Strings of Heritage: SAZ’s Innovation in Rajasthan’s Folk Landscape

Anithya Balachandran | December 17, 2023 | Life

In the rich mosaic of human existence, music stands as a universal language, a bridge connecting diverse cultures and communities. Among the myriad forms of musical expression, folk music emerges as a resonant thread, weaving tales of heritage, identity, and shared history. Embedded within the very fabric of our societies, folk music transcends time, echoing the narratives of generations past and present. In the heart of this cultural symphony, the Rajasthani trio Saz not only embraces the ancient melodies of their heritage but also ingeniously transforms and propels the folk tradition they hold dear. Through their artistry, Saz breathes new life into the ancestral sounds of Rajasthan, skillfully preserving its essence while boldly carrying it into the future.

Derived from the names Sadiq, Asin, and Zakir Khan, SAZ stands as a dynamic folk trio rooted in the vibrant Langa community of Rajasthan. Their musical journey unfolds as they embrace the timeless gift of traditional songs handed down by their ancestors. These melodies, rich with cultural significance, have been carefully preserved through generations. However, SAZ now finds themselves at a pivotal juncture where they yearn to present this musical heritage to the current world in a distinctive light.

Rather than merely reinterpreting classics, SAZ harbours a deep-seated desire to create original compositions that embody the spirit of their heritage. The trio recognises the importance of crafting music that not only pays homage to the past but also paves the way for a unique, contemporary musical identity. In their pursuit, SAZ aspires to contribute to a legacy of songs that are not borrowed but authentically belong to them, resonating with the essence of their cultural roots while adding a fresh and innovative perspective. This transformative approach reflects their commitment to musical evolution and the creation of a legacy that extends beyond the realms of traditional renditions.

SAZ’s collaboration with Rhys Sebastian

From a tender age, Sadiq Khan found solace in the rhythmic beats of the dholak, commencing his musical journey at the age of eight. Simultaneously, Asin Khan embarked on mastering the sindhi sarangi, an instrument exclusive to Rajasthan’s Langa community, under the tutelage of his father. The third virtuoso of the ensemble, Zakir, ventured into the realm of percussion, skillfully navigating the intricacies of the khartal, while concurrently honing his vocal prowess alongside Asin.

Today, these three maestros are heralded as prodigious talents within their local milieu. Their collective expertise positions them as torchbearers of tradition and innovation, seamlessly blending the ancient melodies with contemporary expressions. As guardians of a musical legacy, Sadiq, Asin, and Zakir are unwavering in their commitment to imparting their profound insights to the younger generation. They are resolute in their mission to mentor aspiring musicians, mirroring the guidance they once received, thereby ensuring the perpetuity of Rajasthan’s rich musical heritage.

Interwoven with the fabric of SAZ’s artistry is the intrinsic connection to the Jajmani tradition back home. Originating from the Langa community, they actively participate in this age-old practice, where each family is intricately linked to a patron, diligently maintaining their genealogical records for generations. From their early years, caste has been a pervasive theme, shaping the very essence of SAZ’s artistic narrative.

(L-R) Sadiq, Asin, and Zakir Khan; Kathak dancer Tarini Tripathi collaborating with SAZ

Beyond the borders of their cultural milieu, SAZ’s performances have transcended conventional boundaries, sparking ingenious collaborations with a diverse array of international artists. Noteworthy among these collaborations is their partnership with the exceptional jazz saxophonist Rhys Sebastian in the ‘Cool Desert Project.’ Additionally, they have ventured into the creation of ‘Maru Tarang’ alongside Australian blues artists Jeff Lang and Bobby Singh. Through these extraordinary collaborations, SAZ not only extends the reach of their musical influence but also fosters a global dialogue that transcends cultural and geographical confines.

In the resonant melodies of SAZ, we witness not merely a preservation of Rajasthan’s musical heritage but a transformative journey that melds tradition into the future. Sadiq, Asin, and Zakir, as young maestros, masterfully navigate the intricate landscapes of their ancestral instruments, transcending borders and collaborating with international virtuosos. Their performances stand as a testament to the power of music to bridge cultures and generations. Through their unique artistry, SAZ not only honours the past but charts a course for a musical legacy that echoes across time and borders, enriching the global soundscape with the soulful echoes of Rajasthan.

Words by Anithya Balachandran.
Image courtesy SAZ.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like