True Soul Of Rajasthani Music
Each country has their own folk music but here, in India, each State has its own. And so it was quite a revelation when the “Sounds Of The Desert” arrived in Mumbai on January 25, 2019 at the Royal Opera House, under the aegis of ShowCase Events’ Nanni Singh.
Expectations remained high, after all the programme was being curated and directed by the man behind the brilliancy of the annual folk and fusion event, Paddy Fields, Atul Churamani. Yes, the excellence of this event maintained his average as the talent of Kutle Khan and his troupe were showcased across one and a half hours of invigorating Rajasthani melodies, with hand-clapping to the beats a norm with the capacity audience, rather than an exception. While it was obvious that the genre has been passed through the generations by oral tradition, it is the simple, acoustic-based music that combines such special events and people into a magical sound status. And so the programme progressed with a combination of Western instrumentation – guitar, keyboards, and drums – combining with the traditional [harmonium, sarangi, dholak, nagara, and sarangi] as the set list ran through innumerable folk songs, probably having no known author, and having simply evolved in sound through the years.
But the fascination as a listener was two-fold: first, the vocals of Kutle Khan and his arrangements, making those traditional songs his very own by ushering a modern era of Rajasthani folk and, second, the amazing instruments that I do not reminisce having heard before; for instance, the khartaal, an ancient percussion instrument mainly used in devotional/folk songs consisting of a pair of thin, hard wooden pieces, and deriving its name from the Hindi words “kara”, which means hand, and “taal”, which means clapping. Ably supporting Kutle Khan on the khartaal was his brother, Gafur, who was equally adept in playing the morchang, another unique instrument, also known as a “jaw harp”, consisting of a metal ring in the shape of a horseshoe with two parallel forks forming the frame, and a metal tongue in the middle, between the forks, fixed to the ring at one end and free to vibrate at the other. The morchang is often used as a percussion instrument in lok geet (folk music). Then there was the Algozha, performed by Shakoor Khan, consisting of two joined beak flutes – one for melody, the second for drone – tied together, with each breath of air – as it were – creating a lively, swinging rhythm.
But the complete package went beyond just the vocalising, arrangements, and instrumentation, as the number of jugalbandis continued to provide enthrallment, the synchronisation of the nagara among three musicians being exceptional, the effective call-and-response presentation between Kutle Khan and his backing vocalists, and the intermittent appearance of two traditional Rajasthani, Ghoomar dancers – a mother and daughter representing the Sapera family – after the interval, including featuring an unbelievable sequence when two finger rings were picked up by using eyes!
With marvellous lighting, fine sound, appropriate visuals in the background, and adept mastering of ceremonies courtesy Mihir Joshi, “Sounds From The Desert” was not only an appropriate introduction to Rajasthani folk, but an outstanding beginning to a musical new year. If you missed this memorable event, ShowCase Events promises similar performances throughout the year. Check them out then, and revel in the uniqueness of the rocking sounds of Rajasthani folk ‘n’ soul!