In the country’s oldest club, it takes more than a musical performance to stir up things. But last Thursday, the 187-year-old Bengal Club in Kolkata had its patrons swinging to the most unlikely musical marriage, Rabindrasangeet and Jazz. The New York-based Ari Roland Jazz Quartet , who performed at the musical evening organised by the US Consulate in Kolkata, is inspired by jazz music from the ’30s through to the ’50s, but in their maiden tour of India they were too “seduced” by Indian music to not surrender. Thus, there was Rabindrasangeet, popular Bollywood numbers and for some awkward few minutes, the national anthem of India. “We believe that jazz should not be confined to the bracket of niche music. We chose these numbers so that there is instant connect with the listeners,” says Ari Roland (bass) who started playing jazz professionally at the age of 16 and also received classical training at the celebrated Juilliard School. The other members of the quartet are Keith Balla (Percussion), Chris Byars (Tenor Saxophone) and Zaid Nasser (Alto Saxophone).
When they perform at the Delhi Jazz Fest on March 28, they will collaborate with a band that carries forward the centuries-old musical tradition of the Manganiyars and are leading examples of Rajasthani folk and Sufi music. Barmer Boys are led by Mangey Khan (vocals, harmonium) with the twin percussive punch of Rais Khan (morchang, bhapang, beat-boxing), Magda Khan (dholak).
“We are really excited about this collaboration. Though we have never interacted with the band I have a feeling we will gel well,” says Roland. The intricate nuances of Indian classical and folk music gels well with the jazz tradition, feels Chris Byars. “If we were to play a Justin Beiber number, it will be a flat rendition because there is hardly and melody there. But even Indian Bollywood numbers lend themselves perfectly to jazz because there is a strong melody base,” says Byars. They also have plans to play some Bollywood hits in their Delhi performance. “We plan to surprise the audience with our selection,” says Roland, with a smile.
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