A tradition dating back 1,800 years came alive at the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival on Thursday, as a group of young Merasi singers from Rajasthan — most of them children — took the stage.
The delighted audience danced in their seats, with many even rising to their feet to shake a leg to the Merasis’ tunes.
Dressed in the bright reds and yellows of their traditional Jaisalmeri kurtas and turbans, a group of 23 musicians — with only four adults among them — performed songs and jugalbandis to the accompaniment of traditional instruments.
The performances by the children, the youngest of whom was just six, had the audience enthralled. And the final performance — ‘Dama dam mast qalandar’ — brought the crowd to its feet in a standing ovation.
“Back home we are still treated like beggars, but here we were treated like stars,” said Sarwar Khan, 42, the eldest of the group. “That’s why we love coming to Kala Ghoda. Here, we are seen as artistes.”
For those attending the event, organised as part of the Pepe Jeans music section of the Kala Ghoda festival, the electricity of the performance was thrilling.
“That energy was unbelievable. And the music just made you want to dance,” said Aditi Mittal, 25, a college student from Malad.
Added Aunja Sharma, 27, a Colaba resident who works with an NGO: “The kids were so cute. I couldn’t stop smiling, watching them go crazy on the stage.”
The applause, the audience reactions and the standing ovation made the Merasis’ day. “In Jaisalmer, we can’t even enter most restaurants and schools because we are from a low caste, and here people clap for us. This is a big deal for us,” said Khan.
Jayshree Gupta, 35, an audience member who stood up and danced in excitement, summed up the Merasis’ charm. “Here are musicians not appreciated in their own home, but their passion for their art makes them go on. That’s the best part,” she said.
Speaking after his performance, Irfan Khan, the electric six-year-old, said he was very happy to be in the city, and then went on to express amazement over a rather unrelated matter — the size of the buildings in Mumbai. “We live in jhopris back home, so this is unbelievable. They are so tall,” he said, grinning.
Sahil Khan, 7, added that he had performed on stage for the first time. “I am finding it hard to take it all in,” he said. “I can’t believe that so many people came to see us. It feels like a dream.”