A flag bearer of ‘Indian’ culture, the state of Rajasthan is steadily coming close to becoming an ideal space for music festivals as well. An encouraging government, that is more than happy to host events that will further propel its tourism economy, the availability of exotic venues (read expansive deserts and remarkable forts) that are perfect by themselves and a hospitable local community, are just some of the reasons why the state makes for a perfect location for revelries celebrating the arts.
The sixth edition of the Jodhpur Rajasthan International Folk Festival (RIFF), which will be held from October 26-30, plans to reach out to a wider fan base. Besides hosting performances by local artistes and folk acts from Colombia, Turkey and Sri Lanka, the festival has introduced a new event, called Desert Lounge, where acoustic performances start from midnight onwards at the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park outside the Mehrangarh Fort.
“Folk has always been the soul of Jodhpur RIFF. We are slowly reaching out to newer audiences and artistes every year, in our efforts to put our rich, local music on the global map,” says festival director Divya Bhatia. The annual event has also become a space for connoisseurs to trace links between the folk culture of Rajasthan and other foreign lands. “I feel that the lively and festive Kalbeliya music is very close to the spirit of Colombian music. (The band) Cimarron's music, a genre called joropo music, shows great flamenco influences that probably came to us from our Gypsy Indian ancestry,” says Cimarron band member Lija Fajardo.
With its debut next month (November 16-18), the Ragasthan festival plans to go beyond music. To be held in the Kanoi dunes near Jaisalmer, on offer are not only performances by indie biggies like Parikrama, Swarathma, Brahma and others, but film screenings and art-related activities too. “Festivals abroad feature a multitude of things. So it is smart to use music as a bait to promote other art forms as well. Besides, the location is just perfect, with vast space available,” says festival organiser Keith Menon, who has been working on the idea for the fest for the past five years. “Government support has been the easiest part,” he says. “We plan to make the festival an annual feature.”