Derry musician Marty Coyle will play one of the largest folk festivals in the world this weekend when he takes to the stage at the Jodhpur RIFF (Rajasthani International Folk Festival) in India.
Set in the spectacular Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, the festival welcomes thousands of music goers over five days (October 6-10) for the best of Rajasthani, Indian, and global roots music.
Marty is there with the support of the British Council and will take to the main stage on Sunday (9 October) to perform a set inspired by the festival’s iconic setting, blending the folk music of Ireland with that of India.
Since 2019, the multi-instrumentalist has been working on a touring show entitled Citadels of the Sun which features 60 minutes of music based around the narratives of two forts - the festival’s famous Mehrangarh Fort and the An Grianan of Aileach fort in Donegal.
He will be joined on stage by multi-instrumentalist Denise Boyle (Donegal fiddle, keys, vocals) and Paul Cutliffe (uilleann pipes, whistles), alongside Rajasthani musicians Asin Khan (sarangi player and vocialist of the Langa community) and Sawai Khan (percussionist and vocalist from the Manganiyar community), who together will unite to showcase the best of both Rajasthani and Irish music.
This is Marty’s second time at Jodhpur RIFF, having played the festival in 2019, before it had to take a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
Speaking ahead of the show, he said: “I’m really looking forward to being back at Jodhpur RIFF-, last time it felt like our performance had tapped into the beginnings of something and there was more to be explored. This time, we’re lucky enough to be playing on the mainstage in the courtyard of the Palace, which is really special and makes Citadels of the Sun feel like it’s come full circle.
“The project has meant figuring out how to mix two styles of music and make them work – Irish music can be quite regimented, but the Rajasthani musicians taught us how to be more free and let go. We’ve spent the last year and a half adding to the show and can’t wait to play it in its entirety for the first time. It’s an original suite of continuous music, with no stopping once we start – a challenge for me, but nothing new for the Indian musicians who are used to playing in long form.
“The show ends with a celebration piece based around an old traditional Rajasthan folk song that the audience might recognise, but we’ve developed this piece in an Irish style incorporating a new reel from our piper Paul.”
Marty also can’t wait to meet the two Rajasthani musicians again, who have been instrumental in the project since the start.
He said: “Along with myself, Asin has been the lead collaborator from Rajasthan and has played a vital part in bringing traditional Rajasthani folk music to the project, with his main instrument the sarangi, a traditional folk instrument. Whereas Sawai provides the authentic rhythms of Rajasthan on Dholak (a two-headed drum) and Khartal (hand percussion) as well as vocal accompaniment.
“Because of Covid-19, we haven’t been able to see each other since 2019 and the project has had to develop online. For music, it’s always better getting people in a room together, but we’ve got used to working online and it has given us more time to be methodical and get things right. The pandemic showed us that we have got the technology to connect with people regardless of the destination and it’s a great way of making things happen if you can’t be there in person. I’m however excited to get back on stage together as that’s where the magic really happens. It’s about the human connection more than anything else.
“We hope this show is the first of many for Citadels of the Sun - the next step would be to tour this work and of course to present it at home. Divya Bhatia (Festival director RIFF) and myself both hope to be present at this year’s WOMEX in Lisbon to pitch the work internationally. Divya has been our primary Indian contact throughout the project offering everything from translation to artistic consultation.
Marty’s project is funded through the British Council’s India-Northern Ireland Connections Through Culture grant scheme, which over three years, supports artistic collaboration and exchange between creative professionals and arts organisations in Northern Ireland and India, with the project building on previous work between Earagail Arts Festival and the Jodphur RIFF festival in 2019.
Speaking about the project, Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland said: “We’re delighted to support Marty with Citadels of the Sun and see the project back in Rajasthan. Our aim with Connections through Culture grants is to help strengthen the creative sector between India and Northern Ireland and we hope this show at one of the world’s biggest folk festivals, will put the spotlight on Marty’s work internationally. We wish him every success during his time in India.”
India-Northern Ireland Connection Through Culture Grants continue the British Council’s work, building connection, understanding and trust between people in the UK and overseas through arts, education and English language teaching. To find out more about their work in Northern Ireland visit nireland.britishcouncil.org or follow on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.