Rajasthan folk festival to revive dying musical tradition


New Delhi : Traditional music of Rajasthan sung by the minstrels of Langa and Mangania communities, European gypsy music, flamenco and urban folk music will be the highlights of the Rajasthan International Music Festival (RIFF) at the sprawling Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur Oct 1-5.

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The festival, announced Tuesday, this year is trying to revive dying folk musical genres of the state and will promote the traditional music of the European gypsies, who are said to have migrated from Rajasthan at least 1,000 years ago, the organisers said.

A delegation of musicians from Spain’s biggest institute of gypsy music Instituto Gitane will take part in the festival.

Announcing the 2009 edition of the Jodhpur RIFF Tuesday, Maharaja Gaj Singh of the erstwhile royal family of Jodhpur-Marwar, patron of the festival, said: “Having achieved international stature within a short span of time (five years), the festival will live up to its reputation as a high quality, exclusive platform for our Rajasthani artists where they share their astounding legacy with the world.”

The five-day festival has been carefully designed to highlight the variety and brilliance of the traditional musicians of Rajasthan while incorporating a myriad and distinctive musicality from across the globe, he said.

“The festival will open with a city concert that will showcase the musical traditions of Rajasthan with a bit of contemporary music thrown in for a fusion feel,” Divya Bhatia, director of the RIFF, told IANS.

The five-day festival will feature performances by more than a 100 traditional artists.

“We will be bringing back the dying musical instruments of the state like the Sarangi and the Surmaiya with performances by a handful of Langa musicians, who still play them. The Langa musicians play music that has been handed down the generations and they eulogize their ancestors through their songs. They have their clan genealogy on their fingertips,” Bhatia said.

For the first time, four generations of Langa musicians from Barmer will share the stage.

Another highlight of the festival will be collaborative concerts by vocalist Rekha Bharadwaj, wife of Bollywood director Vishal Bharadwaj and the traditional Maand musicians of Rajasthan. Bharadwaj is known for her numbers like Namak Ishq Ka from “Omkara” and Genda Phool from “Dilli 6”, Bhatia said.

Ace drummer Sivamani will explore fusions sounds in percussion instruments with the Nagada, Khartal and Morchang (traditional Rajasthani percussion instruments) players in joint concerts.

Beat Boxer (beat rhythm musician) Jason Singh and his crossover band Dharohar will perform at a special club night at the fort, Bhatia said.

“The festival will also see the launch of the country’s first online data base of Rajasthani folk musicians to help promote them and save the dying musical forms of the state,” Bhatia said.

The western section will feature a dance performance by Denise Belfon from Trinidad titled “Chutney Soca” – a fusion of Calypso, Soca (traditional island dance and music), Bhojpuri folk and percussion beats from Rajasthan, Bhatia said. “Moreover, we are bringing one of the top flamenco guitarists from Spain, Antonio Ray and a male flamenco dancer. Next year, the theme of the festival will be the homecoming of the gypsies — with more gypsy music. We are also collaborating with the largest institute of gypsy music in Barcelona in Spain, Instituto (institute) Gitane,” Bhatia added.

The festival is a partnership between two of India’s heritage trusts, the Mehrangarh Museum Trust and Jaipur Virasat Foundation.