A Hundred Charmers in Concert

Dutt, Bahar, a wildlife conservationist, has been working with the snake charmers community for the last 5 years. She has been working on issues related to traditional livelihoods and their conflict with wildlife conservation. She currently is supported by a fellowship with the Environmental Equity and Justice Partnership Initiative.

'A Hundred Charmers', a music concert by the Joginath clan of snake charmers, who originally hail from Rajasthan, was organized by Craft Revival Trust and Friends of Snakes in New Delhi on December 17th at the India Habitat Centre.

The concert was attended by over 600 people including Ms Sheila Dikshit Chief Minister of Delhi, who was the Chief Guest, and was a huge success giving some reprieve to a community that is facing a ban on their occupation.

Friends of Snakes is a project of the Jeevika Foundation that has been working closely with the snake charmers for the last 6 years. They aim to assist them in finding livelihoods which are close to their culture but not in violation of wildlife laws.

Over 70 "Joginaths", or snake charmers clad in colourful turbans and bright orange attires, performed with their Beens, Thumbas and Khanjaris (all musical instruments). "We have come here from four States. The ban on keeping snakes has stopped us from staging shows. Because of the ban, we are jobless, and it is difficult to earn our living. We want that our traditional snake shows should not vanish. We request the Government to give us licenses to perform"- was the lament of the snake charmers.

The hallmark of the concert was the playing of 'Amazing Grace', the Scottish tune. The concert was directed by Roysten Abel. "We get to know about the problem and I know that the tradition is slowly vanishing day by day. And it is the duty of the society and the Government also to look out for the snake charmers," said Dikshit. "It is our responsibility - both the Government's and the society's - to sustain their music. We will not let their art become history," she added. Dikshit also announced that the newly constructed Central Park in Connaught Place would be inaugurated by the snake charmers.

In fact following the concert, the snake charmers have been flooded with offers to play at musical concerts, events and festivals which will give them a reasonable livelihood. They have also been approached by a leading music company for recording an album with them. The concert thus has been a successful first step towards reviving the much forgotten musical talents of the snake charmer community.

Also see Meha Desai's Photo Essay on A Hundred Charmers in Concert

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