May 22, 2024

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World Jazz Day 2018! When discord creates magic: Video

Old-school cartoons and Disney movies bring not just nostalgic memories of childhood, but it also acquaints us to the grooviest, swingiest, coolest jazz tunes of all times. With a lot of young crowd are now drawn towards jazz, this art form is taken more seriously, feels Pritha Banerjee

Deep down we all know why we love jazz, but when asked many of us won’t be able to put it in words. Even the most famous jazz musician of all time, Louis Armstrong when asked, he said, “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” However, if you are really keen, then, spend a lazy afternoon with Miles Davis, get familiar with Oscar Peterson, plan a road trip with Medeski Martin and Wood, or just fall asleep listening to Count Basie.

Though the form of music is more 100 years old, it was not less than seven years ago, on November 2011, the UNESCO General Conference proclaimed April 30 as “International Jazz Day”. According to the official website, “This International Day will bring together communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz enthusiasts all over the world to celebrate and learn about the art of jazz, its roots, its future and its impact. This important international art form is celebrated for promoting peace, dialogue among cultures, diversity, and respect for human rights and human dignity, eradicating discrimination, promoting freedom of expression, fostering gender equality, and reinforcing the role of youth for social change.”

A brief history

During the turn of 20th Century, Jazz music was born in New Orleans. It was a port city, a melting pot of cultures where people from all over the world came together. Thus, musicians were exposed to variety of music. It was European classical music, American blues, and South American songs and rhythms that came together to form jazz. Thus, it roots can be found in both Africa and Europe.

Something that makes jazz music so unique is its focus on improvisation.  Sunil Sampat from “Jazz Addicts”, an association of jazz enthusiasts from Mumbai, compares jazz with Indian Cinema, says, “Jazz is a form of music that keeps on growing. It is evolving with time, redefining, recreating itself and it is a great reflection of culture and history. Good jazz comes from heart, from inner feeling and inspiration.”

Aditya Balani, founder of Global Music Institute, Noida, talks about the various genres of jazz, says, “It is from of music with a lot of improvisation. It has transformed so many times over the decades and never stopped evolving.”

At its earliest stages, in the 1920s; it was the pop music of that time. Then came the swing era, where jazz made its way to the pop music charts. With Bepop, it entered the realm of art music with extremely fast tempos. The rhythmic, melodic and harmonic contents of Bepop were unpredictable for the untrained ear. To counterweight the Bebop, the West Coast of United States resorted to a more laidback and chilled approach or Cool Jazz. Next, Hard Bob, which relied heavily on gospel, blues and a more emotional approach to improvisation. In this era, one can hear a shift in improvisational tendencies with musicians exploring scales and their modes. In 1960s, Free Jazz and Avant Garde were introduced and 1970s is known for a wide use of electronic instruments and combining multiple genres into one. However, from 1990s, jazz has become so diverse that it’s hard to find one solid style. Instead, musicians have freedom to do whatever they want.

The young listeners

The improvisation quality of jazz makes it approachable by people of all age. It has always been a young person’s game. Two of the greatest performers in the history of jazz, Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, were both in their mid-20s when they made their breakthroughs. Once again, young musicians are taking the lead and flocking to jazz. “There are numerous jazz bands in India now, and jazz music festivals in India are drawing a lot of younger crowds,” says Aditya.

With the growth in technology, musician these days do not have to depend on big producers to launch their music. In the Spotify-Beats-MP3 age, the boundaries are non-existent. Young musicians can now work, literally, without any geographical limits and reach a huge number of audiences. Modern teenagers, who are listening to these young musicians, are increasingly turning to jazz as a remedy to the bland, soulless pop they’re otherwise being offered most of the time.

Medeski Count Basie Martin & Wood

Sunil, an owner of a jazz bar in Mumbai, observes, “There are still a lot cafés and bars playing only jazz music in India. Though we see a mix crowd most of days, during a live-performance a lot of college-goers are seen. In Blue Frog, Mumbai, I have seen a massive number of young people listening to jazz. They are not only visiting the bar but also when a band is performing live, 90% of the people are between 18 to 30 years of age.”

Thomas from Wilson College, Mumbai, feels that jazz is a phase. “We all have that one friend who introduces us to something amazing in life. At first, I thought what I was hearing was just unstructured noise but with time jazz has become huge part of my life.” Like Thomas, even Sampat was introduced to jazz during his college days and now, he says, “My life is incomplete without jazz.”

Jazz music is also healthy for brain. The most obvious effect of jazz is stress reduction. Archana, a clinical psychiatrist, says, “Jazz is a happy form of music. Back in history, it was an emotional relief for the slaves who found comfort in the blues. Thus, listening to it makes our brain happy, which learns better. For a child, learning jazz helps them to think critically and creatively.”

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