Although more than 50 years old as a celebrated genre of music across the world, Latin jazz is still a novelty in India. In these parts, it’s a niche music with a niche audience, making ‘The Latination’ perhaps one of the rare bands to play it.
“Do you know the difference between a rock musician and a jazz musician? A rock star will play three chords in front of thousands of people. A jazz player, on the other hand, will play thousands of chords in front of three people!,” French musician Emmanuel Simon reveals a fine distinction between the rock and jazz, and in the same breath, confesses his love for Latin jazz, a genre he and The Latination, in spite of its ‘limited reach’ here, are adamant on exploring and sharing.
In Chandigarh from Kolkata for a concert at Hotel Mountview on Tuesday evening courtesy the Alliance Francaise, ‘The Latination’ quartet claim their band as one of India’s only virtuoso and genuine Latin jazz outfit, a powerful and soulful collaboration between French and Indian specialists of jazz and Latin music.
“Its repertoire ranges from the festive sounds of salsa and rumba to modern jazz, blending the dance-compelling power of Afro-Latin rhythms with the intellectual streams of dense harmonies and sophisticated melodies, the discreet sweetness of jazz ballads and Latin boleros with virtuoso improvisation and solo performances,” reads their eloquent introduction.
“It’s a different sound, having the elements of Latino and fundamentals of jazz, and it’s our love for these sounds and instruments, the passionate notes of Latino and the sophistication of jazz, that has brought together for this band,” says the band leader and percussionist Emmanuel Simon.
In India for the last four years, this French national is a versatile musician from Paris, acting in Jazz, Latin-American, World, Fusion, and other Western modern music fields as well as composing for theatre and short films.
Initially trained as a Western classical pianist in Western musicology, Western classical and modern music, Simon, interestingly, holds a Masters of Instrumental Music from Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, and is now pursuing his PhD on Bengali folk percussions.
“I guess it’s the curiosity and search for diverse sounds that has brought me to this part of the world,” shares Simon, who learnt the tabla from Pandit Shankar Ghosh in France, and travelled here to continue with his musical journey.
Accompanying him on the piano is Pradyuman Singh Manot aka Paddy, who comes with a illustrious travelogue of musical performances across the world with the likes of George Benson, Roy Hargrove and Joey de Franscesco, Indian guitar legend Sumith Ramachandran, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Ustad Rashid Khan, Ustad Sabir Khan, etc. It was Singh who started the Latin jazz bands Los Amigos (with Indian master percussionist Monojit Datta) and Jazzeando in Kolkata.
“He started in 2005, and I joined him in 2009, and Emmanuel became a part in 2012,” chips in Premjit Dutta on timbales. Into Afro-Cuban percussion for the past nine years and currently teaching Drumkit and Theory of Music at Calcutta School of Music, Calcutta centre for communication and creativity, Dutta feels that one is always drawn to things that are exotic to a culture, like Latin jazz.
“Our base is standard jazz music, and then Latino is fused to amplify it,” explains Simon. Bass guitarist Bijit Bhattacharya, who has also performed with nationally acclaimed folk-fusion act Friends of Fusion, Latin act Nukkad Salsa Project, Crayon Joint, etc, agrees. “Latin music is known for its groove and dancing, and jazz for its improvisation. Together, they make a rocking team,” says Bhattacharya.