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Mai Dhai Ensemble to bring Rajasthani songs from Pakistan's Thar desert to NY

Hailing from Tharparkar region in Sindh, Pakistan, Mai Dhai will showcase her repertoire from ballads about the kings to Sufi songs written by various mystics as well as songs for occasions such as birth, marriage, rains, and feasts at the Elebash Recital Hall at the Graduate Center of the City University in New York on March 12 from 7 pm.

The Manganhars consider themselves descendants of the Rajputs and are renowned as highly skilled folk musicians of the Thar desert. Their songs have been passed on from generation to generation as a form of oral history of the desert. They sing songs about great kings of the past including Alexander the Great, the local Maharajas and past battles in the region.

In this concert, Mai Dhai will be accompanied her ensemble of three musicians on percussion (tabla and dholak) and harmonium.

“I want the world to know about us Manganiyar, our simplicity, our love of music,” says singer Mai Dhai. “We stay away from politics. We play music and seek happiness from it.”

Mai Dhai hails from an overwhelmingly rural area where folklore and tradition live on as a vibrant part of everyday life. Mai’s people, the Manganiyar, are particularly renowned for their music and long memory. They still sing songs to Alexander the Great. In their music, invocations of Hindu gods mix with stunning Sufi poetry, and the Muslim Manganiyars celebrate Hindu holidays like Holi and Diwali, a testament to the long-standing spiritual complexity and cultural richness of Pakistan’s folk traditions.

Mai learned to sing at her mother’s side—she was also a singer—and began singing for others at age 10.