"For us the measure of growth is how are we impacting the life of folk artistes? How have we been able to inspire them to believe that we are there? How many young Rajasthani folk musicians want to continue." RIFF director Bhatia told IANS in an interview during a recent visit to the national capital.
"It is the work of generations. We have already lost so much of music. What we are doing is only a small contribution to the huge universe of folk music tradition. At times, we believe what we are doing is for a lost cause," he added.
Indeed, the penetration of contemporary music is more rapid compared to its humble counterpart - traditional music - that has almost been marginalised in today's world.
Still, traditional roots find ways to survive in this depleting ecosystem and the sixth edition of this five-day musical soiree is testimony to this as the majestic 450-year-old Mehrangarh Fort here reverberates with musical notes from Oct 17-21.
"That youth not interested in traditional music is a myth. We are a mythical society and we tend to believe in things we have just heard but are not sure of," Bhatia pointed out.
"We have sustained because we are able to build an audience for the festival. We have seen trust from the audience, and they are majorly youth," he added.
Though Bhatia admits building this "trust" is an arduous task, as according to him, being facilitators act as a bridge between the musicians and the audiences.
And, he walks a tightrope while dealing with the expectations of the musicians.
"Folk musicians have maddening expectations. They have more expectations than a normal person. They think once they are a part of this festival success will follow and their lives will change. These are the kind of expectations I have to deal with," Bhatia confessed.
"Then we have audiences who each time will come up with new set of expectations. So, we have made it a point that once the festival is over, we will get fresh artistes. There is new music and new synergy every time," he added.
The Jodhpur RIFF is a partnership project involving the Mehrangarh Museum Trust (MMT) and Jaipur Virasat Foundation (JVF). The onus for scouting talent is on Bhatia, who, in past, has helmed important positions in Mumbai theatre scene and has also acted in movies like "Delhi Belly".
Sticking to its foremost rule of "bringing fresh music", this year Roabab player ustad Daud Khan will spin his magic on the florid landscape along with music from the Manganiyar community of Mewar who are on the verge of extinction.
Keeping the tradition of the qawaali alive will be nephews of the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - brothers Rizwan and Muazzam.
Collaborations with national and international musicians is an integral thread of this festival. In this way is the "entertainment" side of it balanced.
"In the past we have collaborated with artists from the USA, Britain, the Netherlands and Australia and also Indian bands like Indian Ocean and singers like Rekha Bhardwaj. This exposes them to a wider audience," he elucidated.
"Most of these artistes have never performed on stage," Bhatia said, adding that coming from the rustic village backgrounds, they don't even know what the word "rehearsal" means.
"They all are used to performing live and they rehearse every day. They perform at jagrans, marriages and other village events," said Bhatia.
"When these collaborations happened, they realised they have to rehearse. When they have to come on stage for individual performance, they have to entertain the audience, which is there because they want to see and hear something different," he added.
Being a facilitator surely isn't an easy job but Bhatia is happy sitting behind the steering wheel and let musicians take charge of things.
(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at email@example.com)
--IANS (Posted on 28-08-2013)