Semi-nomadic Langar and Manganiyar musicians were in times past responsible for providing the soundtrack to weddings and other festivities in Rajasthan. Today, the courtyards of luxury hotels in Jaipur and Jaisalmer tend to be where you’re most likely to encounter their descendants, singing songs of love and heroism inspired by the deeds of their desert ancestors – in a style reminiscent of Sufi qawwali and Hindu devotional hymns.
Around Udaipur and Pushkar, members of the Kalbelia community dominate local culture shows. Here, though, it’s the women rather than their husbands, brothers and sons who take centre stage, dressed in sparkling red-and-black skirts and veils spangled with silver ribbons and sequins, which unfurl sensuously as their spinning dances gather pace. Kabelias traditionally earned their living as itinerant snake catchers, and their dances are supposed to imitate the hypnotic movement of swaying cobras. One of the main accompanying instruments played by the men is the ‘pungi’ – the reed pipe traditionally used by Indian snake charmers.
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