The Langas and Manganiars are Muslim communities who have lived for centuries in the Thar Desert region of western Rajasthan; in the districts of Barmer, Jaisalmer and the villages along the border of Pakistan. Both are communities of traditional musicians who make their living by singing for higher caste patrons.
The patrons for Langas are Muslim Sindhi Sipahis, whereas Manganiars mainly sing for Hindu patrons. Langas are further divided into sub castes based on their main accompanying instrument that they inherit from their lineage. The Surnaiya Langas play various wind instruments such as Surnai, Algoja or Satara, Been and Murli. The Sarangi Langas play the Sarangi. The main accompaniment for Manganiars is the Khamaicha. Both Langas and Manganiyars play the Dholak and Khadtal while performing. Their repertoire of music includes Sufi kalaams and folk songs, which have been passed on from one generation to the other. Amongst eulogies and songs specially composed for patrons there is a strong undercurrent of philosophical comment. Women have a separate and full repertoire.
The Manganiyars and Langas sing specific ragas for specific time of the day, time of the year (season) and for different occasions such as weddings, births, and other ceremonies. They also have a collection of devotional music, which include compositions of Kabirdas, Surdas, Tulsidas and Meerabai Bhajans. These musicians are also excellent in their Sufi renditions; Bulleh Shah, Amir Khusro and Latif are amongst the most popular.
There were inherent socio-political differences and barriers even amongst these two communities. Komal Kothari, eminent folklorist and ethnomusicologist who worked with them, brought the two communities closer and made them perform together by breaking the barriers.