Grant Period: Over two years
Master Musicians of Rajasthan: a project on Manganiar Repertoire, is an initiative conceived jointly by the Rupayan Sansthan, Jodhpur, and the Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology (ARCE), Gurgaon. The impulse for the project emerges out of concerns relating to the changed performance context for musical traditions in Western Rajasthan and its concomitant impact on the repertoire. The move from the original context, where musicians were tied to patron families and performed musical services for them, to the concert stage as the main venue for performance, has resulted in the shrinking of the repertoire. Since concert audiences are easy to please, musicians can restrict themselves to a small corpus of popular songs. The demand for their khas cheej, the repertoire by which they identify themselves, is dwindling.
The two organisations which have a history of working together, feel that it is imperative to focus attention on the shrinking Manganiar repertoire. The Manganiars are a well-known hereditary musician caste in western Rajasthan, and their music has travelled all over the world and has been the subject of much scholarly research. Yet there has been no attempt till date to map their repertoire. The primary objective of this project, therefore, is to document and transmit the repertoire and formalise a methodology which can be adapted to other musician communities in western Rajasthan. Rupayan Sansthan and ARCE will identify master musicians and elicit their repertoires through recording songs and conducting interviews focused on the meaning and melodic information of each song, the genre, wherever applicable, and the context of performance. The concept of genre is not fully understood with regard to Manganiar music, and documenting a large corpus of songs will provide a direction to any investigation of generic traits. Also, within the purview of the project are the Manganiar women musicians who occupy the public sphere.
The recording, documentation and analysis of the music of the Manganiars will be followed by a second phase dedicated to feeding the collated repertoire back to the community. This will be made possible in two ways––by providing easy access to the recordings and by organising training camps to transmit the repertoire to younger musicians and the children of musician families. The two organisations are confident that the documentation will be used by the musicians, who have frequently consulted existing recordings at both centres. The new recordings will be housed at Rupayan Sansthan and ARCE, and copies on audio cassettes and CDs will be provided to interested musicians for a minimal fee. In the second year of the project, the focus will shift to the two training camps. Rupayan Sansthan has successfully organised many training camps for children, which have significantly contributed in improving musical skills among the younger generation of musicians. Listening to archival material has also been an integral part of the camps. To effect a seamless transition from documentation and recording to training, the recorded musicians will be invited to take on the role of mentors and trainers. Though the immediate outcome of the project will be an archive of the Manganiar music tradition, the use of the documentation and recording in the training of a younger generation of musicians is expected to resuscitate the repertoire over the long term.