Jazzing up Mumbai

Updated: Oct 08, 2019, 11:28 IST | Karishma Kuenzang | Mumbai

First in mid-day: Two siblings join their passion for jazz and F&B to give the city a new performance space focusing on the genre and American-Italian cuisine

Pics/Ashish Raje
Pics/Ashish Raje

Mumbai girl Eesha Sukhi's memories of growing up are those surrounding her brother, Amar practising the clarinet at home. Amar, 55, who's been playing the saxophone and clarinet at various collaborations in the city for 18 years, including with the Bombay Chamber Orchestra, is more like their mother — a jazz lover thanks to her Goan roots. Eesha, 38, is like their late father, the foodie who loved Bollywood. So, it's fitting that when the siblings started a business, and that too, on family turf in Khar, it had to be a performance space-cum-café. Amar manages the music and Eesha, everything else.

cafeEesha and Amar Sukhi

The Bluebop Café opens its doors to the public on Sunday. When we meet them on a sunny afternoon, they admit that the decision was a no-brainer, though it took three years to execute impeccably.

"I wanted to give people a chance to hear and see something I believe is more authentic. There's an imbalance today as a lot of stuff gets passed off as jazz. But, for me, jazz is the music which stemmed from the blues and then morphed into jazz after World War II. New Orleans was a port which had a lot of marching bands during the war. When the war ended, the locals were allowed to keep the instruments, and they later formed bands using them. We want to focus on the golden era of jazz, from the 1920s to '50s and '60s, from blues to bebop; along with classical as there is so much of it in jazz. But no pop or Bollywood,"reveals Amar. 

cafeEspresso martini

And thus, when the lease of their family-owned Khar West space expired in 2015, Amar, who also manages the family security firm and a software company, put forth the idea to his sister, who had finished 15 years in marketing. "Amar has been a guiding force, career-wise. When I realised I enjoyed working in F&B, he said, 'why not do this?'"recalls Eesha.

cafeBurrata salad

Three years hence, they are set to give Mumbai a heady dose of jazz on weekends. The space will also host sporadic gigs through the week. And like a true jazz experience, where improvisation is key, the space will also host curated jam sessions. There are plans to also screen videos of jazz gigs for the week. "Ours is a self-funded venture. We didn't want to get into partnerships as that may dilute the idea; many good ideas have fallen due to partners' fighting. Besides, we didn't want to make a compromise with our music,"Amar tells us, to which Eesha quickly adds, "And when it's family, there's a greater sense of emotional attachment."The equation also makes the space feel more like home — which is what they are aiming for with wa­rm maroon and wooden sha­des and a classic old-world charm.

cafePepperoni pizza

The acoustics have been smartly designed, an advantage when a musician owns a performance space. Mumbai-based Kapil Thirwani has designed the sound; he has used specific material for the ceiling, pillars and glass panels to ensure the acoustics remain uniform throughout the 70-75-seater space. There's an in-house Korg keyboard, a Pearl drumkit and an acoustic guitar for use. We notice an electric guitar installed at the entrance of the kitchen. Turns out, it's owned by none other than young head chef, Saurabh Raturi, who's a metal fan. It's when we realise what we love most about this space — it's for anyone and everyone who appreciates good sound.

cafeThe electric guitar mounted on the kitchen wall

Their Italian-American menu is an interesting spread, tailored to blend with the theme of the venue. Mumbai boy Raturi, who likes prepping everything in-house, whips up a portion of well-spiced jerk chicken taco (Rs 410), a comforting burrata salad (Rs 480) and an oozing pepperoni pizza (Rs 640), which we wash down with their heady espresso martini  (Rs 550), mixed by head bartender (formerly at The Bombay Canteen) Dinesh Mondkar. They are still finalising the entire menu, though their fare looks promising and gets the flavours spot on, much like the ambience and music.

Their first public performance will feature Mumbai-based jazz duo Sonia and Harmeet on October 18.

At The Bluebop Cafe, Satyam Building, Khar West.
Opens on October 13
Timing 12 pm to 1 am
Call 6236644

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