Folk takes a desert detour

Mar 01, 2013, 23:56 IST | Hassan M Kamal

While keeping their traditional music alive, Rajasthan Josh, a Folk music group comprising members of the Manganiyar and Langa communities from the desert state have been experimenting with tunes to increase its appeal

Music is our life. It’s not just today; it’s been like this for ages,” reasons Chugge Khan, leader of the Rajasthani folk group Rajasthan Josh. A collective of members from Manganiyar and Langa communities, known for their musical ballads, the group has performed across the globe and will mesmerise Mumbai’s music buffs on March 3.

Rajasthan Josh performing at the Jaipur Literature Fest; (inset) Chugge Khan

The group brings instruments like Morchang and Khartal (used mostly by Manganiyars), and Sarangi (used mostly by Langas) on the same platform. The group has been performing globally including in countries like Italy, South Africa and Canada among others. “We Manganiyars have a song for every occasion, and were popular among the Rajputs. We sang and wrote songs in the praise of the Rajput martyrs and rulers as well for special occasions like birth of a child, marriages etc,” says Khan, adding, “The langas, on the other hand, were popular among the Mughal rulers and their representatives.”

In both communities, music is an important part of growing up. And for some like Khan, it began when he was four. “We started learning music at an early stage. It’s our tradition, passed down generations, from fathers to their sons,” adds Khan, who made his stage debut with his father when he was eight years old. However, for his son, Hashmi, it was even earlier. “He debuted on stage at four,” says Khan, proudly.

Originality meets diversity
Rajasthan Josh not only sings traditional songs and folk lore but also their original compositions. Khan, who besides singing traditional songs, is also a composer and has been featured in numerous international recordings with artistes Prem Joshua, Shye Ben Tzur, Natacha Atlas and Dub Colossus among others. “We can’t rely only on traditional songs. People want to hear new songs and as musicians, it’s our responsibility to write new songs,” says Khan. So, besides the traditional songs, the group will also perform Khan’s famous tracks — Assalam-o-Alaikum, Hichki and Maula, etc.

Modern sync to Folk
Khan believes while keeping the traditional spirit alive is important in Folk music one must also try to move with times. This doesn’t have to be fusion, as believed. “At times, it could be about how you play the instrument,” he says, adding, “Our music has changed in 40 years, but it has retained its basics. So, we use the same traditional instruments, but differently. For example, in some of our compositions, we have started playing Morchang like a guitar. It’s unbelievable, but we now see more youngsters attending our shows — in India and abroad.”

On March 3, 9 pm onwards
At Blue Frog, Mathuradas Mills Compound, Lower Parel.
Call 61586158

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