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Monsoon melodies from the Thar

Gear up for an evening with artistes from Jaisalmer's Merasi community

Dr Sarwar Khan traces back his lineage to the company of Krishna. “We were there when Krishna, as a child, was playing ball with his friends on the day that he defeated the Shesh-Naag,” says Khan. The legend goes that when Krishna had lost a ball, he found it to the tune of Khan’s Merasi forefather’s taal.

Artistes from Jaisalmer’s Merasi community at an earlier performance hosted by India Godrej Culture Lab
Artistes from Jaisalmer’s Merasi community at an earlier performance hosted by India Godrej Culture Lab

An avid collector of fossils and honoured by the Maine College of Art for his work in cultural preservation, Khan calls his community, the Merasis, “a mixed vegetable dish”. “We were converted to Islam through Moinuddin Chisti,” he says, of the 12th century Sufi saint who was also know as Gharib Nawaz.

Dr Sarwar Khan
Dr Sarwar Khan

With Muslim names and love for Krishna, the Merasi folk musicians have enthralled audiences for 38 generations with their renditions of Sufi verse. Singing about their homeland, festivals and seasons, the Merasi are keepers of a fringe tradition, putting history into music. From the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, a troupe of these artistes will perform at the Monsoon Merasi Magic this week at India Culture Lab, Vikhroli.

At this week’s events, the Merasi will present a mix of popular numbers and rare songs presented in their semi-classical and folk Sufi style. Expect foot-tapping melodies such as Kesariya Balam, Mast Kalandar, Nimbooda and Holiya Mein Udare Gulal this time around. The infectious enthusiasm of the Merasis only belies a grim truth about their past. The singers were considered among the lowest strata of Rajasthani society. From a term – Mangiyars – that once labelled them as beggars, to Merasis or ‘keepers of stories’, this community is still trying to free itself from old shackles.

WHERE: Auditorium, Godrej One, Vikhroli (East)
WHEN: June 28, 5 PM
www.indiaculturelab.org
FREE

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