This businessman shifted from Vancouver and jazzed up Pune’s music scene
Ahmed Ebrahim, a businessman, relocated from Vancouver, Canada to Pune in 1998. He founded Pune Jazz Club, one of the most popular music clubs in the city. He is among the pioneers of the live jazz music scene in the city and loves Pune because of the warm people, weather and rich cultural music heritagepune Updated: Aug 01, 2017 10:38 IST
I moved to Pune in 1998. When you come from an absolute impersonal Western country, some people may like to go back, but I stayed put. I love Pune for its warm people and weather. I founded the Pune Jazz Club in 2001 because I wanted to introduce the city to jazz. No one had heard of it nor was it being sold in the shops.
On the other hand, I had over 300 hours of jazz music in my personal collection of cassettes. I thought the club would help me connect with like-minded jazz lovers in the city. So, that’s how the club started, where the idea was to play music from each other’s collections, talk about music and connect with new members.
I started with five people at Max Mueller Bhavan (MMB) and we went on to have as many as 120 members at meetings at one point. It was never a commercial initiative. I did it for my love of music and jazz. I knew musicians would come, but who would they play for?
I wanted to build an audience for the genre. The festivals and concerts conducted by the club went on to become an international brand. Starting from 2004 to 2016 (the last jazz festival was conducted in 2016), we had some of the best names of jazz coming to the city including American jazz artiste Cedar Walton, Steve Turre, Peter Beets, Saskia Laroo ( popularly known as the Lady Miles Davis of Europe ) and Lumahama from Switzerland; we have had Brazilian and Iranian bands as well.
We used to meet on the third Sunday of every month at the MMB, and did not miss a single meeting for 12 years.
It was a one man show and I managed to pull it off with generous support from Ishanya mall and Phoenix Market City. They provided space for us to conduct the festival over the years. In 15 years, I did not make any money out of it and that wasn’t the intention either.
I was a part of the jazz vertical of NCPA, Mumbai and we held a festival in Mumbai in 2011. Pune was my focus all through as it needed the musical intervention. Fortunately, I saw the changing tastes of music in the city. One classic example would be Malaka Spice in Koregaon Park, which still plays jazz music and is one of the few restaurants in the city doing so. Praful Chandawarkar the owner of Malaka held a lot of after-parties for us and I can proudly say that I introduced him to jazz music.
If you ask me how I did it or can I do it again. I would probably say no, because it requires a lot of effort, time and energy. We need the younger lot to take onus of the music culture in the city now. There was a time when the live jazz scene in Pune was better than Mumbai. Back then there wasn’t this much entertainment available like it is now.
People came to concerts to meet friends and build a rapport. We need to bring that culture back.
We shouId continue to build an audience for Jazz in Pune, especially among the youngsters - an audience that know and appreciate the genre - and most importantly, "enjoy" the opportunity to listen to great musicians practice their craft.
Traffic obedience and more live music shows are what I would like to see in the city. Music stores are now devoting more shelf space to jazz, and it is not unusual now to hear jazz being played in restaurants, hotels, and even in the malls. Pune is now a much more "happening" place than even Mumbai for live jazz, and it has become an integral part of the music scene in Pune.