My Jazz Yatra

May 9, 2015

What is jazz?

Over a hundred years after it’s origins in New Orleans we still don’t have one answer that defines jazz. The legendary answers over the years has been Fats Waller’s ‘If you don’t know what it is, don’t mess with it’, Louis Armstrong’s ‘Man, if you have to ask what it is you’ll never know’, Thelonius Monk’s ‘I don’t have a definition for jazz, you’re supposed to know it when you hear it’ and these are just some of the vague descriptions courtesy the jazz legends themselves.

One reason why there will never be a singular definition for jazz is because it has always been an open, alive and continuously evolving form of music that embraces all other sounds of music along the way. It has reached a stage today, where it can be called ‘world music’ but that would be at the risk of hurting American sentiment. To me, jazz is a form of improvised music, the key element here is ‘improvisation’. If improvised music is jazz then Indian classical music is a form of jazz with foundations laid over two thousand years before a hip name was coined for it. So jazz actually originated in India? No way, I can hear other countries chorus, improvised music always existed in many forms of ancient folk music around the world too. So let’s just leave it at jazz has been around for much longer than we know, it’s just that a new name was coined for it in New Orleans and I love the name. Today, jazz has grown into something much bigger than its name. It’s not just about improvisation, it’s about a meeting of minds and cultures.

My first encounter with jazz was very similar to the best way to learn how to swim, I was pushed into the deep end. In the early seventies every resident band in Mumbai’s starred hotels played jazz standards predominantly among other night club standards. I was offered a job as a bass player in one of those bands without knowing a single jazz standard. My first night on the job I got a ‘just keep walking’ brief from the band leader and at that moment I thought I was being fired. It turned out, the term used for ‘swing’ bass was ‘walking’ bass and that was my first ever learning experience. The beginning of a lifetime journey towards reaching for the next level. One thing good that came from that experience was the fact that I got my ears trained through sheer fright. I learnt to hear around the corner, instinctively hitting notes that would not draw grimaces from my fellow band members. Every song that was thrown at me was a challenge and in retrospect, I have to admit I had the best on the job ear training. Ten years of six nights a week gigs gave me my foundation from where I learnt to ‘walk’, ‘run’ and then ‘fly’.

Once I decided to take on music as a profession, I learnt how to read music and with the help of some great books, I got around to studying music theory and expanding my jazz vocabulary over the years. After my ten year ‘internship’ I went out into the world and experienced other genres of music performing all kinds of music with all kinds of musicians across India and around the world. Goa always topped my gig destinations while I was based in Mumbai. I always had this dream of someday moving back to my ancestral place where music flowed through everyones veins, musician or not. The dream came true in the year 2008 when I set up home, studio and bass (base) in a place called Sangolda. I am surrounded by rice fields with mongoose, squirrels and peacocks strutting around nonchalantly. An absolute paradise compared to Mumbai. I then went about spreading my first love jazz by setting up an organisation called ‘Jazz Goa’. Within four years Jazz Goa had a database of over five thousand jazz enthusiasts and over a hundred jazz originals composed by local talent and produced by Jazz Goa. Many of these tracks reached No.1 on international internet charts and this only encouraged me to do even more.

Next thing I took in my stride was an offer to host a radio show on a premier international music radio station called Indigo 91.9 FM. Hosting a radio show was something I would never have even dreamt of but then that’s show business, an absolute roller coaster ride. I immediately went about producing the two hour weekly episodes calling it ‘Goa Grooves’. The show featured only originals by local talent and went on air as a first of its kind in India for western music. Next came television where I produced the same show this time centered around live performance videos shot at local venues, another first time for television in India. Both these shows generated a huge following with people looking forward to, tuning in and staying tuned to every episode. So I was now performing, producing audio and video, hosting radio and television and running a website all at once. Something I’m sure would be humanly impossible if it weren’t for my beautiful wife Diana who I met soon after moving to Goa. She works relentlessly by my side, taking on the role of Jazz Goa’s official photographer and videographer and also managing the many bands I perform with. Together we document just about every stage of Jazz Goa’s evolution and broadcast it world-wide, thanks to the internet. Local talent in Goa finally got a platform that launches them out to the rest of the world. And here’s the best part, it’s done absolutely free of cost. Just my way of giving back to a profession that gave me everything and more.

Jazz Goa has hosted the ‘International Jazz Day’ in Goa right from it’s inception by the UNESCO in the year 2012. Every year on the 30th of April musicians from across India and around the world take the stage in Goa to celebrate this global sound of music. One of the high points in my career came when I got a phone call from a UNESCO official who wanted to explore the possibilities of having Panjim as host city for a future International Jazz Day. I went ballistic, this would mean just about every living jazz legend decending into Goa and performing here, putting us on the world jazz map. I gave them all the information they asked for and have my fingers crossed. Goa always has great visiting jazz artistes but this would be an absolute game changer for jazz in India. Goa has produced internationally acclaimed jazz musicians right through it’s history in India. Pianist Dizzy Sal, saxophonist Braz Gonsalves, trumpet player Chic Chocolate, drummer Leslie Godinho are just a few that come to mind off hand. One Goan musician Trilok Gurtu actually spearheaded the evolution of jazz, making it to the world’s best percussionist in Downbeat polls for seven years, a record of sorts for any jazz musician. The Portuguese influence in Goa made western culture a way of life for Goans. In the early years, the Church Choir in Goa was where most Goan musicians got their solid foundations in music through what is called the ‘solfegio’ system. They then took it out into the world through bands, orchestras and bollywood. The Indian film’s music industry had it’s foundations laid by Goan musicians who taught them music notation and orchestration. Today the industry stands tall even in the international arena. Goan musicians spread out all over the world establishing themselves where ever they were, even while maintaining low profiles thanks to our inherent ‘susegad’ attitude.

Q: What is the dfference between a jazz musician and a pizza?

A: A pizza can feed a family of four!

Just one of the many jokes that sum up the story of most jazz musicians. What is it about jazz that makes a jazz musician stick to a form of music that record label A & R managers keep summing up as a sure route to starvation? One good reason is the fact that jazz allows me to be myself as opposed to pop that wants me to be a Madonna. I would rather be me than strut on stage wearing conical jocks. I remember a male Hindi pop singer’s album, conceptualised by some genius A & R manager for sure, titled ‘Mai bhi Madonna’ ( I’m Madonna too ) with the artist dressed in drag on the album cover. Jazz as you will see if you have heard of ‘Mai bhi Madonna’, helps me retain my individuality and what’s left of my sanity in this big mad world of music marketing. Jazz is the medium I choose to express myself and communicate musically with my audience. I know a lot of people in the audience may not understand my intense shoo-bee-doo-bee-doo-bop and emotive ‘twidlee-didllee-doo-wop’ but there’s always the few who can ‘feel’ what they can’t figure. Very often the message I communicate may read ‘hey bro, i’m broke again, how about a loan?’ but when I know even a few in the audience are enjoying my music I feel like a millionaire!

The highs and lows are many in my career spanning over four decades now. One high point for sure would be the Hennessey XO ‘Smooth and Mellow’ International jazz tour that my band was selected for. This world renowned tour only featured legendary artists signed on to the American Blue Note label. For the first time an unsigned Indian jazz band from Mumbai went on this tour thanks to one of the Hennessey head honchos who heard the band at a corporate event in Mumbai. Needless to say this was one tour that made us feel like stars, complete with personal limousines and stays at some of the world’s best hotels. One low point would be performing at ‘Jazz by the Bay’ in Mumbai, the management had the habit of insulting the performers onstage by switching on cricket matches on a huge TV screen alongside the stage even while the band performed. Once after a particularly great rendition we were greeted with huge applause, we took a bow only to find out the applause was for a sixer that Sachin Tendulkar hit on the screen alongside us.

Talking about Jazz by the Bay here’s a limerick I wrote that got published in the Bombay Times around the time when jazz was fading out of Mumbai.

It started as jazz by the bay

Then rock and pop joined in the fray

Now karaoke nights

Next hindi-pop frights

While jazz has been left by the way

Pretty much sums up the history of the one and only jazz club in Mumbai that kept changing it’s name from ‘Jazz by the Bay’ to ‘Not just jazz by the bay’, and then it should have changed to ‘hardly any jazz by the bay’ and finally to ‘pizza by the bay’ when it all ended. Mumbai has been and will always be bollywood city. It’s always an uphill task for jazz to survive in a country ruled by bollywood and cricket. But it has and always will, as long as there are people who remain passionate about this great form of music. Out of the dying embers of ‘Jazz by the bay’ leaped a ‘Blue Frog’ a live music venue that brought in some legendary jazz acts from around the world. So you’ll always find jazz in some form or the other being sneaked in, in between ‘choli ke peeche’ and ‘kajra re’. Anyway it was the year 2008 and it was time for me to move to Goa and a breath of fresh air after Mumbai. The only regret I have about moving to Goa is that I should have moved a long time before I did. Like most Mumbaikars I kept hanging on to a city that was turning into a social and cultural graveyard.

What’s next?

I’ve always had a ‘best is yet to come’ philosophy with my music and also my life. So the answer to that will always be ‘something better!’. The learning process for a musician is a never ending one, there is no such thing as a ‘master’ and i’m sure most legends would agree. Universities should stop dishing out those ridiculous ‘master of..’ degrees simply because there’s always something more that can be learnt about anything in life. In retrospect I can say there are three stages in a musician’s career – imitation, asimilation and innovation. We start off trying our best to perform like our idols, absorbing all that we learn from them and finally creating a sound of our own. One of the biggest compliments I got was when a fan came up to me and told me he was seated in the hotel lobby, he heard a band playing somewhere in the hotel, traced the sound and entered the restaurant because he knew I was playing bass and this person wasn’t a musician. So that was most definitely the compliment of a lifetime and the one I’ll never forget.

Today the internet offers us a world of knowledge and virtually the world itself. I produce a song and broadcast it to the whole world the same instant. The internet has done away with the middle man. Artists can create and showcase their work internationally even without being signed on to an artist management or record label. Technology has and will always be a part of evolution. My advise to youngsters starting off with music careers today is ‘make use of technology but don’t forget music is created by musical instruments and not by pressing the play button on a laptop’. Today EDM (electronic dance music) has taken over the world with thousands flocking to huge arenas to watch a DJ press ‘play’ on a gigantic stage built to accomodate a tiny laptop. Good for them, what’s good for me is a small smoky nightclub where the lights are dim, the band is smokin’ and the whisky is flowing. Out of sync with today’s music scene but completely in sync with my soothed soul.

Colin D’Cruz

Brown Indian Band regales audience at Koktebel Jazz Party

September 21, 2014

The Brown Indian Band, led by Goa-based bass player Colin D’Cruz, struck up on the Open Stage in Koktebel, on Sunday afternoon, to an appreciative audience sitting on the sands, many in their bathing suits.

With the sights and sounds of the Black Sea in the background, a young woman, her long blond hair still damp from her swim earlier in the day, danced to the music all through the hour-long performance, as the crowd swelled. But clearly the music made its appeal across generations: 69-year-old Olga Zinoviev, a patron of the arts and widow of the well-known Russian philosopher and writer Alexander Zinoviev, who is in the audience, says, “It was like a meditation.”

The Brown Indian Band, formed in 1994, is the only Indian band invited to the Koktebel Jazz Party and, perhaps, one of the few groups performing here that does not have a member of Russian-origin, or from a former Soviet Republic.

It was initially invited to perform on the Main Stage, but it chose not to do so as the timeslot given to it was within an hour of reaching Koktebel: “We were so tired after a 30-hour-long journey that we could not have given our best,” Mr. D’Cruz said, “so we opted for the next day.”

The band features accomplished Indian classical musicians in concert with jazz virtuosos, who live in different parts of India — Goa, Mumbai, Darjeeling and Bangalore — most of the year but come together for concerts: its biggest event to date is when it played at the opening of the first International Film Festival in Goa in 2003.

“Indian classical music can be compared to jazz as both are forms of improvised music. Indian classical music is linear and uses just one scale (raga) to improvise within a composition whereas jazz has a much broader palette for improvisation where multiple scales can be used to improvise through harmonic changes,” Mr. D’Cruz explains after the performance, adding, “Indian classical music, however, has some of the world’s most complex rhythm structures and subtle quarter tones that add an exciting new dimension to jazz.”

The Brown Indian Band, Mr. D’Cruz said, uses the best of both forms of improvisation to create India’s contribution to world music. At Koktebel, the group performed its own original compositions, with just one formal rehearsal before the event.

The band members are an interesting mix: the lead classical vocalist Shubhangi Joshi (who did a short stint at The Hindu many years ago) has a Bollywood band of her own and is a part-time model; flautist Dhiraj Kapadia has performed with Hari Prasad Chaurasia and has been associated with the Hindi film industry for many years; Tony Dias, who played the keyboards is also a piano teacher in Mumbai. “Each of us, “says Mr Dias, “do a variety of things as making a living as a musician is not that easy.”

By Smita Gupta

Brown Indians at Koktebel Jazz Festival

September 4, 2014

The Koktebel International Jazz Festival held in Ukraine every year since 2003 has grown into a world renowned annual jazz event.

Some of the biggest names in jazz like Billy Cobham, Stanley Clarke, Courtney Pine and Deborah Brown to name a few, have been featured at this festival that draws jazz enthusiasts from all over the world to a picturesque venue along the Black Sea Coast. For the first time since its inception, an Indian band has been invited to perform at the 2014 edition from the 12th to the 15th of September.

Officials of he Embassy of the Russian Federation in India chanced upon the Brown Indian Band’s website on the internet and immediately decided this was the band most suited to represent India at their international jazz festival. They got in touch with Goa based Colin D’Cruz who had formed the band with floating personnel way back in 1994. Over the years the band featured some of the most accomplished Indian Classical musicians both Carnatic and Hindustani, along with local as well as international jazz virtuosos.

In fact, the band performed as a fourteen member ensemble at the first IFFI held in Goa in the year 2003 and that concert at the Kala Academy has remained etched in the memories of many who witnessed it.

The ensemble lined up for Russia includes Shubhangi Joshi on Hindustani classical vocals, Dhiraj Kapadia on Bansuri, Prashant Saxena on santoor and Jayesh Dhargalkar on tabla representing the Indian Classical department, with Benoy Rai on guitar, Joaquim Dias on keyboards, Karthik Subramanya on drums and Colin D’Cruz on bass taking care of the jazz department.

The band will perform only original indo-jazz fusion tracks composed by Colin with spontaneous on stage contributions from a line up of absolute virtuosos each one a master of his/her chosen instrument.

Jazz Goa celebrates international jazz day!

May 19, 2014

Jazz Goa in association with Houses of Goa participated in a global celebration of jazz, the only form of music that embraces all other forms of music and as the stage banner said ‘It’s not just about improvisation, it’s about a meeting of minds and cultures’. The array of artistes from across India, around the world and Goa of course, did just that in spectacular three hour concert. The opening act ‘Ultra Brass Sound’ led by French horn player Rui Lobo set the tone for the concert with a classically tinged jazz tune. Bim Bam project from Germany featuring Ping Pong and La Coco then took the stage in a vocal/percussion spontaneous jam that got the audience grooving all the way. Then came Goa’s music ambassador Zezinho Fernandes with Latin Connection who gave the concert a Goan flavour with some foot tapping latin-jazz. along the same vein ‘twin’ flautist Neville D’Souza brought the house down with his original composition ‘Pedrucho Kombo’ played to perfection on two flutes at the same time. The show was now well into it’s elements with show host Raymond Albuquerque keeping the crowd riveted to the stage. He announced Goa’s amazing drummer girl Anastazia Dmello who took the stage with pianist Jason Quadros and bassist Colin D’Cruz to simply blow the crowd away with a slamming drum solo. Veteran jazz vocalist Susan Rocha then delivered a beautiful rendition of Moon Dance with Jason and Colin staying back onstage to back her with Bosco D’Souza on drums. Next came Bangalore’s indo-jazz fusion outfit ‘Moon Arra’ featuring some of the most accomplished Indian classical musicians that included vocalist Chaitra Sontakke, Mohan Veena player Pandit Prakash Sontakke and fusion drummer Kartik Mani with Madhuri and Jagdeesh Mudambi doing the jazz honours on vocals and guitar. They were joined by Goa’s star percussionist Carlos Gonsalves with Colin D’Cruz filling in the bass player’s seat to complete the band. Moon Arra created some of the most amazing sounds of indo-jazz fusion that enthralled the audience. Then it was time for Goa’s latin-jazz-funk-blues band ‘Smoking Chuntey’ to nail it as the final act and they did it in style. Chrystal Farrell has to be one of India’s most promising singers quite capable of taking on the international arena, she has the stage presence to match her fabulous voice and with Smoking Chutney featuring some of India’s best musicians, Chrystal gets the perfect platform to do her thing. Bassist Colin announced Chrystal’s chart topping single ‘Chrystal’s Song’ that was number one on the international jazz vocal charts. The band went ahead with the first public performance of ‘Chrystal’s Song’ that drew thunderous applause. The band then invited all the artistes who performed earlier for an open jam session to bring the curtains down on a great concert at one of Goa’s most spectacular venues, the Amphitheatre Houses of Goa built by renowned architect Gerard da Cunha.

Jazz Goa sets a world record!

March 31, 2014

Jazz Goa came up with a great idea about a year ago, inviting jazz musicians from all over the world to contribute their solos to a jazz standard called ‘Straight No Chaser’. The idea caught on via the internet and Jazz Goa has been flooded with contributions from jazz virtuosos from all over the world. The track so far features seventeen soloists, a world record for any jazz standard recorded so far, and it is continuously updated with new soloists being added almost every week. Jazz Goa’s Global recording project literally brings the world together in one phenomenal track. So far the recording features jazz virtuosos from America, Colombia, France, Canada, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, England, Portugal and Goa of course. The track has generated huge interest among jazz communities around the world and Jazz Goa now has to carefully curate contributions so that only the best make it to the mix. The project so far, can be reviewed at http://www.jazzgoa.comImage

Jazz Goa sets a world record!

March 31, 2014

Jazz Goa came up with a great idea about a year ago, inviting jazz musicians from all over the world to contribute their solos to a jazz standard called ‘Straight No Chaser’. The idea caught on via the internet and Jazz Goa has been flooded with contributions from jazz virtuosos from all over the world. The track so far features seventeen soloists, a world record for any jazz standard recorded so far, and it is continuously updated with new soloists being added almost every week. Jazz Goa’s Global recording project literally brings the world together in one phenomenal track. So far the recording features jazz virtuosos from America, Colombia, France, Canada, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, England, Portugal and Goa of course. The track has generated huge interest among jazz communities around the world and Jazz Goa now has to carefully curate contributions so that only the best make it to the mix. The project so far, can be reviewed at

Jazz from Goa, India

October 14, 2013


International Jazz Day – 30/4/2013

May 3, 2013

Originally posted on GOA NO LIMITS ®:

Panjim has raised last night all the colors of jazz: latin, pop, African, free … to the delight of the numerous audience who came to applaud the 50 musicians who all played for free. Some came from afar to pay tribute to Jazz. Colin D’Cruz who organized the evening was everywhere on stage and backstage.

Talented musicians have succeeded each other on the stage :  “The Ultra Brass Quartet “, led by Rui Lobo, Chico Fonseca-singer/goa’s veteran, Zezinho Fernandes, goa’s music ambassador, Desmond and Barry duo from Mumbai, Varun Carvahlo, singer, Quentine, singer, Natalie Matos, singer from UK, “Moon Arra”, duo featuring Madhuri and Jagadeesh from Bangalore, Chritian Marwitz, percussionist from Germany, “Jazz Junction” featuring Susan Rocha, vocals, Benoy Rai, guitar, Jason Quadros, keyboards, Colin D’Cruz, bass and Lester Godinho, drums with guest singer Shaista Thapar, saxophonist Simon Hewitt from Australia and trumpet player Johnny Fernandes, Carlos Gonsalves-percussionist, “Smoking Chutney”…

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Indigo Goa Grooves

November 6, 2012

I turned music producer after close to four decades of live performance. Five star hotel residencies, local concerts, international tours and just about every genre of music contributed to my continuously updated music vocabulary. Turning music producer was the most natural development in my career. Producing other artiste’s music gives me greater joy than producing my own. I set up a recording studio in Goa and went about doing just that and in a span of two years I have produced over seventy originals, many of which topped international internet charts. The world was ready for original western music from India but India wasn’t. Right through my career I only encountered record labels who knew exactly what every Indian wanted and that was songs to be sung in Hindi. It was just about the same with radio stations. Granted, we live in a country ruled by bollywood and Hindi is a major language. English speaking people in India may be a minority but then again when we talk even a tiny percentage of India, we are talking the population of an entire European country. Indigo 91.9 FM is probably the only radio station in the country to see this perspective and took on the might of bollywood by broadcasting only international music in India. The station launched in Bangalore and then in Goa and quickly grew into the favorite channel for those of us who enjoyed western music. All other radio stations fell prey to bollywood, loosing their identity with all of them sounding the same. Indigo 91.9 FM stands out as the only radio station catering to western music lovers in India. Most of the songs I have been producing has been in English and Indigo 91.9 was my only hope to have my music broadcast locally. It took me a long time to convince the heads that western music being produced in India easily matches and in many cases even outclasses international releases. I had documented my tracks that topped thousands of worldwide entries on internet charts and this finally convinced them to give my music a shot. The 26th of August 2012 will go down as a historical day for local talent in Goa when ‘Indigo Goa Grooves’ went on air in a one year long weekly broadcast. In just three months the slickly produced two hour broadcast, showcasing only local talent, grew into the most popular show on air in Goa prompting the station to take the show on the road through a series of live performances around Goa called Indigo Goa Grooves-live in concert! If you are in Goa on a Sunday tune in to Indigo 91.9 FM’s Indigo Goa Grooves at 5pm.
Colin D’Cruz

Live music in Goa

May 22, 2012

Goa is and will always be the live music hub of India and hopefully the world someday. The tourist season between October and March every year, turns Goa into a global village with people from all over the world making themselves at home with the Goan way of life. Nowhere else in India would you find hundreds, maybe thousands of live music venues with almost every second restaurant and lounge bar in Goa featuring live music in some form or the other. Mumbai, the supposedly most happening city in India and all other metro cities for that matter, have only a handful of live music venues in comparison, one of the reasons why I decided to move out of Mumbai and setup home and studio in Goa where I belong. In Mumbai I used to tour worldwide with bollywood icons like Asha Bhosle and Sonu Nigam performing for people from all over the world. After moving to Goa I still perform for people from all over the world by just going out and playing at a restaurant in my neighbourhood. The recently renovated Jardim Garcia da Orta in Panjim was brought back to life with a series of concerts at the park’s grand bandstand, an initiative by an organization I set up in Goa called Jazz Goa. My studio in Sangolda has been recording some of Goa’s most amazing music talent along with accomplished international visiting virtuosos, to produce some world class music that often tops the international internet charts.
On the flipside I have noticed the term ‘live music’ deteriorating over the years thanks to machines and one man bands. A one man band is nothing but a singer singing against pre recorded music and should be called a ‘solo singer’ and definitely not a ‘one man band’ or even worse as some venues advertise ‘live music by one man band’. Both the venue and the artiste realize that a one man band is nothing but a compromise on real live music due to budget and sometimes space constraints. A place that spells class, like the Marriott’s AZ UR lounge bar has my jazz band Jazz Junction playing live music every Friday night. A place like Poco Loco in Baga would compromise with a duo singing along with canned music. Even more scary than the one man band is the ‘no man band’ where buttons are pressed to play CD’s and passed off as live music. But then again, to each their own. If people enjoy listening to live music performed by a CD player so be it. I have spent close to forty years honing my skill on a musical instrument called a bass guitar and I will continue playing music on a musical intstrument!
By Colin D’Cruz
Watch live music videoclips from Goa:


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