Kaela Rowan, a Scottish singer, is sitting on the main stage at Jodhpur Riff, under a white canopy put up to shade musicians from the scorching afternoon sun. She is going over the lyrics of a song that her group is about to sing; singing along with James Mackintosh (on drums), Ewan Macpherson (Jewish harp and guitar) and Patsy Reid (fiddle). This group, in turn, is collaborating with Kamru Khan (on the kamaycha), Kasam Khan (saarangi, vocals), Sheru Khan (morchang), Bhanwru Khan Langa (khartal), Mustaq Khan (dholak) and Dayam Khan (harmonium, vocals).
As Rowan goes over the lines to the folk song Balamji Mora Jhilmil Barse, Dayam begins to play the harmonium. He sings and the musicians playing other instruments join in. Rowan listens to Dayam, mouthing the lyrics along with him. This is followed up by a Celtic folk song by Rowan. Then Dayam and Rowan take turns, each singing their bit alternately. The other musicians join in on the chorus of this new creation. Confusion ensues. When should everyone stop singing so Rowan can sing some lines solo? The music ceases abruptly as the instrumentalists, one after the other, stop playing. The kamaycha is the last to trail off. They look to each other to see where they’ve gone wrong. They discuss the order of singing that they had decided upon earlier. Finally, the confusion is cleared. Mackintosh (on drums) reconfirms the order out loud: “It’s the guys, then Kaela, guys, Kaela and then we take it up.”
It’s getting windy now and the white canopy above begins to flutter noisily. The group goes over the song again. Some of the instrumentalists join in while the rest listen and try to figure where they would best fit in. Reid pays attention to the sarangi, trying to match her fiddle to it. Mackintosh switches between playing the drums and playing the pacay pods (two pods tied together to create something like a maracas, but with a duller sound).
They take a break, settling down to tune their instruments before beginning again. The wind grows stronger. Two of the wooden poles holding up the canopy fall forward. They are almost immediately caught by a few volunteers. However, everyone rushes out from under the canopy, not quite sure of what just happened. The volunteers struggle to get the canopy back up. There is a tear in the sheet. While the tear is fixed Rowan and Reid wonder whether they should grab some lunch. Sheru and Bhanwru continue to watch on silently as the wooden poles are fixed back into position.
The canopy back up and the break over, the group gets together to go over the song again. They seat each other according to the instruments they are playing and the order in which they will play these. The Jew’s harp being somewhat similar in sound to the morchang, Macpherson and Sheru sit next to each other. Reid sits between Kasam on the sarangi and Kamru on the kamaycha. Mackintosh sits next to Mustaq on the dholak. Rowan walks around, checking to ensure that everyone has space to sit comfortably and maneuver their instruments.
Once again, Dayam begins playing the harmonium and sings. Towards the end of the song, the dholak and the morchang pick up, and Bhanwru raises himself on his knees clapping the khartal enthusiastically. Everyone seems happy at having gotten the song right. The afternoon sun shines bright on their faces. The wind begins to blow hard again but the canopy looks like it will hold.
(Image: By Shantenu Tilwankar for Jodhpur Riff / Oijo.)