If you happen to visit Mehrangarh, the 15th-century pride of Jodhpur, this week, you'll hear it's courtyards resonating with music. No, a royal wedding isn't underway. The ear-soothing, thought-provoking sounds are made by local and international musicians performing as part of the Jodhpur RIFF.
The festival, which began in 2007, features more that 250 folk artistes from India and several acts from around the world. It began on October 24 and scheduled to last till 28—a four-day bonanza of earthy music, the bedrock of genres that occupy our ear and mind-space.
After an 'open for all' city concert on October 24, the RIFF went into exclusive mode, with viewers requiring day- and festival-long passes to watch the performances.
The festival-long pass can be akin to signing up for a crash course for folk and fusion music—only, this could be the most foot-tapping and soul-stirring kind. The day begins with 'dawn', the event held at 5.30am in a courtyard near the fort where you can watch artistes perform in the backdrop of the rising sun. The last event of a day in the festival is slotted at 11pm (the performance usually goes on till 2am).
So, it's the kind of festival one carefully prepares for—staying hydrated, taking frequent snack breaks and mapping the events one plans to see. All of them, of course, are worth watching, if you can manage by strategic breaks.
The carefully curated mix of artistes aspires to cover an entire spectrum of folk and community music. You have khartal and sarangi maestroes from the Langa and Manganiar communities of Rajasthan, the Kalbeliya dancers and the Yogi Kalbeliyas who are keeping alive a rare music culture. There are contemporary Sufists from Kashmir, a sound artiste from Iran, an Afro-beats DJ and a phenomenal beat boxer from Australia.
In addition to the performances, there are disussion-performance explorations of music cultures—like the songs and instruments from Kashmir and the verses of Meera Bai. The collaboration between local folk musicians and international artistes is a RIFF special.
RIFF has over the years managed to act as a melting pot for sidelined musical traditions. This edition promises to offer a platform for great possibilities for folk music of the future.