Musical Treats from Distant Lands

Music aficionados in India are getting exposed to a wide range of musicians from across the globe who are coming to the country for performances.


Attending a western musical concert was often a proposition that many would pass in India — the high prices of the concert tickets worked as pocket pinch for many. Not anymore. Whether it is jazz, pop or the romantic melody of the trumpet, foreign artistes are putting up performances at various venues in India, as the audience laps it up.

Bonjour India gives many French artistes a pedestal to perform in the country. In its third edition, the organization has brought several of them on an ambitious four-month mega musical voyage across India. The musicians are travelling to cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Indore, Hyderabad and Kochi, bringing a range of art forms to these cities.

Pitching in to add to the western musical scene in India is Delhi-based Jazz club-cum-restaurant, The Piano Man Jazz Club. The club, which is a little over 2 years old, has hosted 700 shows, including Indian as well as foreign musicians, attracting music aficionados of all age groups.

“We have had musicians from various countries like Indonesia, South America, Japan, South Africa and Israel, among others. The Piano Man Jazz Club has three different genres of performances,” founder Arjun Sagar Gupta tells Little India.

The first genre of artistes that perform at The Piano Man Jazz Club are officially sponsored by organizations or countries like the Japan Foundation and others, while the second kind comprises bands that tour India for performances. These bands generally don’t have any sponsors and perform in various countries just for the love of music. The third kind of artistes are those who come to India for a holiday and do an impromptu performance when they can squeeze in some time. “These artistes either go solo or come up with a spontaneous act,” adds Gupta.

French cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton

Another haven for music lovers in Bengaluru is The Humming Tree that has been hosting many foreign musicians since 2013. The arts and performance space that doubles up as a restaurant has had an eclectic line-up of artistes from countries like France, United Kingdom and United States.

The artistes hosted by these clubs and organizations feel that the vivaciousness of the Indian audience is unmatched, which is why they love performing in the country time and again. The sentiment to return to India for another concert is unequivocal for most foreign musicians.

French cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton was recently on a five-city tour in India and visited Thiruvananthapuram, Pune, Bengaluru, Delhi, and Udaipur. Like many artistes, she feels that India is a great place to learn.

“In each city I visited in India, I met remarkable people, musicians and different voices of India,” she says. “I will definitely try to integrate these voices in the soundtrack of my recital. The audience in India understands music and concentrates on a recital. They savor each moment and for me these are the moments of sharing my music and emotions with the audience,” she adds.

French jazz trumpeter Erik Trufazz (center)

Those like Erik Trufazz, a French jazz trumpeter, who fuses elements of hip hop, rock and roll, and dance music into his compositions and has performed in India four times, feel passionately involved with the culture and audience of India. “Performing in India is an amazing, unique experience. Through my musical tourneys here, I have come to realize that Indians have a number of jazz lovers among them,” says Trufazz.

Durban-based singer, pianist and songwriter Chloe Clark, who recently performed at The Piano Man Jazz Club, feels the same. “I absolutely loved the experience of performing in India. The musicians were fantastic to work with, the vibe of the place was brilliant and the food was outstanding,” she says.

The feeling is mutual for the audience as well. Gupta says that although getting the right kind of audience, who would appreciate music in the club, was tough initially, the music lovers slowly started trickling in. “We are very strict about maintain the decorum in the club while a concert is underway. The audience is asked not to take call or step out while taking calls and to maintain silence. Today 80 to 90 per cent people who step inside the club are in for a musical evening,” he says.

Durban-based singer, pianist and songwriter Chloe Clark performing at The Piano Man Jazz Club in New Delhi

For some musicians like the jazz band EYM Trio, performing in India is a revelation. The trio that consists of pianist Elie Dufour, bassist Yann Phayphet and drummer Marc Michel has already held three musical tours in India. They are full of ideas about what they want to achieve in their next tour in the country. “Someday we would like to play for the underprivileged of the country. Even when the entrance is free, I’ve never seen someone from that strata of the Indian society come in to attend our concerts in India. Maybe next time we can organize something on the streets, open air, with police authorization,” says pianist Dufour.

The group is looking forward to come back this year after they release their new album. “People in India know of our music and often ask us to play some numbers from our albums, it’s incredible to perform in India,” says Phayphet.

The tours also help foreign musicians collaborate with Indian artistes. Truffaz, for instance, has recorded an album with vocalist Indrani Mukherjee and tabla exponent and Indrani’s husband, Apurba Mukherjee.

Traveling musicians have added greatly towards changing the outlook of Indian music lovers. Artistes feel that the concerts are a great place for exchange of ideas and thoughts, and to meet budding as well as accomplished musicians of India.

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