Artist Profiles: Maharaja

Maharaja – Photo by Dah Len

Maharaja – Formerly known as Musafir, Maharaja was a group that gathers the leading musician tribal castes of the desert of Rajasthan, India, the land of some of the richest and most diverse traditions in Indian art and culture, delimited by the Swamps of Kutch, in Gujarat at South, the Arawalli mountains at East and by the Sindh, in Pakistan in the West.

Outrageously elegant and beautiful, malicious and majestic, these musicians, poets and shamans reflected their music and their sumptuous surrounding. A music of ecstasy, a whirlwind of climaxes punctuated by the gentle gesture of a breathtaking tune. An authentic magical experience.

The ancestors of these musicians played an important role in spreading the teachings of the many sects of mystics, Sufi and Bhakti movements, through singing ballads and devotional songs. For the warriors, they were familiar figures on the battlefield where their praise of past heroes and their exploits through epic tales, plus their ridicule of the enemy would encourage bravery and boost morale.

This heartfelt music of pure pleasure and pain was highly communicative and captivating for worldwide audiences though it originated from pure no man’s land and is the primitive (Jhangra) form of North Indian classical music.

Still, westerners would groove at a sound in the midst of their best Arabic, Indian and Gypsy scale of references to their rich and highly refined repertory of Folk, Devotional, Praise and Epic songs, music, dance and performance and be amazed by their rich-looking cinematic appeal.

The actors of Maharaja were more magic peoples than artists and this music can certainly not be directed.

Living like simple villagers at heart in the most remote area of the desert where the 21st century does not exist, the members of Maharaja were often described like the Gypsies of Rajasthan which they are not, ethnically speaking, gypsies, but the music they played still represented what was played at the time of the great migration.

Maharaja – Photo by Bela Kasa

Also by the fact of their low status (nik jat) they used to be serves and not allowed to own land, can assimilate them to the discrimination suffered by the Gypsies in Europe.

Maharaja was just a new name for the Rajasthani group Musafir who achieved worldwide success and dazzled audiences from Tokyo to San Francisco. They recorded a side project: Maharaja Flamenca featuring Flamenco wizards from Andalusia. Maharaja Flamenca appeared for the first time at the at the international world music convention, WOMEX 2000 in Berlin, and was reported to be one of the highlights of the conference’s showcases.

Maharaja was part of El Tiempo de los Gitanos tour in Europe and the Gypsy Caravan tour in the US and was on tour from April 2001 till November 2002.

The group’s first album under the name Maharaja came out in October of 2001. It was an experience of Sufi trance by the master gypsy musicians from Rajasthan. 786, is the numerology which stands for the verse of Bismillah, a Muslim blessing. Astonishingly, these numbers aggregation relates also to the Hindu Lord Hari Krishna.

Discography:

Maharaja Flamenca
786 (2001)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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