The prospect of travelling in a ‘caravan’ from Mumbai to Jaisalmer with artistes and festival goers on board, stopping along the way for an informal gig, before finally hitting the sand dunes for a three-day camp-out festival was thrilling to say the least. Ragasthan, conceptualised as a unique multi-arts festival in the middle of Thar Desert, was an adventure like no other.
The spectacular venue at Kanoi dunes came to life just before sunset and served as a fitting offbeat venue for the fest. Some of the acts — Blakc, Half Step Down, Reggae Rajahs, Chalo Africa and Rajasthan Roots — were value for your money. The setting for an electronic music stage, tucked in a trough between two dunes was breathtaking. If not in the mood to dance, one could just sprawl on the undulating dunes and watch the acts. Camping among like-minded festival junkies, star-gazing, catching film screenings and jamming around bonfires were other little joys that the fest provided.
The lack of any sort of festival schedule brochure or a map on the first day of the fest, made the whole affair seem like one big surprise act. All too often, one would traverse the strenuous distance from stage one to stage two only to realise that the band was still soundchecking and would take another 20 minutes to start. By then, one would be too tired to go back all the way or even attempt locating stage three.
The seemingly endless
distance between the stages, art and film tents made it almost impossible to hop from here to there, to catch all the action. When the schedule booklet did arrive on day two, it didn’t mention exact time slots for acts, but a loose four to six hour time bracket, within which a certain number of activities were slotted. The least that the organisers could’ve done was to have an announcement at each stage about the upcoming acts at other places as well. Also, expecting artistes to perform around noon in the scorching desert heat and expecting crowds to turn up, was a huge programming blunder.
The festival could’ve done with a few more food counters (there weren’t more than four in the entire space). The shuttle service between the venue and the city was sporadic, as opposed to the promised frequency at ‘regular intervals.’
These shortcomings could either be seen as teething troubles or as a part of a larger management problem. But if cultivated and nourished well, this niche festival could easily become one of the biggest affairs to watch out for in the years to come.