The grandeur of Rajasthan International Folk Festival (RIFF) is all set to march in the month of October. RIFF is also known as India’s first annual folk festival that celebrates the traditional folk music and arts. It all started in 2007 and since then the RIFF society (Mehrangarh Museum Trust and the Jaipur Virasat Foundation) tries to rekindle the magic of folk and fusion every year. This festival brings together more than 250 musicians and performing artists from across Rajasthan and around the world to celebrate their musical heritage and create new sounds through innovative collaborations, for five days in October every year.
The acclaimed Rajasthan International Folk Festival (RIFF) is not just about music, but also about a spectacular venue, mesmerizing landscapes, history and architecture. An exploration of a vibrant living culture featuring hand-picked musicians, the annual festival, features everything from traditional folk performances to club nights against the backdrop of the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort in the sun city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan.
The vast Thar desert, which takes up much of the state, has been home to many generations of musicians, who perform the songs of the ages on obscure instruments, creating an uplifting sound that contrasts with the harsh surroundings. One of the goals of RIFF is to give these immensely talented musicians a space where they could perform in center stage, rather than in the tourist backdrop.
The incredible venue is a winner in itself as the Mehrangarh fort, which towers over the blue city, is one of the most atmospheric and interesting places to visit in India. Voted as “Asia’s best fortress” by The Time magazine, the venue lends itself to the bohemian vibe instantly. During the festival, the fort remains open for tourists during the day, and musicians play in various courtyards and gardens.
The mix is eclectic and the energy highly stimulating. The ambience is such that tourists enjoy chilling out with meeting fun people from around the world. Listening to the soothing music as you bask in the golden glow of the rising sun at dawn and the haunting duets under the bright full moon and impeccably starry sky at dusk can be enthralling.
t night, a series of more formal concerts are held, and you need tickets for most of them. Interactive daytime music and dance sessions are held against the breathtaking backdrop of the fort for tourists, school children and families. The atmosphere is wonderfully friendly and entertaining even at the free concerts held at public squares and parks. Vocal recitals, folk mornings, jazz nights, gypsy dance and music sessions, and performances in the desert are among other attractions at the festival.
The beauty of the festival is that while its texture and strength remains traditional and Rajasthani, its flavour and resonance is truly contemporary and global. Most of the artistes are from Rajasthan and other parts of India but quite a few come from abroad. Most visitors find the collaboration of the powerful, passionate and rhythmic Rajasthani music with guest artists from across the globe, which is one of the highlights of the festival, very unusual and enchanting. To attract metropolitan Indians and overseas music lovers – as well as those on the travellers’ trail – collaborations are also commissioned to showcase local talent alongside the stars of India’s classical and popular music genres. Such stark but exhilarating contrasts add to the thrill of attending the festival, ranked amongst the Top 25 International Music Festivals in the world.
Timed to coincide with the brightest full moon of the year, RIFF is a not-for-profit partnership project involving two of India’s leading heritage trusts: Mehrangarh Museum Trust and Jaipur Virasat Foundation. The festival has been endorsed by UNESCO as a “Peoples’ Platform for Creativity and Sustainable Development.” This year for five days from 17th to 21st October, more than 250 musicians and performing artists from across Rajasthan, and around the world will take visitors on a fascinating and entertaining journey with their sizzling performances.
His Highness Gaj Singh II of Marwar-Jodhpur is the Chief Patron of RIFF while Sir Mick Jagger, front man of the rock iconic band The Rolling Stones is the International Patron. The king, or bapji as he is known by locals, is often spotted at concerts, mingling with festival-goers.
Jodhpur is a place where the flamboyant colours contrast with the dry barren desert and the rich nomadic tradition meets the splendour of the kings. In Jodhpur itself, there is plenty to do away from the festivities, particularly if you have a passion for culture or cuisine. Exploring the palaces, forts and temples of Jodhpur will acquaint you with the city’s historic grandeur. The local bazaars offer a wide range of beautiful textiles, embroidered leather goods, antiques, carpets, puppets, figurines etc. Guided tours to the desert, neighbouring areas, cities, and temples are also popular.