Enjoy some wonderful jazz music in Mumbai headed by India's most famous billiards players' son

Apr 10, 2018, 16:40 IST | Shunashir Sen

A band fronted by the son of India's most famous billiards player will perform in the city

Time Wise rehearses a song
Time Wise rehearses a song

During the course of our conversation with Raag Sethi, the guitarist for an Ahmedabad-based jazz band called Time Wise, he gives us one yardstick he has for gauging the time when indie music finally comes of age in the country. He says, "It will be the day when the average person on the streets is able to name at least one indie band in his city."

Geet (left) and Raag Sethi
Geet (left) and Raag Sethi

That day, to be clear, is still aeons away. For, if you catch hold of a random person even in a place like Mumbai - which undoubtedly is at the forefront of the scene, and where Time Wise is slated to play a gig later this week - he will probably start talking about his wardrobe if you ask him, "What's your favourite indie outfit?" But that being said, Sethi adds that even in the case of Ahmedabad, which is a late bloomer when it comes to this genre, ripples have started forming in the stagnant pool that indie music has thus far been in the city.

Raag Sethi

"Things have been slowly picking up over the last three years, because there are more people organising gigs now. So there is a community that is gradually being built. But the problem is that there is still no real incentive here to make original music, not just yet at least. It takes a lot of money to produce and release an album, right? But what people usually listen to is Bollywood and commercial music. That's the scene. The only place where you can hear live original stuff is festivals because we don't have pubs here, unfortunately. So, that whole culture of going out and listening to original songs has still not fully matured in Ahmedabad. But the process has started," he says.

This sense of nascency is something that we, too, have been getting about the city, and what we also come to understand as the conversation carries on is that Sethi himself has been an integral part of this process. He returned to India in 2013 after studying classical music theory in the US. Then, while talking to a friend one evening, they decided to take matters into their own hands instead of complaining about a lack of opportunities for musicians in the city.
Thus, they organised the Ahmedabad Jazz and Blues Festival. "Actually, most of the people who helped make the fest happen are musicians who performed in it as well. So it was truly an of-the-musicians-by-the-musicians kind of an event," Sethi reveals.

He adds that the festival was also the womb out of which Time Wise, the band, was born. "I had just come back after a break, and I didn't really know anyone in the city's music scene. But this fest got together a lot of different musicians. I didn't know that there was a saxophonist in Ahmedabad, for example, until I met Harmish [Joshi]. Dhaivat [Jani] is a great drummer. And these are people I met for the first time at the jazz festival. So after it ended, since we had really enjoyed playing together, we decided, 'You know what, let's just start a band, with an emphasis on pushing the boundaries of jazz music and experimenting with rhythms and melodies,'" Sethi tells us.

That experimental strand has remained a constant strain in the band's music over the past three years. Their songs have a non-functional nature about them, with a regular element of dissonance in the notes. Sethi says, "We take everything that we like from the traditional standards and discard the rest to give it our own spin."

His own interest in music, the guitarist adds, started thanks to his father, who happens to be India's most celebrated billiards player of all time, Geet Sethi. His dad, Sethi says, was big on hi-fi audio during the latter's childhood. "So he used to get the best amplifiers and speakers, and we would routinely just sit down and listen to things like Dire Straits and Queen. He also introduced me to Foreplay, a classic old-school instrumental jazz band. In fact, when I told him that Random Gyan, my other band, had released an album, he bought it and said, "Oh, I really liked it, I have been listening to it the whole time!' So yes, he's very supportive of everything that I do and he's an avid music fan," Sethi says, with evidence of that last fact lying in his first name and that of Jazz, his sister.

On: April 12, 9 pm
At: The Quarter, Royal Opera House, Girgaum
Call: 8329110638
Cost: Rs 749 onwards

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