Jazz has always had its share of aficionados in India. But growing avenues of live entertainment along with the rise of internet have forced non-mainstream music genres like it to take a backseat.
Jazz Utsav in Mumbai (PIC/Sayed Sameer Abedi)
Jazz Utsav, which over the past two decades has become quite an event in Delhi, has seen a dwindling number of enthusiasts, but its organisers say the response from youngsters is encouraging.
Arvinder Dhingra of Capital Jazz, which organised the event Jazz Utsav 11 over the weekend, told IANS: "This time we did it at Kamani Auditorium, which has some 800 seats. There was a time in the 1990s when we used to have an audience of around 1,400."
Dhingra attributed this to the rising alternative avenues of live entertainment.
Led by retired attorney general and long time jazz lover Soli Sorabjee, the group Capital Jazz has been organising the festival regularly since its conception in 1984. This year, an open air jazz fest was also held in the capital, drawing a larger audience, most of whom comprised first time jazz listeners.
Says Dhingra, "If such an event retains even 10 percent of its first time audience, it is a good thing." He believes jazz could do with more promotion in India.
Talking to IANS, Tommy Smith, a saxophonist for Arild Andersen's trio from Norway, was quite positive about the future of jazz in India, going by the curiosity among youngsters.
He talked about a Spicmacay event in a leading Noida school where the band connected with young school children: "The youngsters had done their homework. They knew the music we played and they had a lot of questions for us. There we were, faced by 20 eager faces with microphones and by the end we were exhausted!"
"Their enthusiasm and inquisitiveness were like food for us."
Jarry Singla, an internationally renowned jazz musician and part of an Indo-German trio called Eastern Flowers who performed Sunday night, told IANS: "It's very important to have professional schools for the genre."
Noting that music schools are rare in India, Singla had another piece of advice: "Listening to different artists is a very good way to learn. A young musician should listen as much as possible."
He was also interested in working with Indian musicians and said the Eastern flowers "would love to do that".
On the Utsav's first day, an almost full auditorium was in for a musical treat as the Austrian duo of vocalist Michaela Rabitsch and guitarist Robert Pawlik opened the fest with a mix of their favourite compositions.
Arild Andersen's trio was next. The audience loved their rendition of folk music and gave them a standing ovation.
Day two brought the legendary Indian duo of Braz Gonsalves and Louiz Banks together after a long time. Gonsalves came back from retirement to team up with Banks after several years.
The audience was a bit of a surprise in itself, with a lot of young adults turning up. According to organisers, youngsters accounted for almost 40 percent of the ticket sales this year.
The younger audience, like long-time jazz aficionados who had come as well, was happier listening to pure or classic jazz tunes as opposed to those that tried to infuse jazz with pop.
Radhika, a 28-year-old banker who attended the event, said: "I am not a through and through jazz lover, but I really liked the music."