From The Reel to The Stage: Jazz At The Movies in Bangalore


Jazz enjoys a loyal fan following in Bangalore, and UNK – The Radha Thomas Jazz Ensemble, are all set to present it in a never-seen-before format.

Mumbai has its nightclubs, while Delhi delights in high society soirees. Bangalore, on the other hand, serves as a platform for live music. The city abounds in lounges and bars that encourage performers to take the stage, and concerts are never a rarity. If music trends are judged, one of the most popular genres in the city is jazz.

Bangalore’s love affair with jazz goes back to the early decades of the 20th century, where the now decrepit Opera House on Residency Road was the heart of the British social scene. The Opera House hosted balls and plays, and live musicians entertained the crowd with jazz hits that have stood the test of time and become standards.

The British have packed up and left, but jazz remains, and the city is still under its spell.

Says well-known jazz guitarist Sanjay Divecha, “The audiences in Bangalore are educated about jazz, and they listen to the performer with respect and patience. As an artist, this is the biggest compliment you can get, and that’s why Bangalore is my favourite place for a live performance. It’s probably the best city in India when it comes to appreciating jazz.”

Bangalore has a good number of jazz musicians, and an artist at the forefront is the city’s jazz diva Radha Thomas. Thomas’s relationship with jazz is a long one – she has represented India at European jazz festivals and has lived and performed in New York, the home of jazz – but her hometown is still close to her heart when it comes to performing live. Says Thomas, “ When compared to cosmopolitan cities like Mumbai and Delhi, Bangalore is much more open to jazz. There’s a strong jazz culture here, and Bangaloreans have the knowledge that is required to understand and appreciate the genre.”

Thomas, and her band UNK, are all set to perform at B Flat, a lounge that regularly features live musicians. Aarti Rao, of B Flat says, “ Bangaloreans are primarily a well-informed lot, when it comes to music and culture. B Flat encourages music across all age groups, and we have serious jazz lovers who come in whenever there’s a performance on. We’re very excited to host Radha and UNK.”

The performance, called ‘Jazz At The Movies’, promises to be unique, a dedication to the relationship between jazz and Hollywood. UNK will perform selected songs from movies; not only from classics like Casablanca but mainly from recent Hollywood films such as When Harry Met Sally, Catch Me If You Can… we’re not about to give away the plot. Thomas says, “ Music has always been an integral part of movies, and Hollywood showcases several genres. It has access to the latest stars, and yet, when it comes to certain moods and colours, there’s nothing that compares with jazz.”

Thus, the idea was born. UNK will take things a few steps further by adding its own unique multi-cultural influences to each tune. The songs will be accompanied by clips from the movies, adding art to the experience.

UNK – The Radha Thomas Jazz Ensemble, comprises Radha Thomas (vocals), Aman Mahajan (keyboards), Matt Littlewood (saxophone), Mishko M’Ba (bass), Ramjee Chandran (guitar) and Amit Mirchandani (drums), will perform live at B Flat on August 5, 8:30 pm onwards.

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