Baba Farid Mir Musicians Project

Projects
2015-2016

Grant Period: Over eight months

This foundation-administered project is an extension of IFA’s continuous engagement with the musician communities of Rajasthan that started in 2010. That year IFA had supported the community of Mir musicians in Bikaner to reinvigorate their practice through an intensive training programme. The project supported the ustads in three Mir villages in and around the Pugal region of Bikaner to train younger people in the Mir musical repertoire. Over the 10-month period, the project empowered the musicians and their patrons to strengthen their musical tradition and collectively address issues concerning their identity, dignity and livelihood. This project had culminated into the Baba Farid Rang Mir Sammelan where the community felt the need for connecting with the larger Mir community spread across the vast Bikaner region for interactions and musical interchanges.  

Since then, IFA has been in constant touch with the community, facilitating the development of their idea. In the last two years, the idea has gradually grown over several hours of detailed conversations. In the meantime, within IFA, there were some significant programmatic changes. The Special Grants initiative, under which IFA had earlier supported the project, was suspended and the new Arts Practice programme was put in place. The discussions with the Mir community on the current project also enabled IFA to revisit and enhance its own programmatic and administrative frameworks to accommodate the worldview of the community. 

The Mir villages scattered across the vast desert of western Rajasthan, until recent times, used to be independent and self-sustaining, with a robust system of patronage. However, with the shrinking of traditional systems of patronage, coupled with the onslaught of religious fundamentalism in the region, performance opportunities have been declining considerably. Hence there is a growing need for the larger community to come together and energise their practice and context. This project is a manifestation of that aspiration.

This project supports a yatra that will cover ten villages in the Bikaner region. These places have been chosen based on the sizeable population of Mir families who reside in these villages. A core group comprising of senior as well as young musicians and their patrons will travel to these ten villages, engage with ustads, young adults and other community members in conversations on their musical legacy. The committee will facilitate an exchange of musical repertoire, thoughts and ideas towards re-energising the larger Mir community and their ecology. The key objectives would be to reactivate performance spaces and to create multiple teams drawn from these places that would be able to perform.

Besides connecting with the community, another important outcome of the project will be to draw a map of performance opportunities across this region, creating a calendar of cultural festivals and events. This exercise will also enable the community to get a clear sense of the number of Mir families and enable them to tap into the musical repertoire that currently exists in various pockets. The map and the calendar will be shared within the community.

The places chosen for the yatra are Ranewala, Makdasar, Banipura, Ramda, 710 RD, Pugal, Mirgarh, Ramsar, Chattargarh and Lonkansar. The core committee will comprise of ten people, including eight musicians and two patrons. Along with this team, there will be four young musicians who will assist the core team and help with the mapping exercise. 

This grant was made possible with support from Infosys Foundation.