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Rajasthan International Folk Festival: From India-Ireland collaboration to Turkish oud in action, here’s what you will find this year

This year’s line-up of 250 performers at Jodhpur RIFF includes artistes from Mexico, Wales, Ireland, Netherlands, Mauritius, Israel, Brazil and Turkey

Rajasthan International Folk Festival: From India-Ireland collaboration to Turkish oud in action, here’s what you will find this year
Speaking on performing at Jodhpur RIFF, During says, “I have been touring around the world, from Cuba and Iceland to Uzbekistan and Iran, for over 20 years. But Jodhpur RIFF has so far been my favourite. In terms of location, the Mehrangarh Fort is truly amazing. The architecture, building, setting, and people make it an unforgettable experience.”

The iconic Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, has once again decked up to host the 13th edition of the Rajasthan International Folk Festival (RIFF), the premier roots festival, which is underway from October 6 to 10. The festival is known for offering an eclectic mix of performances by Indian and international roots artistes, where one can witness language, national and racial barriers being blurred by music. In line with the tradition, this year’s line-up of 250 performers includes artistes from Mexico, Wales, Ireland, Netherlands, Mauritius, Israel, Brazil, and Turkey.

Ethnic drummer Sjahin During, who performed at the first edition of Jodhpur RIFF in 2007, is back with his band ARIFA, which comprises members from Bulgaria, Hungary, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Germany. Calling ARIFA a “bridge between the east and the west”, the drummer says, “We always have people in our group from diverse backgrounds. We have a German piano player, a Hungarian cello player, and a Bulgarian kaval player, and I myself am a half-Turkish and half-Dutch percussion player. We always try to find the new silk route between the west and the east. So on one hand, the music, harmonies, and musical instrumentation are halfway western, on the other hand, we have influences from the east, from India, Iran, Turkey, Balkans, and North Africa, in the form of rhythms, makams, scales or ragas.”

Speaking on performing at Jodhpur RIFF, During says, “I have been touring around the world, from Cuba and Iceland to Uzbekistan and Iran, for over 20 years. But Jodhpur RIFF has so far been my favourite. In terms of location, the Mehrangarh Fort is truly amazing. The architecture, building, setting, and people make it an unforgettable experience.”

An India-Ireland collaboration

Among this year’s highlights is ‘Citadels of the Sun’, a Rajasthani-Irish collaboration born out of the many musical, folkloric and historical connections between the two countries. It took shape four years ago when the project was commissioned by Ireland’s Earagail Arts Festival in collaboration with Jodhpur RIFF.

“The concept of this unique cultural collaboration was to explore and unite the music of Rajasthan and Ireland through a compositional narrative based around two forts—The Grianan of Aileach, Donegal, and Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur. Within our music, we try the story of these two worlds meet,” says musician Martin Coyle, who is a part of the project.

Speaking on the similarities between Irish and Rajasthani music, he says, “When we started sharing our folk and traditional music with each other, we noticed the same stories and themes of love, loss, and humour.”

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“Having lead instruments that could be distant relatives, such as the fiddle and the sarangi was inspirational,” he adds.

Turkish oud in action
Similarly, Turkey’s Yurdal Tokcan, cited among the foremost oud (a stringed instrument) players, calls the festival a “meeting point of different cultures”. “As a performer and representative of Turkish music and one of its traditional instruments, the oud, I am very happy to be a part of the Jodhpur RIFF,” he adds.

A striking similarity between Indian and Turkish forms of music learning is the master-apprentice relationship. “There are many conservatories in Turkey that provide education for classical and folk music. These conservatories play a very important role in the development of art and music,” he says. “However, education based on the master-apprentice relationship still maintains its importance in our country,” the artist explains.

A possibility to express feelings
This is the first time for Israeli singer-songwriter Riff Cohen at the festival. “I am very excited to be in Rajasthan for the first time. I watched the Latcho Drom film by Tony Gatlif and heard a lot about the Rajasthani music tradition,” she says. “For me, it is an opportunity to taste the tradition for real, from the inside, and it is a huge pleasure,” she adds.

Speaking on how music builds bridges between people separated by language, racial and national barriers, she says, “For me, music is a possibility to express feelings in a way words cannot.”

‘Always been hits’
Speaking on the idea behind showcasing the music of distant lands, festival director Divya Bhatia says, “RIFF has been an international festival since its inception. The exposure to the varied and excellent styles of music from across the world, presented live, enriches the audience and our artists. It also enables us to explore and develop collaborations.”

Elaborating further, he says, “India has very limited exposure to live roots music. We want to introduce great roots musicians to India irrespective of style or region, to enrich our artists’ and audiences’ experience and enjoyment of music.”

On the audience response to international artistes, Bhatia says, “I am happy to say that international artistes have always been hits, some more than others. This year, Gareth Bonello, ARIFA, Emlyn, Yurdal, and our Citadels of the Sun project are among the highlights.”

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First published on: 09-10-2022 at 03:15:00 am