Sounds from the Thar: In Conversation with Mame Khan
Mame Khan – folk and Sufi musician from a town near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, with a persona as colourful as his music – belongs to the Manganiyar community, known for their energetic style of music, passed on down the ages through the oral traditions. Having worked with several large productions such as The Manganiyar Seduction, Coke Studio MTV Season 2, and a number of Bollywood film soundtracks, Mame Khan is now about to start work on his debut album – a crowdfunded project, supported by Wishberry (To find out more about the campaign, click here.)
We spoke some more with him about his upcoming album release.
IndiEarth: For those of us who don’t already know, could you tell us a little about the folk music tradition that you come from?
Mame Khan: I was born and brought up in a small town in Rajasthan, near Jaisalmer. I actually belong to a traditional musician family – our family has been performing a special oral tradition for more than 15 generations. Our community is called Manganiyar – we are specialised in folk music and we keep our oral tradition alive by passing on our songs from one generation to the next.
IE: What made you want to be an artist? Who were the biggest influences and inspirations in your life as far as music goes?
Mame Khan: My musical journey started right from the days of my childhood. Being together with my father Rana Khan – who was a legendary singer himself – has always inspired me. When I got up early morning I could hear my father’s voice rehearsing, and when I went to sleep, it was with his songs in my ears. In his memory, I travel around the globe and I try to keep our beautiful family tradition alive. I also love to travel, to be on the move, meet people and to get the chance to touch the heart of people with my music. Ultimately, my music is my happiness in life and I like to share this!
IE: You are about to start work on your debut album – tell us a bit about the album, the artists whom you will be working with, etc?
Mame Khan: My debut album is for me really a dream project. For many years I’ve had this in mind, but the time was not right. Now that I am working on it, it just feels that this is the right thing to do at the right point of time. So the album is all about Rajasthan, going back to the roots of our folk and Sufi music, yet all the songs will come with a slight modern twist. There will be seven songs in total and you will hear all the traditional instruments of the Thar desert. We also have some new sounds in it such as the saxophone. This album is not only going to be a medium to spread joy – I really have the ambition to reach out to the world showing the potential and beauty of Rajasthani folk and Sufi music.
IE: Aside from the music in itself, there is something else that makes this album unique – it is crowdfunded. Tell us more about this campaign.
Mame Khan: The idea is that many people contribute (smaller or bigger amounts) and receive something in return. Crowdfunding has potential to replace the traditional methods of bank loans, venture capital and borrowing money, especially in the creative industries. In the West, announcing your crowdfunding campaign is just as common as any of these other options, if not more so and I see similar potential for India to embrace this concept!
IE: Now that the Wishberry campaign has come to a close, tell us – how did it go? How are you feeling about the experience so far?
Mame Khan: It was an adventurous journey and I must say a real team effort. I got outstanding help from the Filmkaar team, they created my pitch video – which is after all the core of my campaign – and Anjuli Chakraborty, a German music and art manager, helped me with all the communication and operations. Now looking back, I am really glad we entered this journey – besides the amazing financial support for my album, we made new friends, remembered old friends and got some really great inspirations.
IE: When do you plan to launch the album?
Mame Khan: If all goes according to plan, you will be able to listen to our songs in March 2015!
IE: You have worked on a number of collaborative projects – The Manganiyar Seduction being one of the much talked about productions. How did that collaboration come to be? Are you still performing with them?
Mame Khan: The Manganiyar Seduction is an outstanding musical production by Roysten Abel, and I am really glad to be part of this. We actually played music for one of Roysten’s plays in Spain, and somehow our music touched his soul and he kept listening to it. After some time the idea to work with Manganiyar musicians on a large scale was born! And today we celebrate proudly more than 100 shows!
IE: And finally, what are your other plans for the near future? Will you be going on tour again any time soon?
Mame Khan: Besides being most of the time on tour till the end of this year, we plan our final studio sessions in Jaipur in the beginning of January 2015. Future plans are all about the album, finding the right partner to release it, and going on tour to spread the joy!