Four folk musicians from Scotland,Sri Lanka,Australia and Colombia are on their first tour of India,kick-starting their shows at the Jodhpur RIFF.
As the full moon bathes the ramparts of the majestic Mehrangarh Fort on the first day of Rajasthan International Folk Festival in Jodhpur,also known as the Jodhpur RIFF,the wrinkled walls will come alive with the drones of a didgeridoo a wind instrument made from the bark of a tree that is played mostly by the surviving aboriginal groups of northern Australia.
Mark Atkins,a world-renowned didgeridoo player and a master storyteller,is among the good folk at this years RIFF.
A descendant of the Yamijti people of Western Australia,Atkins grew up living on the fence (he is half-Irish and half-aboriginal) and finding it difficult to mingle. He immersed himself in music and fulfilled his dream of taking the didgeridoo and the traditional art of storytelling to the world. He has collaborated with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin,and lent his indigenous Australian musical style to their hard rock. Equally noteworthy is his work with American composer Philip Glass and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Apart from playing a few sets and narrating interesting stories of the aboriginals,the maestro will also match the harmonics of the didgeridoo with the rustic rhythms of khartaal and dholak of the Rajasthani folk musicians.
Harp on It
Joropo is a waltz-like music that filters through the streets of Caracas,Venezuela,on special days. Grammy-nominated harp-led band Grupo Cimmarron,from Colombia,layers this soft music with catchy Colombian tunes and vibrant rhythms as it narrates stories from the grassroots.
Next month,the Blue City will play host to Grupo Cimmarron at the Jodhpur RIFF. Divya Bhatia,Festival Director,says that the groups music comes from the cattle herders of Northern Colombia and their traditional songs.
Led by harpist-composer Carlos Rojas Cuco and vocalist Ana Veydó llanera,the band also comprises members playing cuatro,mandolin,maracas and other traditional music instruments. India has diverse folk forms. Our idea is to bring folk from various countries and create an array of sounds for the audience, says Bhatia.
A part of the trio The Bevvy Sisters,singer Kaela Rowan came to the fore five years ago by way of some deliciously mellow country tunes on the acoustic guitar. Divya Bhatia,RIFF Festival Director,spotted her singing in Gaelic in a hotel in Scotland,and promptly issued her an invitation to the RIFF.
Her voice may draw some similarities from the vocal tones of Christina Booth,lead vocalist of the Welsh progressive band Magenta,and Irish singer Joanne Hogg,but Bhatia says that the audience is likely to be wowed by Rowans mesmerising voice paired with cascading guitar sounds.
The concert will include her original songs with a smattering of cover versions. Aware of the intimacy of her performances,the festival organisers have slotted her early in the morning at Jaswant Thada,the royal burial ground,a little way from Mehrangarh Fort.
The drawback for Rowan is that her popularity is limited to some musicians in India. This is our chance to find out more.
Sivamani of Sri Lanka
Young Rakitha Wickramaratnes fingers are known to swiftly fly around various kinds of drums,creating a visual as well as auditory treat. He and his percussion ensemble,Naadro,are part of the pre-finale performance at RIFF. Specialising in a vast array of drums,including djembe,dhol and a host of Latin percussion instruments,Wickramaratne is often referred to as the Sivamani of Sri Lanka. He incorporates just about anything and everything in his repertoire,including spoons,pots and pans and buckets.
It will be interesting to see the bands collaboration with Rajasthani percussionists for an impromptu session with them. Different flavours of their drumming,ranging from African and Indian to Latin American,will be the USP of the band on the final night of the festival.