Mumbai's love affair with Jazz

Apr 30, 2014, 09:35 IST | Dhara Vora

On International Jazz Day, we speak to the city’s less-known names who put their ideas to work so that Mumbai’s Jazz landscape remains in sync. Dhara Vora listens in

A deep voice crooning songs about love, a saxophone complimenting the enticing voice and the double bass adding more depth to the music; there’s a lot to love about Jazz. To promote this genre of music as a mode to spread peace and unity, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared April 30 as International Jazz Day.

Mumbai was the centre of India’s Jazz landscape through the 1900s; however, the energy died down in the later half. Thankfully, things are looking up now for Jazz aficionados as the last few years have witnessed big-ticket festivals and intimate gigs being received with equal interest.

“Jazz has always been a part of Mumbai, and even, Calcutta. It has also been and is a niche genre as compared to Pop or Electronica. But fortunately, there is a huge interest today in Jazz. Last month, the Delhi Jazz Festival was packed, and we have had a very encouraging response at the intimate gigs in the city across different venues,” informs Emmanuelle de Decker of music management company, Gatecrash.

Louiz Banks remains one of the pioneers of India’s Jazz music scene

One of the earliest festivals dedicated to Jazz in India was Jazz Yatra (later known as Jazz Utsav). “Like any other genre of music, festivals played an important part in popularising Jazz. People would listen to artistes and then go buy the music. However, today there are hardly any music stores. The Jazz period in the city was dormant for almost a decade when the festival stopped,” says Sunil Sampat of Jazz Addicts, an association of Jazz enthusiasts in India. He rues that an entire generation of people are not exposed to this genre. “But things are looking up again since the past three-four years with the festivals we have been organising with the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA),” he adds.

Bring in the audience
“An addition of even one more person is encouraging. And, the city has a strong community that constantly supports such concerts. Bandra Base offers a small space but it’s always full (approximately 40 people) for the Jazz events. Also, the addition of the True School of Music has helped generate a professional, educational interest,” explains D-Wood, founder of Bandra Base, who is also a music teacher at Whistling Woods International.

De Decker tells us that the Jazz concert they organised at suburban restaurant Boveda received a positive response, too. During her time as a part of the blueFROG team, she recalls how big names in Jazz always played to packed houses.

It is not just alternative spaces that have witnessed this surge. Farrahnaz Irani, Senior Manager — Programmes (Western Music) at NCPA, tells us, “The occupancy is ever increasing for our Jazz concerts. In fact, the audience for Western Classical might be stagnant but the numbers for Jazz has been going up. The bigger names have always been sought after but we have to realise that one should provide a platform for national and international young artistes.”

Besides, the improvisational format of Jazz has aided its cause as artistes across Pop, Latin and Electronica are collaborating with Jazz artistes in India, thereby ensuring that straight Jazz becomes approachable. “I hope, with this rising interest, we can put India back on the international Jazz map in two-three years,” an optimistic Sampat signs off.

International Jazz Day events in the city
On: Today, 7.30 pm to 12.30 am
At: blueFROG, Lower Parel.
On: May 2, 3 and 4
At: Bandra Base, 29th Road, Bandra (W).

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