Shankar Khan is leading a talented as well as an experienced group of musicians who have been learning music since an early stage in their lives. He as a leader himself has been playing for over two decades and has performed in various states cities of the country like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and a few districts in his native state of Rajasthan like Jaipur and Jodhpur also.
These musicians have learned through the art of observation of their elders at weddings of the royal families of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer and belong to the Manganiyar community of Jaisalmer. This community has evolved with the evolution of traditional folk melodies that were created in the state of Rajasthan. Every sound their music makes reverberates with raw and free aspects of human development that has the potential to touch one’s heart and soul.
While explaining the meaning of Manganiyar, Shankar 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. Shankar 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.
Shankar 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. Shankar 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. Shankar 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 Shankar 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. Shankar 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.”
Shankar Khan is a specialist at playing harmonium and sings along with the percussions of Khartal provided by Salim Khan and Ghulam Khan, who despite their young ages are quite experienced and proficient in displaying the art of their music. Ghama Khan is another revolutionary artist within their group and focuses on the beats through his extremely smooth manner of playing the Dholki, which a small traditional drum-like instrument used in a lot of traditional folk songs of this culture. With this he sings:
Chopa kupaar chugna
(Suryavanshis like Chopar, Chugna)
Jodha biraje Jodhpur
(Jodha Singh resides in Jodhpur)
(The Rathores must emerge victorious in the battle)
Dusho baje re Rathoro ko ri
(The weapon of the Rathores makes the sound)
All of these artists, despite receiving the support of the royal Rajput families that reside in the region have to work in different professions during the offseason to get the financial support needed to feed their families and sustain their households. Through their musical talents, they wish to pursue a career in music and promote the Manganiyar culture across the world.