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From the ballrooms to open air concerts, Jazz music in India

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“Ahhh… cartoons America’s only
native art form. I don’t count
jazz because it s**ks.”
– Bart Simpson

Well this is the only time I have not agreed with Bart.

Jazz as a genre may not have the widest audience but it is captivating. Once you listen to it you keep wanting more. Jazz music has always had a dedicated following in India. The number might not be huge but the loyalty is. The genre finds its roots in the country way back in the 1920s. Jazz was known as the music for the elite. No wonder the epicentre of Jazz in India is the Ballroom at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai. The ballrooms of five-star hotels and the nightclubs of major Indian cities were jazz centres. These clubs hosted mostly foreign bands but soon the local musicians drew a liking to the genre and started performing. Coming mainly from Goa, they learned how to play the instruments in churches and schools. Jazz music lovers formed their groups. They organised gigs at any venue possible. Jazz found its way from the ballrooms and night clubs to the working class and even Bollywood.

(Video: John DiMartino at Jus ‘Jazz’ Bandra, Mumbai 2018)

 

One such society in Mumbai, the Jazz Addicts founded by Pradip Bhatia and Apurva Agarwal, is hosting ‘Jus’ Jazz’ Featuring John Di Martino , Pianist, Arranger and Producer from New York along with the legendary Warren Vache, cornet, trumpet and flugelhorni stand Neal Miner the bassist. They will be performing LIVE on center stage at the Rang Mandir, Bandra West on Tuesday 27th November’18 at 8.00 pm. This show is presented by VH1 and Jazz Addicts. Di Martino, a 3 time Grammy nominee and Vache are not unfamiliar names in the jazz circuit. Surely in a city starved of jazz music this is a welcome event.

With the increasing popularity of Bollywood music, Jazz started to fade in the background. The genre finds a lot of similarities with Indian classical music. Both have accepted, infact rely on, improvisations. This helped in fusing the two sounds. Musicians across the globe realised this fact and the audience got to listen to some great collaborations and the birth of what is loosely called ‘Indo Jazz’. A genre that is a conflux of Jazz, classical and Indian music influences. The great Pandit Ravi Shankar is a pioneer of Indo Jazz. Shankar is responsible for taking Indian version of Jazz abroad. Having performed with Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival and even the cult music festival Woodstock, his association with George Harrison, from the Beatles, saw him rise as an icon of Indian Classical music across the globe.

(pic : George Harrison with Pandit Ravi Shankar)

A sound that was accepted globally. John Coltrane, John Mayer, John Mclaughlin have composed some amazing tunes in the Indo Jazz genre. Jazz has recently found a sizeable following amongst the youth. This has resulted in an increase in the Jazz gigs across the country. While events like the Jazz Utsav, The Delhi Jazz Festival, Mahindra Blues Festival have been hosting their events regularly, a lot of gigs have been happening in small venues too. Indian Jazz artistes like Usha Uthup, Trilok Gurtu, Louis Banks, Radha Thomas and Gary Lawyer have been regulars at these gigs. This has helped in bringing jazz artistes and enthusiasts together. That Jazz has survived and evolved as a genre proves how much it is loved and followed.

 

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