Bodhi Series – Folk Music of Rajasthan (Part II)

In Part 1, we discussed briefly on the folk music tradition of Rajasthan and the folk instruments of the state. In this part, we’ll discuss more in detail about the Langas, the Manganiyars, their instruments, the music.

When we talk about music, the most important factor which comes to mind is the soundscape. The soundscape depends on the types of instruments that are being used and the style of playing for each individual instrument and the synchronicity of all instruments together.
The Kamaicha plays an important role in the soundscape of the Manganiyar music. This rustic folk instrument has a beautiful sound, even by playing the open strings, the instrument creates a beautiful and captivating drone effect. Please find a small piece played on this instrument to have an idea. In this piece, you’ll find the drone effect being generated from one Kamaicha, and a melody being played on another Khamaicha.

Dr. M. Lalitha & M. Nandini in their article (The Hindu) mentions some intricate details about the Kamaicha which are worth sharing.
“Kamaicha belongs to the category of the chorodophones. Its body is carved from a single piece of wood belonging to a seasoned mango tree. The basic structure is first carved out by the master craftsman.

The round, big belly is the resonator, spherical in shape. It produces a warm tone and is covered with goat skin. This extends to the neck and the fingerboard. An ivory strip is fixed over the wood of the neck to protect it from getting worn out due to the sliding of the left hand fingers. In the fingerboard, which is fretless, are embedded pearl studs in the shape of flowers as an embellishment.

Kamaicha consists of 17 strings, of which three are the main ones. They are prepared from the goat’s intestine called Roda and Joda. The other 14 strings are called Jhara, out of which five are made of copper while the rest are made of steel wire. The main strings are thicker compared to the sympathetic strings. These strings pass over a thin bridge, which is long and made from the sheesham wood. The strings are tied to the pegs. The sympathetic strings are placed along with the main ones. The performer produces the rhythmic effects on these strings. The pitch of the string is sometimes changed by rubbing the finger nails against the string. Occasionally the strings are pulled too. Three fingers of the left hand – the index, middle and the ring fingers – play the notes and the finger nails are used for sliding.

The stick portion of the bow is made from the Khejari wood and the hair from the tail of the horse. The bow is concave in shape. The thumb, index and the middle fingers of the right hand hold the stick portion of the bow while the ring finger goes inside the stick. Mainly, the long bows are used to perform than the short bow strokes. The instrument is kept upright and played.”
Here is a video link on how the Kamaicha is made. If you are interested, you can have a look. Its very interesting.

Now coming to the ethnic groups of Rajasthan, one may have questions regarding the Langas and the Manganiyars, their differences and similarities.
The Langas and Manganiyars are basically communities who perform and practise music as a hereditary custom. Both groups are Muslim, but the Langa’s patrons are Muslim Sindhi Sipahis, whereas the Manganiyar’s patrons are mainly Hindus. The music and the culture of these groups showcase compassion and struggles of daily life and automatically transport beyond the insignificant barriers of Religion. The Langa’s main instrument is the Sindhi Sarengi and the Manganiyar’s main instrument is the Kamaicha. They have some overlap in their repertoires as both the groups have emerged from the Dholi Musician caste.
Philip Bohlman writes, ‘In most modern nations ethnic groups do not exist in isolation from each other. The conglomerate culture that results from a multi ethnic society, pluralism, reflects the multitude of strategies for change and acculturation that its various groups undergo.’
Both Langas and Manganiyars sing and play the dholak, the kartal, the morchang, and the harmonium. Here is a link to a piece of music using these instruments. Will write in detail about these instruments in Part 3. Also will try to write about some unexplored areas of Rajasthani folk tradition. In this piece the Morchang, the Dholak and the Kartal are being played.

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