Langas: Hymns of desert

I had just entered my house after my month long industrial training in Ahmedabad. I couldn’t help but notice two men sitting coyly in corner of the hall. Dressed in cultural bard dresses with their harmonium on one side, ‘dholak’ on other, they carried a heavy smile on their rugged lips. Khamma ghani’ he greeted; ‘Khamma ghani’ I replied with a smile. Smile, which only grew wider, sensing the joy and excitement of the session that was about to begin. These were langas, the famous ‘dammamis’ who paid occasional visits to a few homes in the city.

Rajasthan is the land of exquisite culture and traditions. The fables that inhabit the land of kings and queens are no less. These stories have always been of great intrest and importance to common public and recorded mostly through folk songs and ballads instead of books. From these emerged the greatest of folk singers in all lands and one of them are the ‘Langas’.  

Langas are a nomad community originating in Sindh region in modern day Pakistan, but settled in erstwhile Rajaputana. They were highly credited in singing ballads in praise of erstwhile chieftains and kings. Marvelled by the great music langas composed, and flattered by their praises, these chieftains gifted them lands to settle in Rajasthan.

A langa singer sings at an exceptionally high pitch usually added with sudden short drops. Langas carry a variety of musical instruments. Along with harmonium, they carry ‘sarangee’ (compatible violin like instrument), dholak and wooden claps for those who can afford extra men. The amalgamation of these instruments added to the thundering voices of langa group leaves the listener spellbound. Although historically dominant, langa music is not constrained to singing praises of Kings and Queens alone. Langa music also involves culture and tradition of Rajasthan. In a song ‘Gorband Nakhralo’* the artist fascinates about how the colourful strands of camel decor look beautiful while intermingling each other. In the other, ‘Bana re baghan me Jhula’, the singer jests the chieftain’s son to share the swing he has put with girls too! The culture of Rajasthan is so minutely embodied in langa songs that it often leaves the listener in eternal bliss. 

It is easy starting a tradition, but difficult continuing it. Despite being terrifically talented, this community suffers drain of manpower. The guy at my home had just finished singing and was collecting his presents. “The younger generation is more intrested in city jobs as compared to singing. If they leave in desire of comfortable city life, the continued community traditions are certainly going to die one day.”, says Dawood Khan, proudly patting his son, who accompanies him to almost all places and concerts.  

*Gorbandh :

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