Udaipur World Music Festival: Richness of cultural diversity at its best

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Published: February 3, 2019 2:04:09 AM

The festival, in its past three years, has only grown bigger. It’s the hard work of a couple of years that culminates in Udaipur

Sanjeev Bhargava, founder-director, SEHER,

Since 2016, the Udaipur World Music Festival (UWMF) has been enthralling music connoisseurs by bringing artistes from multiple cultural backgrounds and presenting music of different kinds and genres. This year, too, UWMF will offer its audience a large range of music and celebrate cultural diversity for three days, from February 15 to 17. Organised by SEHER, an organisation involved in various kinds of cultural initiatives, UWMF this year will bring artistes such as Rhythm Rebels from Indonesia, Alabulana from Portugal, Delgoncha Ensemble from Iran and Els Catarres from Spain who will be seen performing at various venues. Sanjeev Bhargava, founder-director, SEHER, tells Indrani Bose about the highlights this year, the importance of cultural exchange and the exposure these kinds of festivals bring to local artistes. Edited excerpts:

What is the biggest highlight of the Udaipur World Music Festival this year? Which new countries are participating?
The festival, in its past three years, has only grown bigger… with a wider scope, we take pride in bringing newer, fresher artistes from across the globe, including India, and presenting them at the festival. Highlights for this year are not newer countries, but new artistes performing in India for the first time. Gulaza from Israel is one of the most dramatic music groups from Jerusalem, which sings ‘women songs’ from Yemen, which are hardly ever heard in Asia. Also, Els Catarres from Catalonia, Spain, and La Dame Blanche from Cuba/France are some of the biggest names in the world music scene right now.

The artistes who perform at the festival come from all over the world and play genres like jazz, Sufi, Fado and Afrobeat. Is there any new kind of music that is making an entrance this year? What are the parameters for selecting the artistes?

Again, it’s Gulaza’s natural evolution of Yemenite women songs of longing and despair that have historical importance, as they are passed on from mother to daughters. This is a rare genre sung in a dramatic manner typical of Israeli culture. This kind of music would never have been seen or heard in India.

We travel from country to country in search of newer and fresher talent rarely seen in Asia, leave alone India. It’s the hard work of a couple of years that culminates in Udaipur.

In the first season, you had artistes from Serbia, the Netherlands, India and Iran collaborating together. How important are cultural exchanges in this kind of festival?
It’s the most important aspect of the festival… the richness that exists in cultural diversity is at its best in UWMF. This has become a major platform for artistes from diverse countries like Morocco, Cuba, Brazil, France and Japan to meet and start a possible cultural collaboration. Also, Rajasthan has its own rich heritage and culture in folk traditions. This festival gives exposure to immense talent from Rajasthan to meet and get exposed to top names in world music.

The stages are based on different themes and music genres, as per time of day. Please elucidate.
From centuries, we know that different ragas and prahars bring about a different bhava and specific emotion in humans. It’s not just true for Indian classical music. Early-morning music sung and presented in a particular way brings about a meditative mood, whether it’s a Persian drum, tambourine from Iran or the tar. Our afternoon stage is designed for the sun setting in a specific direction, evoking a certain romantic feeling amongst the audience. However, the evening stage is more dramatic, energetic and makes one want to stand and dance. The music for all three stages and their specially-designed setting and colours are curated accordingly.

Till date, how much exposure have local Rajasthani artistes got because of the festival?
Every year, the international biggies who come spend a lot of time with our local musicians on and off the stage. In fact, any of the international musicians can interact and jam with the Rajasthani Manganiyars and Langas, and my team actively promotes this interaction. I know for certain that sarangi, which is a dying art form of India, has been liked by some of the international groups and adapted into their repertoire, which is great.

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