When Jazz was king in the Maximum City
Naresh Fernandes's Taj Mahal Foxtrot pays glowing tribute to Mumbai's deep-rooted association with Jazz, its evolution, progress and contribution across genres and layers of the city's social fabric
Ours is a city with little respect for its past. That sad fact stares us in the face from quiet pockets every other week, when pieces of our collective history are often torn down to make way for a new mall.
For three decades, cabaret troupes from around the world entertained
Bombay's elite with elaborate acts
This is what makes Naresh Fernandes and his book Taj Mahal Foxtrot (subtitled 'The Story of Bombay's Jazz Age') so important.
Louis Armstrong at the Shanmukhanan-da Hall
Beginning with a chance encounter in Bandra with Frank Fernand, 'one of the most important figures in India's early jazz scene,' it evolves into a sometimes overwhelming exploration of the different forms of expression that went into creating our Mumbai of today.
In the late 1930s, the Plantation Quartet delighted Bombay with their
renditions of Negro spirituals and standards from the US South
This is a book filled to the brim with a cast of colourful characters and the swinging spaces they inhabited.
How many of us know that in 1958, though Prohibition was still in force, people flocked to restaurants on Churchgate Street Extension to listen to Jazz? Apparently, the stretch was so lively that many musicians insisted it was exactly like New York's club-lined 52nd street.
OP Nayar, Asha Bhonsle and Chic Chocolate
How many of us know of film arranger late Anthony Gonsalves who, in 1977, became a household name with the release of Amar Akbar Anthony?
Taj Mahal Foxtrot brings to life these and other forgotten stories -- of people like Dennis Vaz, Chic Chocolate, Micky Correa, Ken Mac and the joyful noise they made. It shines a light on aspects of our history that have stayed in darkness for too long. For this, its arrival at a bookstore near you should be celebrated.
The music: Taj Mahal Foxfort
The book's accompanying CD carries six tracks: Taj Mahal Foxtrot performed by The Symphonians, Basin Street Blues by Teddy Weatherford, Soho Blues by Lequime's Grand Hotel Orchestra, As Time Goes By performed by Ken Mac and his Band, Don't Be A Talkie composed by Mena Silas, and Blues composed and performed
by Toni Pinto. Even better is the music available online at Tajmahalfoxtrot.com with details on how Fernandes was pointed towards these songs and their creators. A highlight is the entry on Baghdadi Jewish composer Mena Silas, who wrote Taj Mahal, the foxtrot after which his book was eventually named.