RHYTHMS OF RAJASTHAN is composed of a group of musicians and one dancer from the western region of Rajasthan. The group mixes the music of traditional hereditary caste musicians of the Langa and Manganiar community as well as a dancer from Kalbelia community. The Rhythms of Rajasthan is a birth of an idea to create an exciting fusion of traditional rhythms and melodies of these communities. All the group members have worked with many musicians from the northern region of India and have gained remarkable experience touring the world.
The group toured the U.S. in September 2009 with a remarkable performance at the Hollywood Bowl, in a bill that also featured Anoushka Shankar. In the same tour, the group also performed in the Chicago World Music Festival and the 5th Annual New York Gypsy Festival. The group also performed in cities like Berkeley, San Francisco, Houston, and Buffalo.
In past the group also participated in the 2nd International Sufi Music Festival in Amman, Jordan organized by the Ministry of Culture and Jordan Music Forum. The HRH Prince El Hassan Bin Talal honored the group in the closing ceremony of the Festival.
The Langas and Manganiars are groups of hereditary professional musicians, whose music has been supported by wealthy landlords and aristocrats for generations. Both groups sing in the same dialect but their styles and repertoires differ, shaped by the tastes of their patrons. The Manganiar has the patron from the Rajput community, mainly Rathore and Bhati Rajput, and on the other hand the Langa has the patron from the Sindi Sipahi community of Western Rajasthan.
Though both communities are made up of Muslim musicians, many of their songs are in praise of Hindu deities and celebrate Hindu festivals such as Diwali and Holi. The Manganiar performers traditionally invoke the Hindu God Krishna and seek his blessings before beginning their recital.
Langa literally means “song giver.” An accomplished group of poets, singers, and musicians from the Barmer district of Rajasthan, the Langas converted from Hinduism to Islam in the 17th century. Traditionally, Sufi influences prevented them from using percussion instruments. In lieu, the sindhi sarangi and the algoza (double flute) were used to accompany and echo the formidable and magical voices. They perform at events like births and weddings exclusively for their patrons (Yajman), who are cattle breeders, farmers, and landowners. The Langa musicians are regarded by their patrons as “kings.”
The sindhi sarangi, an instrument used by the Langas, is made up of four main wires, with more than twenty vibrating sympathetic strings that help to create its distinctive haunting tones. The Manganiar play the kamayacha, a remarkable bowed instrument with its big, circular resonator, which gives out an impressive deep, booming sound.
The music of Rajasthan is driven by pulsating rhythms created by an array of percussion instruments, the most popular of them being the dholak, a double-headed barrel drum, whose repertoire has influenced other Indian drums, including the tabla. This music also features the satara, a double flute, and the hypnotic Jewish harp, or morchang.