Derry folk musician Marty Coyle will play one of the biggest folk festivals in the world this weekend when he takes the stage at the Jodhpur RIFF (Rajasthani International Folk Festival) in India.
Located in the spectacular Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, the festival welcomes thousands of music lovers for five days (October 6-10) for the best of Rajasthani, Indian and world 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, mixing Irish folk music with that of India.
Since 2019, the multi-instrumentalist has been working on a traveling show called Citadels of the Sun which features 60 minutes of music around the stories 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, keyboards, vocals) and Paul Cutliffe (uilleann pipes, whistles), alongside Rajasthani musicians Asin Khan (sarangi player and singer from the Langa community) and Sawai Khan (percussionist and singer from the Manganiyar community), who will come together to present the best of Rajasthani and Irish music.
This is the second time Marty has taken part in Jodhpur RIFF, having performed at the festival in 2019, before he had to take a two-year break due to the pandemic.
Speaking ahead of the show, he said, “I’m really looking forward to being back at Jodhpur RIFF. Last time, I felt like our performance had tapped into the beginnings of something and there was more to explore.
“This time we have the chance to play on the main stage in the courtyard of the Palace, which is really special and makes Citadels of the Sun feel like it has come full circle.
“The project was about figuring out how to blend two styles of music and make them work – Irish music can be quite regulated, but Rajasthani musicians have taught us 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, non-stop once we start – a challenge for me , but nothing new for Indian musicians accustomed to playing in long form.
“The show ends with a celebratory piece based on an old traditional Rajasthani folk song that the audience might recognize, but we have developed this piece in an Irish style incorporating a new reel from our piper Paul.”
Marty is also looking forward to reuniting with the two musicians from Rajasthan, who have been instrumental in the project from the start.
He continued, “Along with myself, Asin was Rajasthani’s main collaborator and played a vital role in bringing traditional Rajasthani folk music to the project, with his main instrument the sarangi, a traditional folk instrument.
“While Sawai provides the authentic Rajasthani rhythms on Dholak (a double-headed drum) and Khartal (hand percussion) along with vocal accompaniment.
“Because of the Covid-19, we haven’t been able to see each other since 2019 and the project had to develop online. For music, it’s always better to bring people together in the same room, but we have used to working online and it gave us more time to be methodical and get it right.
“The pandemic has shown us that we have the technology to connect with people regardless of destination and it’s a great way to shake things up if you can’t be there in person.
“I’m excited to be back on stage together though because that’s where the magic really happens. It’s more about the human connection than anything else.
“We hope this show is the first in a long series for Citadels of the Sun – the next step would be to tour this work and of course bring it home. Divya Bhatia (RIFF Festival Director) and I both hope to be present at this year’s WOMEX in Lisbon to showcase the work internationally.
Marty’s project is funded by 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 organizations in Northern Ireland and in India, the project building on previous work between Earagail Arts Festival and Jodphur RIFF Festival in 2019.
Speaking about the project, Jonathan Stewart, Director of the British Council Northern Ireland, said: “We are delighted to support Marty with Citadels of the Sun and to see the project back in Rajasthan.
“Our aim with the Connections through Culture grants is to help strengthen the creative sector between India and Northern Ireland and we hope that this performance at one of the world’s largest folk festivals will highlight the work of Marty on an international level and we wish him every success during his time in India.
The Connecting India and Northern Ireland through Culture grants continue the work of the British Council, building connection, understanding and trust between people in the UK and overseas through the arts, education and teaching English.
To find out more about their work in Northern Ireland, visit nireland.britishcouncil.org or follow them on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI, Facebook or Instagram.