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Spaces Betwixt and Between: Musical Borderlands and the Manganiyar Musicians of Rajasthan


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Scholars and musicians alike have described the music of the Manganiyar musician community almost entirely in terms of Hindustani classical music. As a result of the Manganiyar community’s straddling of the India-Pakistan border, their lives inhabit a borderland in political space, religious belief, and cultural practice. Their music, while utilizing elements of Hindustani raga, also draws considerably on Sindhi surs, a body of musical/poetic texts more closely associated with Pakistani music. The Manganiyar meld these musical systems into their own practices in order to assert their borderland identities, and ultimately complicate broader dichotomies and binaries in South Asian contemporary music.
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Spaces Betwixt and Between: Musical Borderlands and the Manganiyar
Musicians of Rajasthan
Shalini Ayyagari
Asian Music, Volume 43, Number 1, Winter/Spring 2012, pp. 3-33 (Article)
Published by University of Texas Press
DOI: 10.1353/amu.2012.0005
For additional information about this article
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© 2012 by the University of Texas Press, PO Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713-7819
Spaces Betwixt and Between:
Musical Borderlands and the
Manganiyar Musicians of Rajasthan1
Shalini Ayyagari2
Abstract: Scholars and musicians alike have described the music of the Manganiyar musi-
cian community almost entirely in terms of Hindustani classical music. As a result of the
Manganiyar community’s straddling of the India- Pakistan border, their lives inhabit a bor-
derland in political space, religious belief, and cultural practice. eir music, while utilizing
elements of Hindustani raga, also draws considerably on Sindhi surs, a body of musical/
poetic texts more closely associated with Pakistani music. e Manganiyar meld these musi-
cal systems into their own practices in order to assert their borderland identities, and ulti-
mately complicate broader dichotomies and binaries in South Asian contemporary music.
Borders in this sense are not natural outcomes of a natural or divine historical
process in human history, but were created in the very constitution of the modern/
colonial world. (Mignolo and Tlostanova 2006, 208)
... e border is not a spatial fact with a sociological impact, but a sociological fact
that shapes spatiality. (Simmel 1992, 697)
Here is how the game is played: A Manganiyar musician sits in the middle of
his patron’s homestead, surrounded by members of the patrons family who are
familiar with the musical repertory of the Manganiyar musical tradition. e
musician has already hidden a trivial object in a hiding place somewhere on the
premises. e musician then leads the patron to the hidden object in a sort of
“hot- and- cold” game. However, the directions given to the patron are not com-
municated through the words “hotter” and “colder,” but are instead conveyed
through music. e musician uses the six ragas, or musical modes, customarily
used in performance and considered to be indigenous by the Manganiyar—
Maru, Sorath, Dhani, Soobh, Megh Malhar, and Goond Malhar—which in their
conceptualization correspond to the four cardinal directions of north, south,
east, west, along with upward and downward, respectively (g. 1).3 He uses these
ragas to lead the patron to the place of the hidden object, changing the raga as
the patron moves. In turn, the patron changes his direction based on the ragas
being played by the musician. e patron does not receive a prize for nding
4 Asian Music: Winter/Spring 2012
the object, but instead receives bragging rights, important in a culture that has
historically nurtured musical literacy for musicians and listeners alike.
e game requires musical expertise on the parts of both the musician and his
patron. e musician must not only know the six ragas intimately, but must be
able to skillfully transition from one raga to the next as the patron moves in vari-
ous directions in search of the hidden object. e patron must also have critical
listening skills, being able to recognize the ragas being played, and translate them
into the correct directions to follow in order to nd the object. e game is called
Kakadi, and is played at patron family functions such as weddings and birth
ceremonies in western Rajasthan. It is played much less prevalently in contem-
porary western Rajasthan, however, due to a lessening of importance of musical
expertise among patrons and a weakening of the bond between musician and
patron. However, patrons do oen make sure at least one older family member in
attendance at the function understands the nuances of the Manganiyar musical
tradition and could potentially play the game if called upon to do so.
Figure 1. Spatialized directional ragas superimposed on
a geographical map of the Rajasthan region.
Ayyagari: Spaces Betwixt and Between 5
I use the game of Kakadi as an introductory example to demonstrate the
importance of spatialization of musical practices among the Manganiyar com-
munity, whose traditions are indebted to the poetics of a musical landscape
mapping, both perceived and imagined. Each of the six ragas’ conceptualizations
is integrally enmeshed with the environment in which this musical tradition has
been nurtured. Each relates to locations within the purview of surroundings of
the Manganiyar community: Maru refers to the desert north of Jaisalmer City,
Sorath refers to an area in Gujarat south of Jaisalmer, Dhani refers to the sun
rising in the east, Soobh refers to the sun setting in the west, Megh Malhar refers
to rain coming from clouds above, and Goond Malhar refers to the earth below.
Each raga is thus explored in the Manganiyar musical tradition as musical
practice, an idiom of spatialization, and a symbol of a deeply rooted folkloric
tradition. It is a game inuenced by both ragas and a modal system indigenous
to what is today Sindh, Pakistan, surs (to be discussed at length following). e
game allows its players to literally spatialize the music and imagine the music
being performed in terms of function and locality rather than just mode. is
sense of locality, place, and belonging spatializes the community as a whole, giv-
ing the Manganiyar, whose lives necessarily involve border crossings (musical,
geographical, religious, and theoretical) and rural isolation due to the desert
landscape, a shared sense of community.
In this article, I claim that the division of the geopolitical nations of India and
Pakistan has helped to “partition” perceptions of cultural practices. As a result of
the Manganiyar community’s locality, their musical life inhabits a borderland not
only in geopolitical space and cultural and religious practices, but in the musical
imagination as well. is article, then, is not so much about uncovering the o-
neglected hybridization of musical practices that constitutes Manganiyar music,
as it is about denationalizing the widely accepted music scholarship that to this
day establishes itself on the premise of nation- states. As Mignolo and Tlostanova
suggest, borders are “not natural outcomes of a natural or divine historical pro-
cess” (Mignolo and Tlostanova 2006, 208), and because as Simmel points out,
they are “a sociological fact that shapes spatiality” (Simmel 1992, 697), it is
important to examine these ruptures and continuities within a cultural context,
asking the question, who is doing the breaking and crossing of borders and why?
I use an extended musical example to demonstrate this main argument. e
music of the Manganiyar, while utilizing elements of Hindustani music theory,
also draws considerably upon Sindhi surs, a musical and poetic classication
system most closely associated with regional musical practices of what is today
the Sindh province in eastern Pakistan. Sindhi surs is a system based on folktales,
regional locations, and descriptions of nature and the local environment indig-
enous to western Rajasthan, India, and eastern Sindh, Pakistan. I suggest that
the fusing of ragas and surs in Manganiyar musical practices is directly related
6 Asian Music: Winter/Spring 2012
to the borderland location of the community, both geographically and culturally.
By showing the continuity across a political border in musical practice among
the Manganiyar, I posit that Manganiyar musicians are unsettling such national
border- bound ways of labeling and characterizing musical practices.
Scholars of South Asian music and Manganiyar musicians themselves have
not prevalently used the surs classication system to describe Manganiyar music
for reasons to be discussed below. However, I assert that Manganiyar musicians
meld elements of both Hindustani raga and Sindhi surs together to create a
distinctly divergent musical practice. is melded modal system then signies
lived practice in a borderland region and helps the Manganiyar community cre-
ate meaning and shape spatiality for themselves and their hereditary patrons as
to what it means to live in a borderland region. As musicians create their own
musical and cultural boundaries from the bottom up, defying those national
boundaries determined from the top down, music is then symbolic of those
struggles over dening geopolitical boundaries. In what follows, I hope to pro-
vide a more nuanced perspective and contextual framework through which to
examine Manganiyar music, ultimately destabilizing broader common notions
of national boundaries as dening lines for cultural and theoretical practices.
e Manganiyar in Context
e Manganiyar are a community of hereditary caste musicians straddling the
India- Pakistan border and inhabiting both the western Rajasthan region of
India and the eastern Sindh region of Pakistan. Customarily the Manganiyar
have provided family genealogies and ceremonial music to their hereditary
patrons for remuneration in kind for at least the past three centuries (Kothari
1994, 205). ey have been aliated not only with individual patron families,
but entire family lineages over many generations through social and economic
codependence. ey perform at their patron families’ life- cycle ceremonies
such as births, weddings, and festivals (g. 2), and sing mainly in the Marwari
e Manganiyar self- identify as Sunni Muslim although, as is the case with
many marginalized communities in South Asia, their religious practices are
an amalgamation of aspects from both Hinduism and Islam.5 According to
Manganiyar oral histories, as a community, they were previously Hindu and
converted to Islam during the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s reign (1658–
1707).6 eir conversion could have taken place for a variety of reasons. Some
Manganiyars recounted to me a conversion to Islam to escape Mughal em-
peror Aurangzeb’s tax on non- Muslim populations in north India (Sakar Khan
Manganiyar, interview with the author, 2007), while others expressed a desire on
the part of their ancestors to escape Hindu casteism (Manuel 1996, 122–3). One
Ayyagari: Spaces Betwixt and Between 7
Manganiyar musician told a story of a Hindu ancestor who touched the animal
skin of a drum in a Hindu temple. As a result, he was banned from practicing
Hinduism in his village and converted to Islam (Ghewar Khan Manganiyar,
interview with the author, 2006).
Religious conversion, however, is usually never so distinct—one day a per-
son is Hindu, and the next s/he is Muslim. Instead, it is oen only partial and/
or selective as communities continue their preconversion practices even aer
conversion. As a result of the Manganiyars’ conversion to Islam, their geographi-
cal border location, and the fact that the majority of Manganiyarspatrons are
Hindu, their cultural and musical traditions have persisted in embodying a
mixture of Hindu and Muslim traditions and musical repertory, devoted to
both Hindu and Muslim (most oen Su- derived) devotional and mythologi-
cal themes.
Figure 2. Sakar Khan Manganiyar performing for his
patrons in Hamira Village (photo by author, 2003).
8 Asian Music: Winter/Spring 2012
Partition and Political Dichotomization
is is not that long- looked- for break of day
Not that clear dawn in quest of which those comrades
Set out, believing that in heaven’s wide void
Somewhere must be the star’s last halting place,
Somewhere the verge of night’s slow- washing tide,
Somewhere an anchorage for the ship of heartache.
(Faiz Ahmed Faiz, “Subh-e-azadi”)7
Before Partition, the Manganiyar lived in the area that would, in 1947, become
land straddling the India- Pakistan border.8 However, today the majority of the
Manganiyar community resides in India. Older musicians whom I interviewed
remember an India past when there was no “this side” or “that side” of the
border. Instead, Manganiyar families lived and traveled freely throughout the
ar Desert region, following a long- standing peripatetic lifestyle.9 Some musi-
cians related to me stories of traveling from Jaisalmer (in present- day India) to
Hyderabad (in present- day Pakistan) to study classical music in the royal court
there (Lakha Khan Manganiyar, interview with the author, 2005). Others had
family, patrons, or instrument makers in Karachi (in present- day Pakistan), or
various villages near Karachi that they would visit oen. us, these musicians
now residing in India had long- standing connections to places and people now
in Pakistan.
e above examples demonstrate that Manganiyar musicians oen had more
personal, cultural, and musical ties to nearby present- day Pakistan than to other
parts of present- day India. All of this changed however when India gained its
independence. e date, August 15, 1947, not only marked India’s indepen-
dence from Great Britain, but also the violent and jolting partition of the Indian
subcontinent and establishment of the two independent nations of India and
Pakistan.10 Tellingly, in conversation with Manganiyar musicians in western
Rajasthan, most speak more dramatically about Partition than about India’s
independence. In the South Asian imagination, Partition is an event forever
marked by trauma and catastrophe.11 Faiz Ahmed Faiz lamented this in his
poem, “Subh- e- azadi” (Freedoms dawn). In a similar fashion, Salmon Rushdie
poignantly nds voice for this catastrophe through the allegorical body of his
character, Saleem Sinai, in his novel Midnight’s Children:
I mean quite simply that I have begun to crack all over like an old jug—that my poor
body, singular, unlovely, bueted by too much history, subjected to drainage above
and drainage below, mutilated by doors, brained by spittoons, has started coming
apart at the seams. In short, I am literally disintegrating, slowly for the moment,
although there are signs of an acceleration. (Rushdie 1980, 37)
Ayyagari: Spaces Betwixt and Between 9
Rushdie’s description of Saleem Sinai’s decrepit body symbolizes the strife
in the South Asian subcontinent at the time and in the aermath of Partition.
ere were massive populations exchanged between the two newly formed
states, based mainly upon religious aliation.12 According to the 1951 Indian
Census of Displaced Persons, approximately 14.5 million people crossed the
new border in the months immediately following Partition (Visaria 1969, 323).
Both newly formed governments were completely unequipped to deal with mi-
grations of such unexpected and staggering magnitude or the massive violence
and slaughter that occurred on both sides of the border. Hindus residing on the
western side of this new line drawn in the sand were oen forcefully evicted
and sent to the eastern side; Muslims from the east were forced in the opposite
direction. ose who attempted to remain in their homes oen suered con-
sequences. Leading up to and as a result of Partition, hundreds of thousands of
people were killed, uncounted numbers were raped and forcefully religiously
converted, and millions more were uprooted, marking one of the largest mass
migrations in history.
Although the portion of the India- Pakistan border separating Rajasthan and
Sindh remained fairly peaceful compared to other areas on the border, the region
still felt the eects of Partition. In this strife, many Manganiyar musician fami-
lies followed their Hindu patrons, by either relocating from the Pakistani to the
Indian side of the border, or remaining in the Muslim minority on the Indian
side.13 Oen they were forced to sever ties with relatives, homes, and instrument
makers in Pakistan. For a time aer Partition, the portion of the India- Pakistan
border of Rajasthan, India, and Sindh, Pakistan, was semipermeable. However,
the Fourteen Day War between India and Pakistan, December 3–16, 1971, made
the line denitive; all ties between Manganiyars in India and their lives on the
other side of the border were cut o, and since then, both sides of the border
are patrolled and army- controlled (Copland 1998).
Beginning in the 1980s, historiography concerning Partition has been greatly
inuenced by the Subaltern Studies Group and their theoretical turn to the re-
writing of such moments of struggle in history. No longer was Partition viewed
as a single event from a single privileged perspective, but instead it was viewed as
a chain of contingent events inuenced and perceived by both the elite of South
Asia as well as subaltern communities throughout the region. ese historiogra-
phies stress that Partition was not merely a master narrative but rather a complex
produced through forces and power relations, compounded by uncertainties,
loss, and confusion.14
Borders are not natural outcomes of an organic or divine historical process.
Although rooted in geographical mappings, borders have been socially cre-
ated and used for political means. Classication and boundary making, both
10 Asian Music: Winter/Spring 2012
tangible and epistemological, are at the heart of constructing identities. Modern
nation- states are ideologically invested in imagining themselves to be territori-
ally discrete and internally homogenous. Borderlands cannot be regarded as
empty transitional zones, but are instead sites of creative cultural production
and struggle. Here I draw on Doreen Masseys scholarly work on space and
place. She points out that instead of “thinking of places as areas with boundaries
around them, they can be imagined as articulated moments in networks of social
relations and understandings” (Massey 1994, 154). So too can music theory be
imagined in relation to spatial formations and networks of social relations. e
India- Pakistan border region of Rajasthan and Sindh can be analyzed as an
imaginary yet very poignant line in the life of musical practice of the region.
Understanding of the India- Pakistan border needs to continue to be remapped,
not as a simple divide between here and there, but as social and cultural terrain
that people inhabit, that inhabits people.
erefore, an examination of the social production of borders allows us to
identify relations of domination and subordination. e India- Pakistan bor-
der serves then as a mechanism by which dierence and exclusion have been
promulgated in terms of nationality and religious identity. Furthermore, the
processes of dierentiation and exclusion at the border can take place in rela-
tion to musical identity.
Manganiyar Music as Desi or Marga?
e psychological borderlands, the sexual borderlands, and the spiritual borderlands
are not particular to the southwest [United States]. In fact, the borderlands are physi-
cally present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of dierent
races occupy the same territory, where the lower, middle and upper classes touch.
(Anzaldúa 1987, [iii])
In relation to musical practices of the Manganiyar, there has been a proverbial
border imposed in the dichotomization of classical” and “folk” music, also
referred to in scholarship as “great”/“little” and marga/desi.15 e terms “great”
and “little” were rst used in anthropological scholarship in the 1950s in re-
lation to traditions of Hinduism found in villages versus those found in the
Sanskritic textual tradition (Marriott 1955; Redeld 1955, [1956] 1960; Singer
1959). Carol Babiracki, in her historical analysis of the scholarly treatment of
tribal music in India, contextualizes the “great” traditions in relation to those
practices “centered in geographically dispersed cities, palaces, schools, and
temples ... maintained by a relatively small, educated elite” (Babiracki 1991,
70). Contrastingly, she refers to the “little” traditions as “the many and diverse
little traditions ... localized in villages, maintained by a large, nonliterate or
Ayyagari: Spaces Betwixt and Between 11
semiliterate peasant class, unstandardized, and orally transmitted” (Babiracki
1991, 70). Joan Erdman found these terms especially relevant in the context of
eastern Rajasthans royal courts. According to Erdman, the great traditions (of
the reective few) and the little traditions (of the largely unreective many)
“inform each other, and partake of the same cultural structure” (Erdman
1985, 17).
ese terms are still conceptually prevalent in contemporary scholarship and
are also used in everyday language by the Manganiyar today. According to Regula
Qureshi, “In the eld of Indian music studies, the high- low divide has generally
persisted. It has been reinforced by an institutional as well as conceptual separa-
tion between art and folk music, and by the legacy of the early twentieth- century
reform movement to codify (in writing) Hindustani music” (Qureshi 2009, 181).
It is surprising then that although scholars and Manganiyars alike oen cat-
egorize Manganiyar music as desi or “little,” the music is described in scholar-
ship and discussions with musicians almost entirely in terms of Hindustani
classical raga theory.16 is can be attributed to three factors. First, Manganiyar
music has been inuenced by Hindustani classical music in many ways (dis-
cussed below) and has garnered international exposure partly as a result of its
supposed similarities to Hindustani classical music. Second, Manganiyar mu-
sic is theorized in a similar fashion to Hindustani classical music (the second
factor might be as a result of the rst). ird, both South Asian and foreign
scholars who have studied Manganiyar music have typically used Hindustani
classical music as a reference point from which to examine Manganiyar music
(Jairazbhoy 1980).
While theories from the great” Hindustani classical musical tradition are
imposed on Manganiyar music mainly for easy reference and comparison by
both scholars and musicians, it is at the same time considered by most to be a
“little” tradition. How then can the categorization of Manganiyar music as being
both “great” and “little” be reconciled? Ethnomusicologists such as the late Nazir
Jairazbhoy went so far as to call Manganiyar music an “embryo of classical mu-
sic,” implying that Manganiyar music provides a proverbial window looking into
the roots of Hindustani classical music, as far back as 300 years ago (Jairazbhoy
1980). Jairazbhoy, while giving credit to Manganiyar music for its high level
of theorization compared to other South Asian regional music traditions, ar-
ticulated a teleology of music on an evolutionary scale, placing Manganiyar
music as a precursor to present- day Hindustani classical performance practice.
While Jairazbhoy’s writing is indeed from an ethnomusicological and theoreti-
cal era past (most of his research in western Rajasthan was conducted in the
early 1970s), it still reects a prevalent perception by contemporary scholars
and audiences of Manganiyar music.
12 Asian Music: Winter/Spring 2012
Music in Pakistan, Music in India
Despite musical ambiguities and contradictions inherent in an eort to catego-
rize permeable musical practices across the border, an arbitrary dichotomization
was reinforced by the state interest of both postindependent India and Pakistan
to promote and stie certain musical practices in an eort to dene distinct
national subjectivities in relation to each other.
Hindustani classical music, and raga in particular, are concepts that have
for the most part been associated with music from present- day North India
despite their wide usage in contemporary Pakistan as well.17 Strikingly, Alain
Daniélou’s well- cited and musically theoretically in- depth book, e Ragas of
Northern Indian Music, includes a lengthy introductory chapter titled “e His-
tory of Indian Music,” which outlines the origins of Hindustani classical music
beginning with pre- Aryan Dravidian culture, yet only speaks to music of India.
Further, the connections to a Hindu lineage are foregrounded. Daniélou only
hints at Muslim inuences in the genre in one sweeping sentence: “With the
advent of foreign invasions musical theory quickly decays, although musical
practice maintains its standards” (Daniélou 1980, 18).
More Islamic music traditions, including various Su religious music such as
qawwali, are more generally associated with Pakistan, although they are preva-
lent throughout the northern part of the subcontinent as well as India. Accord-
ing to Yousuf Saeed, a prominent north Indian music scholar and independent
lmmaker, this perceived demarcation on the Pakistan side of the border is
indeed real. He explains that there was a conscious eort on the part of Pakistani
government ocials to distinguish what types of music should be ocially al-
lowed in Pakistan. He writes,
is deliberate demarcation took its toll on a range of musical forms considered
to be of Hindu origin—dhrupad, dhamar, thumri—while others, such as khayal,
tarana, qawwali, and ghazal were suddenly favoured. In their eorts to “Islamise,
some musicians decided to stop singing songs and ragas that referred to Hindu dei-
ties, and others decided to rename them for acceptability. e raga Shri Kaalyan,
for instance, became Shab Kalyan. In a 2003 textbook for music students, Akhtar
Shirazi writes new khayal and dhrupad compositions in polished Urdu, using Mus-
lim devotional themes to replace the Hindu ones. (Saeed 2011, n.p.)
Saeed goes on to recount a decline of public interest in Hindustani classical
music in postindependent Pakistan, especially aer the 1971 war with India,
and attributes this to the rise of anti- India sentiments. Despite support from
government institutions, musicians were not able to earn a good living playing
Hindustani classical music. “Classical musicians, such as those migrating from
the Indian Punjab who settled in Multan and Sindh, learned local folk genres
such as Sindhi Ka, and tried to blend the two styles ... Some musicians, such
Ayyagari: Spaces Betwixt and Between 13
as vocalist Salamat- Nazakat Ali, were able to survive only by going on occasional
concert tours in the West” (Saeed 2011, n.p.).
While many genres of classical music were stied on the Pakistan side of the
border, other musical practices were promoted by the government and public
institutions, such as ghazal and qawwali, in part due to their associations with
Islamic culture. According to Saeed, the lessening of popularity of Hindustani
classical music among the middle classes in urban Pakistan allowed qawwali to
ourish. No longer was it just performed in local Su shrines, but it was brought
to the concert stage, and eventually has become one of the main cultural symbols
of contemporary Pakistan.
Conceptualizations and Superimpositions of Raga
Although raga is a concept used in music found all over South Asia as well as
in South Asian diasporic music, it can mean many dierent things in dierent
practices. While Hindustani music theory is used as a framework to describe
Manganiyar music, the actualization of raga in practice is very dierent between
the two.
Contemporary Hindustani ragas are categorized by scale type and pitch se-
lection, and are dened by many other conceptual frameworks, including pitch
ascent/descent patterns, melodic shapes of phrasing, the musical context in
which specic pitches occur, intonation, use of microtones, time of day, season,
and an overall sense of mood, to name a few (Bagchee 1998).18 Contrastingly,
Manganiyars conceptualize raga not so much in relation to musical mode as they
do in relation to short musical motifs. As will be discussed below, these musical
motifs also correspond to well- known folktales from the region.
While the rasa, or feeling, in Hindustani music is conveyed through the
rendition of a particular raga, in Manganiyar music rasa is conveyed literally
through the dohas, poetic couplets that are typically sung at the beginning of
a performance.19 When these dohas are put to melodies and are sung in raga,
they are referred to as chello. Typically, certain chello are associated with cor-
responding ragas. Many Manganiyar musicians whom I interviewed had di-
culty conceptualizing raga in the abstract; when asked to sing/play the melodic
scale of a particular raga, most Manganiyars had diculty without referencing
particular songs, dohas, or stories that in their minds are inseparable from the
raga itself. is inherent correspondence led me to believe that there were other
musical inuences contributing to the conceptualization and actualization of
Manganiyar music in addition to just Hindustani raga, which will be discussed
in the next section.
ere are ragas used in the Manganiyar tradition that do not exist in prac-
tice in the Hindustani system. ere are ragas that are musically the same in
14 Asian Music: Winter/Spring 2012
both systems but have dierent names in each. In addition, there are ragas that
have the same names in both systems but are musically dierent.20 Because of
these dierences, it is possible that in the Manganiyar tradition, raga could be
a concept adapted from other musical practices, including but not exclusively
Hindustani classical music.21
It is my contention that Manganiyar musicians are ingenious cultural politi-
cians. ey are skilled at adapting and converting foreign elements into their
own repertory, as evidenced by their contemporary incorporation of Hindi lm
music, international popular music, and other Rajasthani communities’ music
into their own. Furthermore, these adaptations on the part of the Manganiyar
community are not just a recent phenomenon. Historical records show that
Manganiyar musicians and Hindustani musicians encountered one another fre-
quently at royal courts, suggesting that interactions between Hindustani classical
musicians and Manganiyar musicians are not merely a recent phenomenon seen
in contemporary performance and album collaborations.22
Jaisalmer City royal court documents verify that the court maintained a regu-
lar “Department of Music and Arts,” termed Alamkhana in which one particular
hereditary family of Manganiyars has been consistently employed at the court
for at least the past 3 centuries for ceremony, festival, familial, and court en-
tertainment (Imamddin Khan Manganiyar, interview with the author, 2007).23
is same family is still employed by the royal family of Jaisalmer, although over
the years since Independence and Partition, their importance in the court has
waned (g. 3).24
Visiting Hindustani classical musicians were historically invited to perform
in Jaisalmer from other cities and royal courts.25 We can only assume that there
were constant ows of musicians between courts in Rajasthan, Sindh, and prob-
ably other neighboring areas such as Delhi, Punjab, and Gujarat. In postinde-
pendent India, Manganiyars were also employed at All India Radio as well as its
local aliates in Rajasthani cities including Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Barmer. Anwar
Khan Manganiyar recounted to me performing alongside Hindustani classical
musicians in these settings (Anwar Khan Manganiyar, interview with the au-
thor, 2007). Whether the term and concept of raga is indigenous to Manganiyar
vocabulary, has been synthesized from their exposure to Hindustani classical
music, or has entered their purview as a result of musicologists superimposing
it into their music for decades and perhaps centuries, one can only speculate.
Most Manganiyars I spoke with attribute their knowledge of Hindustani classical
music to these interactions with Hindustani classical musicians, although they
claim their use of the term raga is an indigenous one.
Based on eldwork conducted in western Rajasthan (by myself and other
scholars), it seems that Manganiyar musicians indeed have a knowledge of
Hindustani raga theory, but one must surmise that the musicians interviewed
Ayyagari: Spaces Betwixt and Between 15
were oen chosen by scholars for that very reason—because they had a work-
ing knowledge of raga, had previously been exposed to it, and were then able to
theorize raga in interviews and recording sessions.26 It is dicult to surmise to
what extent all Manganiyar musicians are familiar with raga theory.
From my own eldwork in Rajasthan, it is clear that raga conceptualization
among the Manganiyar is not standardized. e corpus of ragas varies greatly
from one musician to the next (even in the same immediate family), and oen
by one musician when asked at dierent times.27 is is an area in which more
research could benet in order to better understand the history, incorporation,
and conceptualization of raga among the Manganiyar community.
Manganiyar Musical Forms
Manganiyars have been considered by scholars as well as their hereditary patrons
as the bearers of knowledge and tradition, receptacles of folk knowledge. For
this reason, they are thought to hold an essentialized sense of history through
their music, genealogy- keeping, and performances. is essentialization associ-
ated with the Manganiyar community inevitably inuences the way Manganiyar
music is conceptualized in relation to Hindustani classical music.
Figure 3. Alamkhana musicians performing outside the Jaisalmer royal
palace during the annual Dusshera Festival (photo by author, 2007).
16 Asian Music: Winter/Spring 2012
Among others, the ethnomusicologist Nazir Jairazbhoy’s description of
Manganiyar music as an “embryo of Hindustani classical music” from 1980
is most likely based upon an initial perception that Manganiyar music indeed
resembles Hindustani classical music in its structural framework (Jairazbhoy
1980). Here, I compare Manganiyar vocal performances with Hindustani vocal
performances, most notably the Hindustani vocal genre khayal.28 I have done
this, in part, because both vocal and instrumental Manganiyar music are based
on sung poetry and vocal traditions. Although vocal music is still the most
prevalent genre in Manganiyar repertory (a solo singer with melodic and rhyth-
mic accompaniment), in recent decades solo instrumental performances have
become popular.29
In terms of a musical timeline, a Hindustani khayal performance generally
begins with a short alap section. is section is an improvised prelude in free
time in which the melodic characteristics of the raga being performed are clearly
established and developed, including the ascending and descending scales, the
emphasis on certain pitches, the ways in which certain pitches are approached,
and a more general mood of the raga. is introductory alap sometimes contains
subsections divided by increasing rhythmic density, melodic range, and sung
rhythm. By the end of the alap section, the raga has clearly been established
and the performance is on the verge of becoming rhythmically regular. e
performer then launches into the chiz, or composition, accompanied by a drum
(usually the tabla), and based on xed poetry that is then improvised on.30
Contrastingly, the Manganiyar generally theorize their repertory into two
distinct categories: “out of raga” and “in raga.” ose contexts that call for music
out of raga” are processions, ceremonies, and festivals and the songs sung on
these occasions are called chhota git, or small songs. Chhota git are generally
simple in structure and are functional, relating directly to the event at hand.
Mota git, or large songs, are considered to be “in raga,” and are generally per-
formed at kacheri, or intimate connoisseur listening sessions, either for patrons
or for other Manganiyar musicians (g. 4).31
Mota git, discussed at length below, are most relevant for this article because
of their structural connections to Hindustani classical music.32 is category of
repertoire has been described by various Manganiyar musicians as praise songs
for a patron, a god, or the raga being performed. In mota git there is a similar
overarching structure to that found in Hindustani alap.33 While the term alap is
not used in common practice to describe the beginning section of a Manganiyar
performance, the section is similar in that the sung phrases are improvised in
free time, explore the melodic contours and characteristics of the raga, and are
unaccompanied by a rhythmic instrument (usually the double- headed dholak
drum in contemporary practice).34 In terms of instrumentation, while the num-
ber of performers (vocalists and instrumentalists) in Manganiyar mota git per-
formances may vary from one performance to the next and also may depend on
Ayyagari: Spaces Betwixt and Between 17
the context in which the music is performed, a soloist is generally accompanied
by a drone- keeping instrument (oen played by a stringed instrument such as
the sarangi or kamaicha, or by the harmonium). is is similar to Hindustani
classical music where the instrumentation for the alap section consists of a solo-
ist accompanied also by a drone- keeping instrument (e.g., tanpura, harmonium,
sruti box).
While the distinguishing feature of Manganiyar mota git is that they are “in
raga,” only the rst part of the performance is considered to be “in raga.” is is
the case even though the remainder of the song is indeed melodically and emo-
tionally in the same raga as the rst part. Mota git begin with dohas, or rhyming
couplets sung without the accompaniment of the dholak drum. e texts of the
dohas usually relate to the sentiment of the raga used for the piece, oen telling
the story of or praising the raga. Although these dohas are generally xed, they
have a degree of improvisation. e singer usually knows a number of stanzas for
each doha, and can mix and match these stanzas in varying ways to create certain
moods, elicit responses from the audience, and shorten or lengthen this section
of the performance depending on the context. e sung melody, although con-
forming to the raga, is improvised, and the singer may go back and forth between
recitation and melodic improvisation in this section of the performance.
Following this introductory section of dohas in a mota git performance, the
actual git, or song, begins. is section is not considered to be “in raga.” During
Figure 4. Manganiyar musicians performing in a
kacheri session (photo by author, 2006).
18 Asian Music: Winter/Spring 2012
a number of recording sessions with senior Manganiyar musicians, I asked them
which raga the git was sung in. All of the musicians were puzzled by this ques-
tion and responded by clarifying that it was a git and not “in raga.” is section
is characterized by highly stylized improvisation and rapid passages with vir-
tuosic ourish. e git section of a Manganiyar performance is thus akin to the
Hindustani khayal chiz section in that it occurs aer an alap- like section and
has rhythmic accompaniment (on the dholak as opposed to the tabla in khayal).
To summarize, the following similarities exist between Manganiyar mota git
and Hindustani khayal vocal performance:
(1) ere is no rhythmic accompaniment in the rst section, which is sung in
free meter, followed by a second section that is accompanied by a drum
and has consistent meter.
(2) e rst section is theorized to be in a particular raga.
(3) Both improvisation and composition are present.
(4) Characteristic melodic patterns are used to explore the pitches of the raga.
(5) e instrumental roles (solo melody, drone, and rhythmic accompani-
ment) are similar.
In contrast, Manganiyar performance practice diers from Hindustani khayal
performance practice in the following ways:
(1) Khayal alap is mostly improvised while the beginning section of
Manganiyar mota git are minimally improvised and based on textual dohas.
(2) A khayal piece is performed entirely in one raga while only the introduc-
tory section in a mota git is considered to be “in raga.
(3) Khayal alap uses sung vocables while mota git uses poetic texts.
I have thus far demonstrated a number of similarities between Hindustani
classical music (especially Hindustani khayal) and Manganiyar mota git. How-
ever, the above dierences led me to search elsewhere for further musical in-
uences on the Manganiyar tradition. I turned to a musical practice found in
present- day eastern Pakistan, just on the other side of the border from the areas
where the Manganiyar reside in western Rajasthan, India. What follows is a
discussion of this musical system, Sindhi surs, in relation to Manganiyar musi-
cal practices.
Surs as Pitch or a Musical System?
Borderlands is a metaphor for processes of many
things, psychological, physical, and mental.
A metaphor that does not apply specically
to one thing but can be applied to many things.
(Anzaldúa and Keating 2000, 176)
Ayyagari: Spaces Betwixt and Between 19
Just before my rst extended interview with the renowned kamaicha player and
singer, Hakam Khan Manganiyar in 2007, it became apparent to me that there
were other inuences on Manganiyar music beside Hindustani classical music.
I therefore turned to Rajasthan’s neighboring region on the other side of the
India- Pakistan border, Sindh, and the indigenous Su music practices of that
region in an eort to create a more three- dimensional picture of these musical
inuences. In the course of my research, I discovered the scholarly work of H. T.
Sorley, a former Indian Civil Service agent in the Bombay Presidency of India
before Independence and Partition.35 Sorley’s in- depth work (based on decades
of experiential work in Sindh) concerning the Sindhi Su saint and mystic Shah
Abdul Latif was of central interest in my research. Sorley’s book, Shah Abdul
Latif of Bhit: His Poetry, Life and Times ([1940] 1967), details the Su saint’s life
and discusses Shah Abdul Latifs standardization of a musical system known as
Sindhi surs. I brought the information I gleaned from this source to my inter-
views with Manganiyar musicians.
In my interview with Hakam Khan Manganiyar, I broached the subject of sur.
I already knew about his familial connections to Sindh (his mother was born
there) and his unusual number of Sindhi Muslim patrons, who oen ask him to
sing of Su- related themes and in the Sindhi language (instead of the more com-
mon Marwari).36 I therefore presumed that he would have a better knowledge
of the concept of sur than other Manganiyar musicians.
Hakam Khan was at rst surprised by my question, commenting that I, as
an ethnomusicologist, should know what sur means. Further in our conversa-
tion, he explained that when I had rst asked my question about sur, he had
assumed that I was referring to its usage in Hindustani classical music, where
sur means “pitch” or “tone,” and refers to the discrete pitches that make up the
scale of a raga (Erdman 1985, 88–9). As Hakam Khan then discerned that I was
not referring to this usage of sur, his surprise turned to pleasure, and he noted
that he was not used to talking about Sindhi surs with scholars, referring to it
as “little- known” in Hindi. He led us into a long discussion about the inuence
of Shah Abdul Latif and the Sindhi surs system on Manganiyar music. is rst
interaction concerning the surs system opened up a new chapter in my eldwork,
and I continued to have similar discussions with elder Manganiyar musicians
throughout my eldwork period.
Sindhi Surs Dened
e region of Sindh now in eastern Pakistan has always been renowned for its
Su traditions, epitomized by the Su saint, Shah Abdul Latif. Sindhi Su poetry
is customarily performed within the musical system of Sindhi surs. is system
dates back at least to Shah Abdul’s lifetime (1689–1752), although it is probably
20 Asian Music: Winter/Spring 2012
a much older musical system. Shah Abdul Latif is most renowned for his work,
Shah- jo- Risalo (e message of the Shah), put to written word posthumously by
his disciples (Ajwani 1970; Schimmel 1976).
e text of the Risalo is purely poetic and does not include any sort of musical
notation, although scholars are fairly certain that the text was to be set to musi-
cal accompaniment (Sorley [1940] 1991). e work was narrated and written
in vernacular Sindhi language, which was out of the ordinary in a time when
the majority of written texts were done so in Persian, the language of the courts.
Sindhi language was used instead, so that the texts could be accessed (read or
at least understood) by a more general public and especially a rural population
that did not have mastery over the Persian language (Sorley [1940] 1967). e
Risalos poetry is organized into chapters called surs, referring to the specic
musical modes in which the poems were to be sung (Ajwani 1970). Ajwani
denes surs as xed melodies. However, in practice, as demonstrated to me by
Hakam Khan Manganiyar, they are oen subjected to musical elaboration within
a particular musical mode.
While today sur music is oen played on instruments, the original surs were
strictly vocal and were categorized according to their poetry; each sur had a
dierent poetic, musical, and emotional nature that distinguished it from other
surs (Qureshi 1987, 239). While Su music performance has indeed changed
since Latifs lifetime, the Risalo as a source is unequaled in its demonstration of
contemporary musical modes of the 1700s.
e most important aspect of sur music for the present inquiry and its over-
lap with Manganiyar music lies in surs’ rootedness in the lore of locality and
geohistorical settings of Sindh. In the poetry of Shah- jo- Risalo, Latif describes
the conditions in which the people live—women fetching water at the wells,
nomadic herders with their camels and goats roaming the dunes, and the ora so
distinctive in the ar Desert—as depicted in their social, cultural, and environ-
mental settings (Jotwani 1975). us, each sur has come to be associated with the
artistic narration of a specic theme, detailing the living conditions and physical
attributes of place, and delineating a bounded spatial region, which these char-
acteristics inhabit (Baloch 1988; Burton [1877] 2009). As demonstrated in the
opening of this article, the Manganiyars’ game of Kakadi shows this rootedness
in the landscape, so central to Sindhi surs, which is found in Manganiyar music
traditions as well. us, unlike ragas, surs are more associated with place- based
imagery and invocations of nature and the surrounding environment as well as
local folklore. Manganiyar music too centers on these invocations and feelings
of nature as well as a lived environmental spatiality.
An example that reects this sensitivity to cultural space is a story of cen-
tral importance to Manganiyar musical repertory, Umar Marui. is story is
Ayyagari: Spaces Betwixt and Between 21
considered by most Manganiyar musicians to be a story of Sindhi origin; the
various locations described in the story are those found in contemporary Sindh,
Pakistan. e story is also central to one of Shah Abdul Latif’s surs, Marui. e
story is sung in the Manganiyar raga Maru (one of the ragas associated with the
northern cardinal direction in the Kakadi game). Below is a synopsis of the story
of Umar Marui told to me by Hakam Khan Manganiyar.
Marui was the daughter of a goat herder who lived in a village near Jaisalmer (in
what is today western Rajasthan, India). She was betrothed to a boy named Khet at
a young age. But a servant of her father’s named Phog had fallen in love with her and
was overcome with jealousy when he learned that she was already betrothed to Khet.
In a mad desire of jealous revenge, Phog traveled to Umarkot and went to the court
of Umarkot’s leader, Umar Sumri.37 He told Umar Sumri about the lovely Marui and
convinced Umar, who was known to have several beautiful wives, that Umar had
to have her as a wife. Umar traveled back to the village with Phog. On the outskirts
of the village, Phog pointed Marui out from a group of women drawing water from
the well. Umar approached Marui and asked her for a drink of water, feigning thirst.
When she approached his camel with a clay pot full of water, he forcefully abducted
Marui and carried her back to Umarkot. ere, he locked her in his palace.
Marui would not marry Umar as he requested, but was made to promise that
if her relatives did not rescue her within one year, she would consent to the mar-
riage. Meanwhile, Phog had returned to the village and told Marui’s family that
she had been killed. erefore, her family did not go looking for her. During her
year of connement in Umarkot, Marui dreamed of her village. ough she lived
in great luxury in Umar’s palace, she missed the simplicity of her modest village,
the desert landscape, and the local ora and fauna. She sang songs depicting her
village’s landscape.
At the end of a year, Umar approached Marui and asked her to become his wife.
She still refused, telling him that she could not marry him because he was her
brother. She then recounted to him the story of their parents. Umar’s father was
traveling through the ar Desert in the winter season on his way to Umarkot,
where his wife and son, Umar, lived. Near Marui’s village just outside of Jaisalmer,
he lost his way and fell ill. Without food or water in the cold desert, he fell o his
camel. A woman found him almost frozen and unconscious. In order to warm
and revive him, she had sex with him. Out of this physical encounter, Marui was
conceived. Aer hearing this story, Umar was so touched by Marui’s dedication to
her homeland that he sent her back to her village where she was reunited with her
people and her land again.38
e poems and songs of the Umar Marui sur describe the feeling of Marui
while she was locked in the palace in Umarkot—the environment, land, and
people she missed. According to Hakam Khan Manganiyar, by singing the fol-
lowing short doha, he would be able to bring to the audience’s mind the entire
22 Asian Music: Winter/Spring 2012
story of Umar Marui. Below is an English translation of Hakam Khan’s Hindi/
Marwari translation of a doha sung by him in the Sindhi language:
In my mind’s eye, I saw myself fetching water in the dunes of the desert.
Even though there was heat and it burned blisters on my legs, I was happy.
To me, the mansion where I sit is just like a prison and my heart sinks.
(Hakam Khan Manganiyar, interview with the author, 2007)
e above doha evokes the romantic image of the desert and Marui’s longing
for her homeland. Even though the conditions in the desert were harsh and dif-
cult, she would have rather been there than in the Umar Sumri’s elegant palace
in Umarkot where she was held captive. rough this one doha, Hakam Khan
is able to express cultural pride of Sindh and the ar Desert that could not be
articulated in a politically (India versus Pakistan) or religiously (Hindu ver-
sus Muslim) dichotomizing sense. In our interview, Hakam Khan Manganiyar
claimed that just by reciting one doha in the Sindhi language that does not men-
tion a single name or place, the listener is able to determine the sur as well as
the entire story, from only this small token reference. us, sur evokes a feeling
of both lived space and lived folklore in the listener.
is example of Umar Marui is one of many song themes that are used bythe
Manganiyar in their everyday musical performances which demonstrate thein-
uence of Sindhi sur on Manganiyar music. Many of the dohas sung at the be-
ginning of performances come from the poetry of Shah Abdul Latif, and oen
depict landscape and the environment as a metaphor evoking a sense of place
and homeland. us, while Manganiyar music shares musical, structural, and
theoretical characteristics with Hindustani classical music, it also shares many
characteristics with the Sindhi surs system. However this similarity is less ap-
parent and not oen mentioned by musicians or scholars.
Sindhi Surs in Conversation with Manganiyar Musicians
In my interviews and discussions with Manganiyar musicians, the region of
Sindh and Sindhi surs rarely came up unless I broached the subject rst. I at-
tribute this to three reasons. First, some elder Manganiyar musicians told me
that they associate Sindh with a homeland of sorts. Partition can be a dicult
and painful topic for Manganiyars to speak about, especially those who are older
and have previously had contact with the Sindh region now in Pakistan. Many
Manganiyars thus choose not to talk about Sindhi surs.39 Second, Manganiyars
lack of discussion of Sindh and Sindhi musical practices could be related to a
feeling of consistent “othering” by mainly Hindu Indians in western Rajasthan.
is sense of “othering” felt and expressed to me by many Manganiyar musicians
Ayyagari: Spaces Betwixt and Between 23
became particularly pronounced aer the 1971 war between India and Paki-
stan. One Manganiyar musician expressed to me his feeling of marginalization
in western Rajasthan mainly due to his Pakistani birth and Muslim religious
identity. He told me that because of his personal, national, and religious back-
ground, he does not speak openly about Pakistan and that musical repertory
which embodies a more Muslim identity, choosing instead to align himself more
with his Indian Hindu patrons.40 ird, many younger Manganiyar musicians,
born in postcolonial India, who do not have direct connections to, or memories
of the Sindh region of Pakistan are not as familiar with the Sindhi surs musical
system. Instead, they only associate the term in the context of Hindustani classi-
cal music, meaning “pitch.” I attribute this phenomenon to the fact that younger
Manganiyar musicians living in India are more disconnected from those musical
practices found on the other side of the border in Pakistan.
I thus suggest that it is through music that Manganiyars are able to openly
express a desire for the region across the border in Pakistan that cannot of-
ten be more openly articulated in the political, religious, or everyday realms of
discourse. Because of these unspoken cultural links with transborder territory,
songs, stories, and cultural imaginings are a way that Manganiyars articulate a
relationship to a borderland for themselves and their patrons as well. us, they
address the proximity of Sindh in a manner quite dierent from the way in which
ocial narratives have chosen to do so. Music allows Manganiyar musicians to
actively and creatively maintain the cultural continuity that has been arbitrarily
divided, marked, and nationalized since Partition.
However, music does not allow all Manganiyar musicians to express their
sense of belonging. On the Pakistan side of the border, a small portion of the
Manganiyar community has for the most part abandoned music making as a
profession altogether (Sakar Khan Manganiyar, interview with the author, 2007).
I suggest three reasons for this abandonment. First, the majority of Manganiyars’
patrons are Hindu and aer Partition most of them either remained in or mi-
grated to the India side of the border. is le those Manganiyars in Pakistan
without their patrons and thus their livelihood; many took on other professions
to make a living. Second, governmental cultural policies dier between Sindh,
Pakistan, and Rajasthan, India. In recent years, both the Indian national and
Rajasthan state governments have invested large amounts of money and support
into promotion of the arts of Rajasthan (Planning Commission, Government
of India 2006, 109; Saeed 2011); some Manganiyar musicians base their in-
comes solely on this government support. is has not been the case in Pakistan
(Richter and Richter 1985; Jenkins and Henry 1982). ird and related to the
second reason, cultural tourism is promoted in India more than in Pakistan. In
western Rajasthan, the Manganiyar have become one of the major attractions
24 Asian Music: Winter/Spring 2012
drawing tourists to the region. While performance practice inevitably changes
when the audience is less knowledgeable about the music, instrumentation, mu-
sical forms, and language, there is a certain amount of cultural preservation and/
or revival that takes place in cultural tourism contexts.41
us, the Risalo demonstrates surs’ connections to the concept of raga found
in the Hindustani classical system. e Risalo also shows the unique synthesis
of poetry, music, and lived environment, which can be observed clearly in the
Manganiyar music tradition.
Shouts of “Long live India- Pakistan friendship!” rang out in the cold desert
morning air. It was February 2006. I had traveled to the Munabao Train Station,
near the India- Pakistan border with a group of Manganiyar musicians, who
were to serenade passengers on one of the rst trains crossing the border be-
tween Rajasthan and Sindh, a border not traversed by train since the 1965 India-
Pakistan War.42 at border thus delineates a line not only in the imaginary
spatialization of inhabitants of the ar Desert, but also in economic, political,
intellectual, and cultural everyday realities in which people live. is rst border
traversing brought to my mind the idea of nation- states as deeply inuencing
the development of contemporary life in India and Pakistan.
Unsurprisingly, in South Asian modes of reconstructing the past, the idea of
the nation has occupied a privileged position and Partition holds a unique status
as a “dening moment” in this division. Both scholars and musicians themselves
have thus dened Manganiyar music along political borders in their use of the
concept of raga and lack of use of the concept of surs to describe their music.
e India- Pakistan border is indeed an important dening line in the lives of
the Manganiyar community. However, while it has denitively aected musical
practices, it has not divided them. Manganiyars persist in drawing these con-
nections through rhetoric surrounding their music and through musical prac-
tice itself. e continuity across the India- Pakistan border of musical practices
among the Manganiyar is not a postindependence phenomenon. I have shown
that cross- border connections have been a lived and historical reality of the
Manganiyar community for as long as they have been making music. At the same
time, their foregrounding of these connections in a postindependent and post-
Partition India demonstrate their cultural ingenuity. By analyzing Manganiyar
music as an amalgam of various musical practices, it becomes its own entity,
eluding boundaries that have previously dened it.
Just as the arms of a compass come together at a xed location of a hidden
object in the game of Kakadi, so too do they mark the nexus in a culture where
political borders, varied musical traditions, and the theories and perceptions that
Ayyagari: Spaces Betwixt and Between 25
dierentiate them intersect. ey locate the coordinates of a place and tell the
story of a community whose life has been bisected by a border, creating lasting
eects on the cultivation of its musical practices.
American University
1 Research for this article was carried out from 2005 to 2007, 2008, and 2009. e
author conducted her research in Jaisalmer City and surrounding villages, all in India.
e musicians with whom she conducted her research are all Indian citizens, although
many of them were born and/or raised in Pakistan and have traveled there in recent years.
is article is based on interactions with approximately 50 Manganiyar musicians over
extended periods of time. ese interactions consisted of formal interviews, informal
conversations and interactions, recording sessions, and music lessons.
2 e author wishes to thank Bonnie Wade, Marié Abe, Andrew Weintraub, and two
anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on this article.
3 While some Manganiyar musicians have named dierent ragas corresponding to
directions, the majority of those musicians with whom I worked named these specic
six ragas. Musicians such as Ghewar Khan and Lakha Khan Manganiyar have said that
while Manganiyars use many other ragas in performance practice, these six ragas are
indigenous to the Manganiyar community (unlike other ragas supposedly borrowed from
the Hindustani classical tradition).
4 Although Marwari is the predominant language in which Manganiyars communicate
and sing, the sung language depends greatly on the patron’s native language. For example,
Hakam Khan Manganiyar is very skilled at singing in the Sindhi language because many
of his patrons are Sindhi language speakers.
5 See Mayaram (1997) for a detailed description of historical religious identity, prac-
ticed devotion, and syncretism among communities in Rajasthan.
6 See Richards (1993).
7 Kiernan ([1971] 2000, 123).
8 In South Asian scholarly literature, the common noun partition has been given
proper noun status as Partition, referring specically to the 1947 division of the South
Asian subcontinent into Pakistan (both Eastern and Western) and India.
9 Manganiyars have oen been misrepresented as nomadic. On the contrary, they gen-
erally have settled homesteads with both immediate and extended families. e male
musician members of the community do however travel to visit their hereditary patrons
who are oen spread out over various villages in the region. In more recent years, they
also travel to various locations in India and abroad for concert performances. One par-
ticular Manganiyar musician recounted to me a story of while on tour in England, visiting
a patron family who had since resettled there.
10 Pakistan dates its independence from August 14, 1947. Although Bengal in the east-
ern part of South Asia saw just as much strife in Partition, here I focus on the western
theater of Partition. Later, aer 1971, this eastern section of Pakistan would become the
nation- state of Bangladesh.
26 Asian Music: Winter/Spring 2012
11 For history and analysis of Partition and its aermath, see Ahmad (1997); Guha
(1998); Hasan (1994); Hodson ([1969] 1993); Jalal (1994, 1996); Khosla ([1949] 1989);
Kumar (1998); Low and Brasted (1998); Moon ([1961] 1998); Mosley (1961); Pandey
(2001); and Singh (1999) to name a few.
12 is happened despite India’s designation as a secular state. Pakistan was established
as a Muslim state.
13 Just aer Partition, many Hindus living on the western side of the border in the
Sindh region of Pakistan expected to stay there without any problems, and at rst they
were able to do so. However, as relations became more strained between Hindus and
Muslims as a result of Partition, conditions worsened. As more Muslims poured into
Sindh, they began to loot the homes of the Sindhi Hindus. As a result, many of these
Hindus were forced to leave their homes and businesses behind and relocate to India
in the years aer Partition. e same happened to Muslims in India just aer Partition.
14 See Alam and Sharma (1998), Butalia (1993), Chakrabarty (1992), Chatterjee (1994),
Gilmartin (1988), Guha (1998), Jalal (1994), Mayaram (1997), and Waseem (1999) for
recent interpretations of Partition to name a few.
15 See Allen (1998) and Babiracki (1991) for a discussion of this dichotomy, its origins,
shiing meanings, and analysis.
16 See the following for various descriptions of Hindustani raga theory: Bor (1999),
Jairazbhoy ([1971] 1995), Kaufmann (1968), and Wade (1979) to name a few.
17 For example, see Clayton (2001), Daniélou (1980), Jairazbhoy ([1971] 1995),
Kaufmann (1968), and Ruckert (2004).
18 e Hindustani classical music system is not a hard and fast system, but it is always
in ux. It not only inuences other musical traditions such as those of the Manganiyar,
but it is also inuenced by various other musical traditions.
19 Manganiyar musicians told me that even when they perform an instrumental piece
with no sung vocals, they keep the dohas of that particular raga in their heads throughout
the performance.
20 See tables 7 and 8 (pp. 96–8) in Neuman, Chaudhuri, with Kothari ([2006] 2007),
for a comparison of ragas in the two musical systems.
21 See Neuman, Chaudhuri, with Kothari ([2006] 2007, 105–11) for a discussion of the
introduction of raga into Manganiyar musical traditions.
22 Here, I refer to the Hindustani classical slide guitar (Mohan Veena) player, Vishwa
Mohan Bhatt, and his collaborations with a number of Manganiyar musicians (Bhatt
2006). See Bharucha (2003) for a description of a group of Manganiyar musicians sharing
a program billing with Ravi Shankar.
23 Of the two urban centers in which the Manganiyar have historically lived, Jaisalmer
is the only one with a court. e other, Barmer, has never had a royal court, having
previously been part of the Jodhpur kingdom. Barmer District was not formed until
1949, when the larger Jodhpur State merged with the United State of Greater Rajasthan
(Shekhavat 1993, x). What was previously called Malani was consolidated into the present
day Barmer District, centering around Barmer City.
24 e family has been historically broken down into four functional divisions: Dagga
(who performed battle and bravery songs), Gela (who performed the nagara instrument
Ayyagari: Spaces Betwixt and Between 27
at festivals), Dedhada (who were considered court comedians/jesters), and Kaalet (who
performed the dhol instrument in the court). See Ayyagari (2009) for details.
25 With the lessening of importance of the royal courts throughout north India (and
especially in Rajasthan) toward the end of the nineteenth century and even more so af-
ter Independence (1947), courts were, for the most part, unable to consistently employ
musicians. As a result musicians were oen brought in only for special occasions. A sort
of music circuit was formed in which musicians traveled to various courts to perform
(Erdman 1985, 116–7). In this way, musicians were exposed to various other locations
in north India and also to other musical styles and traditions.
26 Various scholars have conducted musical research in western Rajasthan. Here, I
mention Rustom Bharucha, Shubha Chaudhuri, Nazir Jairazbhoy, Komal Kothari, and
Daniel Neuman.
27 See Neuman, Chaudhuri, with Kothari [2006] 2007, 96–102 for examples.
28 See Raja (2009) and Wade (1985).
29 I hypothesize two reasons for this shi from vocal to instrumental music. First,
Hindustani classical instrumental music has inuenced Manganiyar music, and many
Manganiyar musicians have performed with Hindustani instrumentalists in recent
years (Ravi Shankar, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Sultan Khan, etc.). Second, in recent decades
Manganiyar musicians have expanded their audiences and are performing in other parts
of South Asia and internationally. In general their new audiences do not understand
song texts sung in the Marwari language; as a result of this, there is more of an interna-
tional demand for instrumental music. Instruments such as the kamaicha have begun
to be used in performance as solo virtuosic instruments in their own right. Sakar Khan
Manganiyar, a senior kamaicha player, has been an innovator in the solo kamaicha play-
ing tradition (g. 2).
30 Please note that all of the above descriptions of a Hindustani classical music perfor-
mance are based on generalizations. Some performers do not adhere to these sections
as strictly as others do.
31 In modern performance practice, as much Manganiyar repertory moves from pa-
tronage functions to the concert stage (nationally and internationally), the distinction
between chhota git and mota git is blurring and in some cases musicians combine the
two genres within one song. Various Manganiyar musicians have told me that when
performing for international audiences, they tend to perform a mota git introduction,
followed by a chhota git song.
32 Mota git could also easily be compared to other genres of devotional music found
in the region, such as qawwali, Sikh shabad, and bhajan.
33 As more Manganiyar musicians are exposed to modern Hindustani musical perfor-
mance practice (through recordings and/or joint performances and collaborations with
Hindustani performers), some tend to follow the alap- chiz khayal composition structure
of Hindustani vocal music more closely. Others tend to use these terms to categorize and
to verbalize what they are performing and, I claim, to present themselves as knowledge-
able about their music in a theoretical way, on par with Hindustani classical musicians.
And yet others choose to disregard the Hindustani classical system all together when
describing their music.
28 Asian Music: Winter/Spring 2012
34 According to various Manganiyar musicians, this was not always the case and, until
the 1960s, the larger double- headed dhol drum was more oen used as the accompany-
ing instrument of choice among the Manganiyar (Chanan Khan Manganiyar, interview
with the author, 2008).
35 Sorley (1893–1963) worked as a collector in various districts of the Sindh region
(today Pakistan), and was in charge of the Census of India in Sindh in 1931. In 1955,
the Pakistan government assigned Sorley the job of writing the Gazetteer of Sindh.
roughout his years working under the British in the Sindh region, he became uent
in Sindhi language and culture, and was especially interested in Su religious practices
of the region.
36 e majority of the Manganiyars’ patrons are Hindu by religion and Rajput by com-
munity or caste. Because of this, Manganiyars typically communicate with and sing in
the Marwari language. eir music usually pertains to Hindu religious themes or Rajput-
specic attributes and customs. Hakam Khan Manganiyar’s case is a bit dierent and for
various reasons (including Muslim migrations to India from Pakistan aer the 1971 war
between the two nations) has a number of Sindhi Muslim patrons. He is therefore uent
in the Sindhi language, has a working knowledge of Sindhi Muslim customs, and sings/
plays a repertoire specic for these patrons.
37 Umar Sumri is said to have ruled Umarkot (in present- day Pakistan) from 1355 to
38 Hakam Khan Manganiyar related this version of the Sindhi folktale Umar Marui to
the author in March 2007. e story was narrated in a mixture of Marwari/Hindi and
translated into English by the author.
39 is is not so much the case for younger Manganiyar musicians living in Rajasthan,
India, most of who have not been to Pakistan and do not feel connections or allegiances
with Pakistan or the Sindh region.
40 is is not always the case. In recent years, Su music has become popular on concert
stages in India and abroad. Many Manganiyars who specialize in Muslim Su musical
practices are garnering performance success specically because of this repertory. As
a result, many Manganiyars have earned a reputable name for themselves in the com-
munity as distinctly Muslim Su musicians (Hakam Khan Manganiyar is one of these).
In addition, due to the increasing Islamization in western Rajasthan (a topic for another
scholarly investigation), especially younger Manganiyar musicians are not only feeling
more comfortable but are foregrounding their Muslim identity. is religious identity
plays out in their dress, more Muslim names among the younger generation, diet (only
eating halal meat while traveling abroad), and so on.
41 See Ayyagari (2009) for a discussion of the maintenance and change of musical
practice in the cultural tourism context in western Rajasthan.
42 In February 2006, the railway line called the ar Express that passes through the
Rajasthan town of Munabao and across into Sindh, Pakistan, was reopened.
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Manganiyar, Anwar Khan, 2007, transcript.
Manganiyar, Chanan Khan, 2007–2008, transcript.
Manganiyar, Ghewar Khan, 2006, transcript.
Manganiyar, Hakam Khan, 2007, transcript.
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... Lying Northwest of India, the Sindh-Rajasthan border is a relatively peaceful international India-Pakistan border. Unlike the de-facto Kashmir border that is marked by frequent India-Pakistan skirmishes (Bhatia, 2020;Puri, 2011) or the Punjab border (Ahmed, 2011;Talbot, 2006) that is associated with partition violence; the Sindh-Rajasthan border has generally been peaceful during and after the time of partition (Ayyagari, 2012;Kumar & Kothari, 2016;Maini, 2012). Yet, beneath this apparent calm lies inconspicuous symbols of violence marked by divided families on both sides of the border and an imposed rupture of cultural bonds. ...
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Drawing from the ethnographic insights and experiences of Pakistani Hindu refugees in Rajasthan, India, this article examines their agency, politics and dilemmas. It illustrates how they actively participate in the process of their ‘becoming citizens’ by making use of the majoritarian political space and nationalist ‘Hindu India’ imagery. Their expressions of a cohesive Hindu identity, however, remain illusionary and incomplete as they do not correspond with the lived realities of fractures, antagonisms and heterogeneities within various Hindu communities. These differentiations also lay open the hierarchies within Hindu refugees and enable an analysis of citizenship as a continued, contested and differentiated process based on caste and class locations of the refugees. For the lower-caste/-class refugees, their citizenship assertions go beyond the point of acquiring legal citizenship and merges with the struggles of native Dalits. Through these variegated expressions and claims of citizenship of Hindu refugees, this article foregrounds the idea of citizenship as performative and processual, and not necessarily contingent on legal status or state’s sovereignty logic of citizen/non-citizen binary.
... This musical reform movement was a product of the colonial encounter and involved local and British notions about what was considered "classical," and what should be taught as such (Bakhle, 2005;Weidman, 2007). As Shalini Ayyagari has shown, the vernacular music-theoretical basis for some local traditions has been nearly eclipsed by this universalization of classical-based pedagogy (Ayyagari, 2012). The reformed system universalizes music education and enables cross-regional musical communication, yet also erases local knowledge. ...
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Subi Shah (1922-2008) was a Nepali performer and educator whose life’s work was to preserve and promote Nepali folk genres of music, song, dance, and drama, especially the wide variety of these that make up the tradition known as Pangdure. Raised in this tradition, he became one of its leading exponents. He did so outside of the academy and was thus free from disciplinary strictures. Although he was consulted and honored by state cultural policymakers in the 1980s and 1990s, many of his contributions remain unrecognized. This study analyzes five of his texts, building on my 20 years of engagement as a scholar and performer with the traditions described therein. The objectives of the study are to identify key aspects of Shah’s theories of performance. The study finds that Shah’s descriptions and analysis of integrated performance practice valorize a performance tradition with its own unique worldviews and theories. It concludes that teaching these worldviews and theories will help maintain the cultural sustainability of this and other Nepali performance traditions, by helping students make connections among the traditionally related aspects of performance: instrumental music, song, poetry, dance, and drama. Further, it demonstrates the broader applicability of Shah’s methods for holistic performance scholarship within and beyond Nepal, which contributes to decolonizing ethnomusicology by centering a non-Western theory and methodology from outside the academy.
This article examines the affective enactment of the Sufi emotional concept of the pain of separation by Muslim singers in Kachchh, Gujarat, a border region in western India adjacent to Sindh, Pakistan. In a discussion of two musical genres that feature the Sufi poetry of Shāh ‘Abdul Lat̤īf Bhiṭā’ī (1689–1752 CE) – kāfī and shāh jo rāg̈ – I argue that the musical performance of pain is ethically efficacious as well as politically salient. Drawing on eighteen months of fieldwork in Kachchh in 2014–2018, the article traces the ways in which poetry performers and enthusiasts conceive of musico-poetic pain as a form of Islamic worship that has ethical benefits for performers and listeners, such as tranquility and the purification of one’s heart. It thus demonstrates how Sindhi Sufi music functions as an affective, embodied, gendered and vernacular means of engagement with the Islamic discursive tradition. The latter portion of the article widens the focus, taking the pain of separation as a lens through which to examine Hindu-Muslim relations in Kachchh, where Hindu nationalism and Islamic reform have contributed to socio-religious polarisation since the 1980s. Drawing on examples from local musical history, I explore the political salience of the pain of separation by showing how the musical performance of Shāh Bhiṭā’ī’s female-voice poetry historically facilitated interreligious forms of male sociality in Kachchh.
Rāgī faqīrs are devotees who perform Shah Jo Rāg, a musical tradition for singing Sufi poetry at the shrine of poet-mystic Shāh ‘Abdul Latīf Bhiṭṭāī (1689–1752) in Sindh, Pakistan. Focusing on the life experiences of my teacher Manthār Faqīr, I historicise various subject positions that contemporary rāgī faqīrs refer to as faqīr (devotee), fankār (performing artist), kārīgar (skilled artisan), and artist. Through Manthār Faqīr’s performances, I analyse sonic manifestations of his complex subjectivities that at times shift, at times coexist, to demonstrate how he deploys sounded strategies emerging from different subject positions to balance devotion, artistry, legitimacy, and livelihood.
Focus: Popular Music in Contemporary India examines India’s musical soundscape beyond the classical and folk traditions of old to consider the culturally, socially, and politically rich contemporary music that is defining and energizing an Indian youth culture on the precipice of a major identity shift. From Bollywood film songs and Indo-jazz to bhangra hip-hop and Indian death metal, the book situates Indian popular music within critical and historical frameworks, highlighting the unprecedented changes the region’s music has undergone in recent decades. This critical approach provides readers with a foundation for understanding an Indian musical culture that is as diverse and complex as the region itself. Included are case studies featuring song notations, first-person narratives, and interviews of well-known artists and emerging musicians alike. Illuminated are issues of great import in India today―as reflected through its music―addressing questions of a "national" aesthetic, the effects of Western music, and identity politics as they relate to class, caste, LGBTQ perspectives, and other marginalized voices. Presented through a global lens, Focus: Popular Music in Contemporary India contextualizes the dynamic popular music of India and its vast cultural impact.
Music is often invoked as the “glue” that unites people like little else, perennial symbol of a composite culture disrupted by the rupture of Partition. Such a simplistic perspective, however, rides roughshod over the complex trajectories musicians’ lives took post-1947. While we know of the broader shifts in the twentieth-century musical landscape of South Asia, we lack a comprehensive account of the repercussions of this cataclysm on the quotidian lives of the subcontinent’s musicians. We have to rely instead on superficial celebrations of music as a means of building unity and on assumptions about what came before Partition. However, if we closely examine the life stories and views of a handful of musicians, we find that examples of ‘Punjabiyat’ accompany instances of prejudice. The relationship of musicians to Partition and to religious difference is complex and at times contradictory, eluding simple characterisations. In this paper, I wish to examine, in preliminary terms, the impact of India’s Partition on practitioners of Hindustani classical music belonging to the region of Punjab. How did Punjabi musicians view the 1947 borders through time, and how have they worked to negotiate these boundaries? I explore the views of a handful of musicians like Pt. Ramakant Sharma (Jalandhar), and the late Md. Hafeez Khan Talwandiwale (Lahore), based on ethnographies conducted in Pakistani and Indian Punjab (Basra 1996, Kapuria 2012). While casteist views (with a longer genealogy going back to the nineteenth century) on the mirasis (Punjab’s hereditary caste of musician-genealogist bards), ironically serve to unite musicians across the border, other, communally hostile inflections reveal Partition’s divisive impact. Second, how have musicians relentlessly traversed one of the most militarised borders in the world? Through a case study of some prominent Punjabi musicians, e.g. Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Iqbal Bano, among others, I demonstrate how processes of musical tutelage and pedagogy, as well as the more mundane reasons of kinship, have worked to consistently subvert, since at least the 1950s, the ‘hard’ borders engendered by Partition. I argue for a curious ‘double nostalgia’ in the case of Punjab’s musicians, and resituate them as historical agents, functioning in diverse contexts. I thus critique their easy romanticisation as carriers of a ‘syncretic’ phenomenon that defies analysis.
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Mucrr oF THE DrscussroN of communalism has attemPted to ascertain the depth of the evident communal sentiment reflected in recent disturbances and the rise of Hindu militancy. Amrita Basu's essay above echoes a similar question about cultural history: do current developments reflect profound, long-standing, grassroots animosity, or, alternatelS are they merely the products of contemporary elite manipulation, ultimately conditioned by factors other than religious onesf Whjle sociopolitical history is a natural focus for such inquiries, the study of expressive culture may reveal much about social practices and attitudes, both elite and grassroots , past and present. This chapter focuses on musical culture in north India, outlining relevant aspects of the social history of classical music, and presenting some observations on twentieth-century folk and popular musics. My discussion of the contemporary scene will also refer to related forms of expressive culture, notably Hindi cinema and the sociopolitical uses of cassettes, Given the extraordinary diversiry of South Asian musical genres and practices, any attempt to generalize about music's relation to communal-ism is destined to a degree of superficiality. F{owever, a few themes recurrent in north Indian musical culture do stand out in historical perspective. First among these is the inherent syncretism of the most characteristic forms of north Indian music, whose style, patronage Patterns, and associated social practices reflect their evolution as the corunon heritage of a society more profoundly divided by class than religion. Secondly, north Indian musical culture can be seen as a site of interaction of two opposing tendencies: one, the tendency for music to transcend sectarian differences,
The title says it all. The hard copy book has 4 CDs that are quite unmissable. The text can be found on and the complete book with the CDs is really quite cheap nowadays.
A travers l'exemple de la musique Karnataka en Inde du Sud, l'A. considere la nature problematique de la dichotomie musique classique/musique non-classique. Jusqu'au debut du 20 eme siecle, par la pratique musicale, les temples hindous etaient des lieux d'echange musico-social et de convergence culturelle assurant ainsi une continuite entre la societe de cour et la societe rurale et villageoise. Cette continuite a ete remise en cause par un double discours sur le classicisme de la musique indienne : un discours impose par la societe coloniale, et un discours emanant du mouvement nationaliste indien pour construire une identite nationale. Les lieux de la representation musicale traditionnelle se sont delocalises vers les centres urbains. Le discours classiciste a soumis la pluralite culturelle des formes musicales a un discours hierarchique, hegemonique et de classe. Dans cette classification de la musique indienne, la notion de raga a joue un role essentiel, et les padams, chants en langue tamile, se virent attribues un statut ambivalent, entre classicisme et musique legere. Par l'emploi du concept musicologique varnamettu (melodie ou arrangement melodique), l'A. tente de depasser cette dichotomie introduite par les discours et de retablir une unite entre differentes formes musicales.