The year 2016 wraps up in fine style with a series of jazz and fusion performances at Bangalore venues such as The B-Flat Bar, Blue Frog, Windmill Craftworks, and Humming Tree, along with other locations such as Alliance Francaise and Pragrup! The featured bands included a number of local and international artistes, covering a range of styles: Indo-jazz, blues, blues-rock, ambient jazz and electro-jazz.
In our regular annual deep dive, we look at some of the groups who delighted jazz fans this year in Bangalore. See my earlier articles for a roundup of 2015 (http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/2015-roundup-indo-jazz-and-latin-jazz-delight-bangalore-fans/)and 2014 (http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/2014-roundup-indo-jazz-and-blues-rock-delight-bangalore-fans/).
Triveni Sangama kicked off the year’s concert series in Bangalore with a terrific fusion of Carnatic, Hindustani and Western classical music. The lineup included M. Mysore Manjunath on Carnatic violin, Pravin Godkindi on Hindustani flute, Ned McGowan on the western flute, and Italian guitarist Giuliano Modarelli. They were accompanied by Pramath Kiran on tabla, Giridhar Udupa on ghatam and B. C. Manjunath on mridangam. The musicians crossed continents, genres and styles with ease, taking turns on brilliant solos and outstanding duets.
Another international collaboration at the B-Flat Bar was the Amithias Project, with musicians from India, Ukraine and Germany. The Indian lineup featured Aman Mahajan on keynoards, Amith Nadig on flute and Muthu Kumar on percussion. They were joined by vocalist Tamara Lukasheva from Ukraine and Matthias Schriefl from Germany on trumpet and flugelhorn. Matthias blew the audience away in one set by playing the trumpet and flugelhorn simultaneously!
Young bass sensation Mohini Dey – all of 19 years old – took the stage at The Blue Frog for a scorching performance of contemporary jazz with drummer Ranjit Barot and keyboardist-drummer Gary Husband. The trio were aptly called ‘Uncommon’ and played a range of original compositions.
More international fusion was in store for jazz fans with the group Aspada, featuring George Brooks (saxophone), V. Selvaganesh (percussion), Ravichandra Kulur (flute), Osam Ezzeldin (keys) and Mishko M’Ba (bass). “The kanjira can sound like a helicopter or train, and sing a birthday song!,” said additional percussionist, Swaminathan Selvaganesh, who wowed the audience with the wide range of sound on the humble hand-handheld kanjira.
Bangalore also hosted a range of Indian classical music concerts in 2016 featuring legends such as Shubha Mudgal with Aneesh Pradhan; Ustad Shahid Parvez and Hindole Majumdar; sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan with his talented sons Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan. Other performances featured the Gundecha Brothers, Hariprasad Chaurasia and Anoushka Shankar.
Flamenco-folk fusion dazzled the audience at Alliance Francaise with Mathias Duplessy (flamenco guitar), Mukhtiyar Ali (Rajasthan folk) and Sabir Khan (sarangi). “Musicians receive and transmit the divine music,” said Mathias Duplessy in an interview before the set. “Note, beat and heart – that’s all you need for musical collaboration,” explained Mukhtiyar Ali.
The Udupa Foundation also organised a fusion festival featuring legendary percussionist Trilok Gurtu along with Sivamani, Stephen Devassy (keyboards) and Ronu Majumdar (flute). Trilok dazzled the audience with his wide range of instruments and rhythms, and also took a dig at India’s frequent bickering between political parties. “Don’t be like BJP and Congress, fighting with each other – you will only pull India down!” he joked. “You will get a job – just be unique!” he added.
Guitarist Amit Heri had two fabulous gigs at The BFlat Bar. The first, in February, featured Gino Banks (drums), Keith Peters (bass) and Matt Littlewood (saxophone). The second, in December, featured Ravi Kulur (flute), Mohini Dey (bass) and Ranjit Barot (drums). Western jazz and Indian classical music blended fluidly in both high-energy sets, with many tracks drawn from Amit’s recent albums, Elephant Walk and I Love India.
International Women’s Day was celebrated in unique style at The BFlat Bar on March 8 with a lineup of eight women jazz vocalists, including Arathi Rao and Mathangi. The instrumental backing was provided by male musicians who also received a round of applause for their support!
New frontiers in musical collaboration were explored by the band SMAKMahadev, with musicians from India and Iran. Shaheem Mustapha, Mehdi Dehbandi and Varun Lulla, along with a guest violinist from the US, blended chants with jazz. “The morseng looks like a bottle opener, a key – to another world,” explained Varun Lulla.
Many Western musicians tour through India on jazz collaborations, and some even stay on in the country for a few months or years. This includes Italians Gianni Denitto (saxophone) and Matteo Fraboni (drums), who played in trio format with Prakash K.N (bass). Gianni also has a free album for download on his website.
Fusion in world music style from Africa was featured at Windmill Craft Works with Grammy Award winner Cheick Hamala Diabate (ngoni, banjo), Rob Coltun (guitar), Sanoussy Diallo (bass), Susannah Elizabeth Harris (vocals), Michael Kweku Owusu (percussion) and Stewart Bernard (drums). Diabate has collaborated with blues guitarists as well as other West African griots.
Auroville-Bangalore Indo-jazz collaboration delighted the audience again with a performance by Mystik Vibes, featuring Muthu Kumar (percussion), Mishko M’ba (bass), Amith Nadig (flute) and Aman Mahajan (keyboards). Their debut CD ‘The Shadow Tree’ was released in 2012.
India’s leading blues band Soulmate from Shillong scorched the floor at the BFlat Bar with a sizzling set of classics and originals, featuring Rudy Wallang on guitar and the soaring vocals of Tipriti Kharbangar. The sets with Wang Dang Doodle, Voodoo Woman, Still Loving You, Everyday I Got the Blues, and Got my Mojo Working had the audience screaming for more, and Tipriti screamed back even more loudly!
Carnatic violinist Jyotsna Srikanth, currently based in London, performed brilliant sets in two different venues with her new project, Nordic Raga. Carnatic violin and Swedish folk music may seem like strange bedfellows – but the talented Indo-Western lineup showed otherwise! Par Moberg played unusual sounds on what looked like a long pipe. “While you can carry your didgeridoo on your travels, a vacuum cleaner pipe can also do!” Moberg joked.
Percussionist-composed Karsh Kale performed at UB City for the launch of the Art Bangalore Festival. The British-born, New York City-raised instrumentalist of Indian heritage delivered a superb outdoor set, a dizzy mix of tabla loops, vocals, Carnatic flute, percussion and electric guitar.
Another set of outdoor performances was showcased at the fourth annual Indigo Jazz & Blues Festival, at the Royal Orchid Hotel. The lineup included Thailand’s Passakorn Morasilpin quintet, Jazz Junction (Hungarian violinist and singer Helga Sedli, with Marina Xavier and Matteo), and Indian artistes Radha Thomas and Moonarra. Jazz and blues live on in other festivals elsewhere in India as well, such as the Mahindra Blues Festival in Mumbai; the 2016 lineup featured Soulmate, Keb Mo, Malina Moye and Josstone.
Smaller music venues such as Social@Koramangala featured Bruno Belissimo on bass and DJ set. Other featured bands in 2016 included guitarist Amyt Datta, and a collaborative set by the Berklee College of Music professors (with Mash, Webber, Turnbull, Philip).
In 1991, Scott was named by Guitar World as the #1 Jazz Guitarist. His set included some of his classics along with interpretations of Weather Report tracks. Scott regaled the audience with his humour as well. “The more you drink, the better we sound!” he joked.
One of the final outstanding Indo-jazz collaborations of the year was Trimukhia, who performed at the Pragrup Centre. It featured R. A. Ramamani (Carnatic vocals), Mike Herting (piano), Karthik Mani (percussion), Adarsh Shenoy (tabla), and Prakash Sontakke (Indian slide guitar). The set featured a brilliant vocal-piano duet, and some sizzling percussion and ‘vocal percussion’ (konnakol) by the youthful Karthik, who also showcased a range of instruments including kanjira, cajon, ghatam and SizzleBoard from Belgium.
I picked up a range of CDs from the artistes for review over the year, and look forward to another inspiring year of jazz and fusion ahead in 2017! See also my app Oktav (‘Music Quotes & Proverbs’) available on iTunes (https://appsto.re/in/ah1u4.i) and on Android (free version: https://goo.gl/FTFOt5).
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Written by Madanmohan Rao
Editor & DJ, World Music and Jazz;
Bangalore Global Correspondent for Jazzuality.com .