Dapu Khan Mirasi is 58 years old Khamaicha player. He has been playing in Jaisalmer for past 30 years and lives in a small village named Bhadali. Dapu started learning when he was a child along with his younger brother. They used to sit with khamiacha with their father and from there they started learning and playing the instrument. He has self-composed songs in raag pahadi, rana and malhar. Initially when he started playing sitting at his home the entire neighborhood gathered around his house and listen him playing which gave him a motive in life and that was to pursue this great art of his ancestors. Dapu Khan every day sits at the queen’s palace at Jaisalmer fort with his Khamaicha playing for tourist coming from all over the world. He has make this spot his pet spot since many years back the district collector requested him to showcase the famous Khamicha and welcome the guests entering the Jaisalmer Fort. He has been sitting at this spot since last 25 years and it provides a portion of living for him and his family. Dapu has performed in almost all the major cities in India. He has even played in White House for the then President of the USA, Mr. Bill Clinton who had come to India few years back to Jodhpur and heard Dapu Khan playing with his group.
In the amidst sea of sand Dapu Khan and his group carries a 1500 years old legacy in their powerful soulful music. As per stories the Gandharv Kanyas used to dance in the famous Hindu God Indra’s court with musicians playing for them in his court. The Gardharv’s vowed to always perform when the musicians would play. As time passed the Mughal rulers came to Delhi and married the Gandharvs and promised the musicians that they would always be taken care of in their courts. Thus the musicians started playing in King’s court and converted their religion into Muslims. Since then these musicians are known as Mirasirs and play for Royals.
At present, the group has four members, who together plays at various occasions in temples and royal court on auspicious occasions. They perform at all the occasions held at Bhatis (royal lineage) and most importantly they visit their temples during the Devi Pooja. The Rajputs have been inviting them for more than 500 years now to all their weddings, in fact the wedding processions initiate only after the performance of Mirasirs. Together they have performed all over in India at various weddings, festivals, etc.
Sitting atop the Jaisalmer Fort and amongst the last of artists to carry forward the legacy of an instrument as old as time, Dapu Khan ji has been entertaining people from around the world since thirty years.
As one visits him in his native village and wonders what keeps Dapu ji travel a hundred and fifty miles daily, then walk all the way up to the Queen’s Palace, he steps in with a polite voice, “This Khamaicha here! There are very few people left who play this; some of them in Pakistan and a bunch of us here in India. If we stop playing the world will be denied of a wonderful sound.”
Khamaicha is the oldest instrument in recorded history of Rajasthani folk culture and is regarded as the favorite instrument of Hindu Gods. And sitting all day at the portals of the rampart yet living Fort of Jaisalmer, one may mistake Dapu ji from his humble appearance; but he has played at the White House amongst other prestigious venues and in this journey his biggest support has been his nephews Kailash and Jassu, and his son Ridhu who join him on the stage to create magic.
Born to a family of the ancient Miraasi tribe, Dapu Khan’s family history goes back to a time when Gandharv Kanyas (maidens) used to dance in the courts of Hindu God Indra and as much as the group takes pride in their cultural heritage, the young members of the group Ridhu, Jassu and Kailash are enthusiastic about their Folk and are working towards keeping the light shining and pass on the legacy to coming generations.
While Dapu ji’s fragile hands set the mood for the group’s performances, young Jassu dons the Dholak and Khartaal to provide a rhythm. In his ten years of playing he has traveled all over India, much like his brother Ridhu who composes his own songs to give a modern touch to this age-old art. Time made them realize formal education will not be of much help, being from the small village in the conflict-ridden land near India-Pakistan LOC and they took no time in joining Dapu Ji in following their family tradition of performing Folk music to entertain people. They’re both still training under Dapu ji, even as they have been performing since more than a decade.
Kailash completes the group with harmonium and vocals and wittingly recalls how he found his freedom when his teacher asked him to perform on the occasion of Independence Day celebrations in his school. Search for work and a source of earning lead him to Pune and eventually Mumbai, but fortune lead him back to his roots in the form of a neglected harmonium in a furniture shop he used to work in.
As the group recalls their times playing together, a smile breaks on their face and they admit the fact that there have been more struggles than laurels. At the same time, they are content with what they have achieved, and the respect they get from people across India and abroad has motivated fellow villagers to send their children to Dapu Khan ji to learn these timeless melodies.