Saturday, April 30, 2016


Returning to the topic of the Indian Connection in world music, we recall our post on pioneering Goan film music arrangers, who drew heavily on western rock and jazz pieces without anybody looking askance, simply because they, in the first place, were co-creators of these genres.

In the late nineteen-fifties, the American Government, in order to live down the country’s reputation on racial discrimination, decided to show-case Jazz, a product of Afro-American cohabitation, before the world at large, and the greatest names of Jazz were paid to criss-cross the globe. The results were rewarding to both sides, to say the least. Dave Brubeck was one of the greats of Jazz who visited Bombay in that phase. The Dave Brubeck Quartet was responsible for making ‘Take Five’ composed by Paul Desmond possibly the greatest Single in the history of Jazz.

A word about Take Five. We had occasion to allude to the principal requisite for a composition to qualify for the Jazz tag: the asymmetry between the rhythm and the melody. The closest to the Indian Classical experience is the phenomenon reputedly invented by Amir Khusro, wherein the melody breaks step with the tala, only to converge on a later sam after the least common multiple of the two streams has been played out…The time signature symbol of Take Five is a 4 topped by 5, something like 5/4, which indicates that there are 5 beats to a bar with quarter note-value in the accompanying melody. In Indian terminology this roughly means that the tala is of 5 or 5*x matras, while the notes accommodated in each cycle are 4 in number. As for ‘bar’, if we were to put down teen-taal notionally on a music sheet, there will be 16 intervals bar to bar. Take Five sounds incredibly sweet to YT:

The visit of Brubeck and friends and their extraordinary voyage of discovery has been chronicled by Naresh Fernandes in his blog. In Bombay a Jam Session was arranged in which IK’s sitar muse Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan participated. Here is what Fernandes writes:

One evening the pianist Dave Brubeck and his quartet gathered in the home of a jazz-loving industrialist on Mumbai’s Malabar Hills to chat with a group of Indian Musicians led by the sitar maestro Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan. They picked up their instruments and put their new knowledge to work. The jam session, the American pianist said later, changed the way he approached his art. “His (the Ustad’s) influence made me play in a different way,” Mr. Brubeck told Jazz Journal International. “Although Hindu scales, melodies and harmonies are different, we understood each other…the folk origins of music aren’t far apart anywhere in the world.”

The Ustad’s influence is lasting and cerebral, going beyond the cosmetic ‘fusion’ Param Vir talked about in this post. What a tribute to AHJK the Musician’s Musician as we once called him, be sure we shall find out what the Ustad has to say about it when we visit him this Guru Purnima, that’s when he is annually feted by his disciples and fans….the article of curiosity will be the reverse flow- how was AHJK influenced by Dave...

PS: not to forget the insight offered by Brubeck on the Unity of the musical Godhead!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Very interesting read. though one does wonder about race relations in America when black Jazz music has an international ambassador as white as they come:)