Esplanade Presents | Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts
Desert Winds – Manganiyars & Kalbeliyas of Rajasthan
In remote villages around Jaisalmer and Barmer in western Rajasthan, a centuries-old musical tradition transmits the ancient melodies of Persia and the Punjab region. This is the music of the Manganiyars, a long line of Muslim court musicians whose royal patrons may have disappeared, but whose music lives on because its practitioners cannot live without it.
The Manganiyars sought alms for their music, performing at their patrons’ social events, from weddings to other celebrations, even funerals; and they continue to do so today. The community converted to Islam over four centuries ago, an event that only enriched the already entrenched folk tradition of Rajasthan and Sindh with the importation of tunes, verses, poetry and instruments. The khamacha, for instance, a three-stringed ancestor of the violin which has a bowl-shaped resonating chamber covered by goat skin, came from as far away as Azerbaijan.
Their music is complex and secular, with its roots spread across musical and poetic traditions of the Indian subcontinent. A Manganiyar performer splits notes into improbable fractions, keeps beat with his eyes, shifts tempo as suddenly and effortlessly as a gust of desert winds.
Bhungar Khan and his company comes from Taalon ka Gaon, a tiny hamlet in the desert regions of western Rajasthan. Coming from a family of incredibly gifted generational musicians, Khan plays with a charismatic energy and intensity that is catching on among the artists. His recent collaborative feature with composers Sachin-Jigar on Coke Studio season four clocked over two million views on YouTube. In this presentation, he is accompanied by senior members of his family.
Collaborating with the Manganiyars are two members of the Kalbeliya community, who are nomadic snake charmers from the deserts of Rajasthan known the world over for their dance replicating the movement of serpents. The Kalbeliya art form has been in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2010.
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