SPIRITUALITY IN MUSIC
Music is regarded as one of the triumphs of human creativity. Plato once said that music “is a more potent instrument than any other form of education”. Good music has the power to affect you academically, emotionally, physically and spiritually. One is left with little doubt about this when he listens to Kishan Kumar. Kishan Kumar’s music is akin to magic.
50 years old and coming from a village named Matya Ka Tala in Barmer, Kishan Kumar belongs to the Meghwal community. He sings Bhajans with exemplary perfection. Being the eldest person in his family he is like the storehouse of all the songs and melodies that have been in their family.
Saamre ka naam re hazaar
The Lord has thousand names
kaise likhu kekuptari
By which name should I call you?
koi kahn kanha ji
Some call him Kanha Ji
koi kahe kisan ji
Some call him ‘Kishan’ Ji
koi kahe nand heera laal
Some call him ‘Nand heera laal’
kaise likhu kekuptari
Almighty, how should I call you?
Each bhajan he sings is a way for him to know God better. The themes of his bhajans range from contemplative to hopeful, triumphant to struggling, but all are meant to create a connection between him and God. He learnt music from his guru Dhori Mina. One can easily see his dedication to his art and the effort he has put into it when he recalls how he used to learn music as a child. ‘My guru gave me a book. Though I am not very educated, I would sit for hours and make myself learn those verses written in the book and practice them over and over again’ he reminisces. At the age of 12, his interest developed in music by going to the Satsangs and other events, some of which lasted all night. He listened keenly to the singers and tried memorizing their songs, imbibing their values and today at the age of 50, he even composes a few bhajans about Lord Ramdev and sings them in his own way. He wishes to inspire others to take his legacy of music forward, enabling the transfer of knowledge and tradition from one generation to another.
Kishan Kumar’s group consist of 6-7 members. Strikingly what makes them different is the fact that unlike other Meghwal groups in the region, his group is a consolidation of artists from other communities. They make use of a variety of instruments in their songs like veena, ghara, janja and thali. He plays the veena with the proficiency of a well-trained musician. Another element of their performance that makes them stand out is the Thali Nritya, a dance executed with thali (plates) held in hand, which this group performs. Such is the aura of the entire performance that it can easily pull crowds in. Together with his group Kishan Kumar has performed in villages like Chotan, Djorimana, Bijriyad and in temples in Barmer. Even if the desire to perform for a larger audience in states other than Rajasthan still seems far-fetched, nonetheless lack of opportunities do not discourage them. However, he still feels that their contribution to their land and culture needs to be valued more. He is confident that if given a chance people will understand the power and value of their music and will be able to connect to it.
chhoti chhoti gayiyan chhote chhote gwaal
Amongst small cows and little shepherds
chhoto so mero madan gopal
There is, my beloved little Krishna
As he begins to sing with others he does not mind the scorching weather nor complains about anything. One can see him go into a trance as he shuts his eyes and gets totally involved in what he is singing. As far as the listeners are concerned, they seem charged up.
He tells that every group has its own speciality, his only contempt, however, is for those who sing devotional songs but do not connect to the divine power spiritually. He has an understanding that many people take up this profession to meet their materialistic demands. He believes that this depreciates their talent.
We humans are equal. But even when we are built equal, our minds are different. Different minds have different strengths. For Kishan Kumar, strength lies in focusing on his music and he uses the gift he has been given to inspire people. For him, his music is a doorway to enlightenment and he wishes that people would derive a greater sense of purpose from it.