Jodhpur – Marwar Meets Andalucia In Mehrangarh

The fusion of traditions at the Jodhpur Flamenco and Gypsy Festival is a visual and emotive exploration of rhythm.

Of the passion and pathos of the Cante with the joyous, raucous melodies of the Thar desert. The mellow tones of the acoustic guitar with the shrill keening of the Kamaicha and the Sindhi Sarangi. The power and the poise of the Flamenco baile with the sinuous whirling of the Kalbelia dancers.

An explosion of joy and colour and romance that underscores the fact that beneath all those surface distinctions we aren’t that dissimilar after all.

Jodhpur Flamenco and Gypsy Festival 2015


The imposing 15th century citadel setting does the fusion proud. An elevator whisks us up to level three.  We walk through a gorgeous courtyard ringed by carved jharokas that is set up with food stalls, another with a well stocked bar and onward to the open air venue.

The music might belong to rural peasants but the crowd is well heeled and cosmopolitan. Yellow turbaned staff, straight out of the pages of an EM Foster novel, pad in and out of fluted doorways into the patrons lounge that is cordoned off from the hoi polloi and where celebrity guests (and those that can afford lounge passes) hobnob with royalty. I much prefer the ‘commoner’ seats for their proximity to the performers and better access for photography. Not that I have much of a choice.

Stunning monochrome portraits of Rabari nomads by Rohit Chawla line the softly lit ramparts surrounding the stage. Mexican painter Carmen Galofre captures the scene live from a raised platform to the right. And a silvery spherical moon presides benignly over it all!

Jodhpur Flamenco and Gypsy Festival 2015


Sounds of the Sands
provide a soothing prelude to the festival in the intimate Moti Mahal adjacent to the first courtyard before the concert moves out into the open. It is the stridently beautiful rendition of Kesariya Baalam ricocheting off the medieval ramparts that sets the tone for the magic in store.

This ode to Rajput bravery that has evolved into the quintessential welcome song evokes the romance of Rajasthan for me and I love every version from the ones belted out by poor buskers at tourist sites to refined Bollywood interpretations. But this pacy, powerful performance by Bismillah Khan of Rajasthan Roots is on a different level. One could be forgiven for assuming that the traditional foot-tapping, finger-snapping desert tunes that follow have been specially created for the visiting Andalusians.

Next, dancer/choreographer Daniel Navarro steals hearts with his exquisite footwork that gives the Manganiar Khartal (castanet) a run for its money. Did you know the Spanish castanet is NOT a part of true Flamenco at all? I didn’t either!

The line up is impressive. Flamenco jazz guitarist Augustin Carbonel ‘El Bola’, Latin jazz pianist Chano Dominguez, his son, percussionist/guitarist Pablo Dominguez, bassist Javier Colina, drummer Israel Varela, Flamenco guitarist Jose Manuel Leon, violinist Victor Guadiana, vocalists Naike Ponce and Javier Romero Flores ‘El Indio’…all put up mind blowing performances.

But it is the dazzling jugalbandhi between Mexican born Flamenco dancer Karen Lugo and the Manganiar artistes of Rajasthani Roots that sets the stage alight. Before rain disrupts the final act.

Plans, even royal ones it seems, can oft go awry. The drizzle turns into a storm. The elevator comes to a standstill. The tunneling effect in the passages exacerbates the impact of the gritty, gale force winds.

It takes tremendous effort to remain standing while simultaneously trying to keep the grit from our eyes and our clothes from flying up over our heads. Stylish Louboutins and practical Nikes are indiscriminately soaked through. I am glad I ignored R’s raised eyebrows and packed an extra pair of shoes but I stress over the spare glasses that I didn’t. Talk of priorities!

Jodhpur Flamenco and Gypsy Festival 2015

The freak storm clears up by morning and the show goes on.  A few late starts notwithstanding, even better than day one with the addition of acclaimed gypsy musicians from Turkey and nightly ‘tribal house beats’ by DJ Hamza and percussionist Latif Khan.

Culminating in a grand finale on day three titled “Chano and Friends” that has all the artistes -including the mesmerizing Sapera girls – up on stage for a scintillating medley.

And most of the audience on its feet.

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Many thanks to the digital marketing team at ITC hotels and WelcomHotel Jodhpur for inviting me to the JFG festival

Glossary:
· The region that Jodhpur is a part of is known as Marwar.
· Manganiar refers to a community of hereditary nomadic musicians from Rajasthan.
· Jharokas = Ornate overhanging windows/balconies
· Jugalbandhi = Duet

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

60 thoughts on “Jodhpur – Marwar Meets Andalucia In Mehrangarh

  1. You are a master at capturing these trips and bringing them alive through your writing Madhu. Simply loved reading of this adventure – I felt as though I was living in the moment through your description. The storm sounded as though nothing was left standing, good to read that it was short lived and the show went on.

    1. Thank you Mary. The storm was scary, but thankfully there was no harm done apart from soaked shoes and messed up hair 🙂

  2. Hi Madhu, what an awesome video, that is the kind of performance I would have loved to see! You lucky gal! 🙂 It must have been incredible for you…thanks for sharing!

  3. Wow, Madhu. Your narrative and pictures really capture the essence of this festival. You somehow managed to keep the camera dry and safe during the freak storm. Glad you were able to see the rest of it, including the grande finale on day three. Sitting up close pays off. Just look at the fancy footwork you captured and the smiles on the participant’s faces. 🙂

    1. The camera went into my bag as soon as it started drizzling. I was more worried about my glasses. I rarely use lenses these days, and never travel without a spare pair, but you know Murphy’s law and all that 😀 Thanks Lynne.

  4. Madhu your pictures don’t help in my longing to be in India! India is the only country that calls to my soul over and over again. Thank you for sharing this amazing festival with us!

    1. You are most welcome Cindy. You should plan on attending one of the Jodhpur festivals. The Sufi festival in March sounds wonderful as well. This one was rather genteel and not as frenzied as more traditional celebrations 🙂

      1. thank you Madhu for that enlightening information. Would love to be there but some of us have to work unfortunately 😦

    1. Thanks Sue. Have been struggling without any internet for over a week. Uploading that video via an USB dongle took nearly six hours!

  5. This is mesmerising, I could watch Daniel Navarro and the band in medley for hours. What a great experience you had 🙂 oh and the links are all really interesting!

    1. Oh I knew you would Gilly. It was so mesmerizing, it’s a wonder I managed to capture any photos at all 🙂

  6. That must have been one hell of a venue … the imposing fortress of Mehrangarh! Didn’t they use it in the last movie of Nolan’s Batman trilogy? Thanks for the video and the pictures! Love them! Jodhpur will always have a special place in my realm of memories!

    1. I had no idea, but Google tell me Wayne, in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, finds himself in front of the fort when he escapes the subterranean prison in Cardington, UK!! So thank YOU Paritosh 🙂

  7. As everybody says, you truly have a talent to bring your experiences to life. Must have been an honour to have been at this festival, it looks so festive and artistique from your report only. Can’t even imagine what it would be like in real life.

    1. It was amazing and I certainly felt privileged to have been able to witness it. Thank you very much for your visit and comment Kirsten 🙂

  8. How wonderful. How lucky you are to go to such a festival. Thank you Madhu for sharing your experience. Too bad about the storm, but apart from that I bet the dancing and music was amazing.
    Alison

    1. It was beyond amazing Alison. The storm was scary, but we didn’t really miss much on account of it. Thank you for reading 🙂

  9. I love how this kind of event reminds us all that we’re much more similar than different. Too bad for the storm, but at least you had Daniel Navarro dancing to that Bollywood tunes. He’s such a talented performer, to say the least! Love the colors, the ambiance, the energy, and the message this event brings.

    1. True Bama. Daniel Navarro was amazing. Those were more folk tunes actually, but he was mimicking some typical Bollywood moves! 🙂

  10. What a feast of entertainment you had! Despite the rain, I bet R wished he could have been there. Flamenco/Riverdance/Gene Kelly- any or all of these styles cast a spell over me. I love it! I really should have been there 🙂 🙂

  11. Love this … the sights and sounds of culture is always good, but fusion of cultures is fabulous! Thanks for creating this post. 🙂

  12. I am enthralled and watched the dance three times, just to sink into it. I swear to you my friend I am shrinking so I fit into your suitcase. What a wonderful event, what a marvelous opportunity. You capture it perfectly both with your eye and your voice.

    1. Wish I could take you all along! Thank you very much for the appreciative comment Valentine. Have a fabulous Thursday! 🙂

  13. What a wonderful experience Madhu ~ and I love the contrast between the first two photos. It seems you experienced a full range of emotions with this adventure, and so well written. Cheers!

  14. The photos are brilliant Madhu. I don’t think you needed a tripod there. Investing into one is not a big deal, but carrying it around is..

    1. I hate having to carry around a tripod Paula. But seeing almost everyone sporting one – even Iphonographers! – I wished I had brought one as well. The video could have done with a steady mount 😦 Is it at all possible to straighten videos? 😉

        1. I only make videos of my shots, so I don’t know how to help. What do you record them with? With your Nikon?

  15. What a privilege to have seen this… and a fabulous idea to bring Flamenco to the place where the Roma first emerged! That fusion of Latin and Indian energy must have been electric, I know I would be completely taken had I been there! Thank you for sharing this mesmerising post, Madhu. 🙂

  16. Capturing performance that clear is hard to do. Capturing performance into words even so. Magic! You made me believe in magic. 😀

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