The Jodhpur RIFF (a.k.a. the Rajasthan International Folk Festival) is entering its 13th year in 2019. This year’s edition of the festival is scheduled to be held from 10-14 October 2019. Over the last decade or so the festival has established itself as India’s premier folk music festival. A genre-independent festival, the Jodhpur RIFF is held annually at the world famous Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. The festival is committed to promoting traditional folk music and arts. While Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Marwar-Jodhpur is the Chief Patron of Jodhpur RIFF, Mick Jagger, front man of the rock band The Rolling Stones, is the International Patron of the festival. The Festival Director and Producer of Jodhpur RIFF is Divya Bhatia. The event is timed accordingly so that it coincides with Sharad Poornima—the brightest full moon of the year in North India.
Jodhpur RIFF is a celebration of India’s glorious musical heritage that endeavours to preserve the traditional music of Rajasthan by training musicians, helping them collaborate with international artists, providing them with the platform to experiment and innovate, and the exposure to help them thrive. “Jaipur Virasat Foundation was set up in 2002. They started a festival called the Jaipur Heritage International Festival. They were looking for someone to run it and someone who had known of my work with the Prithvi Theatre Festival recommended my name. That’s how I got involved with Jaipur and Rajasthan,” reveals Divya Bhatia who also played an important role in the early days of the Jaipur Literature Festival. He has previously served as the Artistic Director of Aadyam and the Jaipur Virasat Foundation. He was closely associated with the Prithvi Theatre Festival for about a decade.
“Jaipur Heritage International Festival had two offspring. Jaipur Literature Festival was one and Jodhpur RIFF was the other. I have been leading Jodhpur RIFF since its inception in 2007. What drew me to Jodhpur RIFF is music, which has always been my first love. Both my parents are teachers and right from my childhood they never imposed any restrictions on me. I started learning tabla when I was 7 years old. But during my professional theatre life in Mumbai, I had stopped doing music and so Jodhpur RIFF was like a homecoming for me,” adds Bhatia who spent his early years in Europe and Canada on student scholarships during which he performed for Welsh coalminers as part of a jazz band during their strike against the Margaret Thatcher government, got involved with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and also served as a trainer in a canoe camp in northern Canada. On returning to India, Bhatia joined Naseeruddin Shah’s theatre group, Motley. A rather reluctant actor in his own words, Bhatia has also acted in films like Delhi Belly, Talvar, Ship of Theseus and Badlapur.
Jodhpur RIFF is today world renowned for its spectacular concerts and events featuring performances by master musicians from local Rajasthan communities and incredible collaborations. The festival was consistently been voted among the 25 Best Music Festivals in the World by Songlines magazine (UK). “Jodhpur RIFF is the only festival to have presented Rajasthani artists in the last two Commonwealth Games (Scotland and Australia). We really have taken it up by several notches from where we had started. Initially, I used to do everything, now there is a strong team. I travel a lot as I get invitations from all over. The world’s largest music market is called WOMEX. I am on the jury this year.And all this recognition is mostly because of the work that I have done with Jodhpur RIFF,” opines Bhatia. Jodhpur RIFF 2019 will also feature several leading artists including Karolina Cicha from Poland, Muzikas from Hungary, the Authentic Light Orchestra with artists from Switzerland and Armenia, the Cuban drummer Yissy Garcia, Ireland-Rajasthan collaboration Citadels of the Sun, Voita from Reunion Island, Nani Noam Vazana from Israel and Ballake Sissoko from Mali along with some of the most talented musicians from Rajasthan like Mohini Devi, Kachara Khan, Lakha Khan, Daya Ram and Babulaljogi, Pushkar Lele from Maharashtra, Vikku Vinayakram and Mahesh Vinayakram from Tamil Nadu, Bir Singh from Punjab and Danish Husain Badayuni from Uttar Pradesh.
Till date, the Jodhpur RIFF has presented over 800 Rajasthani musicians including the likes of Kutle Khan, Chugge Khan, Nathulal Solanki and Bhanvari Devi. Many of them have gone on to perform at some of the world’s biggest platforms. “The Indian folk artists mostly come from the economically weak sections of society and often they don’t get the respect that’s bestowed on the classical artists. But when these folk artists collaborate with international artists at the festival there is a great sense of mutual respect and admiration which every artist strives for. You see, the festival was primarily created to help folk musicals find work in India but today they get invited to perform the world over. In fact, this year we have seven festival directors from North America coming to Jodhpur RIFF,” explains Bhatia who has also been faculty of Financial Planning at ArtThink South Asia (ATSA), India’s only dedicated arts management fellowship program hosted by the Goethe Institut and British Council, New Delhi.
Some of the major international festivals/venues that folk artists presented by the Jodhpur RIFF over the years have performed at include Berlin Philharmonie (Germany), Edinburgh International Festival (Scotland), Woodford Folk Festival (Australia), MOSHITO (South Africa), Forde Festival (Norway), Cervantino International Festival (Mexico), Eragail Arts Festival (Ireland), Southbank Centre, Celtic Connections, Spree Festival, Beyond the Border International Festival, Festival of Voice, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Southbank Centre (all in the UK), Parramasala, Blue Mountain Folk Festival, Port Fairy Festival (all in Australia),WOMEX (Spain), and Interceltique (France), among others. Jodhpur RIFF is now the single largest platform for the artistic development and popularity of Rajasthani Folk music in India and the world. It had also been endorsed by UNESCO as a “Peoples’ Platform for Creativity and Sustainable Development”.