Langas and Manganiyar Children with Nawab Khan
The musicians and poets of Rajasthan carry in them one of the Indian subcontinent’s most dazzling traditions. Princely, charming, proud of their beauty and virtuosity, these musicians of the desert are blessed with the majesty of their environment – Rajasthan, the ancient “Land of Princes”, and now a state with an area of 342,000 square kilometres.
In former times, under the rule of the warring Rajputs, a multitude of artists travelled around the country. This nebula of lower castes were each specialised in a particular artistic field. From the palaces to the deserts they peddled the warrior eras, mystical and in praise of yesteryear heroes.
Today the artistic specificity of these castes that has survived after a fashion to now is fading very quickly within a new Indian modernity. The great castes of Manganiyar and Langa singers, poets and musicians are trying to best preserve their amazing heritage. In perfect osmosis with the ‘kamaica’ (the hurdy-gurdy of the Manganiyar) or the ‘sarangui’ (the hurdy-gurdy of the Langa), voices rise up, convoluted and torrid, containing both the clarity of precious stones and the roughness of desert rocks. Although Muslim, Manganiyars and Langas remain very close in their spiritual belief of Hinduism, and this is especially true for Manganiyars exclusively serving Rajput or Brahmin Hindu castes. The art of the Manganiyars and the Langas evolves within a repertoire of incredible wealth. According to the request of their ‘jaman’ masters, their singing can as much refer to cyclical celebrations of birth or marriage, as to ‘bhajan’ (religious devotion poems), to great eras of chivalry and love, to songs about rain, this water of the sky (palar pani), which is invoked by desert poets at the time of the month of ‘Jeth’ (around May), a scorching month preceding the monsoon.
Musical professionalism in tradition society thus goes beyond the simple concept of a normal job or occupation. The music has a particular function reflecting a specific way of life. The professional musician is the link between daily life and spiritual beliefs even in secular folk music.
The professional musician is the link between daily life and spiritual beliefs even in secular folk music, a folk music that facing a new industrial society will soon be disappearing.