From Scotland to Spain, from Ghana to Germany, from France to here in India, the rustic charm of grassroots musicians is markedly different from the popular beats heard at famed music festivals across the globe.
With no spectacular beach front or stellar line-up that make music festivals so sought after, the Rajasthan International Folk Festival (RIFF) here took audiences down a different path altogether with a mix of enthralling music and earthy charm from global artistes, a good number of Rajasthani singers, and a few from Karnataka, Manipur, Nagaland and Tamil Nadu.
Not that the venue was lacking. In fact, it had a most majestic backdrop, one you won’t forget in a hurry — Mehrangarh Fort. Music enthusiasts who turned up from all over the globe experienced an acoustic as well as visual treat as the brightest full moon of the year — on Sharad Purnima — lit up the area in a fascinating glow.
The 10th edition of the festival reached its climax with the much-anticipated impromptu collaboration event, “RIFF Rustle”, stretching into the wee hours with a dawn concert by Carnatic vocalist T.M. Krishna on the concluding day.
This year, it was music composer Ram Sampath who rustled up musicians from the festival to come together on stage. Ghanaian singer Rocky Dawuni enthusiastically came out in support of the Rajasthani artists in this performance.
“It’s our way of giving visiting artistes an opportunity to perform on stage with each other, most of whom have never met before or may never meet again… And (it gives) our audiences a memorable evening of music, unpredictability and dance,” Festival Director Divya Bhatia told the media during the five-day festival, which was attended by some 9,000 people.
The performances included popular songs of Rajasthan presented by the young artistes from the Langa community. They presented love songs such as “Penayari” and “Bichodo”, while their song on camel “Gorband” got huge applause.
The best event on Day 2 was undoubtedly “A Musical Tapestry” in which Hindustani classical vocalist Smita Bellur, and Sindhi sarangi master Asin Khan Langa, collaborated with artists from Scotland.
The fusion of Scottish band Shooglenifty, among the 20 foreign participants at the festival, and Rajasthani group Dhun Dhora featuring dhol drummers also received tremendous response. Their jugalbandi on Day 3 took the festival to another level as the audience was on its feet and swaying to the music.
Another impressive performance was by Sumitra Devi of Pali, the soulful and mellifluous vocalist par-excellence, who was accompanied by Dayaram, Kader Khan Langa, Lakha Khan Manganiyar, Butta and Nehru Khan Manganiyar, as well Papamir, a master dholak player.
Masterful musicians on instruments like the khartal, morchang, kamaicha, tandura, harmonium and manjira also became part of the recital that yet again had the audience dancing to the awe-inspiring Rajasthani beats.
Among the other highlights of the festival were performances by Shaukat Andaz Qawwal, who presented durbari qawwali with his team, by Babunath Jogi from the the Jogi community who sang stories from the epic lives of Shiva and other folk heroes and Nicotine Wing from Spain.
(The writer’s trip was at the invitation of RIFF organisers. Mudita Girotra can be contacted at email@example.com)
By Mudita Girotra