India has a very rich tradition of folk music. The extreme cultural diversity creates endless varieties of folk styles. Each region has its own particular style, so does Rajasthan: The Manganiyars are professional Muslim folk musicians belonging to Jaisalmer, Barmer, parts of Jalor, Bikaner and Jodhpur districts in Western Rajasthan. Like other hereditary caste musicians, they cultivate a close relationship to their patrons.
Since generations they provide musical service to their patrons to receive cattle, camels, goats or cash as gift. On the other side they function as record keepers and keep the different family histories alive trough their songs, based on pure oral tradition.
Belonging to the Muslim faith, but supported by the Patrons (Râjputs, members of a Hindu military caste claiming Kshatriya descent), the Manganiyars sing the praises both of the great Sufi saints and of the god Krishna. These splendid virtuoso musicians combine the popular mystical and secular traditions of the desert with those of the courts of the maharajas. They perpetuate a religious and chivalrous art dating from the Middle Ages. From childhood the music is heard and imbibed along with ones mother’s milk. There are numerous public activities that allow the villagers to practice and hone their skills. The music is an indispensable component of functions such as weddings, engagements, and births. There is an uncountable number of songs for such occasions. There are also many songs associated with planting and harvesting. In these activities the villagers routinely sing of their hopes, fears and aspirations.
Nowadays the musical performances of the Manganiyars ranging from traditional village settings to the biggest stages of the world, are in high demand not only because of their unique voices and instruments but non the less because they move the audience form greatest, deepest joy to tears of happiness.