Making Waves – Backstage with Maru Tarang

‘Maru Tarang’, whose English name is ‘Ripples of the Desert’ (the name is also inspired, in part, by ‘Maru’ the heroine of the Rajasthani love saga ‘Dhola-Maru’; Tarang, on the other hand, means ‘waves’), is a collaboration that evolved out of a residency at Mehrangarh Fort in 2011 when musicians Jeff Lang (now 44), and Asin Khan Langa (now 26), first met. The group comprises Lang (on guitar), Asin (sarangi), Bobby Singh (tabla), 38, and Bhungar Khan Manganiyar (khartal), 28. Now, two years later, ten minutes before their performance at Jodhpur Riff, three members of the group are waiting backstage with another big group of Manganiyar musicians who will perform after them. Singh and Lang indulge in light banter. Next to them, Khan sits silently. Asin is nowhere to be seen.

Maru Tarang has only performed together “maybe once a year so far”, according to Lang, in the two years since they formed. But when they do get together they have a packed schedule. In the few days they’ve spent together at Jodhpur so far they have, in addition to rehearsals for their show, taken out time to make a record. “We snuck away into a studio in Jodhpur and recorded the repertoire we had worked out,” says Lang. “We haven’t been able to add too much to it in terms of material but the way the four of us react to one another’s music has definitely got some new richness and depth to it.” Lang believes the camaraderie shared by the group has filtered into their music. The team seems happy with what they have done. “I think it went well. It’s always good to get together with them,” says Khan of the recording. Lang will get back to Australia and master the mix to make it sound as good as it can. Besides this, earlier in the day, Maru Tarang also managed to squeeze in time for a video shoot on the terrace of Mehrangarh Fort for the online music show BalconyTV. Lang is the liveliest of the lot, and always game to fool around. Once, during this shoot, he pretended to push Singh off the terrace (this gave everyone quite a start because the terrace is without a railing and leads to a very steep fall).

It is now minutes before Maru Tarang is due to perform and they stand by the stage joined, finally, by Asin. They are calm. The mad rush of the first two days of the festival seems to have led on to a sense of control. The organizers and volunteers too appear to be running the show with greater ease, as if on auto-pilot. Around the Fort, artists who performed in the past two days are hanging out together, talking, drinking, waiting to watch the evening’s performances. Maru Tarang is the first act on this last night of Jodhpur Riff 2013. As they are being introduced on stage, they shake hands and pat each other on the back.

On stage, Maru Tarang is that rare act where the joy the musicians feel in collaborating with one another is almost tangible. The group sits in a way that they are half facing the audience, and half facing one another.Each collaborator keeps making eye contact with the other, and listens intently to what is being played in order to be able to “keep up”, as Lang puts it. At points Asin’s voice soars powerfully over everything. The performance ends with a delightful jugalbandi. Every member of Maru Tarang is grinning widely as they take a bow. So is the audience.


(Image: Maru Tarang perform. By Kavi Bhansali / JodhpurRiff. )