Bass instinct

Timeout Mumbai-28th July ’06
Bass player Colin D’Cruz has lost count of the number of bands he’s played with over the last three decades. however, out of the 50 plus ensembles he’s been part of, he has one clear favourite: the Brown Indian Band, an outfit of floating Hindustani, Carnatic and jazz musicians that he formed in 1994. ” It’s my ultimate outlet for my musicial creativity, where i can say the music is mine,” said D’Cruz.

These days, the fusion band, which currently includes flautist Dhiraj Kapadia, percussionist Sanket Athle and keyboard player Clifton Rodricks, can be heard every afternoon spontaneously improvising to Indian classical ragas at the JW Marriott hotel. That’s a slight shift from their earlier avatar, which performed tuines composed by D’Cruz. both versions are special to D’Cruz because the Brown Indian Band is the only one of his bands that exclusively plays originals.

His other bands include Jazz Junction, and the Bassman’s Band, a new act that starts a one year residency at the Taj Land’s End from August 1. As a result, D’Cruz will go from playing just four to five gigs a month to performing two gigs every day. How did a musician with no family background or formal training in music become mumbai’s busiest live act? By using a combination of talent, hardwork, unbridled enthusiasm, a keen sense of enterprise and canny networking skills.

A self taught musician, 46 year old D’Cruz started performing in school and college bands before graduating to the wedding band circuit. His first break arived in 1980 when jazz pianist Bonny Remedios offered him a spot in his band. d’cruz said that, at that time the repertoire of bands that performed at five-star hotels was “90 percent jazz”, which meant he had to learn on the job. “I developed an ear for music by playing music didn’t know,” said D’Cruz, “I used to take the stage everday and wonder whats going to happen next. ”

For the next ten years he moved from nightclub to nightclub, playing with all the veterans of the Indian jazz scene. “Between 1980 and 1990, i played almost every night, “D’Cruz said. When he ventured out on his own in the early 90’s, D’Cruz dabbled in a variety of genres. He played blues with Blue Genes and Blues Power, fusion with the Brown Indian Band, country witht he Country Funks, pop with Showtime, jazz with Just Jazz, and latin music with Obligato.

Remedios who has continued to perform with D’Cruz over the years, believes the bass player’s versatility is one of the main reasons for his popularity. “He’s not uncomfortable in any genre,” Remedios said. “Thats a talent which not many others have.”

In an environment where where many establishments are doing away with live music in favour of DJs and piped music, D’Cruz has almost magically found a way to stay on stage. Keyboard player Harmeet Mansetta, who began his career playing with D’Cruz, pins the latters longevity down to his never-say-die attitude. “His greatist quality is his tenacity,” said Mansetta. “Colin has always managed to find gigs. he is one person who never gives up.”

Remedios is more candid while talking about his former protege: “He makes his presence felt. He doesn’t shy away from giving his visiting card to people. He keeps fishing and he keeps finding fish. ” D’Cruz is one of the few Indian musicians who have harnessed the internet to promote his music. He runs a frequently-updated website that contains micro-sites to all his bands. It’s helped him get in touch with a number of international musicians, some of whom have performed at jazz Junction’s monthly spot at Starters and More.

But D’Cruz is not just about self advertisement. In the last five years, he has grown into one of the few flag bearers of the local jazz scene in Mumbai and his home state of Goa. In 2000 he set up Jazz Goa along with drummer Lester Godinho and pianist George Fernandez. Jazz Goa is an informal organisation of jazz lovers that promotes local and visiting musicians by organising concerts and releasing live records. d’Cruz himself has released no less than four albums in the last two years (including a self-titled EP by the Brown Indian Band).

D’Cruz says there is a reason why he’s been giving the Energizer Bunny a run for its money: he plans to shift base to Goa to set up his own recording studio. He agrees that Mumbai’s more commercially lucrative but finds Goa both more relaxed and receptive. “It’s like a global village during the [tourist] season,” he said. “You can bump into great musicians from anywhee in the world almost any time. That never happens in Mumbai.”

By Amit Gurbaxani

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