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Exploring Udaipur: The City of Lakes becomes an island of world music

CultureExploring Udaipur: The City of Lakes becomes an island of world music

It’s always a good time to visit Udaipur and experience the rich culture of this beautiful city known for its picturesque lakes and architectural marvels. And we happened to visit it at the best time as we were on a three- day tour to the city for the third edition of the Udaipur World Music Festival organised by SEHER. The festival, popularly known for its grandeur and glamour, hosted soulful performances by renowned bands and artistes at strikingly beautiful venues.  The line-up included an interesting itinerary with artistes from France, United States, Nepal, Spain, Italy, Thailand and different parts of India, giving music lovers a taste of jazz, classical, rock and pop melodies.

We reached the city at 7 a.m. in the morning and were welcomed by freezing winds. As our bus ferried us through the still sleepy city, we could already feel ourselves bursting with excitement to explore it, especially, as many of us were visiting it for the first time. My day was instantly made as my hotel room gave a perfect view of the city with the Aravalli hills in the backdrop. On the first day, since there was only a single music session at night, after resting a while, we decided to set upon our journey to explore the city, and for our first adventure we chose the jewel of this tourist destination—the City Palace.  The palace, which is situated on the banks of Lake Pichola —and holds great historical importance as many rulers of Mewar reigned there, including the great Maharaja Maharana Pratap—was bustling with both domestic and foreign tourists, both awestruck by its grandeur.

The palace is now home to many historical artifacts from that era which give us an insight into the lives of the rulers of Mewar at that time. Afterwards, we headed to the banks of Lake Pichola and took a ferry ride. It is one thing you cannot miss when in the city of lakes. We inhaled the calm and peaceful air surrounded by blue water on all sides. It left a feeling of contentment and the view was breathtaking. We came face to face with the grand Taj Lake Palace and the beautiful Udaivillas. We then headed to the Vintage Car Museum which was just a 10-minute walk away. The place was overpriced as the entry for the museum cost us Rs 300 each, but if you are a history lover you surely cannot miss this marvellous gem that rightly captures the luxurious lifestyle of the
Mewar royals.

The day passed with us traversing the length of the city, and it was soon time to relax with some good live music. The first act of the Udaipur World Music Festival, was Oi Dipnoi, an outfit that plays jazz and progressive archaic folk from Italy. Next on stage was Flavia Coelho —Brazilian afro reggae—whose music had the crowd grooving with her as she brought up the energy levels. In a backstage conversation with Guardian 20 about her music, the 37-year -old singer said, “My music is a mix of reggae, rap, African, Caribbean and has a lot of influence from traditional music of Brazil and Africa. While doing live shows the most important thing for us is to put up a great show and exchange good vibes with the audience. The lyrics of my music talk about women, their rights, about society, rights of the people, rights of the poor. Also about life, about love and family.”

She then talked to us about her love for Indian classical music. “I love the sounds —especially the flute here is incredible. I loved it,” she said.

The day came to a perfect end with a mesmerising show by none other than India’s favourite trio: Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy. Shankar Mahadevan even treated the audience with his most popular song,Breathless”, not once but twice.

Our second day also started early as we wanted to catch the early morning session of meditative music. It was good to see classical music being given its own independent stage at a music festival which is otherwise about rock, pop and jazz. The venue was the amazingly beautiful Amber at Amet Haveli, Ambrai ghat. This ancient Haveli, now a heritage hotel, was built between 1734- 52. Picturesquely located on the banks of Lake Pichola, it overlooks the magnificent City Palace (and interestingly built by the same Maharana of Mewar who built the Amet Haveli with the remaining raw material of the City Palace) on one side, and the rest of the town on the other side. Amet Haveli made for an ideal property to stay at with its sumptuous rooms and a lakeside restaurant exuding the air of royalty and reminding us of an era gone by.

As soon as the Hindustani classical vocalist Subhadra Desai started reciting the ragas and shlokas there was calmness in the air and peace in our hearts. “This is a music festival that invites musicians from all genres, and classical musicians especially have a very niche audience. And this is beautiful… this wonderful venue, the lake is behind you and the sun is in front of you and you are able to sing beautiful ragas and shlokas,” she said.Next up on stage was the Petrakis Lopez Chemirani trio (whose members come from France, Spain and Greece).

Following which we went on a stroll along the narrow lanes of this old city and came face to face with many serene places. As the sun reached its height, the area was abuzz with activity. The shops and cafés brought the sleepy city to life. Later, we returned to our hotels to gear up for the next soulful session at the Fateh Sagar Paal, which is an exotic island in the middle of the Fateh Sagar Lake.

The festival celebrated cultural diversity at its best. It brought people from different ethnicities, backgrounds and cultures together. Each session represented a different mood of the day. The mornings witnessed soft meditative music, afternoons personified the romantic mood beside lakes, while the evenings focused on youthful music.

The road to Fateh Sagar was as beautiful as the destination itself, with water on one side and hills on the other. As we approached the venue, the view was punctuated by several food stalls and eateries. If you happen visit this place, trying the delicious kulhad waali coffee is a must. The lake road is perfect for a relaxing walk; even as the temperature soared through the day, there was a cool breeze blowing alongside. Here, the New York-based Indian artiste Shubh Saran and the indie band Maati Baani delighted the crowd with their jazz and folk fusion performances. Later at night we were grooving to Asia 7 (from Thailand), Bipul Chettri, and the travelling band Astitva and Nojazz.

On the last day after attending the first two sessions we decided to view the sunset from the Sajjangarh Fort, also known as Monsoon Palace, which is the highest point in the city. It is a place where you can sit for hours and enjoy the tranquillity of the surroundings and lose yourself in the glorious scenery.


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