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Komal Kothari
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Komal Kothari
(1929-2004)
It is hard to categorize Komal Kothari. Though he was not an academic, he had close associations with some of the most renowned scholars in the field of Rajasthan Studies through his insights into folklore, ethnomusicology, and the traditional knowledge systems of Rajasthan.

In the world of performance, he is recognized as one of the pioneers of Rajasthani folk music who was largely responsible for organizing the repertoire and mobilizing the exposure of folk musicians to national and international audiences.

In activist circles, he is widely respected for his concrete understanding of the ecological value of traditional water harvesting systems and local practices relating to agriculture, irrigation, and waste management.

At a more intimate level, he is remembered as an animated conversationalist who could hold the attention of his numerous listeners for hours on end. Whether he was talking to an academic or a villager, he could make extraordinary connections across knowledge systems with a simplicity and directness that made him a phenomenal communicator.
 
Komalda with Musicians Musicians with Komalda
 
His journey began in the village of Borunda in close association with his friend and master story-teller Vijay Dan Detha. Together they built the grassroots institution of Rupayan Sansthan committed to the study and exploration of Rajasthani folk culture through a vast spectrum of narratives, epics, and songs in relation to agriculture, the caste structure, indigenous land categories, the ownership of water, among many other critical aspects of everyday life.

As the first Secretary of the Sangeet Natak Akademi in Jodhpur, he began to explore the musical traditions of the Langa and Manganiar communities. It is hard to believe that in the late 1950s, these traditions were totally scattered and barely known outside of their respective locations. Today the musicians from these communities have travelled the world, performing in some of the most prestigious festivals and concert venues. The self-respect and growing economic stability of these communities can be largely attributed to Komal Kothari's intervention, which extended beyond purely musical considerations to embrace the social and economic realities of folk musicians.

From the late 1980s onwards, Komal Kothari shifted base back to his home-town of Jodhpur where his work deepened with the sustained support of grants from the Ford Foundation. His activity continued on multiple fronts--the recording and collection of folk music, oral history, genealogy, and performance traditions; the organization of musical concerts, seminars, and workshops; and interventions in the areas of ecology and local knowledge within the larger contexts of modernity and the global economy.

Perhaps, it is not altogether surprising that all these priorities should have inspired Komal Kothari to build a museum where the different knowledge systems of the desert could be consolidated. Towards the end of his life, he devoted most of his time to building the infrastructure of this museum. Though he passed away before the museum could be built, he is fondly remembered as its founder and visionary.
 
At home with the musicians Komalda at a workshop with students
Laying the foundation of the museum
 
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