Mcleodganj in Himachal, is a very colourful little town. On top of having a very varied crowd with tibetans, foreigners and many Indians holidayers, we often see musicians playing by the road side. The music is so beautiful that I repeatedly found myself hypnotised by the sound. So I did some research that I want to now share with you.
As it turns out these musicians are Banjaras, one of the nomadic tribes of Rajasthan, a northern Indian state bordering Pakistan. Rajasthan has long seen nomadic tribes playing musical instruments on the streets in order to earn their keep. In Medieval India, rich landowners even bought street musicians along with new tracts of land. In return for food, shelter and protection, the nomadic Banjara musicians would sing the landowner’s praises, including their lineage and noble actions. They have now settled into a semi-nomadic existence, using whatever resources they command – doing jobs, entertaining, even farming – to make a living. Banjara art is rich and includes performance arts such as dance and music to folk and textile embroidery, tattooing and painting. The Banjara embroidery and tattooing are especially prized and also form a significant aspect of the Banjara identity.