RAJASTHAN - THE LAND OF VIBRANT, SPIRITED AND EVOCATIVE
Emanating from a tradition that is old and undisturbed, and from a culture that has imbibed the best from its neighbouring states of Sindh, Gujarat, Malwa, Mewat, Haryana and Punjab, in Rajasthan, music is deeply engrained in the hearts and souls of the inhabitants.
There is opulence and diversity in Rajasthani music, which is rich, heroic, melancholic and joyful, and governs all aspects of Rajasthani lives. The voices, both male and female are full-throated, strong and powerful. The numerous songs sung by the women reflect the various feminine moods and strong family ties that govern their lives.
The legendary battles of the Rajputs are told through songs. The music engenders both a spirit of identity and provides entertainment as relief from the daily grind of wrenching a living from the inhospitable land of heat and duststorms
Men and women of Rajasthan sing devotional as well as festive songs. Songs by the saint-poets like Kabir, Meera and Malookdas are part of the folk repertoire are sung all night during the raatijagas (all night affairs spent in singing devotional songs), which are held as thanks giving to a particular deity. MUSICAL MOODS
The hard life of the desert dwellers made them seek means of making life more pleasant by developing their artistic talents. There are many traditional communities who are professional performers and their skills are handed down from generation to generation.
Peepli and Nihalde are songs imploring the beloved not to leave her or to return to her as soon as he can. There are songs about the family, comparing every number to the numerous ornaments worn by women. The festivals of Gangaur and Teej, celebrating marital bliss and the brief but splendid monsoon of Rajasthan call for special songs without which, no celebration is complete.
A plethora of fairs and festivals brings gaiety, a wild riot of colours and music into the dry lives of these desert people. Holi, the festival of colours, brings forth the joyous, lively rhythms of the changs and dhamal songs. Marriages, childbirth, the visit of the son-in-law, all call for song and music.
THE SINGING FRATERNITY
The wandering balladeers, like the bhopas who sing about the Marwar folk hero - Pabuji, travel from village to village with their phad painting and rawanhathha entertaining people with their ballad.
There are many singing communities in Rajasthan know as the dholis. Also know by other names like mirasis, dhadhis, langas, manganiyars, kalbelias, jogis, sargaras, kamads, nayaks or thotis and the bawaris. Today their music can be heard all over the state and is popular even in the national and international circuits.
The rich flavour of this opulent artistic talent can be savoured during various fairs and festivals of the state, especially during the Desert festival (Jan-Feb), Pushkar Fair (Oct-Nov), the Marwar Festival (Sept - Oct) and the Camel Festival (Jan-Feb).
There is a great tradition of popular poetry, which is written under the rival banners of turra and kalangi. This is sung in groups in jikri, kanhaiyya or geet (of the meenas), hele-ke-khyal and bam rasiya of Eastern Rajasthan.
Group singing of classical bandishes, called the dangal or taalbandi is also unique to this region. Bhopas are singing priests of various deities or warrior saints.
The famous sophisticated maand of Rajasthan, true to its desert environment, speaks of love, separation, chivalry and rivalry. The Mahabharat and the Ramayan are popular themes for ballads.
Folk opera is another field, which has been made immensely popular by the professionals, often in association with amateurs. The maach of Chittaurgarh area, tamasha of Jaipur and rammat of Bikaner are famous.
FOLK MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
The Stringed Instrument
The sarangi is the most important folk musical instrument and is found in various forms in Rajasthan.
The langas use the Sindhi sarangi. It is made up of four main wires, seven jharis and seventeen tarafs. The bowing of these instruments is a skilful exercise, often supported by the sound of the ghungroos or ankle bells that are tied to the bow to make the beat prominent.
Another remarkable bowed instrument is the kamayacha of manganiyars, with its big, circular resonator, giving out an impressive deep, booming sound.
The ektaara is also a single string instrument, but it is mounted on the belly of a gourd attached to a body made of bamboo.
In western Rajasthan, a simple instrument called the morchang is very popular, that resembles the Jewish harp.
These are the instruments that are played by blowing into them.
The algoza, common in the Tonk-Ajmer areas, is such two-flutes played together.
The satara of the langas has one long flute and another flute to provide the drone.
The narh or nad produces music most evocative of the desert. It is a vertical with a single long hollow tube, into which the player whistles at the same time while gurgling a song in his throat or actually singing intermittently that has a haunting effect.
The Autophonic Instruments
The bells are the first of the autophonic instruments.
The ghanti or the ghanta are commonly used and the ghungroo (ankle bells) form an integral part of the music. There are the manjeeras, which are made of brass in the shape hemispherical metal cups stuck against each other.
The jhanit and the taala are different kinds of manjeeras. A single metal plate, the thali, forms another variety of musical instruments. This is struck in various ways producing different kinds of tones and rhythms. Rhythmic music is also provided by the khartals, which are disc jinglers, struck against each other.
Different kinds of drums form this group of musical instruments. They are of various kinds: the two-sided ones, the single sided drums, the shallow rimmed and single-faced. Single faced instruments are played singly or in pairs. The largest single conical drum is the bam of Bharatpur. The earthern pitcher, locally known as matka and the ghada has its mouth covered with membrane.
The state government has provided patronage and opportunities for self-employment for folk artists by organizing fairs, festivals and cultural programmes. It has also aroused and directed the interest of the local people towards the preservation of our rich cultural heritage.