What’s the jazz about?

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Kamal Sabri at the Delhi Jazz Fest
Piotr Wojtasik at the Delhi Jazz Fest

Apart from the more orthodox jazz, popular form of the genre was fed to the Indian masses by the likes of Weather Report; Blood, Sweat and Tears; Steely Dan and the Doors. Norah Jones’ ‘Come Away With Me’ and Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ were two songs in particular that held young listeners in raptures.

The popularity of jazz in India has largely been limited to cities like Calcutta. Now, however, the trend is steadily catching up in the national capital.

Recently, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) successfully held a 3-day Delhi International Jazz Festival for the fifth consecutive year. With world-renowned jazz musicians performing live, the festival saw a huge footfall.

Explaining this recent phenomenon, Pranai Gurung, founder of Blue Note music school in Vasant Kunj, says, “There is a conscious effort by the younger lot for quality music and it is only getting better. This is where jazz steps up by offering the perfect platform for engaging musical skills and understanding.”

A bunch of jazz enthusiasts are primarily responsible for the revival of this genre in Delhi. They have persistently been showcasing jazz through various musical shows and festivals. For instance, Capital Jazz, an organisation promoting the genre has been organising the ‘Jazz Utsav’ every year in the city. These festivals not only allow enthusiasts to experience live jazz performances but also gives them an opportunity to interact with the musicians.

The fact that Delhi is an inter-cultural hub for musicians across India and the world also has played an important role in generating interest in jazz. Besides, social hotspots like Speakeasy, The Piano man, Depot 29 and many more have been promoting jazz. Music institutes too have contributed in their own way. OWCM, GMI and Performers Collective regularly hold workshops and seminars by both resident and visiting international artists.

Though such institutes are doing their bit to develop good jazz musicians, a dedicated institute with committed faculty in the national capital is still a dream waiting to be realised. Jazz can offer a country as diverse as ours a common channel of expression, fostering a greater harmony amidst plurality. Whether the nation and Delhi in particular embraces jazz in all its beauty remains to be seen. For as former attorney general Soli Sorabjee, Capital Jazz president, reminds us —“Jazz has not died, it’s still alive.”

jonathan@tehelka.com

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