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The Manganiyar Seduction

From obscure villages around Jaisalmer and Jodhpur and Barmer in western Rajasthan, comes a musical tradition that has digested and belted out melodies from everywhere between Persia and the Punjab for several centuries. This is the music of The Manganiyars: a community of Muslim court musicians whose royal patrons may have disappeared because of circumstances of history, but whose music lives because its practitioners cannot live without it.

The Manganiyars, as the roots of the name suggests, asked for alms in lieu of entertainment, performing at marriages, deaths and births: something they continue doing today. They converted to Islam some 400 years ago, an event that only enriched the already entrenched folk tradition of Rajasthan and Sindh with the import of words and tunes and instruments (like the the kamancha, a three-stringed ancestor of the violin, which has a bowl shaped resonating chamber covered by goat skin) from as far away as Azerbaijan.

Their music is complex and secular, its roots spread wide, though chiefly in Hindustani classical music. But its delivery isn’t bound by the set rules of this tradition. The Manganiyar splits notes into improbable fractions, keeps beat with his eyes, shifts tempo as suddenly and effortlessly as a gust of desert wind moves a dune.

What a Show! The Manganiyars conquer Old Fort

New Delhi, November 27, 2010: Roysten Abel’s Manganiyar Seduction had exactly that effect on the nearly 4,000 people who attended the group’s first major performance in India in several years on 27 November at the Purana Qila in Delhi. The show, presented by Amarrass Society for Performing Arts (ASPA) and HT Brunch, also launched Amarrass Records’ first releases: a CD and an LP of The Manganiyar Seduction.

A special guest was in attendance: Sakar Khan, the grandmaster Manganiyar, a man who inspired and mentored every one of the 37 musicians on stage. Sakar sahab released the LP and the CD.

The evening began with chief guest Saeed Mirza saying a short but moving piece on the importance of traditional music and its place in our “fractured world.” Mr Mirza also dwelt on the raw power of the music of the performers, a power the audience would feel as soon as the Manganiyars hit their first notes.

Performed on a 4-storey stage that evokes the havelis of Rajasthan and the booths in the red light district of Amsterdam, the Manganiyar Seduction took its place among the most spectacular musical performances ever seen in the country on the night of the 27th. They took their bows to a standing ovation.

Roysten Abel, took the stage and spoke of the secular nature of the Manganiyars’ music and the pitfalls of having the surname Khan in today’s world.

The evening ended with two bonuses for the crowd: a tribute to Sakar Khan that the Manganiyar’s prepared only the previous day; and the much demanded encore. A bhajan in which the only Hindu among the musicians led the group.

An orderly crowd trooped out and found a third surprise: an LP listening station, and, of course, the music on CDs and freshly pressed LPs.

Thank you Delhi.


Press coverage

The Guardian UK  :  MSNBC  :  Times of India  :  TIMEDainik Bhaskar

The Better India  :  Buzzintown  :  For The Music  :

TimeOut Delhi  :  HT Brunch  : (Wall Street Journal)  :   NPR

HT Brunch (post show review)  :  Hindustan Times

In the blogosphere: Delhi Belly  :  Pooja Sodhi  :  Whazzup Delhi  :


NewsX Channel: Dim lights



“Seduced”... Sunit Nanda

 “Last night I witnessed the birth of something beautiful”... Sheriff Shooter

 “It was unlike any other musical performance I have ever seen...24 hours and still in seduction - Pooja

And a sampling of the thousands of overheard reviews at the venue:


 “Daevo was amazing...why haven’t we heard him before?” (Daevo Khan conducts the Seduction and plays the khartal)

 “This could have gone on for hours.”

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