Wearing a bright pink turban, sitting assertively in the middle of Chokelao Bagh of Jodhpur’s Mehranghar Fort, at the recently-concluded Rajasthan International Folk Festival, 55-year-old Durga Lal is visibly the centre of attraction for the afternoon. Belonging to the Manganiyar community of Rajasthan, Khan doesn’t feel optimistic about the future of his tradition, because his beloved instrument, the kamaycha, may become extinct soon. “Traditionally we use to make it from goat skin, wood from mango tree and horse tail hair. The sounds produced were unmatched. Today, we cannot afford these materials. Goat skin is expensive and so is horse tail hair. With our declining popularity, I doubt the kamaycha will last another generation,” says Lal.
With the fading popularity of folk traditions, it may be too late to restore an interest in some of the rare, almost extinct instruments of the region. Ask anyone about the jantar, maate, narh, surinda, kawad, tarpi and chances are they wouldn’t have heard about them. “It doesn’t come as a surprise to me because our fold culture, at large, is diminishing. Popular culture has taken precedence over traditional or aboriginal cultures and therefore numerous instruments like the murli, ghoralia, mashak, rawanhatta, rudra veena and surinda and others are losing appeal,” says Dr Vijay Verma, a leading expert of the folk tradition.
People like Pratap Jogi and Arjun, one of the few mashak and thaalisar players in the country don’t see a bright future. Their fading optimism stems form the fact that there aren’t enough people interested in listening to him. ‘‘There was a time when I could choose when and where I wanted to play. Today, I am like a beggar who has no choice,’’ says Jogi.
Echoing the same sentiment is Buddu Dola, a tarpi player of the of the Kathodi tribe of Mewar and Noordin Mewati, a chikada player who, who only a handful of patrons left. ‘‘No body takes into account the fact that it takes skill to make and play these instruments. Maybe if we came on the television more often, we would be able to build a mass appeal, just like the other modern day musicians,” says Dola.