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I want the desert wind of Rajasthani folk to touch everyone: Kutle Khan

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New Delhi, March 23

In his music, the tale is always continual. The narratives do not let go of the past but never shy away from embracing the sensibilities of the present. When he sings, multiple eras are recreated. The audience is forced to oscillate between the past and present, evoking both tradition and modernity.

Rajasthani folk musician Kutle Khan, who has mastered more than nine percussion instruments, and moves between genres with smoothness insists that it is important not to forget the past as it paves the way to the future. Perhaps that is the reason he is now exploring ancient Rajasthani songs and planning on presenting them in a format that is ‘accessible’ to the newer generation.

“Currently I am focusing on very old Rajasthani folk songs, and presenting them in a way that the young relate to them. I will be fusing them with newer instruments from both Indian and Western music to ensure that the young are acquainted with the richness of our culture. I really want that everyone gets touched by the wind of Rajasthani music,” he tells IANS.

Khan, who will be at the Music Festival Kasauli — MKF 2024, curated by Naani Singh, that will be held on March 29 and 30 at Santa Roza, says, “People will get to listen to a lot of new sounds — from Rajasthani culture to my own renditions of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s best-known numbers.”

Khan, a singer and musician who plays dholak, khartal, bhapang, harmonium, sarangi, morchang, and also writes and composes his songs, moving with ease between different genres stresses, “Rajasthani folk is always the base in my work, no matter what. Of course, I also sing classical and Sufi, but the thrust is to introduce people to the enigmatic music of my state.”

Belonging to the 14th generation of musicians, Khan, who was also honoured as the ‘Best Folk Singer of the Year’ by the Indian Icon Film Awards in the year 2019, stresses that singing in Kasauli is always a treat.

“The ambience, the audience, the whisper of the winds from pine trees… everything becomes magical in this hill town that is unadulterated in the true sense. I always look forward to coming here.”

For someone who has performed in more than 80 countries, even in front of non-Indian audiences, it is the richness of folk that makes the audience ask for more.

“They are very open to new sounds and what they do to them. Of course, considering Western instruments are also incorporated, they do not feel completely alienated from what is happening on the stage. But their willingness to embrace what is not a part of their culture always touches me.”

Stressing that it is important for him to add contemporary elements to ancient Rajasthani folk, the musician says, “Look, I also want the young to acquaint themselves with our legacy. And what is wrong with including Western sounds? Frankly, I have never had a problem with purists as they also understand that certain elements need to be included to make folk ‘relevant’ to youngsters.”

However, in his much talked about ‘Sounds of Desert’, he sticks to pure Rajasthani folk.

“It is a musical production of 19 artists where the audiences get to listen to pure Rajasthani folk. There is no fusion. And it is always well received across age groups.”

Besides an active touring circuit, Khan, who also has TV shows like ‘Dewarists’, ‘MTV Unplugged’ and ‘Coke Studio India’ to his credit, feels multiple elements make Rajasthani folk enigmatic, thus ensuring full-houses.

“We use multiple instruments, the tonal quality is unique and the pitch is high. Not to mention, our unique get-up. Precisely why you get to witness audience members stand up and start dancing.”

The artist, who has given his voice to movies like ‘Afwaah’ and several web series, besides Tollywood films and has five albums to his credit, is a firm believer in collaboration.

He has toured with Susheel Raman, Ranjit Barot, Amit Trivedi, Afsana Khan, Jonita Gandhi, Karsh Kale, Darhan Doshi Collective, and says, “Working with musicians across genres is always an enriching experience. You not only get acquainted with other schools but also begin to challenge yourself.”

Considering his popularity, the musician often gets calls from individuals to become their guru.

“Sadly, I am unable to do that. I have been travelling non-stop for the past 15 years, and it would be unfair to become a teacher if I am unable to give full attention to my students. However, I do guide them, telling them what to study, and looking up videos on streaming platforms.”

All set to perform in Maldives and London after Kasauli, he hopes, “I pray that youngsters acknowledge the richness of our own culture and what it has to offer.”

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