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Snake charmers and saxophones


DESERT RAIN: Each of the band members belongs to a family of musicians

They rock - to Rajasthani folk. Their band has it all: from the saxophone to the khartal. With a fresh sound and an upbeat mood, Jaipur Beats, as the young rockers call their band, gives new meaning to fusion. In Delhi for their first out-of-Rajasthan performance, the young, fivemember group - the oldest one is 24 - is strumming its way to success, one step at a time, pacing their triumphs, focusing on their music.

Jaipur Beats was formed as a band barely a year ago. Individual members were with other bands or performing solo. "We've known each other since we were kids. We played separately on different occasions. Then we thought, why not play together?" says Dinesh Sapera, who - as his name suggests - belongs to a community of snakecharmers who live on the outskirts of Jaipur. Dinesh plays the darbhuka, kagon, ocean drum and the khartal among other percussion instruments in the band. "We mainly play Rajasthani folk music. The classical touch is that of the Sikar gharana of Rajasthan, " says Faruk.

Not that they're averse to what sells: Bollywood is always welcome. "Sometimes we play Bollywood songs too, on public demand, " he laughs. Some of their compositions also have an Arab flavour, while the saxophone lends a western tone. "If we also start playing rock like everyone else, then how do we stand out?" asks Dinesh.

Ever since they formed the band, life's been a fight, if a wholly desirable one. They say they quarelled all the time as kids and even today that has not changed and there's a vociferous consensus that they disagree a lot. "We fight over everything, over what we'll wear, what we'll play at the shows, " says Kayam. "But we can't stay upset with each other for too long, " Faruk adds fondly.
The youngsters' vocation as musicians was a natural progression. Every group member - Dinesh Sapera, Faruk Khan, Arif Khan, Kayam Ali and Feroze Ali - belongs to a family of musicians, and all of them received their education in music at home. While Arif's (sitar player) father plays the harmonium, Faruk's (who plays the sarangi and is a vocalist) and Feroze's (who plays the saxophone, flute and the morchang) teach music. Kayam's father is a music teacher while Sapera's mother is a fusion dancer who has performed around the world with French musician Thierry 'Titi' Robin.

They say they've given themselves fulltime to music - most of them as early as post-class X. "We know this is what we want to do then what's the point of doing something else? Even at home, the only pressure we've had is to be regular with our riyaaz, " explains Kayam, the band's tabla player. Dinesh is in the second year of his BA, but graduation is a formality, not a goal.

Interestingly, Firoz was a tailor before he became a musician, and chose a different guru despite there being a teacher at home. "A Frenchman who used to play the saxophone came to our house to learn music from my father. I was fascinated by the saxophone. He jokingly said that we could work out an exchange wherein he learnt music from my father and in return would teach me, " he says. But he took it seriously, and found himself in Paris for the next five years learning how to play the saxophone.

The band also had a sixth member specially for their Delhi tour. Dancer Rakhi Sapera, Dinesh's sister, picked up her Kalbeliya dancing skills at home from her mother. "We come from a snake-charmer community. I was least interested in dance. I wanted to be a fashion designer. Then I saw that people from other countries would come to learn Kalbeliya dance from my mother. Then it struck me, it's something that I'm receiving as a legacy and I must take it up, " says Rakhi, who has been dancing now for the past eight years and hasn't looked back. She is also the first formally educated girl in her family and plans to set up her own eventmanagement company.

In Jaipur, the music scene is open to the kind of music the band plays and they get about two to three shows every month. They had been looking for a platform to launch them, and found one. The band qualified for the television reality show, India's Got Talent, and have given a good account of themselves in Mumbai. For the primary auditions, they were required to make a demo music video, which they got a friend - an amateur cameraperson - to shoot for them at Dinesh's farmhouse.

Shows every month, a video in hand, a qualification at India's Got Talent - what's stopping them from releasing an album? "We'll get to that slowly, " says Dinesh. "We need a lot of other things right now. We need to put in some more instruments, we also need a manager since all of us are busy with practice, " say Kayam and Faruk.

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