The womanly voices of Rajasthani folk

Last Updated: Sat, Oct 12, 2019 20:58 hrs

<br>Now in its 12th edition, the Jodhpur RIFF (Rajasthan International Folk Festival) hosted a session on the female voices at the fore of the state's folk scene. Featuring six women, including two mother-daughter duos, the session churned out folk songs and devotional melodies from different parts of Rajasthan.

As the vocalists performed with instrument companions on the second day of Jodhpur RIFF, which concludes October 14, folk voices found an international stage.

Represented at the festival was Marwar's 'Jogi Kaalbeliya' community, which is usually associated with snakes. Folk exponent Mohini Devi, 36, who sang in the tribe's tradition as well as in 'maand', Rajasthan's unique contribution to the Hindustani music repertoire, was accompanied by her daughter Sushila -- the festival's first khartal player.

"It has been in our tradition to sing, we learn by ourselves by observing the elders. Art has been an integral part, and the attitudes towards women singing have changed a lot in the past few years," Mohini Devi told IANS.

Another singer, Sumitra Devi, is one of the few voices who have been singing not just locally, but internationally in Germany and has had collaborations with the Yuni Honing Trio and Mumford and Sons. She finds the playing field more unequal.

"I was taught by my father from a young age. I was lucky enough to have found accepting in-laws, who support and encourage my singing. However, the men in many communities take women singers lightly. They'd praise us on our face, and later dismiss our art," Sumitra, 31, informed.

Hailing from Rajasthan's Pali, another mother-daughter duo -- Sundar and Ganga -- sang spiritual songs in their inimitable style.

"Women have been traditionally kept away from singing, dancing and playing instruments. I was lucky to learn it from my mother, but many women are not so fortunate," Sundar, 35, told IANS.

Another performer was 13-year-old Alka from Churu district's Dholi community, who made her debut at the music festival.

While these may be standalone music artistes, waves of change are reaching Rajasthan's folk communities and it's just a matter of catching on and bringing forth the much-deserving female voices.

(Siddhi Jain is in Jodhpur on the invitation of the organisers of Jodhpur RIFF. She can be contacted at siddhi.j@ians.in)