live on for years to come.

Roop and Swaroop Group

Future of Folk that Ignites the Soul


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

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

Hopes and dreams should be kept alive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then we sing again.

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

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

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

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

It is an unfortunate state of affairs.

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

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

Bhutte Khan and Group

Remembering the Forgotten Folk


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

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

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

He and his group is one such group which a wonderful and extremely talented group member. The group has seasoned older artists like Bhutte Khan, Rahim Khan, Mushtar Ali, Ashraf Khan and Khete Khan. The group together when sings create a mesmerizing atmosphere amongst the audience and leave them to spellbind after their performances. The seasoned artists in the group are responsible for the teaching and guidance of the younger artists present in the group. The group sings mostly authentic original songs of their traditional heritage which has been passed on from their forefathers to them which each generation. The group performs at various occasions like childbirth, wedding, housewarming, etc. at their patronages’ houses. The group earns their living out of the live performances they give at various different places. Apart from the music they literally don’t have any means through which can earn.

The most interesting thing about this group is their love for fusion. Each one of the member in the group wither plays guitar, drums, or synth. They all look forward to a future where they can play together for a wider audience who can cherish the music that they make and play. However, their love for fusion music a lot but they make sure to keep up their cultural heritage folk music in balance and doesn’t hurt the emotions of their elders in their community. These group of artists don’t dream of going to Bollywood and collect fame, rather they and the world to know Rajasthan and their singing is known by their music. They want to make their country proud and carry forward their legacy from one generation to another. For them all they know is music and they can never get apart from it and thus for them it a not just music it is their way of living their lives.

Chhelamama Group

Where Music is Refuge


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

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

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

Baaga mara champo bano
Champe upar rang

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

Beend raja aisa bana
Tara ke beech Chand

(He looks like the moon amongst stars)

Aiso din aaj ko
Nit nit hoe

(May the day like this occur every day)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suprabhat Group

Folk from the Land of Jaisindhar


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

That’s what a song is mostly.

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

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

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

Baisa mahare laad ka Ghana
Baisa mahare footra Ghana

(My daughter is adorable and loving.

She is very beautiful)

Mamosa mamera dese hai
Kakosa kariya dese hai

(Maternal uncle would give lots of gifts,

Paternal uncle would gift a camel)

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

Jalal Khan is from Jaisindhar village in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. He has been following the tradition of singing his folk from the very beginning. He says that they after taking birth their parent’s hand over them with different instruments and thus they learn them without any formal training. Such is the music of Jaisalmer, embedded in its golden sand dunes and engraved in every stone of the majestic living fort-city. Manganiyaar communities like that of Jalal Khan have kept their tradition alive through all these years through Guru-Shishya parampara, (teacher-disciple tradition). They have been entertaining the royal families since generations and their contribution to musical history is as vast as the Thar desert itself. The elegant use of poetry and numerous metaphors is what makes them different. Every nook and corner of Jaisalmer is filled with several Jalal Khans who are trying to carve a niche with their individual uniqueness.

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

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

(How should I please my guests

My beloved guests have come home

If you stay, then I’ll make sweet

But don’t make me panic like growing moon)

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

The music is infinite, and the possibilities of his melodies are endless. The music itself is so vast that it cannot be confined to a textbook and standardized, as there are no set standards for learning music which is imbibed in his blood through generations. India is known for its colours and various layers of culture and the culture of Jaisalmer is rich enough with harmonious melodies promulgating in unforgettable renditions. He sings all kind of songs and all the ragas, amongst which is favourite is Kalyan raag which is the mother of all six the ragas. Jalal has performed almost everywhere in the country in most of the major cities. He wishes to go out of the country and spread the invaluableness of his culture in the world. He wants to make his country proud. He dreams of taking his community and the talent in them to the world and uplift them.

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

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

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

Rasool Kan and Group

Enigmatic Tales of Folks


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

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

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

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

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

He has performed at most of the places on both national and international levels from Deli, Punjab, Haryana, Mumbai to the USA, Sydney, London, etc. The music is infinite, and the possibilities of his melodies are endless. The music itself is so vast that it cannot be confined to a textbook and standardized, as there are no set standards for learning music which is imbibed in his blood through generations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kaagaj hue to baach lu
Karm na baacho jae

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

But I cannot read my karmas)

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

Gullu Khan and Group

Folks Weaving the Generations!


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

Personally, his favourite genre is Sufi music. As is the case of most popular Manganiyaar singers, his patron is the Thakurs. While he has performed in many countries to date, his favourite place to perform in Paris. He fondly speaks about the importance of education in his and his children’s life. Apart from music, this talented man from Jaisalmer wants his children to be well educated apart from providing them with a training in music. His children are equally passionate about music and want to pursue it further. His musical themes are deeply inspired by and embedded in the culture of Jaisalmer. Gullu Khan, an illustrious singer of Manganiyaar tribe beautiful weaves various tales of love and bravery together when he sings,

Aade aade nadiyon jaddo ghanero
Teru dero betu lijiyo thaare saath

There are a lot of rivers in your front,

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

Selabandh mas dheema dheema bol
Raje mhaara raj

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

Aade aade doongariya vana ghaner
Ghodliya lijiyo thaare saath

There are a lot of forests in your way,

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

Raj dhabarnayanira sahiba

I am Your beloved with big eyes,

Raje mhaara raj

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

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

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

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

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

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

The husband and wife are playing a board game,

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

Therefore, the husband gets mad and throws the board game

So the wife gets upset and shuts herself is a room

Pehla manao nanadal, aaviya
Kholo bhabaj, kamdhajiya kiwad

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

Mhaare beero sa kaiso roshno

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

Thaari manayi nanadal baesa nahi maanu
Thaare beero sa goonthiyo janjaal

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

Your brother ruined the game.

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

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

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

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

But he says hope is something we should never lose.