The Power of Jazz
Iris C F Gomes
Music should be judged by the images, sensations and emotions it helps one conjure up rather than by purely technical standards. Jazz is one such genre of music that defies being straitjacketed by a particular definition.
Seen as a universal unifier, jazz was conferred a privileged position by UNESCO by declaring April 30 as International Jazz Day in 2011. In December 2012, the United Nations General Assembly formalised the decision. The goal is to foster respect for human rights and freedom of expression, encourage intercommunity dialogue, promote peace and gender equality, and create a platform for the youth to be instrumental in the movement for social change. It draws the attention of various schools, artists, academicians, historians and communities to learn about the origins of jazz and appreciate the power it wields to impact the world.
An entire month is devoted to the education of the public about jazz. April is Jazz Appreciation Month, which ends with International Jazz Day. While Paris has been named the Global Host City for 2015, Goa is the jazz destination for the International Jazz Day celebrations in India, having been given this designation since its conceptualisation by UNESCO.
Colin D’Cruz is the founder of an organisation called Jazz Goa, and fuelled by his passion for jazz, is driven to inspire the same in others. He performs jazz music, produces audio and video performances of jazz artistes, hosts radio and television programmes and runs a website called www.jazzgoa.com. He says, ‘If there is one thing universal in the world, it is a human being's love for music; it excites, elevates, exhilarates and relaxes. As I've always said, after you've made your fortune and got yourself a Lamborghini and a villa by the sea, you would always want a good stereo installed in them. My earliest memories of jazz is listening to my parents’ collection of records. One track that I clearly remember is Glen Miller's big band playing In the mood. To me, jazz is all about individual musical expression through improvisation. Every performer is free to express his or her own musical and emotional interpretation of the composition being performed.’
D’Cruz is excited by the prospect of Panjim becoming a host city in the future, which would bring world renowned jazz musicians to Goa and make this tiny state a part of the global jazz vocabulary. Already, for the past few years musicians from across India and world over have been making an appearance in Goa. This year’s attractions are teenaged saxophonist Sanger Serrao and octogenarian pianist Xavier Fernandes, depicting age as no barrier to jazz music. Indian jazz guitar legend Gerard Machado, who is based in Bangalore, has been invited to play as the guest of honour. Besides these performers there are over twenty others expected at the venue. They have all volunteered to participate in celebrating jazz.
Answering a question about the Goan response to jazz, D’Cruz says, ‘Jazz has always had a niche following anywhere in the world. If it were a popular form of music it would be called pop. It is an acquired taste and those who get it, stay with it right through their lifetime, unlike other forms of music that are here today and gone tomorrow.’
The International Jazz Day celebrations will be kick started on the 29th of April at 8 pm at the Park Hotel in Calangute, with free entry. ‘Past International Jazz Day concerts attracted between three to five hundred people. This year I expect over five hundred people to show up at the Park Hotel where there will be three audience areas – a restaurant that opens out right onto Calangute beach, a sea view mezzanine floor and a poolside chill out zone.’
Colin D’Cruz decries the apathy of the State Government towards the event. He talks about the hurdles he met with producing the earlier instalments of International Jazz Day in Goa, ‘When I organised the first two events at the Jardim Garcia de Orta in Panjim, I had to run around for all kinds of police, traffic police and loud speaker licenses. I was then informed that I had to arrange for my own electricity supply and I would be held responsible for any damage to plant or property at the garden. The final straw came when the authorities kept the park toilets closed on the day of our event. So no more concerts in the park for me. This being an iconic international event that does lot of good for Goa tourism, I expected a little more than just the permission to use the park.’
This year’s event promises to be a phenomenal experience and D’Cruz will hopefully reap a rich reward for the seeds he has so painstakingly sown, consequently popularising jazz in Goa and making Goa a music destination to contend with in the world jazz arena.