Colourful Shades of Music
It is yet another blistering hot day in the town of Barmer, not far from the border with Pakistan. Mota Ram and his group members can be seen adjusting and tuning their instruments as they get ready to enthral their listeners with their music that has a unique flair of Rajasthan. Almost all of India’s cultural inheritance, since the Vedic era, believes that folk music transforms not only the artists but also its audience.
Folk music has been close to nature; more so because the Indian subcontinent always enjoyed abundant riches showered by Mother Nature and held her in awe. As a result, Prayers were composed. Over time they became an integral part of all rituals.
Mota Ram was born in a small village of Barmer named Bishala. Like most folk musicians of Rajasthan, he had an early start in the field of folk music. However, his journey was not an easy one. As a child he faced difficulties in adapting to various instruments. He recalls how even synchronizing a simple instrument like manjira with the rhythm would get awkward for him. Interest in music and his curiosity kept him steadfast, and with practice he got better to the point where he now has mastery over playing multiple instruments. Elders in his family triggered his interest in music. Encouraged by them he would go and attend small events in his community and at times also participate. It has been over sixteen years since he developed his interest in music into a livelihood.
Belonging to the Meghwal community, he sings devotional folk songs or bhajans. To him, singing bhajans is a way to tread the path to righteousness. They impart joy and provide respite to the mind. But he firmly believes that to gain the most out of bhajans or devotional songs one must cultivate the right attitude. One must know and accept in his mind that all our power comes from God. Prayers born of positive thoughts create positive vibrations. The kind of vibrations that prayer radiates depends on the kind of thoughts of the person praying. In all, it can be argued that it is a practical way of maintaining harmony in society.
A common theme in his songs is that of Guru-Shishya Parampara. In India Guru-Shishya Parampara or the relationship between teacher and his student is more than just a mere way of transmitting knowledge. A life itself is shared, a whole range of values and perception and an unswerving vision is transmitted. The essence of this relationship is love. Moreover, hard work and dedication are important parameters in this relationship.
Mota Ram also talks about the relationship that the Meghwal community of singers shares with their patrons. Meghwals also known as Rikhiya are the most beloved devotees of Lord Ramdev. According to the legend, it is believed that because they are dear to Lord Ramdev, he has blessed them with perpetual prosperity and abundance. This is the reason why people invite them to their events to commence all important occasions. If the disciple is happy, God will be elated.
He readily admits that despite the abundance of talented singers and an elite patronage, the situation of Rajasthani folk music is direr. They believe authentic music can survive if a large-enough audience is made aware of it. “The music is good. There are enough people to sustain it, but we need to make those people aware of it.”