Jodhpur fort to resonate with soulful music again

August 14th, 2008 - 12:20 pm ICT by IANS  


New Delhi, Aug 14 (IANS) Come October, the historic Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur town will come alive to the sounds of folk and classical music again, during the four-day Rajasthan International Folk Festival. This is the second edition of the festival, which has been billed as one of the top five music festivals in the world by British newspaper The Guardian. Mick Jagger, the lead vocalist of the popular pop-rock band “Rolling Stones”, attended the festival in 2007.

The festival, beginning Oct 10, will bring the best of folk and traditional performers from across the state and some leading international musicians to celebrate the universal language of music.

“It has always been a dream for me to see the whole of Mehrangarh Fort come alive with music at the time of Sharad Poornima,” Gaj Singh, the scion of the Jodhpur royal family and the current owner of the fort, said at an event here Wednesday to announce the festival.

This year, a seven-member Roma Gypsy band from Hungary, Porno Graszt, billed by music magazines across the world as the “source of gypsy music”, will showcase their music at the festival. The European gypsies trace their roots to Rajasthan.

The performances over the first two days will be held in the sprawling garden surrounding the fort and then move to the main stage inside the fort complex.

Organised by the Mehrangarh Museum Trust and Jaipur Virasat Foundation, the festival is supported by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and the Taj group of hotels.

“Last year, I was overwhelmed to see people from so many different countries and nationally and internationally acclaimed musicians enjoying themselves and interacting freely with our very special folk musicians.

“I am sure the spectacle must have stirred the spirits of our ancestors with the same joy as it did for me. I am looking forward to building on this success in 2008,” Gaj Singh said.

The festival is expected to open with two vocal concerts in the indigenous “maand” (local) musical tradition by sisters Perveen and Rehana Mirza, who will sing “kotha” (court) songs. It will be followed by Shubha Mudgal’s musical interpretation of the royal “maand”.

It will also feature Sultan Khan, known as the king of Rajasthan’s classical sarangi (string instrument) music, whose repertoire draws from classical, folk and contemporary influences. He will perform a duet with Lakha Khan Manganiar, another accomplished sarangi player.

A soiree at the Club Mehran will see Phoebe Legre of the US and Reuben Mashangwa of Manipur blend their genres in an unusual folk blues concert combining jazz, classical, rock and native North American folk with tribal music from Manipur.

The club will also host concerts by composer and beatboxer Jason Singh and his band, the Saffires, French guitarist Titi Robin and a fusion night of Rajasthani folk and jazz music featuring the Yuri Honing Trio from The Netherlands and local musicians.

“Besides, there will be interactive morning sessions for schoolchildren and the local people where performers and acrobats from the villages will acquaint them with lesser known artistic traditions like storytelling through phad, a pictorial, scroll-based musical storytelling format and alternate reading of folk stories,” Divya Bhatia, director of the festival, told IANS.

The tickets will be priced at Rs.750 per day. But the organisers said that would constitute only eight to 10 percent of the revenues. The bulk of it would come from corporate sponsorships and the foreign performers would raise their own resources.

Members of the Picasso family from Italy and the Sachs family of Goldman & Sachs fame will attend the festival. The organisers, however, refused to divulge the names.

Bhatia said the Rajasthan International Folk Festival is an offshoot of the Jaipur Virasat Foundation Folk Festival, which began as a platform to showcase the neglected traditional music, arts and crafts of the state eight years ago. Prince Charles of Britain is one of the patrons of the Virasat Foundation.

Gaj Singh, in collaboration with the Jaipur Virasat Foundation, is trying to position the festival as a high-end cultural product to sell it to niche hotels, linking hospitality with culture, Bhatia said.

“In fact, we are planning to make this an international gypsy festival, a kind of homecoming festival, featuring gypsy performers from around the world in 2010,” she added.

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