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George Vlahakis
IU Communications

Michael Dodson
Dhar India Studies Program

Last modified: Monday, April 8, 2013

Renowned Indian folk musician Lakha Khan to perform at IU Bloomington

April 8, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Madhusudan and Kiran C. Dhar India Studies Program at Indiana University Bloomington will present renowned sarangi maestro Lakha Khan in a free performance at 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 12.

The concert of Indian folk and Sufi music from Rajashan will take place in the Grand Hall of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave.

Lakha Khan, now in his mid-60s, is one of the last remaining Manganiyars to have mastered the sarangi -- a complex violin-shaped instrument that has more than 20 strings and is played with a bow -- and to carry forth the centuries-old musical tradition of Rajasthani folk and Sufi music.

He told The New York Times that he likens the difficulty of playing a sarangi to "climbing a rope using only your feet."

He is considered a living legend in India. He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award from India's National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama for his contributions to Rajasthani folk music and an award from the Marudhara Foundation in Kolkata.

"In the master's hand, the Sufi-influenced melody he coaxes from (the sarangi) is transformative," Michael Sullivan said of Lakha Khan on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition.

Not only is Lakha Khan a virtuoso on the sarangi, he also sings fluently in Sindhi, Punjabi, Hindi, Marwari and a variety of dialects.

"We are very fortunate to be able to bring a musician of Lakha Khan's caliber to IU," said Michael Dodson, chair of the Dhar India Studies Program. "Not only is he an outstanding player of the sarangi, but he is a foremost representative of an important but little known musical tradition in India.

"The Manganiyar community are Muslims who play traditional Rajasthani and Sufi folk songs for their dominantly Hindu patrons in India. And while they may now increasingly play to nontraditional audiences in the United States and Europe, we will be treated in this concert to a sampling of a bona fide centuries-old musical tradition."

Born in the village of Raneri in Jodhpur district, Rajasthan, into a family of traditional musicians from the Manganiyar community, Lakha Khan was trained at an early age by his father, and later by his uncle, in rendering the compositions of the Multan school of Manganiyars.

His first public performances were in the late 1960s and early 1970s under the guidance of the late Komal Kothari, a highly regarded Indian historian and ethnomusicologist.

He performs extensively across Rajasthan and India, and internationally in the United States and Europe. In 2011, he performed at the Edinburgh Folk Music Festival and the Amarrass Desert Music Festival.

Manganiyar Seduction

Lakha Khan toured with The Manganiyar Seduction, a production that has been presented worldwide.

Print-Quality Photo

Lakha Khan is a featured artist on "Mitha Bol" (2011, Amarrass Records), which was nominated for Folk Album of the Year at the Global Indian Music Awards last year.

He also has toured with The Manganiyar Seduction, a dazzling show created by Roysten Abel, director of the Indian Shakespeare Company, that combines Manganiyar's music and the visual seduction of Amsterdam's red light district.

The sets combine the Hawa Mahal and the red light district of Amsterdam and feature 43 musicians seated in 36 red-curtained cubicles arranged in four rows on top of each other. Lights in the cubicles are used to create a dramatic buildup in the musical performance. The show has been presented worldwide, including at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Lakha Khan will be accompanied on the tabla and the dholak (a double-headed drum) by his son, Dane Khan, who is touring with him.

In 2012, the Dhar India Studies Program became a core unit in IU's new School of Global and International Studies, in the College of Arts and Sciences.