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Where the Heart Sings:

In search of Kutch’s music legacy

“Without music, life would be a mistake” – the Kutchi lifestyle, until quite recently, exemplified this Nietzsche quote. It was to find this lost legacy that we were headed to Rudrani.

Where the Heart Sings

‘Lost’, for the shift in economic structures have ruptured the once- self-sufficient fabric that Kutch had – where the easy-paced life gave its people both freedom and time to indulge in music and crafts. It was a time when folk musicians were held in high regard, and art was developed for arts sake.

About an hour’s drive from Bhuj, as our Mahindra XUV500 sped on NH 341, we awaited to see what the Rudrani experience would bring. In store was an exciting collaboration project with the local musicians of Gujarat, to reinvent traditional, folk tunes.

Our cars came to a halt at the tiny village built atop a dry, rugged landscape of rocky browns, fringed by greens, with a streak of blue (the flowing Khari) in the distance, edged by low hills. Taking in the setting, we stepped into a most unlikely and charming music studio – in a circular, mud hut, its walls painted over in striking, coloured patterns and motifs, characteristic of Gujarat. It is from here that pioneer Bharmal Sanjot ran his dream – the Kala Varso Trust, founded in 2012.

As we sipped on cups of steaming tea, Bharmal bhai regaled us with the richness of Kutchi music, and his single-minded intent of founding the Trust – to rekindle and preserve this unique heritage. When asked, what is the one song that narrates his own story, he smiled and replied ‘Mann mast hua… There is no other explanation for how my heart found its devotion in this cause’.

Run entirely by local artists, the Kala Varso Trust is a benchmark model where the locals take upon themselves the complete onus of bringing the change they need. At the nucleus of its endeavour is the revival of the charming Kutchi tradition of reyan, or folk music gatherings, that, once a month, bring together musicians from all parts of Gujarat to Kutch, some travelling from as far as 300 kms away.

Eight of these artists had now come to Rudrani to make music with us!

Bharmal bhai pointed out, ‘It’s not possible to take the society back to the old traditional roots of localised economic structures. In order to sustain the folk music of Kachchh today, we have to connect with the audience globally’.

The day was surreal as people and sounds unheard of came together to create music, in a quaint studio hut, invisible on Google maps. The eclectic group of folk musicians included one of the only three morchang (mouth harp) players in all of Kutch, two sisters - the only two Kutchi women singers, two Kabirvani musicians who had travelled eight hours to get here, and a joria pava (double-flute) player. Both morchang and joria pava, we learnt, were invented by the maldhari (or herder’s) community to kill their loneliness in the fields. While the musicians in our group, seven in all, came not just from across India, but as far as South America!

The gathering – of self-made musicians, and self-invented instruments – turned electric as the saxophone and drums kept beat with the morchang and dholak, and a soprano verse added pitch to a familiar folk tune.

Two days, and three new song recordings, later the air rang of magic as a folk music video came to life, shot in the wide, open Rann with musicians coming from across the globe – under a sky that seemed to sway to the music as it changed colour with the setting sun!

‘Junoon ye kar ke mar jana hai!’, as the two Bharot sisters shared their passion for music, we knew it was only this that had made the last two days come true!