Just being jazzy!
Groups of old and young women and men swinging and tapping as they stand in front of the kiosks with headphones listening to Jazz were spotted at the Art Gallery of the Kamladevi Block at the India International Center (IIC). A few people were also seen jotting down notes from the panels that trace the history of jazz in India from early 1900 to the present days. Some of them looked in wonder at the cartoon-sketches by Mario de Miranda from the Jazz Yatra of 1980 and ‘90s. Besides lot of jazz performances happening around, perhaps, this was the first time the city witnessed an exhibition based on Archival collections, curated by Naresh Fernandes, which showcased the history of Jazz in India that started on 26 November.
The five-day exhibition was based on two collections - Niranjan Jhaveri Jazz Collection and Naresh Fernandes Collection which are extremely rich in archival content. Niranjan Jhaveri who was the spirit behind the biennial jazz festival – JazzYatra - from 1978 to 2003 was successful in bringing international artistes like Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz and jazz bands from different parts of the globe to promote Jazz in India. The exhibition had a huge section on these Yatra years which has established Jazz, further, as an Indo-Afro-Euro-American music performed by Indian artistes like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Trilok Gurtu, Asha Puthli and others.
Soli Sorabji an ardent lover and enthusiast of jazz inaugurated the exhibition. He also attended the concert on the third day, Jazz in the Swing Era by Rohit Gupta Trio which saw a good strength of audience - all cheering and enjoying with all the exhibited material around them.
For Arjun Sengupta, listening to the concert inside the exhibition hall was a surreal feeling.
On the second day, Naresh Fernandes, the author of the book Taj Mahal Foxtrot, gave a lecture ‘A Short History of how Jazz became an Indian Music’ to a house full of jazz lovers, academicians, students, and enthusiasts. Fernandes traced the origin of Jazz from the music of plantation workers which found its place in New Orleans to how it travelled to India.
The first all Negro American band performing in 1935 at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai started the beginning of Jazz-era in India which now hosts the third generation of jazz performers. The African-American pioneers like Leon Abbey and Herb Flemming influenced many Indian jazz performers like Chic Chocolate who was regarded as the Louis Armstrong of India.
The audio tracks and photographs of Indian pioneers like Chic Chocolate, Frank Fernand and Micky Correa in the exhibition brought back the golden era of Indian Jazz to the city. Jazz has also influenced the Hindi Cinema in Mumbai, as Fernandes pointed out at popular tracks like Ina-mina-dika and Sunday ke Sunday. Many of us sing these without even knowing what genre they fit into.
Shubha Chaudhuri, Associate Director General of the Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology (ARCE), American Institute of Indian Studies said that she has been working with her team for more than a year on these two jazz collections to digitise and conserve some of the rare photographs, reels and documents.
The recently concluded jazz exhibition of ARCE, 'Jazz in India' was curated by Naresh Fernandes and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India and IIC. Both the collections on Jazz are accessible and available for academic and research purpose at the ARCE, AIIS.