Teamwork Arts’ endeavor, The Jazz India Circuit, is a throw-back with a twist.
Building a musical piece de resistance with their events, Teamworks spreads the word and sound of jazz across the country through concerts that span the spectrum of the fascinating genre. Reliving old memories with contemporary and edgy innovation and bring back the Golden Age of Jazz is the spirit of the circuit.
Loudest: What was the inspiration behind Jazz India Circuit?
Avik: Two main objectives really; to consistently bring some of the most talented musicians from across the world to perform in India while simultaneously promoting and encouraging the wealth of talent that exists in our country.
The Indian music events space is booming right now, with several festivals and concerts taking place across India. While popular bands and producers are being brought down by the festivals, what we seek to do is bring down some of the most talented musicians in the Jazz space. Over the last year, we’ve featured Stanley Jordan, Jojo Mayer, Dave Weckl & Jamison Ross. Not the most popular musicians, you could say, but definitely some of the most technically gifted musicians today. We want to bring more such musicians down and feature them across the country.
At each of these festivals and concerts, we make it a point to include Jazz groups from within India. More and more musicians are taking up the genre, or at least exploring it in some form or the other, so Jazz is at a resurgence today. We want to contribute to this resurgence and contribute positively to the independent music economy in India.
Loudest: Please do tell us a little bit about the response for the circuit, after the 2017 chapter.
Avik: Amazing; we did three festivals in 2017, one in February, and two in December. February featured Stanley Jordan, and audiences were ecstatic at seeing him live. In December, we transformed the Horizon Plaza in Gurgaon to do an outdoor festival featuring Joost Lijbaart, a Dutch drummer that is throughly renowned in the Scandinavian circuit. A week later, Jojo Mayer and Nerve played for a sold out crowd at the Goa festival.
The artist is integral to the evening, but we also try to create an experience for the audiences that walk in to any of our festivals. We try to create an ambience which makes the evening unforgettable, an ambience that you will rarely get at any festival in Delhi today. In many respects I think we’ve succeeded in doing this, as everyone who walks through our doors has given us tremendous feedback, and we have a very high rate of people returning for subsequent festivals.
Loudest: Do you think there is a difference in how the Indian people perceive Jazz music , say, 5 years ago and now?
Avik: Depends, many people perceive it differently. The 60’s and 70’s had several Jazz greats, and many people, specially the older generation perceive Jazz music as music that Jazz musicians created in this era. Some people are stuck in this era, and refuse to accept that Jazz has diversified and how! Many people are aware, however, of how diverse Jazz has become, and look forward to hearing new sounds, while appreciating the ones that fit into their perception of the genre. I think over the last 5 years, several people have adapted to the new sounds that get categorised under Jazz. Many, who are not aware of the genre at all, sometimes perceiving it as snooty music for the rich, which considering the origins of Jazz, is ironic to say the least.
So the perception varies vastly depending on who in India you speak to. Its part of the reason we’ve gone with the tagline, Jazz is Freedom, for our festival. Jazz as a genre allows you to express yourself spontaneously in the way no other genre can. It’s about breaking down boundaries, always has been. Musically and socially. Jazz as a genre cannot be confined in a box, as so many people try to do so.
It’s not only the jazz music of the 60’s, it’s not only Jazz music today, it’s everything. Every piece of music that has improvised elements where musicians express themselves spontaneously can be categorised as Jazz music. Sonically, many genres today have distinct sounds, from Rock to Pop to Blues to EDM etc. Jazz doesn’t anymore, and that’s the beauty of it.
Loudest: What are the biggest changes in attitude, opportunities and appreciation towards Jazz music in India?
Avik: Attitude would be what I mentioned above; that many people are adapting to and absorbing the new sounds that Jazz has to offer. Opportunities wise, several music schools today teach Jazz and several new spaces and festivals have opened up that program Jazz.
Several musicians that explored Jazz music in prestigious institutes abroad have come back and are teaching at music schools in several cities. So there’s more opportunities for students to learn and explore the genre.
Many I know do it to improve technically and add variety to their playing, and then they use it in the genre of music they enjoy creating in and playing the most. Also there are 7-8 Jazz festivals across the country and places that program Jazz have opened up across India, from Kolkata to Pune, even to Ahmedabad & Chandigarh. So opportunities have really opened up for people in this Genre.
Loudest: What is your opinion on music business in India? What are, the developments that excite you the most, personally?
Avik: The events space is growing, that’s for sure, but we have a long long way to go in terms of the music business as a whole. The festival boom over the last decade is great and contributes greatly to the music economy. As important is the need for spaces to program musicians on a consistent basis, of which there has also been an increase, but its really hard to sustain. In most cases, A DJ is less expensive than a band. Most people are happy listening to popular tunes or EDM or Bollywood. So, local space shy away from programming bands, specially bands with original music too often.
It is happening though, but as the customer base that enjoy new sounds and original music grows, so will this space. And then people will invest in bands.That’s already happening, and there are really great pubs and restaurants that program bands across the year, some program everyday!
New recording studios are opening up too, mostly by independent musicians for independent musicians.
Social media has allowed musicians to get their music out there quickly, so music has been democratized in that sense. I really do think though that we can reach a space where the music coming out of India is consumed globally, the same way music that comes out of the UK & the US.
Right now all big record labels are basically releasing Bollywood, and that’s been the case for a while. Forgive my optimism, but I really do feel that can change. More bands can tour across the world, more bands can get opportunities to record at international studios, more bands can get consumed across the world, and our music space can be globally competitive. It isn’t happening anytime soon, but it can happen. To be a part of that and possibly realise our potential, is what excites me the most.
Loudest: What is the process and the thought behind inviting artists for the JIC?
Avik: We define our festivals clearly.
Goa has an experimental angle to it. Lots of our artists are very out of the box. Delhi is more relatable Jazz, if that’s a term. So we aim for musicians that are in the genre of classic jazz or who are well known in the Jazz space. We collectively shortlist our headliners for each festival accordingly. And then start reaching out to them and hope they are available!
Loudest: Is JIC purely live music? Are you planning to curate events across platforms, i.e., streaming services, album releases, video releases, etc?
Avik: We started something called the JIC podcast that’s for digital consumption only. So far we’ve done 2 episodes of it, but plan to do many more in the future. We have a lot of plans actually, but such little time! Our primary aim is to grow JIC as a live festival circuit. Bu we’re definitely exploring other platforms to promote music as well.