12 July 2017
If one were to set up an apothecary for the soul, perhaps it would just dole out music in a variety of forms and doses to its many patrons. One of the formulae that would most definitely be a cure would be jazz in all its forms. Its soothing, lilting melodies speak of stories of every man in every age.
An extension of West African folk music, jazz, found its roots in the African American slave community during the early 20th century. From there, it has traversed the world taking up distinct flavours of new nations and new cultures.
European colonial influence on the Indian subcontinent provided the channels through which Afro-American music was introduced into India in the 1920s. Though it was initially an elite form of entertainment for the Europeans in reputed establishments of Bombay and Goa, by 1930s and 1940s, the charm of jazz had begun to permeate through Indian veins. Anglo-Indian bands began to dominate the local jazz scene in India in the late 1940s and early 1950s. However a decline in all foreign goods and the migration of a major part of the Anglo Indian community during the Independence era brought about a significant decline in the popularity of jazz music. Many establishments like the Bombay Jazz Club shut down due to lack of patrons. This forced jazz musicians to shift onto mainstream Hindi music, television commercials and stage musicals.
Louis Banks and many of his contemporaries however continued to fuel the love for jazz. The late 70s and 80s saw the cross pollination of jazz and Indian music to give rise to a new genre of Indo–jazz. Many musicians realized the similarities jazz had with folk tunes and desi ragas and how these could be successfully fused together to create startlingly beautiful tunes.
The year 1975 seemed a propitious time as Niranjan Jhaveri and other individuals found Jazz India, the organization that sponsored the first Jazz Yatra in 1978. One of the most eclectic jazz festivals anywhere, it has featured styles such as Hindustani and Carnatic classical music, Afro-American gospel, samba, new age sounds, South American folk, Indo-jazz, and virtually every style of conventional jazz.
In 1982 a jazz workshop consisting of lectures on the history of jazz by Yusuf Ghandi and performance classes taught by Louis Banks, culminated in an enthusiastic concert by the participants. American saxophonist Charlie Mariano, guitarist Robert Giannetti, also known as D. Wood and Indian bamboo flutist Nityanand Haldipur were the first to experiment with the two distinct styles of music involving different instruments and techniques.
John Coltrane’s My Favourite things, is the perfect example of the most effective amalgamations of modern jazz and Indian classical music.
Steve Sequeira, a celebrated drummer of the original Indian version of Jesus Christ Superstar fame, is also a well-established keyboard player with a strong jazz & blues influences. His vocals made for a unique style and a fresh approach to jazz standards and blues. Amongst his many awe-inspiring accolades are his skills as a composer of theatrical music and performances besides performing at the Jazz Yatra in Delhi.
Derek Julien started professionally at the age of 17, playing all over India, with one of the earliest bands, the Mystiks. In 1971, Derek became part of the legendary progressive rock band “Waterfront”. A true connoisseur of good intimate music, Derek started Pune’s first truly digital recording studio in 1996. Musicians like Derek rekindled the love for classy jazz affairs where the benefit was counted in musical and not bank notes.
Arjun Sen jumpstarted his professional career in 1981 with an inimitable band from Nagaland called “A kind of Blue”. Eventually settling for the capital, Delhi offered this stylish guitarist a vista of opportunities to expand his knowledge and experiments on music. From bands to performance gigs, he went on to firmly establish himself as an independent composer and has been associated with classic labels such as Sony, Nestle, Brisgestone, Time, Bennett&Coleman to name a few. His natural inclination to jazz and blues sets him apart from modern day electronic masonry that is prevalent in the world of music.
Dhruv Ghanekar is largely credited with revolutionising the live music scene. Over the years, his establishment, the Blue Frog has hosted innumerable international acts while providing a much-needed platform to local artists. An ardent lover of jazz and fusion forms, he gravitates naturally towards the likes of L. Shankar, Trilok Guru and Shakti. A maker of the finest musicians on the scene, Ghanekar is up for the classy and the quirky in equal measures.
Ronojit Chaliha aka. Ron Cha is a Jazz Pianist is trained in Western Classical piano and crossed over to jazz and improvised music. One of the recipients of the 1st A.R. Rahman 100% Full Scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, he has recorded alongside artistes such as Ferenc Németh, Dennis Montgomery III, Loy Mendonsa, Dhruv Ghanekar, Floyd Fernandes, Gino Banks, Sheldon D’Silva, and others. He has toured around the country to give astounding performances in leading jazz clubs and performance centres.
An active contributor of the independent music movement in India, Vasundhara sings a variety of blues, pop, rock, and R & B compositions. Her associations with labels like MTV, vh1, Star world, Fox traveller and more has given her an iconic status that helps her furbish her love for classical rhythms such as the jazz and blues in the youth of today.
A refreshingly original and sought-after voice, Kitchensinkhas been creating waves in the music circuit of New Delhi since its inception in 2013. The band is the result of collaborative styles of bassist Jayant Manchanda, drummer Siddharth Jain and pianist Rohit Gupta, guitarist and lyricist Adhir Ghosh and vocalist and lyricist Smiti Malik. Kitchensink writes reflective, deeply personal lyrics which meet with the inclusive nature of jazz.
Undoubtedly one of the finest guitarists in the city, Pranai Gurung has been writing and collaborating with various musicians for over 15 years. His work with DRIFT The Trio, Silk Route, Bipul Chettri, Shilpa Rao, BLU, The Crossover Jazz Collective, BollyJazz, Red Mawkin, etc and his performances in some prestigious festivals like Jazzmandu2003, NH7 2012, Shillong Jazz n Blues Festival 2014, Dhaka Jazz n Blues Festival 2015, PuneJazz Utsav 2015, Hyderabad Jazz festival 2015, NH7 2015 are proof to his versatility and experience.
– Sulagna Chakrabarti