New permanent nucleus created for Rajasthan’s folk artistes

Folk artistes at the new centre of Dharohar Lok Kala and Gramin Vikas Sansthan in Barmer.

Folk artistes at the new centre of Dharohar Lok Kala and Gramin Vikas Sansthan in Barmer. | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Having emerged as a permanent and well-constructed nucleus for the famed folk artistes of western Rajasthan, a new centre situated deep in the Thar desert is helping the Langa-Manganiyar and other singers in honing the skills of their youngsters. The centre has also provided a permanent platform to the artistes from about 50 villages in Barmer and Jaisalmer districts.

The new campus of Dharohar Lok Kala and Gramin Vikas Sansthan, situated over two-bigha land in Sheo village, 55 km from Barmer, will function as sanctum sanctorum of the vocal and instrumental ensemble of Langas and Manganiyars and help save their rapidly disappearing narrative traditions. The initiative has been taken by two brothers belonging to the Manganiyar community.

While three business houses extended financial support to Bhutte Khan and Bhungar Khan for constructing rooms, toilets, training hall and a vast open air performing dais at the centre, a two-day festival titled “Singing Sands” was organised there last month under the auspices of several cultural groups. Folk artistes from the desert region bring their children to the centre for guidance and training.

Dharohar Sansthan’s chairperson Mr. Bhutte Khan, who acts as the manager of the complex, told  The Hindu that though the training programmes were not regular, they had brought awareness among the younger generation about their rich cultural heritage. “Our folk traditions, rooted in pure unadulterated raga music, need to be learnt with devotion. The youths are getting the much-needed guidance here,” he said.

Langas and Manganiyars are hereditary professional Muslim musicians residing mostly in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer and Barmer districts and Sindh province’s Tharparkar and Sanghar districts on the other side of international border. The music of the two marginalised communities, supported by wealthy landlords and merchants before Independence, forms a vital part of Thar desert’s cultural landscape.

The mighty Thar desert also teems with a variegated scattering of other folk-art communities. While Manganiyars, being the maximum in numbers, have earned a niche in high-pitched chorus as well as solo performances, Meghwals are known for rendering devotional songs, eulogies and dirges. The Bhils are styled as ‘Bhopa’, who narrate pre-medieval fables, and the Jogi or Kalbelia folk, of late banned for snake capture, sing and dance to earn their livelihood.

Vinod Joshi, founder of Dancing Peacock, who was instrumental in curating “Singing Sands”, said a long-term strategy would be formulated to facilitate learning by upcoming boys and girls from these musician communities. “The youths deserve to receive the folk nuances of their ancestors to cherish the legacy and make currency out of it... Their formal education will also be embedded in the new initiative,” he said.

“Singing Sands” hosted about 150 folk artistes to perform at the single open air dais in the Sheo centre. The institutions such as Rajasthan Tourism, Rajasthan Sangeet Natak Akademi, Dancing Peacock and Jaipur Junction for Arts and Music Foundation joined hands to make the event a success, while Germany’s YMUSIC, a Berlin-based group of musicians, joined it to add an international appeal.

Mr. Joshi, who has been running the Momasar Festival at a village in Churu district for several years, said the Sheo centre would be projected abroad to tie up some long-term understandings for folk-learning to enable western Rajasthan’s hoary tradition to continue on a sound footing. The plans for linking regular events with rural tourism would also support the folk artistes, he said.

Tourism & Wildlife Society of India (TWSI) secretary Harsh Vardhan said the initiative taken in Sheo would help protect the native heritage and culture, which was facing threat from changes in patronage, urbanisation and intrusion of modern lifestyle in the rural areas. “To this day, these artistes receive patronage from local Rajputs, who happened to be chieftains at one time, and they feel proud of being patted by their family members,” Mr. Vardhan said.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2022 10:26:35 pm |