A Lilting Legacy Lives On

It was in the era that Maharaja Sumer Singh of Kishangarh captured live voices of legends like Lalitabai, Allah Jillai Bai, Gauhar Jaan Niyaz and Gauri Bai, leaving a lilting legacy for his son, the present Maharaja Brajraj Singh of Kishangarh to revive with assistance from Royal Fables and Music Today.

Music revivalist, His Highness Maharaja Brajraj Singh of Kishangarh celebrated his latest enthralling project of Rajasthani Durbar music 4-pack CD to revive the legacy of music that filled the royal courts of Rajasthan in the past which included the melodious renditions of semi-classical and folk court music include genres like thumri and mand singing style.

In conversation with artist, performer and vocalist Vidya Shah, Maharaja Brajraj Singh proclaims his lilting legacy.

Vidya Shah: Your father was known to be a generous patron and saw the worth of Kishangarh’s rich culture. How did this journey begin?

HH Kishangarh: My father was an avid lover of living the great life. Hewas also a music enthusiast with a special interest in Rajasthani music. In the late 1950s, he started recording artists on spool tapes at home.  These rare voices have been captured and preserved over the years and it took me three years to get it right.

Vidya Shah:Rajasthan is known for its beautiful colours, music and craft. How do you connect your compilation of dance music to this rich culture?

HH Kishangarh: Dance music dates back to the colourful Gangaur festival that celebrates Shiva and Parvati where women pray to get a good husband. These women take to singing and dancing the ghoomar. My father encouraged the women of Kishangarh to take up this folk dance. This then turned into a three-day festival at the Kishangarh fort. The CD is inspired by these dance performances which adds a nostalgic touch to the music of the royal era. However, the women from royal families were not allowed to dance in public as it was socially unacceptable. Thus, they had to cover their heads in a ghoonghat.

Vidya Shah: Can you tell us about a few of the musical instruments that were used?

HH Kishangarh: The instruments that were integral to Rajasthani dance music were the ‘dhol’, which was for the purpose of dancing and the ‘bankiya’, which was something like a trumpet. These are accompanied by a harmonium, ‘sarangi’ and ‘majeera’ which are all essential in Rajasthani music.

Vidya Shah: What are these songs about and what inspired their creation?

HH Kishangarh: In Rajasthan, there is a song for every occasion which makes this music beautiful as every song has a message. Combing music with dance has been a thrill and maintaining this tradition is what I plan on doing.

For Maharaja Brajraj Singh of Kishangarh, his Rajasthani dance music CD is his way of contributing to the revival of classical Indian folk music and inspiring the folk musicians of today to not forget their classical roots.