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Home / Music / International Jazz Day: Looking at the influence of jazz on Indian music

International Jazz Day: Looking at the influence of jazz on Indian music

Here’s looking at the influence of the Jazz on Indian music and its popularity in our country

music Updated: Apr 30, 2020 13:16 IST
Grace Cyril
Grace Cyril
Hindustan Times, Delhi
International Jazz Day was declared by the UNESCO in 2011.
International Jazz Day was declared by the UNESCO in 2011.(Photo: Parveen Kumar/HT)

The story of jazz in Bollywood dates back to the ’50s and 60s, when Goan musicians like Frank Fernand, Sebastian D’Souza and Anthony Gonsalves brought alive Indian classical compositions with their Western musical arrangements.

The mesmerizing tunes of the instruments used in jazz – saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, drums, and guitar would have brought the genre alive with beautiful and swinging melodies.

Composers like Naushad, OP Nayyar, Shankar-Jaikishen, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and RD Burman have created some of the most unforgettable jazz-influenced songs in the history of Hindi cinema.

This International Jazz Day, we look at the influence of jazz in Indian music and see how the genre is thriving, albeit perhaps not in its purest form.

Jazz in Indian music now

Bollywood is a place where every genre has been explored – hip hop, rock or jazz. However, it’s based more on a vocal identity as Jazz vocalist Nisa Shetty says. “The thing is when people say jazz in Bollywood, they mean it’s vocally jazzy. But now with different kinds of influences and experiments composers are going for in Bollywood songs, it has thrived. However, with so many music genres in Bollywood, it gets lost and mulled up.” She adds that Bollywood is trying to reach out to the world by getting more western. Being unconventional is helping this genre stay up.

Guitarist Sahib Singh from Jatayu band, a jazz-rock quartet from Chennai feels that jazz had a heavy influence in Bollywood in 50’s and 60s, but not so much now. He says, “Jazz is a slow growing market here. Listeners need to be exposed to it and not judge it by its name.”

Since this genre dates back to the 60’s, audience like music which mixes Bollywood and jazz. Double Bass player Akshay Dwivedi says, “This caters to their demands of turning popular Bollywood music into a folkloric jazz form. People relate to the old songs and get a newly packed flavour sprinkled with jazz.”

An acquired taste

Since jazz wasn’t born in India, many musicians feel that it’s an acquired taste. Jazz vocalist Sanjeeta Bhattacharya says, “Jazz is a genre which is not part of our own culture. We haven’t been through the same history so this is something we’re acquiring from the West. It’s still growing in India and is not at its peak yet.”

Adding to that, Dwivedi says, “To be able to relate to real jazz music, to get the vibe of that swing and the blues it incorporates, people need to understand the cultural context of it and how it came into being.” Shetty feels that people need to educate themselves with this genre. She says, “Not many people listen to authentic jazz. That is an acquired taste. Original jazz has a smaller audience.”

Won’t go out of style

Jazz is an improvised music and won’t go out of fashion easily. Dwivedi says, “Rather than saying it’s a genre dying down, I would say it’s a genre that keeps coming in and out. Jazz music has the elitist academic approach to it. There is a certain section of people who would always relate to it. Every once a while it reaches a peak and then melts for a while when some other music is taking over.”

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