INDIA. Rajasthan: Jodhpur RIFF finally returned after a two-year gap this year from the 6th to the 10th of October as Jodhpur’s majestic Mehrangarh Fort once again hosted over 250 outstanding performers, showcasing the best of Rajasthani, Indian, and global roots music, as well as breathtaking collaborations between their creators.
While Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Marwar-Jodhpur is the Chief Patron of Jodhpur RIFF, Mick Jagger, frontman of the rock band The Rolling Stones, is the International Patron of the festival.
A melange of cultural and musical delights
Jodhpur RIFF is a not-for-profit festival committed to supporting roots music traditions. Jodhpur RIFF takes place under the aegis of the Mehrangarh Museum Trust.
The 2022 Jodhpur RIFF main stage ended with the most famous iteration of folk in our culture — qawwali by Warsi Brothers — legatees of none other than Amir Khusro.
The finest qawwals of our times wove music from different parts of India with mesmerizing lyrics, and the audience did not let them leave the stage until well past midnight.
In a befitting end to the festival on the dawn of the 10th of October, Prahlad Tipanya sang Kabir bhajans in the Malwi style. As the full moon gave way to the first rays of the sun and the music of Kabir echoed in the grand cenotaph of Jaswant Thada, audiences left with the promise to return next year for yet another magical edition.
Jodhpur RIFF returned after a forced hiatus of two years, and the response has been overwhelming. “Almost 300 artists performed, and every performance venue was packed to capacity. Audiences lined up for hours for last-minute tickets and kept pace with every performance – listening enraptured in pin-drop silence to meditative solos, taking in the breathtaking venue in the moonlight, and dancing until the wee hours when the rhythms picked up. We were delighted to meet so many audience members who have been attending the festival year after year, but it was also special to hear from first-time audience members and feel the magic of Jodhpur RIFF anew through their eyes,” rejoiced Divya Bhatia, Festival Director.
The prestigious Aga Khan Music Awards, recognizing laureates for effectively engaging with contemporary social and environmental issues while sustaining and developing musical traditions, recognized two of Jodhpur RIFF’s own this year.
Asin Khan Langa, an ingenious vocalist and maestro of Sindhi sarangi from a small village called Badnava, was recognized for reviving the unique folk traditions of Rajasthan and developing collaborations with renowned international artists.
Ustad Dilshad Khan, the foremost North Indian classical sarangi player in India, also received a Special Mention. All award winners and recipients of Special Mentions are to receive a prize fund of $500,000 and opportunities for professional development.
On the 9th of October, in an auspicious start, Jasleen Kaur Monga heralded the dawn with chants and jaaps from the Guru Granth Sahib.
Characteristic of the Sikh tradition, she created a serene mood with her shabads, reet, and nirguni bhajans as the first light of day appeared, and dawn broke over the city.
A rigorous dance boot camp awaited participants with Kalbeliya dancer Asha Sapera. With demonstration and instruction, Sapera introduced participants to the popular Rajasthani dance form, ghoomar.
Learning to synchronize their footwork and hand movements amid the spinning motion characteristic of ghoomar, festival goers expressed newfound appreciation for the dancers who perform this complex form effortlessly.
Spending the afternoon in Chokelao Bagh with stalwarts of the Manganiyar and Langa communities, audiences were introduced to the Sufi tradition in Rajasthani music through an interactive session.
Led by Saawan ji and Kachara ji, they also heard songs from Chanan ji, representing the Manganiyars, and Muse ji and Rashid ji, representing the Langas. With each performer’s distinctive singing style and vast knowledge of traditional Sufi poetry and poets, it made for an enlightening session.
After a brief rest, a little while before the sun set, festival goers gathered at Jaswant Thada for a special Moonrise Session featuring a duet from Ustad Dilshad Khan, one of the country’s foremost North Indian classical sarangi players, and accomplished flautist Pandit Pravin Godkandi.
Accompanied by the masterful Ustad Akram Khan on the tabla and Shri Pratap Patil on the pakhawaj, it was an evening to remember. As the musicians played the choicest evening ragas, the brightest full moon of the year appeared in the sky even as a spectacular sunset was underway.
But the great potential of Jodhpur RIFF’s vision was truly embodied in the next act: Citadels of the Sun. An Irish-Rajasthani collaboration facilitated by the festival, the unusual yet beautiful interaction of the fiddle and the uilleann pipes, with the sarangi and dholak, made for a captivating sound.
These musicians from Donegal and Rajasthan had kept up their collaboration over the pandemic. They ended with a song that was an ode to Ireland’s most famous hill fort, Grianan of Aileach, and Mehrangarh Fort— the iconic venue of Jodhpur RIFF.