A little under two hundred years ago, a bunch of American musicians discovered the joy of improvising and called it jazz. Meanwhile over two thousand years ago, Indian classical musicians were busy setting the rules for those American musician's joy. If jazz is improvised music, Indian classical music is jazz! Now that we've discovered who really discovered jazz, it's time to take a good look at the state of jazz in India. The name of India's most popular live jazz venue located in Mumbai, tells the story loud and clear. It started as 'Jazz by the bay', changed to 'Not just jazz by the bay' and should now be called 'Just not jazz by the bay'! Granted, jazz has a niche audience and commercial music rules, but then a few years later the same commercial music that rules is ruled out while jazz blissfully evolves, embracing all other forms of music along the way. We now have rock-jazz, pop-jazz, funk-jazz, latin-jazz, hip-hop-jazz, indo-jazz... to cut a very long story short, there is a -jazz attached to every genre of music and there will be a -jazz attached ot every genre that comes along. That's how huge jazz is and it should now be spelt jaaaaaaaaaaz! Jazz, with it's all embracing evolution, is certainly going to be the global sound of music just as everything else gets globalised. Why do I play jazz when I could easily make millions if I learnt to sing pop through my nose? It's because jazz allows me to be myself as opposed to pop that wants me to be Madonna. I'd rather be myself than strut onstage wearing conical jocks. In fact, not very long ago a leading music company in India released a male indi-pop star's album titled 'Mai bhi Madonna' with the man dressed in drag on the album cover. Jazz suddenly began to make sense to me after all.
I chose to play bass as I felt it was the coolest sound of music. Rhythm, melody and harmony makes music and the bassplayer is the important link between the three. I may not be upfront or in the spotlight all the time like the singer and soloist in the band but I am certainly right behind the song all the way. It's been a long exciting journey into jazz for me, I made a lot of friends as a musician and a whole lot of enemies, I did meet a lot of people. If it wasn't for my music I would have been a lighthouse keeper on Andaman island or what's worse, I would have been a doctor, lawyer or engineer. Yes, music helped me get out of my introverted shell and face the world with a song. I currently work on two resident contracts at the JW Marriott hotel with my indo-jazz fusion ensemble called 'The Brown Indian Band' for obvious reasons and at night at the Taj Lands End hotel with my band called 'The Bassman's Band' for some strange reason. I often take time off from these two gigs to perform at concerts and corporate events all over India and internationally. One of the highlights of my career so far, has been performing internationally on the world renowned Hennessy XO jazz tour. The band, the only one from India selected for this tour, was called 'Soul Yatra' and was led by the amazingly talented keyboard wizard Merlin D'Souza.
My journey into jazz has been fun and my best is always yet to come. To give back to the music that gave me so much, I setup an organisation in Goa called 'Jazz Goa' that can be reviewed at www.jazzgoa.com After close to three decades of playing jazz with just about every jazz musician in the country, I would have loved to be called the Godfather of Indian jazz. The position has been filled I believe, so I'll settle for Godson of Indian jazz!
Checkout some of my bands and music at my website www.jazzyatra.com