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23.10.2013

Before Hauz Khas Village, there was Paharganj. With it's meandering lanes, oddball shops and certified viewing of at least a few dreadlocks, this was Delhi's hippie lair. And we reckon you can still catch a few strumming a tune if you make your way to Rajasthan Musical Emporium.

I Wanna Folk You

Launched by Irfan Ali almost seven years ago, this small space is crowded with folk musical instruments from around the world. Tablas, dholaks, mridangams line the floors while different guitars hang from the ceiling, a glass case holds deep red snake beens and other colourful flutes, and a shrutibox, sarod, and sitar sit pretty in a corner. Musical chairs?

They also stock the kalimba – a folk instrument from sub-Saharan Africa, popularised in contemporary musical culture by the R&B & soul-funk band Earth, Wind and Fire. Made of coconut shells, it has a row of tines on a beautifully painted wooden head that are plucked for playing, hence referred to as the thumb piano.

Irfan’s pride and joy, however, lies in bamboo and fibre imported didgeridoos, which you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the city (we called to check with bigger music daddy Bharat Music House - they didn't have any). All the way from Australia, the didgeridoo has been used extensively in acid jazz band Jamiroquai’s music. Played like a trumpet or a drone pipe, it can literally knock the wind out of you. Irfan shares that while most of the didgeridoo customers in Delhi come from Hauz Khas Village, skilled instructors are difficult to find and potential students might see that Google and YouTube tutorials are their best bet. Serious about your music? Consider a hike up to Rishikesh, where didgeridoos are made and taught.

Don’t Funk With My Heart

A deeper inventory of the shop reveals a collection of iktara, dotara, gopichand, ravanahatha (an ancient bowed fiddle once played by princes and now mostly used by gypsies of Rajasthan), a morchang (a horseshoe shaped wind percussion instrument in iron, brass and copper varieties) Turkish darbuka, a Persian daf (a frame drum resembling a large tambourine), an African djembe, an Afghanirabab, and other cool instruments.

They also stock the kalimba – a folk instrument from sub-Saharan Africa, popularised in contemporary musical culture by the R&B & soul-funk band Earth, Wind and Fire. Made of coconut shells, it has a row of tines on a beautifully painted wooden head that are plucked for playing, hence referred to as the thumb piano.

We end the musical evening with an impromptu morchang and kalimba tutorial from Irfan, who taught himself how to play these instruments. Pocketing a brass morchang as a keepsake (and hopefully for solo jam sessions later), we decide to let our guitars gently weep tonight.

Getting There: Rajasthan Musical Emporium, Shop No. 5133, Main Bazaar, Paharganj, call 8882392234, Rs 1500 for a bamboo didgeridoo, Rs 1100 for a kalimba.

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