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Raj's Covid-hit Manganiyar, Langa artistes on verge of starvation

Saturday - August 8, 2020 9:35 am , Category : ART & LITERATURE
Jaipur, Aug 8 (IANS) The Manganiyar and Langa magic that have brought alive the rhythms of Rajasthan to the world audience for decades is on the verge of dying an untimely death, as these folk singers from the western end of the desert state have not had a live audience to enthrall for months amid the Covid onslaught.

These professional folk musicians, mostly Muslim, belonging to Jaisalmer, Barmer, parts of Jalor, Bikaner and Jodhpur districts are hereditary caste musicians, who cultivate a close bond with their patrons. In the last six months there has been no live shows as the pandemic has brought everything to a standstill.
With no audience to woo with their mesmerising voices, these group of rustic brilliance have been living in deplorable conditions. Their members almost on the verge of starvation. They are eagerly awaiting support from any corner of the world.
"Our communities have never accepted anything free. In fact, for centuries, we sang at our Yajman's place during weddings or any such occasion and accepted whatever they gave. Recently, we started going on stage but suddenly Covid-19 came and it has hit us hard," renowned folk singer Manjoor Khan told IANS.
"The state government recently started a scheme saying that if the artistes upload their videos and mail it to them, their committee will decide if they are eligible to get Rs 2,500 into their account.
"However, most of our community members are not tech-savvy and don't have high-end phones too.
"The so-called digital world is still out of the reach for many from our community so eventually, there are trouble times ahead," he added.
The Manganiyars for years have symbolised the Ganga-Jamuna culture in Rajasthan where the Khans have their first names as Shankar and they generally invoke Lord Krishna at the start of their shows.
Known as inheritors of Rajasthan's rich musical tradition passed on by their forefathers, they used to serve erstwhile Rajput warriors. Despite practising Islam, they visit Hindu temples and perform there with equal ease.
Manjoor Khan is running an NGO Sarwar Lok Sangeet Sansthan and has distributed grocery to 450 folk artistes five times, but now, ven the NGO is on the verge of collapse with all funds exhausted.
"For centuries, our community, which came from Sindh and settled in Western Rajasthan, has been earning their livelihood by singing at yajman's places during any happy moment of their family. It includes wedding, birthdays or any such occasion. Yajman's for us are well to do people who in return give us gifts or money or food."
Things started changing for these folk artistes, when Padma Vibhushan Komal Kothari ensured that thrir talent got the recognition globally they deserved. "Komal Kothari started instilling confidence in us for performing stage shows.
And for the last 35 years, the community has been enthralling the audience with stage shows.
"It was just the starting phase for us when we went to stage after singing for centuries at Yajman's place, but then Covid-19 hit us. Now, there are no live shows, no weddings and no celebrations and we are in dire strait," he added.
"Although some people approach us for online shows, but the amount is not even sufficient to be distributed decently among all folk artistes in the team. Then there is the connectivity issue that comes most of the times.
"Our community stays in Barmer and Jaisalmer which are border areas of the state and hence our major earning sources are limited to just singing at Yajman's places. Our savings were exhausted in the first two months of the lockdown. Now, the grocer has also stopped delivering us even with essential goods. We can't go to Yajman's houses as it is Corona time and you can't meet anyone," rues Khan.
He said: "Our community has for years followed the principle of taking anything in return for singing. We never accept anything for free."
Jameel Khan, another artiste associated with this NGO told IANS that their community needs a supporting hand in these times of crisis which is affecting their very existence. He added that those who would help them shall get the blessings from the community. "These singer communities are sick and tired of daily challenges of arranging food even for one time a day".

--IANS arc/in