Mohan Lal Lohar, blacksmith and woodworker

Mohan Lal Lohar is folk music’s equivalent of a polyglot---but with an added dimension. Not only can he play every wind, string, bow and percussion instrument native to his Rajasthan, he also makes them. His surname, ‘lohar’ (one who works with iron) denotes his caste and occupation: he is a blacksmith, from a family that has traditionally plied the trade.

But Mohan Lal is different. He combines a talent for music with his craftsmanship. At his workshop in Jaisalmer, the rhythmic beating of a piece of metal gives way within hours to the refined percussion of a freshly made morchang — just cool enough to play. The workshop itself belies what is produced in it. In one of the town’s many open-sewered lanes, it is just a portion of a small courtyard, under a shed that leaks; as much a play area for his goats as it is a place of work.



Here, Mohan Lal makes his famed instruments, starting at the very beginning: with the quick construction of a traditional kiln. Wooden channels attached to goatskin bellows blow life into a fire, and an ordinary piece of metal is readied for a transformation. Mohan Lal says he prefers the methods of his ancestors to more modern gas or electricity-aided processes. It takes skill, yes, but it seems to endow his instruments with an individualism that mass production simply cannot. If he crafts a morcchhang, for instance, it as good as bears the name of the musician who will one day play it.

Although a blacksmith by trade, Mohan Lal’s musical inclinations have contributed to making him a maker of all instruments. He works equally well with wood, crafting double-flutes (algozas and sataras), for instance. He is a sought after bhajan singer in his own right, and makes his own tamburas—the string instrument that necessarily accompanies vocals in this genre in Rajasthan. With the learning of generations behind him, Mohan Lal Lohar is one-stop shop for authentic Rajasthani folk instruments.


Morchang - 3 Pack
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Morchang (steel)
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Morchang (brass)
(Rs 2000, local pickup):
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(Rs 12000, local pickup):
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VIDEO: The making of a morchang:

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VIDEO: Mohan Lal Lohar plays the algoza

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