Brown Indian Band regales audience at Koktebel Jazz Party

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

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