A bright red turban, tied up in the traditional Jaisalmeri kaayeda, is a reflection of his persona, pat down to his infectious smile. The colour red signifies happiness, the luminous effect of the fire of life.
A member of the Manganiyar tribe, Mame Khan belongs to the land of sandunes, Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, and comes from a long, illustrious lineage of singers all entrenched in the Manganiyari singing tradition. His family can trace their lineage back to fifteen generations of performers, who have been singing folk and sufi songs in that tradition. The Manganiyar community is known for being a travelling community of musicians, and the preservers of oral narratives, with their songs traversing through the wide expanse of variety from singing about Alexander the Great (who came to conquer the north-west part of India and Pakistan around 300 BC) to local kings and community events.
Mame was indoctrinated into the singing tradition from an early age, and his talent for it was spotted at an early age, so much so that by the time he was 14, he had already got a scholarship from Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) by then. Currently, Mame Khan is the lead vocalist of Maganiyar Seduction, which was first created to open for OSIAN, a reputed indie film festival in Delhi. The stunning sets in which they perform is visually referenced from Jaipur’s Hawa Mahal and the shop windows of the red light district of Amsterdam. 43 musicians are seated in 36 red-curtained cubicles which are then arranged in four horizontal rows each on top of the other; and the concert begins when a single cubicle lights up and the first singer begins his song. Soon, all the singers come together in an overwhelming visual and aural spectacle, quite unlike anything else contemporarily in the folk tradition. This theatrical presentation is reminiscent altogether of the charming Kathputli tradition of Rajasthan, another oral narrative tradition.
Mame Khan sings folk and sufi songs rendered by Pakistani and Rajasthani sufi proponents such as Mira Bai, Kabir, Lal Shahbaz Kalandar, Bulleh Shah and Baba Ghulam Farid, while giving them a touch and rendition of his own. He has toured all over the world, from Africa, the Americas to the Middle East and Europe. Mame Khan is unusually open-minded about new collaborations and ventures, and has even lent his voice to some beautiful Bollywood ballads, from No One Killed Jessica, Luck By Chance, to I Am. He even collaborated with Amit Trivedi to come up with the song “Chaudhary” – (click here).
Catch his special rendition of “Lolee”, a song based on a Sufi saint, who brings back a dead child to life and watch this space for an exclusive conversation with the man with the voice as golden as the shimmering sand of the Thar.