Folk musicians and singers from Thar’s Manganhaar community enthralled audiences with their traditional performance at the Manganhaar Music Festival here on Tuesday and impressed upon them that folk music and mystic poetry impact people and communities from within their soul. The festival was kicked off with a performance by Chanesar who played ‘Khamach’, an indigenous musical instrument specialty of the Manganhaar musicians.
Organized by ActionAid Pakistan and Folklore Society of Pakistan, the festival is the second of its kind since last year. The festivals are part of an effort to strengthen the learning tradition for music in the youth of the community as their art is otherwise belittled and undervalued. The festival aims at reinvigorating their music and form of expression to replace the current mimicry of borrowed art and identity. It also impresses upon the community and the society to stand to gain immeasurably through their messages of peace, love and harmony.
At the first leg, 16 young (male and female) student singers from Thar, Khairpur, Ranipur, Umerkot and Buzdarwada took part in a music contest. Sarwat Ali, Baidil Masroor and Wali Ram judged their performance. At the second leg of the festival, ten celebrated Manganhaar singers from Thar and Cholistan showcased their skills. Manganhaar musicians from Rajasthan, India were also supposed to perform at the festival but they could not reach Pakistan due to visa problem. Celebrated Manganhaar artists from Thar and Cholistan who performed included: Shaukat and Hayat, Muhammad Rafiq, Mehr Ali Sagar, Amiraan Begum, Zarina, Dadoli, Noori and Krishan Bheel.
Manganhaar community is the inheritor of a great music tradition. They are generally stigmatised for their profession, which is looked down upon. Revival of their musical heritage aims to help restore their dignity and pride by giving up the marginalisation of such communities. Manganhaar communities live on both sides of the border between India and Pakistan. They are Muslims and their family genealogy can be traced back to the 16th and 17th centuries when they adopted Islam.