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Chhelamama Group

By July 20, 2018August 3rd, 2018Rajasthan

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.”

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