Indian sarangi player Lakha Khan wows US audiences

Washington, April 14: Famed Indian sarangi player Lakha Khan is having a “phenomenal” tour of North America as this perhaps the greatest exponent of Sindhi sarangi keeps up a musical tradition stretching back at least seven centuries.

Winner of Sangeet Natak Akademi award for his contribution to Rajasthani folk music, Lakha Khan, 63, has been getting standing ovations on his nine city US tour started April 6 with two shows in Salem Massachusetts.

Besides the “Sensational India,” festival at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, he has so far performed at Chhandayan Centre for Indian Studies, New York, City, Baithak at Taalim School of Music, Piscataway, New Jersey and Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

The last show in Bloomington Friday was a sold out event, Ankur Malhotra, co-founder of Amarrass Records, a company that is trying to preserve traditional forms of music in India, told IANS on phone from Nashville, Tennessee.

Khan belongs to the Manganiyar, a caste of Muslim musicians in the state of Rajasthan who have passed their skills down from generation to generation. He was the featured artist on Amarrass Records’ ‘Mitha Bol’ music album.

Malhotra, who has compared his efforts at music preservation to those of American folk music collector Alan Lomax, expects equally “phenomenal response” at Khan’s upcoming shows in Nashville, Tennessee, Sunday.

Lakha Khan’s tour continues with performances at Chicago (April 18), Madison, Wisconsin (April 21, 22), Iowa City Iowa (April 26) and San Jose, California (April 28)

Nominated for ‘Folk Album of the Year’ at the Global Indian Music Awards 2012, Khan was born in the village of Raneri in Jodhpur district, Rajasthan, into a family of traditional musicians from the Manganiyar community.

Trained by his father Tharu Khan and later, by his uncle Mohammad Khan, Lakha Khan is one of the last remaining Manganiyars to have mastered this complex instrument and to carry forward the centuries-old musical tradition of Rajasthani folk and Sufi music.

Khan’s “songbook contains the roots of India’s national popular music, but he lives and works far away from its industry,” said the Chicago Tribune in a report on his US tour.

“I have no plans to retire,” Khan told the daily in Hindi through a translator. “I promised my father that I intend to play until I die and the almighty’s blessings are upon me.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

IANS