Over the years, rustic folk music has often found space within Bollywood space, but the organisers of Jodhpur’s Rajasthan International Folk Festival(RIFF) aim to go a step beyond by nurturing a platform that creates a demand for bucolic music by retaining traditional ethos and flavours.
“There is no demand for folk music in the cities compared to Bollywood and electronic music. So, we have to create demand by giving values and beliefs to the people about the folk music by retaining its original flavour,” RIFF director Divya Bhatia said.
“Folk aspires to become urban to reach out to a larger audience, but this is not what we want to build. We are giving these folk artistes a safe space and environment where they can play undiluted music,” he added.
The annual musical pilgrimage for music lovers will begin Oct 8 at the majestic 450-year-old Mehrangarh Fort, whose open spaces become the stage for performers and cobbled floors roll out the red carpet for the audience, which lazily lies on the floor to listen to the music against the backdrop of sunsets and sunrises.
The festival ends Oct 12.
“We would like it to be a discreet music festival and not one for the elite,” said Bhatia who plays a pivotal role in hand-picking artists from India and around the globe for the event.
It is his vision that the festival, in its eight years, has become attractive for international artists who see it as the gateway to Indian audiences.
“Our growth is making artists from all around the globe to come to the festival. Many international artistes feel the festival is an interesting entry point into the Indian musical scene,” he added.
Last year, Paris-born Manu Chao had wooed the audience with his French and Spanish numbers. Though hardly anyone could interpret what he was singing, the beats and energetic performance kept the audience swaying till the last song.
This year too, the festival is bringing Yemen Blues, whose new sound brings together Yemenite, West African and Jazz influences to RIFF. Its members hail from as far as New York and Tel Aviv, as also Uruguay.
Then, there are performers from Rajasthan’s traditional Sikar Gharana – a family playing the compositions of their forefathers.
“It is a big challenge to see how the mix is going to be. My mantra is to develop a taste. This is why I try to introduce new artistes each year and focus on the aesthetics and ethos of their music,” Bhatia said.
The Jodhpur RIFF is a partnership involving the Mehrangarh Museum Trust (MMT) and Jaipur’s Virasat Foundation (JVF). The onus for scouting talent is on Bhatia, who, in past, has helmed important positions in the Mumbai theatre scene and has also acted in movies like “Delhi Belly”.
While he focuses on international and folk collaborations that create magical jugalbandis (duets), he sees this investment as a long-term gain in which the folk artistes get an opportunity to perform at international platforms and the
Indian version of Coke Studio.
“When music composer Ram Sampat came to RIFF in 2010, I had never thought he would get popular Rajasthani singer Bhanwari Devi in his episode of Coke Studio 2014. He contacted me to feature her,” Bhatia pointed out.
“So this is how the business works. We have to water the seeds,” he added.