How covid-19 rewrote a new melody for jazz music


Think “jazz” and the first names that come to mind would probably be Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane or maybe Bill Evans. The layman rarely sees jazz as a musical genre associated with anything outside of the standards of the 1950s and 1960s, and yet in India, this genre is rapidly gaining popularity and transcending musical boundaries, thanks to aficionados, students, teachers and interpreters alike.

“About a decade ago hardly anyone except a small group of people listened to jazz in India and today I have so many students who come to me and say they want to learn jazz because they want to use it in music production and composition. pop songs, and the like. reflects Anurag Naidu, pianist and jazz teacher trained at the prestigious Bill Evans Academy in Paris and who recently established himself as a modern jazz artist with his debut album, I have the fame.

Anirag Naidu was already teaching jazz piano before the pandemic and now he has asked my students to switch to online lessons.

He continues: “But you can’t come and learn jazz because you want to master it. You have to feel it first, you have to love it, and only then can you learn it. It’s not just a form, it’s a whole philosophy of music. He intends to put together some basic jazz piano tutorials on YouTube, if it benefits someone who can’t afford exorbitant fees, or just creates interest or awareness. For now, he himself refers to the online tutorials of ‘My Music Masterclass’ and ‘Elite Music Mentor’ and adds, “These days I just have to post one video online and 5 people call me immediately for lessons.

The demand and passion for jazz is definitely on the rise with jazz centric courses being offered at leading music institutes in India – Global Music Institute (Delhi), True School of Music (Mumbai), and more. Talk to any jazz artist and you will know that learning this genre gives them an edge over any form of music, given its adaptability and flexibility. Naidu says: “Jazz means improvisation. If you play this, you can play anything.

Remarkably enough, these artist-teachers continued their experiments with jazz and other forms of music even during the pandemic. Naidu was already teaching jazz piano before the pandemic and now he has just asked my students to switch to online lessons. “I also realized the importance of technology in writing, recording and teaching music and switched to using the Logic Pro digital audio workstation that students can improvise on. instead of improvising with them in person. All this time has also provided a chance to start conceptualizing my second album, which will be quite different from the first, ”he explains.

Independent musician Aditi Ramesh also made a lot of music during the pandemic with two releases to her name this year, To tend to, a song about hope during the lockdown and how the environment heals as the streets begin to empty of people and Sambar Soul, a genre-defying original song with elements of soul, hip hop, RnB and Latin grooves.

The same was not true for another independent artist, Shubhangi Joshi, who insists that things slowed down after the pandemic. Although she and the band have tried writing new music, it’s hard to do it from a distance and the members don’t force themselves to do it. Meanwhile, singer Vasundhara Vee shifted gears and self-published her first book, Big dreams, bold choices: manual for emerging professional musicians in India. She is also looking forward to releasing her first solo single very soon in 2021.

Although Shubhangi Joshi and his band have tried to write new music, it is difficult to do so from a distance.

Although Shubhangi Joshi and his band have tried to write new music, it is difficult to do so from a distance.

Gaurav Shah, a student of Anurag Naidu and loyal jazz guitarist Floyd Fernandes, took online lessons on Skype. Qualitative researcher by profession, he comments: “Thanks to the Internet, you can get in touch with all the talents you need and understand in depth the historical and contemporary context of jazz. Speaking about his lessons with Naidu, he says: “Anurag is one of the best jazz teachers and pianists in India today. I really respect him. Not only his knowledge of jazz, but also his emotional quotient as a teacher. He knows exactly how to challenge a student and not just spoon feed him. I want someone who pushes me into a corner and lets me figure it out, and he just gives me the clues.

Joshi and Ramesh are both inspired by secular jazz but boldly venturing into new territories. Ramesh comments: “Traditionally, the jazz scene in urban India was seen as elitist musicians playing mostly standards, but nowadays a lot of jazz-influenced originals are produced. There are a lot of crossovers between independent and jazz music, in terms of jazz musicians playing as session musicians for independent artists and an independent audience interested in jazz through original music. The gap between genders and audiences is blurring. The original jazz music is totally amazing, so different from traditional jazz. It’s definitely a larger and more appreciated audience than ever.

Aditi Ramesh also made a lot of music during the pandemic with 'Heal', a song about hope during lockdown

Aditi Ramesh also made a lot of music during the pandemic with ‘Heal’, a song about hope during lockdown

For some, jazz music has been a comfort during the lockdown. And it’s heartwarming to see that as a musical genre, it is opening up to new territories, comments singer Vee, “Jazz has become very broad. It is natural for an idiom that is inclusive. So today there are people who represent aspects of the world of jazz. We see Jacob Collier exploding the notions of height and harmony; Gregory Porter representing the masterful storytelling; Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens being the queens of rhythm; Lalah Hathaway completely blurring the line between RnB and Jazz; Jazzmeia Horn keeps the scat sensibility alive. Vee herself has performed live jazz for the past decade, but strongly resists the label of a jazz singer. “For me, a song is a song. It turns out that I ended up resonating with songs from the Soul, Blues and Rock universes that used the jazz idiom. So people started calling me a jazz singer. I still don’t consider myself a jazz singer.

It is difficult to pin down and define jazz as the genre is teeming with experiences and changes with every decade and geography it touches. But if we were to talk about what makes jazz so “jazzy”, then what would be the ingredients? Old world charm, melancholy chords, freestyle singing and perhaps experimentation? What attracts the audience and the performers to this special music? Says Ramesh, “I like that it’s basically this open space where nothing is wrong – and even if it does, it is repeated according to a pattern until it becomes something planned. ” Naidu comments: “The subtlety of that. I am blown away by it every time. Joshi feels like there are so many moods. It’s almost like you see different colors when you listen to jazz. The sheer scope of how a song can be experienced in so many different ways is magnificent.

Vee takes a totally different point of view and insists that it’s not the genre, but the singer and his story that make a song what it is, just that jazz singers are usually the ones who can best do it. “If you really get down to it, your sense of self comes from the story you know about yourself. Music is a tool, a conduit, a language. The singer’s sense of self is history. A blackmailer can relate with the same ease, his real pain and his exasperating joy, he is vulnerable and powerful at the same time.

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