Melding music at Saanjh fest


Neha Saini

Amritsar, December 12

Saanjh for Manganiyars, a community of folk artists from the desert, singing is like living. “It is believed in our community that a Manganiyar is born with a unique rhythm in his voice. That’s why, even now, not many of our children study or go to school, but they all learn music and pursue the tradition passed down through generations,” said Khete Khan, a noted Manganiyar artist, who along with his group performed at the Saanjh fest hosted by Punarjyot Foundation at Spring Dale School.

Perform at the Saanjh festival at Srping Dale School in Amritsar on Monday. Tribune Photo

Khete Khan performed along with his son, who he is grooming to take on the family baton of folk traditions. He leads the Manganiyar Lok Sangeet Sansthan in Jaisalmer and has been performing Sindhi Sufi folk songs all his life. “Not many people outside of Rajasthan know about our folk tradition, but we have several platforms and perform at music festivals. We also make people aware of our traditions like our music, our legacy and jajman pratha, or the tradition of having patrons,” he said.

Khete Khan said that the live shows give them an opportunity for intimate audience bonding. At Saanjh, the Manganiyars aquainted the audience with the melodious Sufi tunes from the sand dunes, of course, holding them spellbound with an equally skilled khardtal display, a traditional four pieces of sheesham wood percussion instrument unique to Rajasthani folk. Several members of his group also perform Sindhi Sufi artist Sawan Khan Manganiyar’s unforgettable Takht Chadayo Heer.

The second performance of the evening was by the next generation Wadali, Lakhwinder, who has made a place for himself while carrying forward his father and uncle’s legacy. Performing his latest songs, Lakhwinder Wadali also shared his fond memories of Manveen Sandhu and Dr Shivinder Singh Sandhu, founders of Spring Dale Educational Society. Punarjyot, an off-shoot of Spring Dale Educational Society was a brain child of Manveen Sandhu and Faizan Peerzada, from Rafi Peer Theatre in Lahore, who founded a platform for cross-border cultural exchange through music since 2004.

“The aim of Saanjh is to recognise common threads that run through all of us by presenting the best of our musical and art heritage from both sides of the border for promotion of peace in the region,” said Dr Kirat Sandhu Cheema, head of Punarjyot and Director, Spring Dale Educational Society. She further elaborated that due to administrative reasons, artists from Pakistan could not participate this time as was the original format of the festival, but the musical renditions were beyond borders and included lyrics and compositions which are commonly sung in both the countries.

Saanjh has returned after a gap pf two years due to the pandemic and had previously hosted artists including Arif Lohar, Sain Zahoor, Harbhajan Mann, Wadali brothers and Bharti Swami, among others.

Sahiljit Singh Sandhu, Chairman, Spring Dale Educational Society said he was elated to host the Saanjh festival as a commemoration of celebrations of 40 years of Spring Dale Senior School, Amritsar. “It was befitting to revive the Saanjh festival to send out a message of peace and universal brotherhood which is one of the aims of global education,” Sahiljit said.