The album has a poignant tale associated with it. Our sense of urgency to capture, preserve and present this music has been reinforced by the passing of Rukma Bai who we recorded in December 2010. Afflicted with polio at an early age, Rukma Bai challenged odds at every stage in her life. One of the few female Manganiyar singers (and unarguably one of the best) she died aged just 50 due to poverty-induced illness and lack of access to basic healthcare. Banko Ghodo is a tribute to Rukma Bai and features two tracks by her. Sadly, perhaps her last recordings. She sings and plays the dhol on both tracks.
Mangey Khan makes a reappearance on this volume, with the track Challa Challa making you sit up and listen. Sawai Khan’s morchang instrumental represents the talent evident in the upcoming generation of folk musicians. Still in his teens, Sawai plays the morchang (or Jew’s Harp) to a level of sophistication that is rare. He is one of three young musicians featured on Banko Ghodo. Now in his late forties, Nihal Khan is an outstanding vocalist who could easily have been a part of The Manganiyar Seduction , except for an unfortunate circumstance: many of the cues in this acclaimed musical act are visual and Nihal Khan is blind. He wasn t born that way. There being no access to proper medical facilities in their village, Sanawara, Jaisalmer, his parents had a quack treat Nihal for pain in the eyes when he was just seven or eight. His disability is a consequence. But it didn t stop him from gaining the respect of his community through his exceptional talent. The Manganiyars fondly call him Surdas , after the blind poet of old.
Brothers from Barmer, Bhikey and Multan Khan are a formidable presence both for their music and their classic Rajasthani looks. Theirs is a genuinely traditional family whose music goes back seven generations and is being carried forward with distinction by Bhikeyji s son Manzoor. You could call the family the keepers of the oral history of Rajashtan. In keeping with the family s deep relationship with local tradition and heritage, they have also reared horses for several generations. Their stable still boasts seven. Banko Ghodo is, therefore, a particularly apt song for Bhikey and Multan Khan, a family for whom pedigree has immense value. As Manzoor puts it, if a bridegroom arrives on a banka ghoda , he must be of distinguished lineage.
Still in his early 20s, Kheta Khan is an unqualified prodigy, and a star in the making. One of the key singers in The Manganiyar Seduction , Kheta s powerful vocals have given goose-bumps to audiences worldwide. With a repertoire of great depth and range, he is equally at home singing Sufi classics or forgotten traditional tunes like Nimbooda – the corrupted Bollywood version of which has now become a standard. Featured on this album is Mehuda Barse, Kheta’s rendition of a song sung traditionally with the onset of the monsoons. Banko Ghodo wraps up with Lado and Pappu Khan, the youngest of the Manganiyar singers presenting an example of the talent being nurtured in these remote villages of Rajasthan.
The recordings on this album were made on site, often at the artists home, single-take and on analog equipment and attempt to faithfully reproduce the moment in time when these sessions took place.