Although I am a little late in commenting here about the tragic loss of Queen Harish, I actually found out about his death several hours before it was mentioned in a number of newspapers and magazines. This is because I receive news on Facebook from the dancer Colleena Shakti, and she sent out a post (which I received in New York City shortly after 2 am on the morning of June 2) saying, “My beautiful dancing sister, incredible one of a kind artist and dear kind hearted friend… has just passed away.” As Colleena Shakti reported and a number of news sites also started to report several hours later, Queen Harish died in a car (SUV) accident that also killed three other musicians. (Actually, Colleeena had said five, but the news reports that I saw later said three other “folk artists” were killed and five other people were injured.)
I have known about Queen Harish for a long time, since before I knew about most of the classic Indian film, music, and dance artists whom I’ve talked about on this blog for the past dozen years. I first saw Queen Harish perform in New York City’s Central Park in 1997, accompanying the Rajasthani folk music Group Musafir. I became a big fan of Musafir and had already a been a fan of a global-techno sort of group that Musafir ended up recording a single with, Transglobal Underground. I did not have the same access to performances by Queen Harish, but the memory of his fabulous dance performance at that Musafir show would pop into my mind now and then for the next decade… And then, finally, I got to see more Queen Harish dances when I started tuning in to YouTube.
Of course, I started tuning in to YouTube at about the same time that I started this blog. And in December of 2007 – when this blog was still in its infancy (and was not yet devoted to Indian films, etc.) – I wrote a post about Gypsies of Rajasthan, in which I started off by talking about my experience of seeing Musafir (whose first album was called “Gypsies of Rajasthan,” too). I posted one clip of Queen Harish, and then I moved on to a group called Banjara who also called themselves “Gypsies of Rajasthan” and I wondered if they might have been a new incarnation of Musafir. But Musafir had actually become a different group, called Maharaja. I found this out in my comments section from none other than Queen Harish. And this positively startled me!
This blog was, indeed, very new, I didn’t expect it to reach many people at all, and I wasn’t sure – and wouldn’t be for months – where the blog was going… Yet, I got a comment from the world-renowned Queen Harish! I have to say it was a moment of pride for me… And then, half a year later, Queen Harish popped up again, in comments to my post On Tour in the U.S.: Queen Harish! Here, he entered into a conversation that I was having with Sitaji of Bollywood Food Club, in which Sitaji wondered whether Queen Harish had appeared in a scene from the 2002 film Shakhti. (Sitaji also knew all about Queen Harish; she had mentioned him in a post the month before.) And sure enough, who do you think popped into the blog to answer the question himself?
Queen Harish confirmed his presence in the film and signed “from LA with love”! Looking back at that comments section, I don’t know why I did not respond, as this was the last comment in the thread. Maybe I missed it that time? In any event, I wondered after that if Queen Harish might be visiting again now and then.
But,enough of my glorying in my encounter with the Queen. Here are a few posts of his fine dances:
Queen Harish going to his roots, performing a Kalbelia dance on the Queen Harish Show:
Queen Harish doing his famous dance to “Dil Cheez Kya Hai”:
Queen Harish dancing with fire!
And here is Queen Harish dancing with Colleena Shakti:
I have seen a number of moving and informative articles about Queen Harish during the past week, the best of them being – in my opinion – the one that appeared in The Hindu. One thing this article told me that I did not know – which you might say connects this post to a number of other recent ones on this blog – is that William Dalrymple is a Queen Harish fan too. The article even shows a picture of William Dalrymple standing with Queen Harish, below these two paragraphs:
“He was an enhancer of life; investing his heart and soul into every move,” says writer and historian William Dalrymple, who loved watching Queen Harish perform. “My wife, my daughter, we all loved him,” he adds.
Dalrymple first saw Queen Harish at the Jaipur Virasat Festival in 2004. “A few months ago, he was in Delhi to perform at a wedding, which I happened to attend. He completely owned the stage and showcased the Rajasthani folk arts in a unique way.”
And I would have to agree with the line about Queen Harish being unique. There isn’t going to be another dancer like him! We’re going to miss you, Queen Harish.