Historically, Rajputana was a region of hereditary rulers, hence its modern-day name of Rajasthan. Rajasthan translates as the 'Land of the Kings', a name that derives from the many princely rulers that held dominion over the region's many peoples until the arrival of Partition and Swaraj (Self-rule). In 1945 there were 562 states nationally under the suzerainty of the Raj's Crown. Amongst them were musically prominent and important Rajput-era courts situated in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur while Ajmer is the site of the shrine of the Sufi pir (saint) Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. Nowadays Rajasthan is one of India's north-western states bordering Pakistan. Pakistan's Sindh province shares much with Rajasthan culturally and musically.
For time out of mind though, Rajasthani music had always been more than the art music of the Rajput princely courts. Half-planted in the Islamic realm, half-planted in the world of Hinduism (conveniently ignoring the mathematic inconvenience of animism and other faiths), Rajasthan produced a 'border music' that straddled both religions. That is no better exemplified than in the case of the two main hereditary musician communities of Rajput descent. Traditionally, the Langas stuck mainly, if not exclusively to Muslim patrons and custom. Whilst at least nominally Muslim, the Manganiars or Manganihars revealed a more flexible and pragmatic approach to patronage and employment by performing material with both Hindu and Muslim slants. Their more politically aware and professionally sounding alternative name of 'Mirasis' (referring to a category of hereditary musicians) deliberately distances them and their artistry from 'Manganihar' with its semantic origin in 'begging' and its signposting a lowly social status. The stigma attached to musicians, dancers and actors by casteism has meant that many hereditary performers have opted for more lucrative employment in film music, on the radio and as tourist troupes.
The nine performances on this album reflect the ensemble's unfettered approach to male Rajasthani music-making.
The first track is the wedding song, Dulha Banaa, with Barkat Khan Manganiar and Chanan Khan Manganiar singing about the finery, perfumes and other goods brought as gifts to the celebration. The accompanists comprise Yaseen Khan Langa on the bowed, variously strung Sindhi sarangi (the prototype of one of the most eloquent classical instruments in the Northern Indian melodic firmament); Ghevar Khan Manganiar and Chanan Khan Manganiar on kamayacha (a short-necked, bowed lute traditionally shaped like the full moon); and Kheta Khan Manganiar on khartal (also spelled karthal or khadtal), two pairs of hardwood clappers played castanet-fashion, one to each hand, capable in skilled hands of exquisite polyrhythmic finesse. Bhunghar Khan and Firoz Khan Manganiar deliver the rhythmic heartbeat on the dholak, a double-headed, cylindrical drum usually played with the hands.
Sasvi Panoo, the second track, gets its title from the names of two stereotypically star-crossed lovers. Panoo has left Sasvi after getting upset. He sees Panoo's footprints and decides to go in pursuit. People ask why he is doing this. He answers it is because of his love for her. The same instrumental combination is deployed to create the mood of romance and longing. Gazi Khan adds khartal to the loping rhythm.
It is a convention for Manganihar musicians to perform Hindu-inflected material. Lori is a lullaby to Lord Krishna, a much worshipped and revered figure in Rajasthan. The four vocalists, Mahesh Ram Meghwal, Bhage Khan, Ghema Ram Meghwal and Prabhu Ram chant in a glorious a