Sound of the dawn

Of mood and melody: Bir Singh in performance at Jaswant Thada Special Arrangement

Of mood and melody: Bir Singh in performance at Jaswant Thada Special Arrangement  

Enchanting music blended seamlessly with the majestic surroundings at the RIFF Dawns

Sufi poet Shah Hussein pithily establishes the man’s relation with the divine using the following lines:

Man Atkeya Beparwah De Nal

Man Atkeya

Man Atkeya Beparwah De Nal

Us Deen Duni De Shah De Nal…’

As soon as the Punjabi singer Bir Singh renders these lines at the fourth and final early morning session at the Rajasthan International Folk Festival (RIFF 2019) in Jodhpur, the sun suddenly begins to rise up on the horizon, dispelling the night’s darkness as if invoked by Shah Hussein’s magical verses, which were first made famous by the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. “When our mind gets deeply attached to the God there is a strong urge to come face to face with Him. While the God cares for everyone and provides for one and all, the poet regrets that his deepest desire of meeting his maker in person remains unfulfilled. But he is convinced that eventually he will succeed,” explains Bir Singh.

According to legends, Tansen could use the ragas to achieve astonishing feats such as making an oil lamp light up (raga Deepak) or summoning rain (raga Megh Malhar). Singh too believes that music and nature share a strong association. “I have a song which I like to call the ‘Song of Wind’. The song is about a difficult phase of my life. I remember I was sitting in a Gurudwara. I wasn’t paying any attention to the Gurbani as I was lost in some thought. I was engulfed in sadness and there were tears in my eyes. Suddenly, the wind started blowing and my tears quickly dried up. The weather started to change and I began hearing the Gurbani loud and clear as if the pious music had summoned the natural forces to console me when I was feeling so low, perhaps reminding me that a better future awaits me,” recollects Singh.

The setting

Every year at the Jodhpur RIFF during the resplendent early morning musical sessions, eloquently termed as the RIFF Dawns, the spiritual connect between man and music seems to attain a new dimension. The melody of Azan and the soulful chants of mantras seamlessly blend with the enchanting hymns of the morning ragas performed by legendary musicians to create a magical symphony. It serves as a perfect overture to the enrapturing view of the skyline at the break of the dawn. Jaswant Thada, the cenotaph built in 1899 in memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II of Jodhpur, is the home to these entrancing sessions that take place out in the open on every morning of Jodhpur RIFF. The eclectic programming choice on each day ensures that each experience proves to be a unique one. One really has to be out there in order to truly appreciate the magical experience of listening to the music under the stars just before the break of the dawn while savouring the changing moods of light before and after the sunrise.

Earlier, during the second dawn session at the 2019 RIFF, the audiences were treated to performances of noted Rajasthani folk singers like Gemra Ram, Mahesha Ram Meghwal, and Baghe Khan Manganiyar as they transcended the boundaries of caste and religion by singing bhajans in the Nirgun tradition. An important albeit mystical aspect of India’s spiritual traditions is Nirgun bhakti. Nirgun doesn't have a body or a soul, beginning or an end. “In the modern society we are used to deifying people, creating idols and gods. But in the Nirgun tradition the notion of a god is always without form, characters, or morals. No good or bad exists in this particular tradition,” explains festival director Divya Bhatia.

The idea of a formless and benign divinity is most evident in Kabir’s poetry of the 15th Century as well as poetry and teachings of Goraknathji, Sankarcharya, Ramananda, and Guru Nanak. “These bhajans are passed from one generation to another. I learnt them from my father who learnt them from his and so on. Hopefully, the coming generations will hear them and learn to appreciate the virtues of this tradition just like their ancestors,” says Gemra Ram. The bhajans are essentially stories that keep the new generations rooted to their tradition. “The Nirgun bhajans are usually sung in the wee hours of the morning. These songs people together more so in today’s times when things like caste and religion divide us easily,” avers Mahesha Ram Meghwal.

As part of the third dawn session , the audiences were presented by a brilliant line up of Indian and international musicians featuring the likes of Carnatic vocalist Mahesh Vinayakram, Sindhi sarangi maestro Asin Khan Langa, English musician Andrew Cronshaw, Armenian musician Valeri Tolstov, and the master kamaicha player Darra Manganiyar.

The Meghwals of Marwar

In keeping up with the tradition, the Meghwals of Marwar yet again opened the RIFF Dawns this year. Bhallu Ram and Teja Ram sang the poetry of popular poets of the Meghwal community as well as the saints of Rajasthan with the rhythmic fusion of tandura, dhokla, and manjira filling the air with meditative and spiritual vibes.

Moonrise session with Pushkar Lele

Other than the four dawn sessions scheduled at the Jaswant Thada, a special moonrise session was also organised on the penultimate day to mark the occasion of Sharad Poornima, the brightest full moon of the year in North India. As part of the session, the audience witnessed an enchanting performance by the young and talented Hindustani classical vocalist Pushkar Lele hailing from the Gwalior gharana. “The atmosphere was absolutely magical. So I decided to begin my performance with raga Marwa. Then I presented a bandish in raga Kalyan, “Chandaji Aahi Gaye Cha Hi Gaye Ab…”, composed by Vidhushi Meera Rao, ” reveals Lele.

A letter from the Editor

Dear reader,

We have been keeping you up-to-date with information on the developments in India and the world that have a bearing on our health and wellbeing, our lives and livelihoods, during these difficult times. To enable wide dissemination of news that is in public interest, we have increased the number of articles that can be read free, and extended free trial periods. However, we have a request for those who can afford to subscribe: please do. As we fight disinformation and misinformation, and keep apace with the happenings, we need to commit greater resources to news gathering operations. We promise to deliver quality journalism that stays away from vested interest and political propaganda.

Support Quality Journalism
Related Topics
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 31, 2020 7:21:16 AM |

Next Story