Mame Khan: Exploring Manganiyar Sounds
My Journey, My Words
Mame Khan is one of the most popular Sufi and Folk singer in the country today. He lends his voice effortlessly to Bollywood tracks while leading the magical Manganiyar Seduction all over the world. His dedication and passion for promoting India’s folk music amongst the youth without compromising with the original sound is what makes him our Artist-in-Focus for this month. Read on to know about his journey in his own words.
“I want to make Rajasthani Folk the Indian Flamenco”
Where my musical journey began; and losing drums in Belgium
I belong to a musician community from Rajasthan called Manganiyar. Our musical journey started 15 generations back. Since those days, we perform a special oral tradition. I am born and brought up in a musician family. My personal musical journey started in my early childhood. Not many people know this, but for many years I was a percussionist. I even went on a world tour as a percussionist in 1999. I stayed for six months in Belgium, returned for a short break to India, leaving my drums there, planning to be back after a short while. When the day came to return to Belgium, there were some organizational problems and I was not able to return. That was a big turning point in my life, with the disappointment of the missed tour I thought there must be more to do with my passion for music. My father Rana Khan told me, however, “One door closed for you but at the same time you can open a thousand doors if you keep working hard on your music!” This was the day I stared singing – and my drums are till date in Belgium.
What is behind my musical inspiration: like Father, like Son
My music is deeply inspired by the music of my late father and teacher Rana Khan. He was a fantastic singer and one of the best teachers I could wish for. Since my childhood, our traditional music was part of my life and dreams. As I mentioned our art is based on oral tradition, so there are no books or CDs one can buy to train and practice. I was blessed to spend some years with my father learning his songs. The song “Lolee” that I sang for SoundTree Magazine, is my favorite composition by my father, and whenever I sing this song I feel very close to him.
A Professional Turning Point: Intellectual Property vs Oral Tradition
I have been touring, especially Europe for quite some time with decent success, yet in India, for many years, it was very difficult to earn a name for yourself as a traditional Folk and Sufi singer form the Thar desert. Many a-time, master singers of our community lent their voice for movies and many commercial projects, yet their names remained anonymous. As a Manganiyar from a rural background, most of us do not know even the term IPR (intellectual property) or any marketing vocabulary and brand building. Maybe that’s a good thing in many ways. I have to say that my entry into Bollywood,( my first song was “Baware” with Shankar Mahadevan) and lately Coke Studio gave my musical career a big push. I feel blessed, that I had the chance to be part of this, I am proud of the fact that today people know me by my own name and not only by the name of my community. I am saying this, because I am sometimes concerned about the way music gets used, without the due accorded respect. I am sometimes saddened by the limited support for dying arts in our county. I think there is a long way to go about finding new ways to keep our traditional arts alive.
My Current and Future Plans
I am enjoying every single day of my musical journey, many plans and dreams in my mind! These days I am focusing a lot on song research since I am working on a new album for the Indian market.
My Vision for Music
To make Rajasthan’s folk and Sufi music the Indian Flamenco! Honestly, I am convinced that our music has huge potential and I am working on two different sides to promote it. On one side, I am an artist who wants to protect and develop this unique music. On the other side, I am joining hands with multiple partners who can help build an audience for this music who can initiate new initiatives.