Jodhpur-based Govind Singh Bhati and Sharon Genevive aim to bring life to the lost culture of folk musicians of Rajasthan by providing them with regional, national and international platforms.
Living in a time where sadly folk music has gone beneath the other music preferences for many, it was likely for folk artist Shakoor Langa from the band ‘Raitila Rajasthan’ to be overwhelmed with emotions when he not only got to present his music but also his life story. It could be possible due to the efforts of Govind Singh Bhati, who initiated Mehfil-e-Rajasthan, a podcast to converse with the folk musicians of Rajasthan about their journey.
The vanishing culture of folk art, music, and dance has no doubt adverse effects on the lives of the artists, especially the ones who do not have alternative sources of livelihood. Talking about Rajasthan, Bhati seems to be a great helping hand who has formed various bands and groups of folk musicians. The event consultant and the co-founder of Bluecity Walls, an institution working towards culture, events, and tourism, Bhati, along with his wife, Sharon Genevive, have been aiding the artists with the platforms while promoting the traditional Rajasthani music for a long time.
Initially working as an event coordinator for other entities, Bhati, the Jodhpur-native, developed an interest in advocating cultural activities through the course of his work. Sharon Genevive, though, completed her education in Mumbai and had a longing to work with the traditional folk musicians of Rajasthan. Their mutual engrossment got them to meet with folk musicians, and by now, they have worked with more than 600 artists from Rajasthan.
The credit for merging two different communities for a musical project also goes to the duo who brought Manganiyar and Langa from western Rajasthan together back in 2016. Naming the band ‘Raitila Rajasthan’, the duo motivated the artists to pick up century-old authentic Rajasthani songs. “The only folk song one comes across in Rajasthan is ‘Kesariya Balam’, however, Rajasthan has nearly 50 to 60 such songs dating back to 500 years and more. We aimed to bring those songs to light through forming this band,” Govind Bhati says.
The band included various ancient instruments like Algoza – a double flute that is used at various events. “It is a matter of resentment that places like Africa celebrate their traditional instruments while it is a forgotten thing here. Hence, the idea of bringing Algoza and Sindhi Sarangi back is to instil the traditional essence to the new generation,” Bhati says. The band got their first big event in 2017 and also released its first album in June 2021.
Along with holding various festivals and events, both public and private, Bhati ensures a curated experience for the people. Depending upon the nature of the event, Bhati and Sharon work with the artists and decide on the songs. The artists get the liberty to perform without mandatorily having to fulfill the demands of the audience.
Apart from Raitila Rajasthan, the duo also formed a band in February 2020 with five artists from the Marwar region for the ‘Sufi Rang’ project keeping in mind the diversity of Sufi musicians and poets in Rajasthan. On the other hand, during the lockdown, they came up with another 6 artists and formed a group named ‘Kesariya Rajasthan’. This cumulation was done in and around Jodhpur with the intent of introducing more artists.
The contemporary music taste of the younger generation is not hidden from anyone, including Govind and Sharon, who also emerged with an idea to mix hip-hop music with traditional instruments featuring 5 musicians. However, they are working hard to lend some more time to the band for exquisite results. Likewise, even ‘Taana Baana’, another band involving a mix of musicians and musical instruments like Kamaicha and Algoza, is in the building stage for the last three years, along with bands named ‘Algoza Ensemble’, ‘Marwar Ensemble’, and ‘Rajasthan Underground’.
As the lockdown had halted the events and festivals, Bhati and Genevive had even initiated a ‘lokyatra’ to meet musicians. They travelled to nearly 5-6 villages at that time and met around 200 musicians and even ate with them at their homes. “We were missing working with musicians. I still remember how people were playing the drum beats while the kids were dancing as they saw us. Nothing could match the satisfaction of that sight, love and warmth,” Genevive recounts.
It was in the second wave of lockdown when Genevive proposed the idea of a live podcast with folk musicians. As her friend was going to launch Mentza, an audio streaming platform during the time, she saw it as a good opportunity to give a boost to both the platform and the artists while also paving the way for people to listen to Rajasthani music from the comfort of their homes. “The first season covered 10 episodes with the artists while we were joined by 60-70 listeners from across the world,” says Bhati, adding that the current season has such conversations on Saturday.
Women navigating walks
One most important function of Bluecity Walls is a heritage walk circling Jodhpur, for which Bhati prefers to train young people. The guides take the tourists for a visit to one of the oldest residential houses of Jodhpur, dating some 200 to 350 years old. “Previously, tourist guides would follow routes to a few groceries and popular sweet shops but since we opted for a different route for the walk, many seem to have followed us,” says Bhati.
Being the changemakers for the tourism industry of Jodhpur, Bhati and Sharon have also included women in the team, and as a result, 3 out of 5 tourist guides in his establishment are women that Genevive calls – “women walk experts”.
Thanks to the lower number of Coronavirus cases across the country currently that both musicians and guides can sigh in relief.
Also Read: Travelling with music is his forte and he does it right! Meet Rahgir, the millennial folk singer from Rajasthan!
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