'We are launching online database of folk artistes'

'We are launching online database of folk artistes'

The Inquirer

'We are launching online database of folk artistes'

But this year, the festival plans to return bigger and better than its first edition, undeterred by the setback. RIFF director Divya Bhatia charts out the plans for the October festival, organised by the Mehrangarh Museum Trust (MMT) and Jaipur Virasat Foundation (JVF) in Jodhpur in a chat with Utpal Borpujari of Deccan Herald:

What are the plans this year, after the unfortunate cancellation last year?

It will be a mix of what we had already finalised for last year and some interesting things this year. JVF’s task is to work with folk artistes. We create projects with long-term intention and RIFF becomes the venue to showcase it. Two projects which were slated to have been performed last year have been developed further and will be among the highlights this year. One is a joint concert of Sarangi exponent Ustad Sultan Khan and Lakha Khan Manganiyar who plays Sindhi Sarangi and folk Sarangi. The second will be a performance of the UK-based beatboxer and composer Jason Singh and Rajasthani folk artistes. Also, two artistes we wanted to bring last year, will be coming this year. One is Rueben Mashangwa from Meghalaya and the other is Rehana Mirza, a traditional Maand singer from Jaipur.

Any new experiments this year?

Yes, this year we are calling a known Hindi film singer, Rekha Bhardwaj, but not because she is a Bollywood singer. She is coming because she has interest in Sufi, Maand and Rajasthani music. She will share the stage with folk artistes. We are trying to find out whether there is more to the folksy flavour in film music. Our attempt is to expose Bollywood to Rajasthani folk music in a much more deeper way that it is happening now, want to find out if we can do something with those Bollywood singers who are interested and know about folk music.
Also, for the first time, Bangalore-based band Swarathma will be performing at RIFF. We want to get more artistes from the south. Next year, we are planning for a perspective on percussion. Across the world in traditional music rhythm and beat have a strong base. As a precursor to this, we are getting Sivamani to play with Rajasthani artistes this year, which I think it will be quite an experience.

What will bring the international flavour?

This year we are going to be introducing Flamenco from Spain. In fact, Jodhpur may well become the centre for Flamenco in India because the gypsy communities of Europe believe forefathers of many of them had migrated from Rajasthan. One topmost Flamenco guitarist and one top Flamenco dancer will be performing at the festival. Apart from that, one famous Chutney-Soca singer from the West Indies will be there. We will also have a devotional music component, with Sufi Dervishes, Buddhist chants.

Anything special related to Rajasthan?

We are presenting the Langa community of musicians as a special feature. We know only about 8-10 performers, but at RIFF, around 40-50 of them will showcase their instruments, songs. And there will be several generations of them performing together. We are also launching India’s first online database of folk artistes. Since we are doing it in Rajasthan, it will have information on Rajasthani folk artistes. One of the underlining efforts of JVF is how to procure livelihood for these artistes. There are many talented artistes, but only a few are known. We have decided to have this website, so that festivals and event managers can access them. It will have their bio data, and video and audio clips, in the hope that if people have better access to artistes, more of them will be invited to perform outside. We will start off with about 200 names, and within a year we hope to have 800 names.

But why not an all-India database?

I think it can always open up. JVF’s focus is on Rajasthan, but it depends on two things — can we get partners from other parts of India to do it, and how much funding is available. It will be great to have region-wise databases.

Why did you decide to host the festival in Jodhpur?

The Mehrangarh Fort setting is magical, specially as we do it on a full moon day. You cannot get such a setting easily even though such events can happen anywhere. Also, Jodhpur’s Maharaj Gaj Singh is completely behind it and this year even Rajasthan government’s tourism department is supporting us. So, there is a recognition of the value behind the effort.

Is your international brand ambassador Mick Jagger coming this year?

A: We are hoping that he will be there, though there is no confirmation yet. To be honest, having more celebrities is always helpful, but we have to be careful not to make it a platform for celebrities. We are very happy at the way Jagger makes his presence felt more as a friend of the festival rather than a celebrity. If we get more celebrities like him, we will be more than happy to have them.

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