Jazz Gets Big in Delhi

EXEC takes a look at the Jazz scene in Delhi and the growing patronage the genre is enjoying there.

“If you play Jazz, Delhi is best place to be”, said Sahil Warsi, the young double-bassist of Drift and Syncopation fame. “There is an incredible amount of talent here and there are an abundance of great venues to play at”. Drummer Rueben Narain concurs. “Delhi is very nurturing towards niche music. The audience here enjoys the experimental and the new”. Testimony to this is the kind of crowd the second edition of the Delhi Jazz Festival drew at Nehru Park, March this year. Big names from India, Poland, France and Spain were part of the line-up at this three-day fest, which was organised by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations in collaboration with Seher. “The success of the festival last year, which was witnessed by about 10,000 people, established that the youth of Delhi appreciates Jazz, a fact which wasn’t understood before,” Suresh Goel, Director General, ICCR was quoted as saying in an English daily.

This isn’t the city’s first big Jazz bash though and it certainly isn’t going to be its last. Prakash Thadani, who has been bringing the Jazz Utsav to the city (and to Mumbai and Bangalore) for the last few years, is gearing up of a Jazz Yatra (the festival’s former moniker; in memory of visionary and Founder of the Jazz Vocal Institute Niranjan Javeri) in November this year. According to him, Delhi has the most conducive atmosphere for such large music events. “Delhi is not as bureaucratic as Mumbai, for example, where we have to get around 17-18 different permits to host an event like this. There is no Entertainment Tax and consequently tickets aren’t as heavily priced either.”

On a smaller scale, Delhi has plenty of venues that support live Jazz. “You never have to look too far”, Warsi declared. He suggested The Living Room and TLR Café, both of which are at Hauz Khas Village. This kitschy and avant-garde part of New Delhi houses another of his haunts (which hosts a brilliant Sunday Night Jazz) – The Boheme – in addition to a host of other restaurants, bars and cafes that provide a stage for live music, often Jazz. Boheme, with its rooftop patio setting and stunning views, is one of Narain’s favourite places to play. “I feel this connection with the audience whenever we perform there”, he said. He also commented on the quality of international Jazz acts that Delhi attracts. “Touring musicians generally stop-over at Delhi on-route to Thailand or other south-east Asian countries. Their performances are routinely held at Alliance Francaise or ICCR.

Abhinav Dhar opinionated, “Although Delhi doesn’t have a great history or old relationship with Jazz, like Bombay or Kolkata, its audience is the hungriest for non-conventional, new sounds. There are probably more jazz venues in Delhi than Bombay and Bangalore, put together”

As Warsi put it, “…the city can surprise you”.

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