12th Jodhpur RIFF festival seeks to revive lost culture of song writing

Jodhpur Riff, Mehrangarh fort, Rajasthani music, Citadels of The Sun
The international folk festival will open on October 10 at the 15th century Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur (PTI File)

Jodhpur Riff, in its 12th edition, will see Rajasthani musicians coming together with Hindi and Marwari poets to revive the culture of song writing, an oral tradition which is said to have stopped at least half a century ago.

The international folk festival organised by the Mehrangarh Museum Trust and Jaipur Virasat Foundation, will open on October 10 at the 15th century Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur.

“When we ask artistes if they know who has written a specific song, they look at each other for an answer. They don’t know who wrote the songs they have been singing for years. The last original folk song was written some 60-70 years ago.

“So this time we are creating a space for musicians and poets, both Hindi and Marwari, to interact with each other to start a new song writing culture for folk music,” festival director Divya Bhatia said.

Also Read: 50 years on, hippies young and old keep real Woodstock flame alive

The five-day event will see a total of over 250 artistes this year, not just from the desert state but all over the country, as well as international artistes from Poland, Hungary, Armenia, Cuba, Ireland, Switzerland, Reunion Island, Israel and Mali.

In a session titled “Kahaniya Kahan Hain?”, poets Aidan Singh Bhati, Shankar Singh Rajpurohit and Monika Gour will be in conversation with artistes like Kadar Khan Langa (Sarangi, vocals), Ghevar Manganiyar (Kamaicha), Sumitra Devi (vocals) and others.

The artistes will share glimpses of their works, while talking about the intricacies of Rajasthani languages, and throw light on the interconnections between oral storytelling, poetry and music.

“Through this conversation, the poets will try to understand the folk music, their literature. Our focus is on the word. The artistes keep making new music, but the songs are still the same. Through this attempt we are hoping to create some new folk songs,” he said.

Also Read: Music festivals in India are slowly turning green

Keeping with its tradition of bringing international and local artistes at the same platform, the Jodhpur RIFF for the first time will see a collaboration between Irish and Rajasthani artistes. A new two-part collaborative performance between Indian and Irish artistes titled “Citadels of the Sun”, will showcase the folklore and historical connections between the two countries.

The collaboration will see musicians from Donegal in Ireland and Rajasthan including Sarah E Cullen, Martin Coyle, Paul Cutliffe, Asin Khan and Sawai Khan performing on a range of instruments including Donegal fiddle (a type of violin), Irish bagpipes, whistles, bouzouki (a greek string instrument), sarangi and dhol.

“Sharing common themes and stories that unite the two cultures, the name Citadels of the Sun refers to a recurring edifice — Mehrangarh fort (fort of the sun) in Rajasthan, and Grianán of Aileach, Donegals own fort of the sun.

“Bridging the gap between these two iconic locations, Citadels of The Sun is the coming together of diverse but connected voices, the result of which is a sound that transcends and braves new territories in music,” organisers said.

Also Read: Nagaland govt decides to discontinue Hornbill International Rock contest

Among other Rajasthani artistes at the 2019 edition of the festival will be “Jasnath ji ke Bhope”, a community of priests who observe a culture of walking on fire; Mohini Devi, a singer in Jogi Kalbeliya tradition; vocalist and kamaicha (a bowed instrument) maestro Hakam Khan Manganiyar; exponent of dhol thali nritya Rawata Ram Shekhawati among others.

Legendary Carnatic percussionist Vikku Vinayakram, as well as international performers like Malian virtuoso kora (a 21 stringed instrument) player and composer Ballake Sissoko, Cuban drummer and musician Yissy Garcia, Hungarian folk band Muzsikas, Polish singer-composer Karolina Cicha will also be part of the line-up.

The 12th edition of Jodhpur RIFF will come to an end on October 14.