” A spiritual and musical journey into the incredible Mehrangarh fort of Jodhpur” — that’s how they define the World Sacred Spirit Festival. Find out what lies within this magical space till February 24. By Radhika Tandon

 

I’m at Mehrangarh Fort, parked at a sunny table in the Chokhelao Garden, one of many picturesque nooks inside the walls of this massive fort. I’m writing this to the accompaniment of Telli Turnala, an Anatolian ensemble comprising four female musicians who sing Kurdish and Turkish spiritual songs and play traditional European instruments such as the Saz, infusing them with a distinct feminine poignancy.

The World Sacred Spirit Festival, held at the fort every February, is a significant fixture on the world music calendar and attracts music travellers from all over the world. As I sit here, I am loving the music, the impeccable setting at the fort and the eclectic crowd, some sportingly dressed up for the occasion in Rajasthani turbans, colourful dupattas and even an occasional Kalberiya skirt.

Next up is Raitila. This is a unique musical project that was conceived to preserve the musical traditions of the Manganiars and the Langas, two of Rajasthan’s best-known musical communities. Today’s performance is so lively and seamless, it is hard to imagine that until 2016, when Raitila was born, the two communities had never before made music together. Today they perform with Jackson Scott, a well-known multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, and Pablo Dominguez, percussionist and guitarist.

The highlight of the festival so far has to be last night’s stunning performance by Mathias Duplessy and the Violins of the World. Featuring an ensemble of artists from Sweden, China, France and Mongolia and joined by Sabit Khan on the sarangi, the performance brought alive the sounds of four different regions and did not stray far from its stated mission of ‘reinventing the Silk Road’.

The evening began with Ambi Subramaniam, the soulful young maestro of the Carnatic violin, playing with the Amira Kamanchiya ensemble of Rajasthan. It ended late in the night with Madan Gopal Singh and the group Chaaryaar, whose music played tribute to everything from Rumi to John Lennon.

This evening, I’m looking forward, among various other performances, to Meera Bai, a production that will involve more than 40 Rajasthani and international artists, followed by Shujaat Khan, the sitar maestro, performing the poetry of Amir Khusrau and Kabir.

WSSF is organised by the Mehrangarh Museum Trust under the patronage of Maharaja Gaj Singh. Almost every featured performance brings artists from around the world together with Indian musicians, and the festival has breathed fresh relevance into Rajasthan’s rich folk music traditions. As Princess Shivranjani, for whom the music festivals held at the fort are a personal mission, puts it, “The whole idea behind the music festival is to get people of Jodhpur, especially the young people, to love it and feel a part of it.”

Perched on a rock cliff 400 feet above the city skyline, Mehrangarh is indeed the perfect location for a festival that has brought the world to the city. The performances move seamlessly over the course of the day, from the serene lakeside Jaswant Thoda (perfect for the early morning and dusk concerts) to the peaceful and green Chokhalao Garden that offers shade at height of the sunny day, and finally up to the top of the fort where several large open terraces serve up music accompanied by a starlit sky overhead, and the twinkling lights of Jodhpur spread out at your feet in every direction. It does not get better than this.

FACT FILE

GETTING THERE: Direct daily flights from Delhi to Jodhpur on multiple airlines, INR 6,500 upwards.

WHERE TO STAY: Bal Samand Lake Palace,  Taj Umaid Bhawan PalaceAjit Bhawan 

Book passes for the WSSF here.

Related: Taj Mahotsav: The Festival Of Art, Craft, Culture And Cuisine Kick-Starts From Today!