This program was recorded 09/20/2008 at Symphony Space.
Rajasthan, the "land of kings" in northwestern India and home of the great Thar Desert, has one of the liveliest folk traditions in India. Its music and dance is richly varied, representing the distinctive styles of the different groups that make up this desert land. The Langas ("song givers") and Manganiyars are groups of hereditary professional musicians whose music has been supported by wealthy landlords and aristocrats for generations. Their styles and repertoires differ, shaped by the tasted of their patrons. Though both communities are made up of Muslim musicians, many of their songs are in praise of Hindu deities and celebrate Hindu festivals such as Diwali and Holi. The Manganiyar performers traditionally invoke the Hindu god Krishna and seek his blessings before beginning their recital. At one time, the Manganiyars were musicians of the Rajput courts accompanying their chiefs to war and providing them with entertainment before and after the battles. The Langas, from the Barmer district of Rajasthan, seem to have converted from Hinduism to Islam in the 17th century. Traditionally, Sufi influences prevented them from using percussion instruments; however, the Langas are versatile players of the Sindhi sarangi and the algoza double flute. The Sindhi sarangi used by the Langas is made up of four main strings, with more than twenty vibrating sympathetic strings that help to create its distinctive haunting tones. The bowing of this instrument is often supported by the sound of the ghungroos (ankles bells) that are tied to the bow to make the beat more prominent.
The dances in tonight's concert come from the court tradition of Rajasthan and are performed during social ceremonies. The Kalapriya Dancers choreograph deft patterns with their hands and use movements of ghoomar. Ghoomar, a community dance of the Rajputs performed by the women of the house and traditionally out of bounds for men, uses simple swaying movements to convey the spirit of any auspicious occasion. There is an amazing grace as the skirts flare slowly while the women twirl in circles, their faces covered by the veil. The dances are performed to lyrics of the 16th century saint-poetess Meera, who sang about her spiritual love for the Lord Krishna.