Picture this: affable, elderly couples dressed in formals, politely making a case for their favourite trumpeter — Dizzy Gillespie or Miles Davis — as they sip coffee in the foyer, waiting for the concert to begin. This is usually the scene you’ll find at a jazz concert, and the recently concluded Jus Jazz Festival at the NCPA was no different.
Such concerts, especially ones that focus on the genre’s traditional roots, have older attendees, as the music is considered too complex or even boring by young people. We ask why.
Is it the vibe?
Singer-songwriter Gowri Jayakumar says that it’s the ambience at concerts that makes them uninviting. “Even when you want to tap your feet or move to the beat, you can’t do it in that kind of setting since there is a strict decorum. I think it’s a little pretentious,” says Jayakumar, who attended the festival.
Another regular at the fest, fellow musician Kenroy Sequeira, says “Young people like electronic dance music and want to move to the beats. All this doesn’t happen here.”
Is it the lack of exposure?
Almost everyone emphasises that the lukewarm response from the youth is due to their lack of knowledge about the genre. Multi-instrumentalist Nigel Rajaratnam, a 26-year-old jazz aficionado, explains, “There’s no basic education in jazz. The Indian jazz scene is very limited and niche.”
However, with the Internet hosting nearly every musical gem from the genre — unlike from Indian classical music, which, just like jazz, doesn’t appeal to the masses — the lack of interest is intriguing. Rajaratnam says that it is the vastness of the genre that makes it too intimidating for the young to fathom. “There’s American, European and Japanese jazz. It’s difficult for young listeners to understand,” he says.
Sunil Sampat, whose group of music buffs — Jazz Addicts — has had a tie-up with Jus Jazz since last year, doesn’t rue the number of young attendees. “It’s like the old saying — you can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink. We’ve got the best artistes coming here, so it’s up to the people to come. We are not trying hard to get anyone to attend.” The veteran also sums up why an average music buff, used to hanging out with friends at a club or live music venue, might not like the mood of the festival. “You have to pay attention to the band and the music that they are playing,” he says.
Priced too high?
With tickets starting at Rs. 600, many people find it too expensive. “There should be a quota of free tickets reserved for the young,” says Sequeira. However, Sampat feels that the ticket prices are not prohibitive. “Young people don’t mind spending on drinks at clubs, so I don’t understand why Rs. 600 is a big deal,” he says.