"Our songs are not dead yet, but I see that at some point they may be. The kamancha should stay alive and we should be able to teach it to our children. We hope that we can do this."
- SAKAR KHAN (1938-2013)
The kamaicha legend Padma Shri Sakar Khan passed way at home in Hamira, Rajasthan, India on August 10, 2013.
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Sakar Khan (1938-2013), from the village of Hamira in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district, was unarguably the greatest kamancha player to have graced this earth. A magician with the instrument, a musician's musician, yet an unsung treasure. Not just for the Thar desert where he comes from, but for the vast swath of land extending west to parts of Europe. Sakar Khan played a very special instrument, to a specially high level. The roots of the ‘kamancha’ (also spelt kamaicha, kamaycha, kemancheh) go back to the 8th century. A bowed instrument with a goat skin sound box and three main gut strings with 14 sympathetic metal strings, it harks back to the lost bowed Raba'ab of Arabia, and perhaps further, in terms of both geography and time.
Sakar Khan learned to play the instrument in exactly the same way as any Manganiyar does: from a very young age, under the tutelage of a master in the family. Sakarji’s father, Chunar Khan, was a legend in his community— Hindu lower caste converts to Islam whose vocation was music — and had made the kamancha the signature instrument for this Hamira family. It has remained so to this day.
To those who love traditional music for its own sake, Sakar Khan is to the kamancha what Yehudi Menuhin is to the violin. To those who subscribe to the view that the origins of several musical traditions including the Flamenco, and later, the Blues, are to be found in the songs of the nomads who traveled West from Rajasthan many centuries ago, Sakar Khan’s music takes on a deeper meaning.
Sakar Khan’s kamancha is one of the last connections to the roots that fed the branches of music across continents. That his sons Ghewar and Dara Khan are both highly accomplished kamancha players (and accompany him at performances) is a comforting thought. The tradition is alive, and will be for at least another generation, thanks to the commitment of this family from Hamira.
He was awarded India’s highest civilian award, the Padma Shri, in 2012 for his contribution to Indian folk music
Performed with violin legend Yehudi Menuhin and George Harrison (of The Beatles) amongst numerous international performances, including those at major festivals in the US, France, Japan and USSR.
Tulsi Samman awarded in 1990 by the Madhya Pradesh government
Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1991
"At Home: Sakar Khan" was his first album, released in September 2012