The Story Of Eminent Folk Vocalist of Rajasthan, India: Anwar Khan Manganiyar

The Story Of Eminent Folk Vocalist of Rajasthan, India: Anwar Khan Manganiyar

SalamatRaho presents to you the story of Padmashree Ustad Anwar khan Mangniyar. He is one such highly respected and talented folk artist from Rajasthan and he is bringing about change to the society through folk music. Our country should be obliged to such eminent saviours of our heritage and culture.

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India The Land Of Folk Music

Our Nation has a diverse and extremely rich cultural heritage. It is a source of pride and strength to millions of Indians who look to the arts for inspiration , communication and the opportunity for creative self -expression. India is one of the most diverse countries with a variety of languages, religions, folk music, dance, instruments etc. 

As per Indian tradition, most art forms are passed down through generations and it is every Indian’s duty to help conserve and preserve this heritage.

As they say “Music is the universal language of mankind.” “Where words fail, music speaks.”. Folk music especially helps to create peace and harmony. We can bring people together because a good song will touch your soul no matter what and where it is coming from.

Music has a special place in India. In its cultural and traditional aesthetics, music is often said to be as ‘the food of the soul’.

There are some highly knowledgeable and learned people in our country who are trying their best to save this legacy and want to pass their knowledge down to the coming generation.

Anwar Khan Sahab: The Life Journey

Anwar Khan Sahab was born in 1960 in a traditional family in the village Baiya, district Jaisalmer(Rajasthan).

The whole family was involved in folk music for generations. Music is in their veins and since the time Anwar ji was born, all he heard was music. This is the expertise that he had, and polished. Formal education was not a concept in those days in those remote areas, and thankfully so. Since western education would have eroded or annihilated all of our fine art forms, by weaning the new generations away from the traditional knowledge. Isn’t it the educationist, Ken Robinson who famously said, ‘Schools kill Creativity’?

Earning through song and music was thus a profession, the survival craft, so to say. 

As a child, Anwar Ji would take up his harmonium and sing for pleasure and perform at functions as a source of enjoyment. He would listen to his parents, learn and perform. They were his gurus. There was no formal riaz, but singing at these functions was their daily riaz (practice) ritual.

Anwar Khan: The Musical Journey

Anwar ji soon started performing solo. Before each performance, he would take advice from his mother about the choice of songs, which one for what occasion. This is how traditional knowledge has always been passed down through generations. Anwar ji memorized hundreds of songs and verses, especially from Hindu mythological epics. After all, that is the origin of nearly all the people that inhabit the subcontinent, across man made borders and distinctions.

In his home town or family units, there was no mention of any religious biases and all were encouraged to think like a true Indian. Anwar Ji himself has a Krishna temple in his home where the lamp is lit daily, and bhajans are sung regularly. True son of his soil. He laments the distancing of newer and educated generations from the soil and common inheritance.

Anwar Khan: A True Son Of The Soil

As years passed by, Anwar ji and his family would be invited by neighboring villages to perform. They would travel on camel backs, across deserts with scarce water and food.

Singing folk songs was their talent and their livelihood.  A large family had to be supported. Parents, six brothers and one sister, his focus was always on providing for them.

Years and years of riaz and training had made him perfect his classical and folk singing. It wasn’t easy to hold onto his classical heritage in the face of all the insecurities and hardships. 

Anwar sahib has proved that being a true Indian means keeping alive the local culture and religious practices of Rajasthan, where his ancestors have carried on the craft for thousands of years before external influences started eroding and dilating the cultures of the land. He is a master of classical bhajans, Lok geet especially on Meera Bai, Tulsidas, Kabirji, Gurunanak ji etc.

As they say, when you are true to your art and put in 100% dedication, doors find a way of opening up. Swargiya Komal Kothari ji heard young Anwar perform and was extremely moved. He decided to take Anwar and his troupe out of this little village and showcase them to the world. The first formal recording was made by Komal Ji. He took tremendous trouble, travelling on camels in the heat, just to make these recordings of the performances. So around 1973, the first recordings were played outside his village, and Anwar ji started becoming famous. From village to district and then his voice reached Delhi.

There were many foreign tourists who heard him in events in Rajasthan and they took that experience beyond borders. 

The Rajasthan government felicitated Anwar ji with Sangeet awards and recognition followed. 

With Komalji’s guidance and help, Anwar Khan Mangniyar became a known name in the folk music circuit, in India and abroad. 1982/83, he performed at National festivals in Delhi and then at CommonWealth and Unesco meets and conferences etc. 1985 he took five of his young students with him as they needed exposure. 

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Anwar Khan: Taking Indian Music to Global Podium

For someone who was born in a village, reaching such heights of fame was not an easy task.

Whether it was bhajans, folk songs, sindhi, sufiana, his and his  family’s name has spread far and wide to all corners of the world. 

He has travelled to over 50 countries as Cultural ambassador, to Uk, Austria, Japan, Italy, Iran, Iraq, Germany, Switzerland, China amongst a few. With nearly 500 performances with his Zingaro Theatre group, he has tremendous experience on his side. Apart from collaborating with hundreds of Indian artists, he has had the opportunity to play with maestros like Pt Ravi Shankar, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi,Ustad Zakir Hussain, Yahudi Menuhin, Ustad Sultan khan, Pt.Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and many more.  Most of our media and broadcasting agencies like All India Radio, Doordarshan and ICCR have had him on board for decades.

Anwar Khan: Lends Voice To Media Giants

He has given his voice to many documentaries even on BBC, films and channels. We are so proud of Anwar ji especially for performing before the President of France, Ms Sophia, Queen of Spain and the President of the United States of America, Mr Barak Obama at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, On Nov 8th, 2010. 

Anwar Khan: Performance In International Festivals

Performing at international festivals paved the way for major experiences, watching other artists perform. Anwar ji realised that there was so much more to do for his art and for his students. 

Anwar Ji says,” It was always enriching to attend these international festivals as we would get an opportunity to stay with these maestros for 5/6 weeks and learn from them.”

Anwar Khan: Awards And Accolades

The awards in India started pouring in from all departments.

 He has been felicitated by the President of India with the Sangeet Natak Akademy Award in 2017. 

The biggest and most satisfying award came in the form of the Padmashri, which is given by the Govt of India for their contribution to make their country proud. A huge honour and well deserved.

Anwar ji says”I have got many awards from other countries like Russia and Scotland. But an award for a folk artist in his own country will inspire the next generation of Manganiyars to work harder and to keep practising their music and art.”

Anwar Ji is most humble and says that there is still lots to learn. Now he all the more feels that it is his and his family’s responsibility to keep this tradition going.

He says, “ People without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture are like a tree without roots. It is very important to see that our young generation receives strong fundamental roots which will not allow them to go astray due to over exposure through social media.”

Anwar Khan: The Guruji

He believes in passing down his experience and training to the next generation and bringing them before the world audience. He established Parampara Folk Music and Art institute in Jaisalmer.

Daily, hundreds of children come to his centre to learn folk music with complete dedication and enthusiasm. He has trained hundreds of young talented children and led them to perform confidently in front of international audiences. His centre now provides a safe haven for these young children to remain focussed and not get into negative habits.

Apart from teaching classical and folk music, Anwar ji also focusses on issues bothering the youth today like illiteracy, drug abuse, health and environment and inculcates these topics in his songs and lyrics.

To encourage the young students, Anwar ji sees to it that they get maximum exposure. He led the 100 children’s contingent of Langa and Mangniyar at RajPath in January 1993 and received the first prize.  His students also performed at the Children’s film Festival held in Udaipur.

This parampara which is followed by most musical gharanas In India where knowledge is passed from father to son, was followed here too.

His son Roshan Khan also joins him in mission to take music to the coming generations. 

Attributing the recognition gained by the folk music of western Rajasthan to several Manganiyars, Khan has given his voice to a few Hindi movies including ‘Rang Rasiya’.  This recognition inspires the young Mangniyars to take more active part. This year is the 75th year of Independence. To continue with the celebrations, Anwarji was asked to prepare 3 songs with children which they performed at the west zone tourism ministry centre.

During our interaction, he further stressed on his community to ensure that the next generation of musicians should get proper education. “I am not very educated in literal terms. If my musical craft is taken into account, and recognised as knowledge, that will inspire more children to be ‘educated’ in traditional music. So, if the next generation of our musicians will study well, they can do well for themselves and can earn fame and glory,” he added.

We too need to protect, guide, and encourage our young people, helping them to build a society worthy of their great spiritual and cultural heritage. Specifically, we need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished, and protected.

Team NomadLawyer salutes this Great artist, Anwar Khan Mangniyar. People like Anwar Khan, rare gems of our country and they must be honoured and given all the respect and prestige possible. These are the true heroes of India that make our country shine.

Contact-Parampara Folk Music and Art institute.

Kalakar Colony, Jaiselmer

Roshan Khan Sahab-  Mob- 09413291203

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