Attend a delightful gig where Jazz and Blues intermingle

Mar 13, 2018, 12:01 IST | Shunashir Sen

Attend a gig where two pivotal genres of music will intermingle

The first decade of the 20th century was a seminal era in the history of contemporary American music. This is because two pivotal genres started evolving in that period. One is blues. And the other is jazz, which followed almost immediately after. Blues, it is said, originated in the cotton fields in the southern part of the United States, where African-American slaves would sing about their life to ease the burden of their labour, borrowing heavily from gospel and country music. Their songs didn't necessarily stem from self-pity, although that thematic scheme did form a part of the genre, which is why it's called “blues” in the first place.

Rahul Wadhwani
Rahul Wadhwani

And jazz, at the same time, started replacing western classical music as the pop culture trend of that period, forming its roots in New Orleans before spreading to other parts of the US. Gradually, the musicians, or “cats”, who played at jazz bars started incorporating elements of blues in their compositions, meaning that the evolution of the two genres is intertwined to a significant extent.

Now, three city-based musicians will perform a concert in which these two styles will intermingle. Vocalist Samantha Noella, pianist Rahul Wadhwani and upright bass player Marios Menelaou will be in charge of the evening's entertainment at a BKC hotel's newly started series of live gigs. Noella and Wadhwani have been collaborating for a while now. As is the case with many Mumbai musicians who pursue their craft as a full-time career, the two of them also perform with other outfits. But they join forces whenever the opportunity arises, having now roped in Menelaou as well, after he arrived in Mumbai in January this year to take up a job in a music school. And with his arrival, Menelaou has added to what seems to be a rapidly growing list of foreign musicians who have set up base in the city.

Marios Menelaou
Marios Menelaou

Why is that, we ask him. The Cypriot answers, “One of the main reasons is that given the size of Mumbai, there aren't enough people to match the demand of jazz gigs here. I came here to work, though. I didn't consciously come to experience the city's music scene. But at the same time, we [foreign musicians] are all trying actively to push it. Also, we studied jazz in central Europe, where it is a big part of the culture. And people here like to see western musicians play this music, just as it would be if I wanted to study Indian music and would have liked to listen to Indian musicians play it in that case.”

He adds, however, that jazz has a universal culture, something which finds reflection in the fact that Noella, a Mumbaikar, started learning it when she was all of five years old. “I started singing professionally when I was 14 and became a vocal trainer later in life. But it's not that I have stuck to jazz only. I think that as a musician, you have
to be open to singing all kinds of genres. So I sing blues, soul and R&B as well, because it helps me grow not just as a vocalist but as a teacher too,” she tells us. Tomorrow's concert, though, will focus only on jazz and blues classics, Noella reveals. “We will definitely cover the greats, like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Chick Correa, and also play some instrumental tracks that have Latin or contemporary influences. So although the gig will fall within the jazz and blues spectrum, it will be a mixed bag of sorts and I, for one, am really excited about it.”

On March 14, 7 PM
At Artisan, Sofitel Mumbai, BKC.
Call 61175000 entry Rs 1,500 (inclusive of beer or wine, and appetisers)

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