Rajasthan’s COVID-hit Manganiyar, Langa artistes on verge of starvation

Manjoor Khan

, as these folk singers from the western end of the desert state have not had a live audience to enthrall for months amid the COVID onslaught.

These professional folk musicians, mostly Muslim, belonging to Jaisalmer, Barmer, parts of Jalor, Bikaner and Jodhpur districts are hereditary caste musicians, who cultivate a close bond with their patrons. In the last six months there has been no live shows as the pandemic has brought everything to a standstill.

With no audience to woo with their mesmerizing voices, these groups of rustic brilliance have been living in deplorable conditions. Their members are almost on the verge of starvation. They are eagerly awaiting support from any corner of the world.

“Our communities have never accepted anything free. In fact, for centuries, we sang at our Yajman’s place during weddings or any such occasion and accepted whatever they gave. Recently, we started going on stage but suddenly COVID-19 came and it has hit us hard,” says renowned folk singer Manjoor Khan.

“The state government recently started a scheme saying that if the artistes upload their videos and mail it to them, their committee will decide if they are eligible to get Rs 2,500 into their account.

“However, most of our community members are not tech-savvy and don’t have high-end phones too,” he added.

The Manganiyars for years have symbolized the Ganga-Jamuna culture in Rajasthan where the Khans have their first names as Shankar and they generally invoke Lord Krishna at the start of their shows.

Known as inheritors of Rajasthan’s rich musical tradition passed on by their forefathers, they used to serve erstwhile Rajput warriors. Despite practicing Islam, they visit Hindu temples and perform there with equal ease.

Manjoor Khan is running an NGO Sarwar Lok Sangeet Sansthan and has distributed grocery to 450 folk artistes five times, but now, even the NGO is on the verge of collapse with all funds exhausted. “Although some people approach us for online shows, the amount is not even sufficient to be distributed decently among all folk artistes in the team. Then there is the connectivity issue that comes most of the time.

“Our community stays in border areas of the state and hence our major earning sources are limited to just singing at Yajman’s places. Our savings were exhausted in the first two months of the lockdown. Now, the grocer has also stopped delivering us even with essential goods. We can’t go to Yajman’s houses as it is Corona time and you can’t meet anyone,” rues Khan.

Jameel Khan, another artiste associated with this NGO said that their community needs a supporting hand in these times of crisis which is affecting their very existence. He added that those who would help them shall get the blessings from the community. “These singer communities are sick and tired of daily challenges of arranging food even for one time a day.” (Source: newsd.in)

Images courtesy of (Manganiar.com) and (Image courtesy: Manjoor Khan/Facebook)

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