Raagas of human emotions.

“Give me some music; moody food of us that trade in love.”

As Champe Khan enunciates it: That music is like an addictive worship. Music has been the lifeline of this artist from the famous Manganiyar community of Rajasthan. Champe Khan, aged 38, lives in the famous Kalakaar colony of Jaisalmer, and his family has been the pioneers of folk music in Jaisalmer since generations, and he has been singing these folk songs since his childhood, he was brought up in a musical environment.

While explaining the meaning of Manganiyar, Champe Khan says that their families used to get rewards from royal Rajput families for their singing, hence the name Manganiyar is derived from the hindi term “Maangna”, which means to ask. Champe Khan’s eyes light up with an exquisite shine while talking about music. Champe Khan is an eminent song writer himself and is fond of composing songs, these songs are based on several auspicious occasions, and describe the human feelings, emotions in a very subtle way.

In his songs, which are mostly played with Harmonium as a basic instrument, Champe Khan and his group members improvise on percussions with “Khadtaal”, while the time (taal) of the song is kept using two dholaks.

Champe Khan’s songs are composed in ragas like Malkaush(Malkauns). The name Malkaush is derived from the combination of Mal and Kaushik, which means he who wears serpents like garlands — the god Shiva. Other ragas which are used in his compositions are “bhairava shahi”, “Megh”, “Hindol”, “Deepak” and “Shree” and are set to “Kairvan taal”, a 6 beat cycle. Pictorially these ragas are always shown as males and each of these ragas has eight feminine consorts, always visually shown as females. They further have eight sons, or ragaputras. These ragas used by Champe Khan also hints of influences from Guru Granth Sahib, According to the Guru Granth the first raga created by the Maker was Bhairav, and raga Bhairav had five raginis of which only the first, raga Bhairavi is known today and performed. The folk songs of Rajasthan have maintained the elements of Indian classical music despite the fact that they are freely composed and sung, knowing no rigid rules.

Champe Khan is greatly influenced by Sufi genre of music and cites the great Maestro Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan as his favorite. Champe Khan trained under Ustad Lakhe Khan and has been in association for over 10 years with Kuthle Khan. According to Champe Khan, folk music has a power which appeals to everyone. When asked about whether he is worried about the depleting number of folk musicians, he says that nowadays, people don’t understand the importance of folk music and are more oriented towards Bollywood. So far, Champe Khan has performed all over the world in countries like Spain, Holland, Belgium, London, and is all set to go to Austrailia in a few days.

When asked if the music is enough to sustain him economically, Champe Khan said:

“Khuda uthaata khaali pet hai, par sulaata nahi”

(God wakes you up hungry, but he makes sure that you never sleep hungry)

Champe Khan and his group lose themselves in a trance as they being singing their enchanting music in a mesmerizing locale, on the terrace of Jawahar Niwas. Their songs are mostly sung for various auspicious occasions like marriage and childbirth. Champe Khan’s songs combine love with the skill of music, and the result is a masterpiece.

“Gori johe baat, Saajan likhliyo kore kaagaz ve,

Baachun ghadi ghadi”

I wait for my beloved, I write his name on a blank paper, and I stare at that paper endlessly.

Simple, yet profound and yet so deep. This is Champe Khan’s music which speaks volumes about the daily, and otherwise mundane human emotions, love, separation, the nervousness of an about to be married woman, who stares fondly at her beloved would-be husband from her veil (ghoonghat). All these human emotions are beautifully captured and blended with the beauty of rare ragas.

“Kauno ragaj moti, main jheene ghungat joti”

The pearls which you wear in your ears, I am looking at them from my veil (ghoonghat) with admiration.

Champe Khan would like to carry forward these traditions of his family, and impart this art to his coming generations as well, but like all his counterparts in this region, he also lays special emphasis on basic technical education for all. Champe Khan and his group members, Isaac Khan, Mohammed Nawaz, and Sawan Khan are skilled musicians describe music as a coherent and binding factor and vouch for their community and neighborhood for providing a cooperative and friendly environment for sustaining this art.

For everyone who has lived, loved and lost, Champe Khan’s songs will appeal greatly as they cover a plethora of emotions.

“Haazir-ubareshon, laal bane na josho”.

I am waiting for my beloved, and I can look at him clearly if he walks slowly and gracefully.

For these artists, music is like an “Ibaadat” (worship), and this skill only improves with more and more practice. Some of the raagas are used in the purest form while some are used in combination. They also experiment with mixing various raagas like Malkaush and Bhairavi, much like a “Raagamalika” (a garland of raagas) in Carnatic music, blending them effortlessly to create more melodies. Over the years, these artists have helped in preserving and conserving this intangible heritage of the city of Jaisalmer, and this tradition should be continued with time. Truly, when love and skill combine, one should really expect a masterpiece, and Champe Khan’s music is no less than a masterpiece when it comes to explaining even the most delicate, yet heartfelt human emotions.

Anahad Foundation is a NGO which aims at conservation and preservation of Indian musical heritage by helping folk and tribal communities. These communities are in a dire need of help to get them back in the mainstream and save our age old cultural heritage from getting fade away. Currently our focus area is in Rajasthan, where we are working for Manganiyaar and Langha folk communities to make them self-reliant for their better livelihood and by generating employment for them with their own culture.We with our team and the entire studio setup travel to nook and corners of villages in Jaisalmer and Barmer region to document the folk artists. After the entire documentation we put all our efforts in designing and developing their stand alone websites, to help them get a wider audience and endless opportunities. To contact this folk group, one can visit their website made by us champekhanproject.com

To learn more about the work we are doing with Champe Khan and other artists like him, visit https://anahad.ngo/

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