Requiem for an Unknown Musician

The humble musician had put kamyancha on world stage

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published:August 12, 2013 5:08 am

Almost two decades ago,a concert held at the Cirque Royal auditorium in Brussels made the world sit up. Titled “From the Sitar to the Guitar” and organised by the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation,it was one of the first few concerts to explore the age-old relationship between Spanish flamenco and Rajasthani music. At the helm was Yehudi Menuhin along with Pt Ravi Shankar and Sakar Khan — a little-known kamyancha (a folk fiddle made from goat skin) player,for whom it was just another day of performance. Sakar spoke Marwari,did not know Menuhin or understand the importance of the concert,but fell in love with the sound of that thundering applause in the end. “That is what he would crave for after every performance,” says Firoze Khan,Sakar’s son.

Sakar,the grandmaster of the famous Manganiyar community,took the humble and ancient Rajasthani instrument to the world stage by performing with a slew of international artistes,including George Harrison in London. He died on Saturday morning — a day after his birthday — post bouts of breathlessness in the sleepy village of Hamira. Sakar is survived by his wife Bubba Devi,four sons and two daughters.

A 2012 Padma Shri awardee,Sakar wasn’t a known face in the music circuit. So it wasn’t a surprise when the social network,a medium known to go manic when it comes to the demise of artistes,was relatively quiet on Saturday. Sakar did not even exist for so many of them. “He was a folk artiste who reached world stage purely by way of his merit. He did not even know what publicity meant. But give him his kamyancha and the man was a rockstar,though an unknown one,” said Grammy winner Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt,who had worked with Sakar.

Sakar’s last major concert was at Delhi’s Amarrass Music Festival where he was invited by the festival organisers Ankur Malhotra and Ashutosh Sharma,who made analogue recordings of his music and presented them in the form of his first album at the age of 73. It was also Sakar’s last record. “This man gave his life to an instrument which people in this country don’t even know about. Yet I can’t remember a day when life was easy for us. Such artistes need encouragement from the authorities to continue their art form,” concludes Firoz.

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