Music of the Thar Desert, Rajasthan – 22/08/2017

af web

Daniel Beban presents ….
Music of the Thar Desert, Rajasthan (60mins).

A feature-length radiophonic sound documentary about traditional musicians of the Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India. Followed by a Q&A and projections of images of the musicians and the desert area.


The music of the Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India, has evolved into one of the world’s most unique and highly developed musical traditions. The desert area is the furtherest western part of India, bordering Pakistan. The musicians of this arid land have maintained a continuous musical lineage for over 1000 years. Those of the musician castes are born into musical families, trained at a young age in the instruments and songs particular to their caste. These low-caste, professional musicians rely on a system of patronage from families that supply the food, land, livestock and money they need to survive. In return they perform for their patrons’ ceremonies of births, weddings and deaths.

But the sands and sounds of the Thar Desert are shifting. Global economics has arrived in the desert in recent decades, bringing with it water, electricity, large-scale agriculture and corporate investment. The patron families of the desert villages, many of whom are subsistence farmers, are leaving their land and moving to cities to take up new jobs. This, in turn, is forcing the musicians to leave their villages in search for income. Some perform for tourists at hotels, others work in unrelated trades, as truck drivers and labourers. A lucky few tour the world, performing at international festivals as acclaimed Indian folk musicians.

This documentary looks at the rich, ancient musical tradition of the Thar Desert and the challenges it is facing adapting to the modern world.


In 2013 Daniel Beban was based in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, working on a film documentary by British film maker Diana Mavroleon. The recordings he made of dozens of musicians of different castes, interviews with musicians and researchers, and field recordings of the sound-world of the desert area have been collaged together to make this documentary.


Tuesday 22 August @ Audio Foundation, doors open 7.00pm