Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Clearly he is gifted with a hypnotic voice, which has the capacities of touching each of the most difficult notes of any tune. Echoing Daily News and Analysis, I also would like to say, the first few notes of aalap sung by Manganiyar singer Mame Khan are enough to hold an audience in thrall.
With a heaven-gifted voice that brings the essence and images of cool desert nights as well baking sands into the minds of the audience, Chaudhury Mame Khan hails from the tiny village named Satto in the Jaisalmer district in Rajsthan in India. Mame Khan’s ancestors should be praised for keeping the magnificent Manganitar music alive, which has now been brought into Bollywood by him. Mame told DNA, “In today’s world, with social media, it is much easier to find an audience. But it was my grandparents, and then my father who managed to spread Manganiyar music through sheer grit”.
Though Mame Khan uses Western instruments alongside the traditional musical instruments, each of his songs contain the excellent and ever-romantic fragrance of Rajasthani folk tune. Manganiyar being a semi-classical form of folk music, there are several raagas that the singer has to familiarise himself with before he starts performing. A child from a Manganiyar household, says Khan, starts to sing even before he can speak. “Manganiyar ka bachha rota hai toh woh bhi sur mein rota hai (even when a Manganiyar child cries, he cries in tune),” says Khan. “Even the toys that are given to a child of that tradition are dholaks and harmoniums and sarangis.”
Chaudhary Mame Khan was spotted by Bollywood’s uncrown king of music, Shankar Mahadevan, who stopped the artiste when he was performing soulful number for singer Ila Arun’s daughter’s wedding and made him an offer to sing Baawre in Luck by Chance.
In his colorful Rajasthani turban, trimmed moustache and warm smile, Mame Khan displays a unique demeanor.
Mame Khan’s father Ustad Rana Khan was a respected singer and in fact, he hails from a family of extremely rich musical background.
Not many people know this, but for many years, popular folk and Sufi singer from Rajasthan, Mame Khan, had been a percussionist. Back in 1999, he even went on a world tour as a percussionist. He stayed in Belgium for six months, returned to India for a short time, leaving his drums there. He had planned to go back to Belgium after a short while, but he was not able to. This became a huge turning point in his life. He was disappointed, of course, but then his father Rana Khan told Mame, “One door closed for you but at the same time you can open a thousand doors if you keep working hard on your music.”
“This was the day I stared singing – and my drums are till date in Belgium,” says Mame Khan, after a recent performance in Thiruvananthapuram. His late father Rana Khan, who gave the advice, is, he says, one of the best teachers he could wish for, and had been a fantastic singer. Mame belongs to a musician community from Rajasthan, called Manganiyar.
“Our musical journey started 15 generations back. It has been an oral tradition since. Born and brought up in a musician family, our traditional music has been part of my life and dreams since childhood,” he says.
While writing about Mame Khan, I have to mentioned another name – the name that has a very special place in my heart – more precisely within my entire musical entity (remember, besides my journalistic identity, I am a lyricist too). That name is Kaushiki Chakrabarty, the daughter of legendary classical singer Pundit Ajay Chakrabarty. Since my childhood, I am familiar with Ajay sir as my father was a great fan of his songs. Till date, whenever I am alone, I try to sing – Jodi Konthho Dao, Ami Tomar Gahi Gaan (If you give me the melody (in my voice), I sing Your song). What a voice of Ajay sir! Wish in the next life, I am sent back to this world to become his disciple. Many of my readers may not know, since the age of four, I began learning classical music from Ustad Akhtar Sadmani. But unfortunately, my vocal chord cracked when I was just 35 due to allergy. Since then, though my voice lost the melody, I have been trying to write songs and give touch of classical-based tune in them. Many of those who did sing my songs, for example, the legendary Runa Laila, everyone will smile at me and say, Eto Kothhin Shur Keno (why so much difficult tune?).
Few years back, Kaushiki Chakrabarty came to Bangladesh to perform at Bengal Music Festival. But unfortunately at that time I was serving rigorous imprisonment for the ‘crimes’ of confronting radical Islam and jihad; denouncing antisemitism and Holocast denial; promoting interfaith harmony; and saying NO to culture of hatred. Sitting in the isolated prison cell, I did listen to Kaushiki Chakrabarty’s songs and left tears with extreme pride and joy, because, after all, she and I belong to the same soil – the Bangla.
Though I missed the Dhaka performance of Kaushiki Chakrabarty, I did not sit idle even in the prison cell. Instead on that very night of listening to her song, I had written and even tuned a song – exclusively for her, with the hope – she will one day sing it. The lyrics of the song are:
Ichchhatey Shompurno Shadhon Jahari Khela
Sheijona Bhangiya Gorey Boshiya Ekela
Koto Jonom Loiley Manush Nirakari Hoy
Koto Diney Ashbey Aamar Temoni Shomoy.
I believe in divinity and music especially, folk music, is the area, where spirituality is essential. Through my divinity-filled soul, I always seek blessings from Ustad Ajay Chakrabarty and the day, Kaushiki Chakrabarty will give her voice to this song, I will express my gratitude to that unseen entity Who has sent all of us to this world.
Chaudhary Mame Khan and Kaushiki Chakrabarty are the people of my love. Those of us, who live in the world of music, we know, how precious and pure this very word ‘love’ is. It certainly is much above any of those worldly necessities and desires. It is the chord of spirituality that connects each of the members of music – the true worshipers of music.
For Kaushiki Chakrabarty and Mame Khan and all those lovers of music, below is a link to one of the songs written and tuned by me. God bless every music lover in the world!
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter @Salah_Shoaib