NAT  Jhavar Khan-1627622804746
Jhavar Khan belongs to a clan of traditional folk singers from the Sikar district of of Rajasthan in India. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: This penniless but talented Indian folk singer could certainly pull at your heartstrings. He's on a visit to UAE and was recently seen asking passers-by for food here. The poor job-seeker had traversed several kilometres on foot in searing heat.

Fortunately, a generous Indian expatriate who knew about Indian classical music, found the destitute man, and asked him to sing a tune. The tired man complied. His rendition was shared through a video clip. Jhavar was soon invited to perform at a local music institute — Malhar Centre for Performing Arts in Dubai. He sang straight from the heart, moving everyone to tears. 

‘Music courses through my veins’

Jhavar, 32, belongs to a clan of traditional folk singers from the Sikar district of the state of Rajasthan, India. With little basic education to his credit, all that the youth has really managed to learn is Hindustani (Indian) classical vocals. Jhavar told Gulf News: “I wish I had gone to a good school and been educated. I have some basic education in the Hindi language from a municipal school. Our family traditionally performed at weddings and other social occasions. Therefore, this is what I have grown up with — music courses through my veins.”

Just hand him the harmonium and Jhavar is in his elements, singing with ease some of the most nuanced folk songs. “In the last four months here, I was not able to do any ‘riyaz’ [practice]. I am so happy to touch the musical chords again and be able to sing,” said the visibly happy singer, who is appealing to the Indian hospitality community in UAE to give him a chance to showcase his talent.

Reeling from the pandemic

Until two years ago, Jhavar, a father of three, used to sing with his family. “My siblings played various musical instruments such as the ‘sarangi’ [stringed instrument], ‘tabla’, ‘dholak’ [percussion instrument], while I used to be the lead vocalist. We sang folk genres such as the ‘Ghoomar’, the ‘Kalbeliya’, the ‘Ghorband’ and other genres, at marriages, festivals and social occasions. Work was good — until the pandemic struck, in 2020. Post-lockdown, all work has dried up. No weddings are held like before and we were driven to complete penury,” rued Jhavar.

The family was dependent on daily wages and had no land or other assets to fall back on. “Our situation was really bad and I knew no other trade to support my three children, wife and my extended family. We tried odd jobs, but failed.”

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Unfortunately, the Malhar Centre had no vacancy, though it was supportive of Jhavar.

Dreaming of Dubai

From his friends, Jhavar had heard about Dubai and he nursed a dream to perform at the restaurants here. Finally, in February, Jhavar borrowed Rs100,000 (around Dh5,000) from his native villagers for his UAE visit visa, air ticket and his stay here. “I had about Rs50,000 left when I arrived here. I would eat only once a day and set out to look for jobs at restaurants, but in the current situation, I failed to secure a job. I have no idea how I will repay this loan. So I decided to extend my visit visa and keep searching for a job. There is no source of livelihood in my village, given the current situation. I have no choice,” said the desperate man.