CELEBRATES A MEDLEY BETWEEN FOLK AND MODERN MUSIC THROUGH THE TAALBELIA MUSIC FESTIVAL.
On a cloudy January afternoon, the shifting sands of Rajasthan, which till now resonated with the folk tunes of the Manganiar and Langa tribes, married contemporary world music and gave us, the enraptured audience, a slice of other-worldly music.
For us, the suave city-dwellers, the culture vulture hipsters, the music buffs who know the music scene inside-out, an indie music festival means a chance to backpack to an exotic location and spend another weekend in the blissful company of lyrics and rhythms. But Taalbelia, the four-day festival which saw 30 artistes from across genres was anything but another indie fest. A rare glimpse into Rajasthan—a strong connection to its folk traditions, a royal heritage and an unparalleled hospitality, Taalbelia was a sapid mix of art and culture, tradition and modernity—the best of both worlds.
It would be wrong to call it a
hidden kingdom, but the lesserknown jewel in the crown of the Shekhawati region is Mandawa. Till now the town has hosted many a Bollywood film productions—PK (2014), Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015) and Paheli (2005) to name a few, as well as tourists who come here on a fresco trails. A music festival was a first here.
A SPECTRUM OF MUSICALITY
Gaurav Raina aka GRAIN, who was earlier part of electronic fusion group MIDIval Punditz and now is a DJ experimenting with contemporary soundscape and lyrical melodies explains why Mandawa was the best place to host the festival. “The town lies on a biker route. The villagers are accustomed to inviting travellers with arms wide open. When you have such hospitability, acceptance to new ideas is easy,” says the music producer. It is because of this acceptance that Bhanwari Devi, a shy ghoonghat-clad woman who has an astonishingly large vocal range, was able to perform bhakti songs which in Rajasthan, has been a largely maledominated realm. Devi’s Kattey, made famous by MTV Coke Studio received a resounding applause. If Devi brought an authentic oriental touch, Shillong-based band, Soulmate was giving us the Blues quite literally. Soulmate’s vocalist, Tips Kharbangar, a modern day Janis Joplin, had us engaged throughout the hour-long gig. A festival reveller made an interesting observation, “her pipes are incredible. Her voice is possibly travelling all the way to Delhi right now”. Band member Rudy Wallang let us in on the secret of making great music. “You have to be emotionally naked to make the Blues. It is complex to make, but easier to receive,” he says.
RESISTANCE THROUGH BEATS
While there was a melange of rock, electronic, folk and classical, there were two acts that stood out from the rest of the genres. Reggae Rajahs, the eight-year-old Jamaican sound system, also the first of its kind in the country livened up the desert with reggae beats. “One of the big appeals of reggae is that it covers a wide spectrum of issues. We write and sing about freeing one’s mind from what we call the Babylon system (or brutal oppression of the mind), just having a good time or even ganja,” says band member General Zooz. The second was a rap act. Divine, born as Vivian Fernandes and now famous by his stage moniker, has been called a Slumdog or a ghetto rapper. Divine is aware of this classification but does not rebuke it. He is proud of his humble roots (JB Nagar slums), calls himself a “gospel rapper” and was part of the church choir. “I don’t identify with the gangster culture glorified by rappers in the west. You don’t just become a rapper by wearing gold chains and fancy shoes. I rap to represent my reality and where I come from,” says the young artiste.
Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt performs at the Taalbelia festival in Mandawa, Rajasthan
Folk dancers liven up the performance venue
The opulent Castle Mandawa