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  • Rajasthani Folk Music & Dance
  • Folk Music and Dance
  • Folk Music and Dance
  • Folk Music and Dance
  • Folk Music and Dance
  • Folk Music and Dance

Rajasthani Folk Music & Dance

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Culture of Rajasthan also includes Folk Dance and Music. The folk dance and music of Rajasthan are lively, exhilarating, hypnotic and compelling. A part of the eternal appeal of this strange and wondrous land, Rajasthan folk dance and music is a part of life in Rajasthan. Indeed Rajasthan has a very vibrant, highly evolved tradition of performing arts carefully nurtured and sustained over the centuries.

The voices, both male and female, are strong and powerful. The numerous songs sung by the women reflect the various feminine moods and strong family ties that govern their lives. Peepli and Nihalde are songs imploring the beloved not t leave her or to return to her as soon as he can. Men and women of Rajasthan sing devotional as well as festive songs. Songs by the saint-poets like Kabir, Merra and Malookdas are part of the folk repertoire.

The melting pot of cultures, Rajasthan also has a unique brand of music has been cradled by the desolation of the state and its shimmering sands. Communities of hereditary musicians sing full-throated songs on universal themes: love, marriage, separation, seasons and festivities. The haunting strains of the sarangi characterize desert music, making it popular worldwide.

There is a great tradition of popular poetry, which is written under the rival banners of Turru and Kalangi. This is a 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 Bhopas of Mataji Wear costumes and play the Mashak.

Dance is often part of the musical tradition and the Theories or Nayaks, who are Pabu Bhopas, have a female accompanist; together they recite the phad (a painted ballad). The phad itself is an elaborately painted work of art and deeply venerated. The Chipas of Joshis are famous phad painters. The Jogis were well-known for their recitation of the great ballad Nihalde Sultan, Shivji-ka-byawala and songs about Gopi Chand and Bhartrhari. Most of these musical communities live a rural base and function as wandering minstrels traveling from village to village. There are many other artists in deferent art forms that use music as an accompaniment. The Dholies, also known as mirasis specialize in percussion instruments. Manganiyar and Langas are from the desert region and are known for their distinct musical styles.

State and royal patronage elevated some of these musicians into Kalawants in the royal courts. Their music had acquired a sophistication that was absent from the rustic tones of the other. The famous Maand of Rajasthan, which is a unique style of singing and a core melody, is their creation. True to its desert environment, the Maand speaks of love, professional repertoire and Dhola Maru, Moomal-Mahendra, Doongji-jawarji, Galaleng, Jala-Boobna, Nagji-Nagwatnti are the most popular ones. The mahabharat and the Ramayan are popular themes for ballads an the Mirasis and Jogis of Mewat have a delightful folk version of the former, while Hadoti has the Ramayana of Dhai kadi.

Folk opera is another field, which has been made immensely popular by the professionals, often in association with amateurs. The Chairawi and Kuchamani Khyals, Maarch of Chittorgarh area, Tamayha of Jaipur and Rammat of Bikaner are famous. The Nautanki and Rasleela are also seen in western Uttar Pardesh, but sadly, the Alibakshi Khyal, the original Bhawai plays and the musical traditions of the Rasadharies and Rawals are now extinct

Festivals are the best times to see musicians and singers performing

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 Bhopas of Mataji wear red costumes and play the Mashak. Dances are often part of the musical tradition and the Thories or Nayak who are Pabu Bhopas, have a female accompanist: together they recite the phad (a painted balled). The phad itself is an elaborately painted work of art and deeply venerated. The Chinpas or Joshis are famous phad painters.

The Jogis were well-known for their recitation of the great balled Nihalde Sultan, Shivji-Ka-byawala and songs about Gopi Chand and Bhartrhari. Most of these musical communities have a rural base and function as wandering minstrels travelling from village to village. There are many other artists as an accompaniment. The Dholies, also known as Mirasis, Dhadhies, Manganiyar and Langas are known for their distinct musical styles.

Folk opera is another field which has been made immensely popular by the professionals, often in association with amateurs. The Chairawi and Kuchamani Khyals, Maach of Chittorgarh area, Tamasha of Jaipur and Rammat of Bikaner are famous.

A bright red turban on his weather beaten face, white dhoti and a white shirt, a bow in his hand moving gracefully over the strings of his sarrangi- is a picture of the Rajasthani which evokes the melodious and plaintive music of Rajasthan in one’s mind. The Sarangi is the most important folk musical instrument and is found in various forms in Rajasthan.

The Jogis of Abu Road area use a smaller version of the Rawanhathha which has its two main strings tuned to the ‘Sa’ of the Indian octave and a third of steel to ‘Pa’ Another remarkable bowed instrument is the Kamayacha of the Manganiyar, with its bow movies over the sympathetic and main strings, giving out an impressive deep, booming sound. The sarangis are one of the plethoras of musical instruments in use in Rajasthan. The Jantar of the Bhopas of Dev Narainji is akin to the Saraswati or Rudra Veena. It has two grounds four strings and fourteen frets.

The Ektaara is also a single string instrument, but it is mounted on the belly of a ground attached to a body made of bamboo. In western Rajasthan, a simple instrument called the Morchang is very popular. The Ghoralio is common among the Bhils, Garasiyas and the Kalbelias. Both these instruments resemble the Jewish harp.

MAAND
A form of court music, the Maand is a raga formation that developed in Marwar, and includes a complex inflexion of voices, sung in a deep bass. This sophisticated form of music percolated down to folk forms and professional singers use it to sing ballads that have a haunting quality as their voice range over the desert. The Maand has also been used to sing the praises of their ruler-patrons. The Marwar Festival is now exclusively dedicated to the event in Jodhpur

These are the numerous instruments that are played by blowing into them. Rajasthani folk music has many variations of the flute. The Peli of the Meos of Alwar is a short flute, to the music of which the Ratwai is sung in a high pitch. The Algoza common in the Tonk-Ajmer areas, is two such 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 flute with a single long hollow tube, into which the player whistles, at the same time gurgling a song in his throat or actually singing intermittently. The effect is haunting.

The Kathodis use the pawri, a flute of bamboo held vertically. The Bhills use a short flute in some of their dances. Ceremonial music is provided by the Nafeeri and Surnai both rudimentary forms of the shehani. Then there is the Poongi of the snake charmer and its adaptation by the Langas called the Murla. Both have two tubes, one for the notes and the other for the drone. The Mashak or the Been of the Bherun Bhopas is a bagpipe fitted with one opening for blowing air in while another has two tubes fitted to it, one for the notes and the other for the drone.

Rajasthan also has a wide range of trumpets the small singi of the Jogi to the massive Karna and the intriguing looking Nagphani. The Bankia is the most common and interesting instrument which, though crude produces a powerful, eerie sound in dextrous hands. The common man’s orchestra is formed with the Dhol, the Thati and the Bankia, and accompanies the Chari and Kuchhi Ghodi dances.

The hells are the first of the auto phonic instruments. The Ghanti or the Ghanta are commonly used and the ghungroo (ankle bells) form an integral part of the music. The Bhopas of Bherunji wear large ghungroos around their waists and sway their bodies to provide a rhythm. The war dance of the Godwad area, the Ramjhol, is performed to the rhythm of the large ankle bells. Then there are the manjeeras which are made of brass in the shape of hemispherical metal cups struck against each other. The Jhanit and the Talla are different kinds of manjeeras.

Another variety of musical instruments is formed by a single metal plate, the thali. This is struck in various ways producing different kinds of tones and rhythms. The Jhalar also called the Ghanta and Thali or Tasli are commonly used.

In Jaisalmer district an interesting variant of the Jaltagang is used. It is called the Jaltaal and is a thali with water filled in it. The Jhalar is usually played with bells, blowing of conchshells and beating of drums at aarti and on other religious occasions.

The Jhol and the Bankia are used at auspicious social occasions as an accompaniment to the host of dances performed at such times. The shree Mandal uses scores of Jhalar like discs. Unfortunately it is rarely heard now.

Rhythmic music is also provided by the Khartals, which are disc jinglers, struck against each other. Jinglers are also used on the Chhinpia and the lejim. The Raigidgidi or Khartal used by the Langas and Manganiyars is made of simple wooden castanets, and two struck against each other form the basic rhythm. The Kathodis of Udaipur use scrappers.

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. The twin faced drums include the tiny damru or dugdugi of the Kalbelia and the madari (juggler) and the obliquities Dhol from which the dholi derives his caste name. The Bhils use the maadal, a folk version of ‘moisang’ which has a body of baked clay and gives a booming sound.

The single faced and shallow rimmed drums are the daf and the chang. The chang is the biggest, and with a parchment pasted on its rim, is a big favourite of the holi revelers. The player strikes the centre with his left hand and the edge of the membrane with a stick attached to a finger of the right hand. A second player beats out a faster rhythm along the rim, which is called ‘chippi lagana’. The smallest member in this group is the Khanjri, and its variant is the Dhapli. They are used by Kalbelias.

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 Bhopas of Mataji wear red costumes and play the Mashak. Dances are often part of the musical tradition and the Thories or Nayak who are Pabu Bhopas, have a female accompanist: together they recite the phad (a painted balled). The phad itself is an elaborately painted work of art and deeply venerated. The Chinpas or Joshis are famous phad painters.

The Jogis were well-known for their recitation of the great balled Nihalde Sultan, Shivji-Ka-byawala and songs about Gopi Chand and Bhartrhari. Most of these musical communities have a rural base and function as wandering minstrels travelling from village to village. There are many other artists as an accompaniment. The Dholies, also known as Mirasis, Dhadhies, Manganiyar and Langas are known for their distinct musical styles.

Folk opera is another field which has been made immensely popular by the professionals, often in association with amateurs. The Chairawi and Kuchamani Khyals, Maach of Chittorgarh area, Tamasha of Jaipur and Rammat of Bikaner are famous.

The colorful dances of Rajasthan have evolved over thousands of years and reflect the vivacity of the Rajasthani and his celebration of life. There are tribes that specialize in a particular form of dance and the result is a spellbinding performance- best seen in a fair, at a village or in your hotel.

Dance is an expression of human emotion as much as music and it is found in almost limitless variations in Rajasthan. Simple, unsophisticated, dancing is seen in their fairs and festivals in the Kudakna of the Meena boys, the dancing which goes with the Rasiya songs of Braj, and the dancing by women and men where the women carry a pot or a lighted lamp on their head. In the Charkula dance of Braj, an elaborate lamp stand replaces the single lamp.

The famous Ghoomer, Rajasthan’s popular dance gets its name from ghoomer, the pirouetting which displays the spectacular colors of the flowing Ghaghara, the long skirt of the Rajasthani women. Men have a range of their own more vigorous dances. The Gair of Mewar has inner and outer circles of dancers who move diagonally or loop in and out. It is intricate and fascinating. The Gair of Jodhpur is performed in a single file and martial costumes are worn for effect. The Geendad of Shekhawati is similar. Sticks or swords are often used in male dances, and the Shekhawati dance has the daf accompanying it.

Free dancing full of zest, with rows of dancers waving colorful pennants, makes the Bam rasiya of the Braj region spectacular. It is performed at holi. The Kucchhi Ghodi or Dummy Horse dance is performed on festive occasions.

The terahtali is a tantalizing dance performed by women while sitting. The women have manjeeras (little brass discs) tied with long strings to their wrists, elbows, waists, arms and a pair in their hands as well. Their male accompanists sing and play the tandoora while the women, with dextrous and fine movements, create a strong rhythm with the manjeeras. For added effect they may hold a sword between their teeth or balance pots of lighted lamps on their heads.

The dance of the Kalbelias women is vigorous and graceful. An authentic fire dance is performed by the Jasnathis of Bikaner and Churu districts. The accompanying music rises in tempo as the dance progresses, ending with the performer dancing on brightly glowing embers-a breathtaking and deeply impressive sight.

Bhavai
One of the state’s most spectacular performances, it consists of veiled women dancers balancing up to seven or nine brass pitchers as they dance nimbly, pirouetting, and then swaying with the soles of their feet perched on top of a glass, or on the edge of a sword. There is a sense of cutting-edge suspense to the performance, and even through some of the hotel performers use only peppier mache pots that are stuck together, the feat is still one of amazing dexterity. (Note: See the `Slide Show’ section in `Folk Dance’. The first two pictures show a lady dancing `Bhawai’)

Chari
Dancers choreograph deft patterns with their hands while balancing brass pots on their heads. The performance is made more picturesque with the flames from cotton seeds set alight, so that the bobbing heads create streaks of illuminated patterns as they move effortlessly around the floor.

Drum Dance
Put a naked sword in the mouth of a man, and give him three swords to juggle with this hands while avoiding causing an injury to himself. All this to the accompaniment of his troupe that consists of musicians holding aloft drums around their necks and cymbals in their hands. A stirring performance from a martial race.

Fire Dance
If there is divine protection to be offered, the Jasnathis of Bikaner and Churu must be responsible for cornering most of it. These dancers perform of a large bed of flaming coals, their steps moving to the beat of drums that rises in crescendo till the dancers appear to be in a near hypnotic state. And no, they’re not likely to have any blisters to show or it. These devotional performances are usually to be seen late on a winter’s night. See videos for a clip of this dance.

Gair
There are several variations to this picturesque dance form that is performed by both men and women. The men wear long, pleated tunics that open out into full-length skirts as they move first in clockwise then in anti-clockwise direction, beating their sticks to create the rhythm when they turn. Originally a Bhil dance, and performed at her time of Holi, its variations are the Dandia Gair in the Marwar region and Greened in the Shekhawati region. see video `Gair Dancers for a clip of this dance.

Sapera Dance
One of the most sensuous, dance forms of Rajasthan, performed by the Kalbelias snake-charmers’ community, the sapera dancers wear long, black skirts embroidered with silver ribbons. As they spin in a circle, their bodies sway acrobatically, so that it is almost impossible to believe that they are made of anything other than rubber. As the beat increases in tempo, the pace increases to such a pitch that it leaves the viewer as exhausted as the dancer.

Ghoomar
A community dance of the Rajputs, performed by the women of the house and traditionally out of bounds for men, it uses simple swaying movements to convey the spirit of any auspicious occasion. There is, however, an amazing grace as the skirts flare slowly while the women twirl in circles, their faces covered by veil. Traditionally, all women, whether old or young, participate in the dance, which can continue for hours into the night. A new bride, on being welcomed to the home of her husband, too is expected to dance the ghoomer as one of the rituals of the new marriage.

KACHI GHODI Originated from the bandit regions of Shekhawati, the dance is performed for the entertainment of a bridegroom’s party. Dancers wear elaborate costumes that resemble them riding on dummy horses. A vigorous dance, it uses mock-fight and the brandishing of swords, nimble sidestepping and pirouetting to the music of fifes and drums. A ballad singer usually sings the exploits of the local heroes in the mould of Robin Hood.

Kathak
This formal, classical dance evolved as a gharana in the courts of Jaipur where it reached a scale that established it as distinct from the other center of Kathak, Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. Even today, the Jaipur gharana is well established, though performances occur in other centers rather than in the state where the opportunity for classical dance forms has been on the decline for a while.

Kathputli
A tradition of puppeteering has long existed in Rajasthan. A traveling from of entertainment, it uses the ballads, retold in the voice of the puppeteer who is assisted by his family in erecting a make-shift stage. Puppets are strung on the stage and recount historic anecdotes, replay tales of love, and unclude much screeching and high-pitched sounds as the puppets twirl and move frenetically.

Terah Taali
Another devotional form of dance practiced by the Kamad community of Pokhran and Deedwana, to honor their folk hero, Baba Ramdeo, it consists of women sitting on the floor before his image. Tied to various parts of their body are thirteen cymbals which they strike with the ones they do this, and for effect, they may also balance pots on their hands and hold a sword in their mouth. The video titled `Terah Taali Dances’ shows this pretty dance.

Music and dances are such an essential part of tribal life that professional musicians and dancers are-redundant.

The Garasia tribals inhabit the Abu Road and Pindware Tehsils of Sirohi district and the neighboring territories of Kotra, Gogunda and Kherwara Tehsils of Udaipur district; they have a folklore enriched with folktales, proverbs, riddles and folk music. Walar is an important dance of the Garasias which is a prototype of the Ghoomar dance. Their dances are generally accompanied by the beats of the mandal, chang and a variety of other musical instruments which provide as lively rhythm to their dance sequences.

The most famous Bhil dance is the Gawari, a dance drama. Troupes of these dancers go from village to village for a month, during which the nine functionaries follow a strict regimen. The main characters are Rai Buriya Shiva, his two Rais, and Katkuria, the comic handyman. Between the enactments of various episodes, the entire troupe dances around a central spot consecrated to a deity. The dance is accompanied by a Madal and a thali.

The Ghoomar is the characteristic dance of the Bhils. Men and women sing alternately and move clockwise & anticlockwise giving free and intended play to the ample folds of the ghagra.

The music of the primitive group of sahariyas (sourias) of Shahbad, Kota, and Shows Central Indian links, with their songs speaking of Ram and Sita. The fairs of the Meenas had a lot of free dancing which is unfortunately on the wane.

Vibrant, vigorous, graceful, sinuous, plaintive and martial, the dance and music of Rajasthan evoke the desert in all its moods. It is the most lilting tribute to the spectacular beauty, the undulating sinuousness and the brutal harshness of the landscape, and to the hardiness and heroism of the people who live in this Land of the Kings.