Holding onto folk roots

Rajasthani folk musician cum singer Mame Khan is using his art to keep alive the folk heritage but at the same time trying to create music as per the liking of 21st-century audience

Udaipur World Music Festival is a city-wide, multi-venue fest that showcases talent of 150 global artists and attracts over 50,000 people every year. Presenting incredible richness of music, the festival also features and promotes local Rajasthani talent along with commercial artistes.

Amongst the stupendous talent lined up to perform at the festival this year, Millennium Post speaks to a prominent voice of Rajasthani Folk music and Indian playback singer Mame Khan. Born and brought up in Rajasthan as part of the Maganiyar community, he had been influenced by his late father Ustad Rana Khan. Khan spent his childhood learning music from his father and his fellow community members, and has today created a niche for himself in the world of music. Here are few excerpts from the conversation:

Tell us about your musical journey so far including your coke studio sessions?

At the age of 14, I gave my first ever public performance in Delhi. It inspired me in such a way that all I wanted to do after that was sing and create new music. I am grateful for the fact that there is so much love and respect for Rajasthan's folk culture today. It's my goal that no one calls Rajasthan's folk art a dying art anymore.

As far as Coke studio is concerned, I had a fantastic experience with Amit Trivedi and the Coke Studio team; and people loved our work. Till date there is a demand for the kind of songs we did, 'Chaudhary' being an all-time favourite.

Your views about music festivals that feature new and non-commercial artists.

I am glad to see an increasing number of such festivals across the country, the more exposure the audience gets with new genres, the more the musical horizons will widen. The rich culture of Rajasthan's folk music has so much to offer, especially at music festivals. Moreover, the young audience is more demanding of our original work and they know our folk compositions very well. It touches my heart when a young crowd sings along with our generations' songs.

I have heard a lot about the Vedanta Udaipur world music festival and it is noteworthy how in 4 years this has become one of India's biggest platforms for artists. I am proud that I am taking the stage with such big names like Habib Koite and others.

How has Rajasthani folk music evolved after reaching the commercial stage?

I feel the internet has brought in a number of opportunities and a lot of folk artists use social media platforms is a great way to showcase their talent. At the same time, I still feel undiscovered talent in our country is out there and that the music managers of today should look out for real musical treasures hidden in our remote villages.

What do you expect from these platforms in promoting folk music?

I do have in the first place high expectation towards the musical quality of my live shows, I have a wonderful dedicated band working and touring with me for many years. I think festivals should rely on independent artists along with folk artists as they are crowd magnets as compared to the commercial bands. Festivals and sponsors alike should go beyond the big names and rely on real musical skills.

What are your views on fusion music today that merges folk with modern beats?

I would like to talk about my stage project called 'Mame Khan's RockNRoots Project'. This is my soul project and the idea behind this live band is to merge our traditional folk roots with some western and modern vibe.

For me, it is very important to keep our folk heritage alive, but at the same time, I enjoy creating modern fusion sounds for the 21st-century audience. Along with my live set, I also keep publishing my recordings and projects under the label 'Folk Phonice' and it is amazing to see how the internet is playing an important role for us in reaching out to a new and young audience. I always feel it is important to stay true to your musical roots and to create fusion and not confusion.

(The 5th edition of Udaipur World Music Festival will be held from February 7-9, 2020)

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