This singer from Latvia is set to make her Mumbai debut

Updated: 23 January, 2018 11:31 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

Looking at the line-up of The Ronja Burve Quartet, you'd be hard-pressed to imagine that it's a jazz ensemble based in Mumbai. None of its members are Indian

Ronja Burve in performance

Looking at the line-up of The Ronja Burve Quartet, you'd be hard-pressed to imagine that it's a jazz ensemble based in Mumbai. None of its members are Indian. Keyboardist Christos Yerolatsitis and bassist Marios Menelaou are from Cyprus, drummer Aron Nyiro is from Hungary, and Burve herself is Latvian. So, how is it that they came to practise their craft together in the city?

Ronja Burve and Christos Yerolatsitis
Ronja Burve and Christos Yerolatsitis

The answer lies in the fact that Yerolatsitis, who is Burve's boyfriend, found a job as a teacher in a music school here. And she thus decided to move to India with him because she wanted a new experience. "The music in Latvia is quite traditional, and consists mainly of choirs and classical stuff. In fact, almost everybody in Latvia sings in choirs at some point in their lives, so it's quite a big part of our culture," Burve says.

She adds that her musical world opened up after she left her home country and moved to The Netherlands to study jazz for four years. "The scene there is a lot more international, and they have traditions that go back way longer," the singer recalls, explaining that once she arrived in India last year, she decided to explore her musical career in this entirely new environment.

"The scene here is a lot funkier and has this energy that you don't get back home in Latvia. There, you have a lot of acoustic music that takes its inspiration from nature. There is also a jazz scene that is quite good, but very small, and there is electronic stuff as well, of course. But I would have to say that the energy in India is definitely different, and I also want to study Hindustani classical if I get the time," Burve reveals.

It wasn't easy initially, however, to break into the music industry in Mumbai. But she was part of an ongoing music project with Yerolatsitis, called Tree of Dawn, and his colleagues at the music school also helped her find her footing in the city. "It's actually difficult to make a career in music anywhere you go, because you have to start from zero. And India as a country is really different from what I had seen before. There's such a lot of traffic and noise, and also so many people. Plus, it's really hot. So, all these factors put together made it a bit tough for me initially. But once you start getting used to it all and find your groove, doors start to open up gradually," she affirms.

And a gig that her quartet is playing tonight is evidence of Burve already having one foot in. In fact, it's the first time that she will be playing her original music in this city. "We will also be playing some Spanish arrangements. So, some of the music is quite rhythmic and would fit in well at a party, while the rest of it is, how should I put it, more complicated," Burve says, making us wonder what songs that have their roots in a musical upbringing in Latvia sound like because at least as far as we are concerned, we have never heard a musician from that country.

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First Published: 23 January, 2018 11:25 IST

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