Internationally known Goan Jazz bassist Colin D’Cruz supported local singer-songwriter Laura Fernandez in her recent appearance at Toronto’s Jazz Bistro. The fashionable nightclub was filled with appreciative fans, fellow musicians, and spectrum of supporters from the Ontario Jazz music scene.
Laura Fernandez is a Canadian visual-artist and popular performer of Spanish origin. She launched a debut album, The Other Side, in 2003 and then a second, Un Solo Beso, in 2010. Her music fuses pop-folk songwriting with the beats and rhythms of Latin jazz.
Laura is best known as being the host and producer of the weekly radio show Café Latino. The program is broadcast on Toronto’s JazzFM91, CJRT, and is focuses on the lively contemporary Latin Jazz from Spain, Brazil, Venezuela, and the US, and the emerging Afro-Cuban Music from the Caribbean and across Africa.
Laura recently took a 12-week musical sabbatical in Goa, India. She spent her time productively, composing, jamming, and touring ‘seven-days-a-week’ with Colin as part of his innovative Jazz Goa project.
Colin D’Cruz and a stalwart group of friends, musicians, and music lovers, formed the spirited Jazz Goa organization to promote Jazz emanating from Goa.
The formula is all of: running a professionally equipped music recording studio; a great deal of organizing jam sessions ie structured improvised performances groups of musicians; supporting working professionals in the music industry; networking and chasing bookings; lots of promotion and out-reach activity; and on top of this, tons and tons, of live performing.
The principal aims of the project are to develop a discipline and the mechanism to improve the quality of talented Jazz musicians in Goa, and increase professional opportunities for Goan Musicians in the Konkan Coast’s burgeoning tourism sector.
With approximate 7-million domestic tourists and over 1-million international tourist arriving in Goa each year, there are ample opportunities for local as well as international talent. Colin says there are at least 3,000 venues that offer live music in North Goa alone. They operate every evening during the tourist season, which runs November to March of each year.
Add to this, the unique combination of weather, infrastructure, and temperament, is propelling the Goa to become a go-to venue for emerging Arts Festivals with national, and even international, profile. Most of us are well acquainted with the Sunburn Festival that was conceived and up to very recently made the beaches of Goa its annual home. Goan Beaches are known in the History of Music as being one of the spiritual birthplaces of Electronic Dance Music (EDM). With the growing ‘Goa International Jazz Live Festival’ Goa is quickly becoming spiritual home of Jazz Music in India, noting this, the State Government sponsors an ‘International Jazz Day’ celebration that is focus solely on Jazz music.
There a number of thriving Arts Festivals, including the ‘Spirit of Goa Festival’, the ‘Goa Food & Culture Festival’, and the ‘International Film Festival of India’, that include a healthy component of live-music and make performance an integral part of their program. With well-financed Five-Star Hotels arriving with plush lounges and bustling convention facilities, new and future opportunities abound talented and capable Goan performers.
Goa, notes Colin, has always been a favored chill-out destination for some of the world’s greatest Jazz Musicians. The beautiful surroundings, peaceful laid-back lifestyle, and peoples genuine warmth has made Goa an inspirational paradise for artists from all over the world. The Jazz Goa organization is edging to play host to visiting Jazz Musicians by offering them opportunities and support to perform regularly in jam sessions, club gigs, organized concerts, and larger festivals. Colin has extended the professional opportunities, via his industry contacts. Jazz Goa bands have found regular work in his old stomping grounds of urban Mumbai and New Delhi as well.
Western Jazz has been in the thriving urban centers’ of India from the early part of the twentieth-century. In the 1920’s touring African-American bands arrived and preformed in English Clubs. Needless to say their influence directly inspired a generation of Goan Christian musicians and their Dance Bands that preformed in Goan Social Clubs and in the grand ballrooms and nightclubs of large hotels. The working Goan Session Musicians, who studiously worked in the Hindi film music industry, in turn imbibed new Jazz inspired compositions into their daily work of developing the soundtracks of India’s popular Hindi films.
Colin proudly notes, ‘Goa has produced internationally acclaimed jazz musicians right through it’s history in India. Pianist Dizzy Sal, saxophonist Braz Gonsalves, trumpet player Chic Chocolate, drummer Leslie Godinho are just a few that come to mind off hand. One Goan musician Trilok Gurtu actually spearheaded the evolution of Jazz, making it to the world’s best percussionist in Downbeat polls for seven years, a record of sorts for any Jazz Musician.’
In the 1960’s and 70’s Western Musicians and Indian Classical Musicians collaborated on stage. This performance mix led to the development of a new genre of music, Indo Jazz. Ravi Shankar, John Coltrane, John Mayer, and John McLaughlin, were noted pioneers. Indian music has also had a significant influence and impact on an interesting subgenre now known as Free Jazz. Here, performers breakdown established conventions, tempos, tones, and chord changes, and incorporate ethnic music from around the world into performances. They, optional, play with ancient instruments, foreign instruments, unusual instruments, or ones invented by their own. India has proven to be fertile ground.
Colin tells me average Indians are naturally attuned to the tempo, beats, and rhythms of Jazz and Swing bands. Indian Classical music, although conservative in approach, is both rhythmic and melodic. Performances include much room for improvisation and solos. There is ample examples of openness and assimilation of regional folk innovations, as well as influences that arrived from outside the subcontinent. Indians audiences expect this.
‘Jazz,’ Colin points out, ‘is what India has been doing in music for at least the last 2000 years.’
Jazz Music has found a prosperous, influential, and growing audience in Modern India. A good deal of this must be related to the fact, much more of India’s population and especially the middle and upper classes are increasingly exposed to Western arts and culture via growingly interconnected communication and the Media. This Art comes with new set of rhythms, beats, and tempos.
One strategy Jazz Goa is employing is encouraging a new generation of Indian music listeners to discover, experience, and enjoy music in a way that can only be done via spontaneity and improvisation. This is done via music focused workshops, interactive sessions and performances, and lively concerts. This kind of practical fieldwork is good for Student Jazz Musicians too. It encourages learning a sensible and realistic approach to engage an audience. There is no tougher room to play to that a room of full kids, students, or rows of newbies.
Jazz Goa has recently taken a road to the Internet. It has created a lively Social Media presence on Band Camp, Sound Cloud, YouTube and Face Book. The organization’s almost real-time documentation activities have attracted followers from across the globe. The organization also has jumped on one of the newest tack in Marketing. That is, releasing full recordings online to be duplicated by anyone who follow the requirements of a Creative Commons License. This means, much of Jazz Goa’s output can and be listened too, recorded, duplicated, and even re-sold for free, in a simple exchange of acknowledging the original artists and pointers to the location of the original source.
Capitalizing on India’s emerging IT talent, Goa Jazz contacted a local programmer to create a Mobile Phone App. Via the App, Jazz Goa can send curates songs directly to a fan’s telephone phone. The App is available free via the Apple App Store for iPhone and iPad, and on Google Play for Android phones and devices. This a good move and may prove to be very lucrative as there are now 100’s of millions of Smart Phones in India, and thousands of additional ones being registered everyday. The personal Smart Phone is how India is connecting to the world.
Colin D’Cruz started his long career in music forty-years ago as electric bass guitar player with resident bands in then the exclusive hotels of India. He says, he was attracted to playing the bass as an instrument when still a child. ‘It was strong sound, it controlled the beat,’ he says. ‘I loved the thump, thump, thump. That was powerful.’
Staring in the in the late nineteen-seventies he preformed for continuously for ten years, in six nights a week gigs. And most of these were three or four session days. This laid a solid foundation. It was about discipline, teamwork, learning fast, performing hard and live. It was survival. Hard work took him through just about every genre of music, and lead to supporting and collaborating with all kinds of musicians, bands and productions, large and small, and assignments all over the world.
Colin continues to play the electric-bass and is the spiritual backbone of truly a tremendous number of active Goan Bands. The Jazz Goa website lists: Blues Power, Goa Grooves, Lounge Jazz, Jazz Junction, Jazz Goa Trio, Smoking Chutney, Latin Connection, The Bassman’s Band, The Brown Indian Band, and The Suburban Jazz Ensemble. Each is a unique combination of talented musicians and collectively they can handle any size project from the corner of an intimate Hotel Lounge to performing on an International Festival stage.
‘I always had this dream of someday moving back to my ancestral place where music flowed through everyone’s veins, musician or not. The dream came true in the year 2008 when I set up home, studio and ‘bass-base’, in a place called Sangolda. I am surrounded by rice fields with mongoose, squirrels, and peacocks strutting around nonchalantly. An absolute paradise compared to Mumbai.’
‘I then went about spreading my first love Jazz by setting up an organization called Jazz Goa. Within four years Jazz Goa had a database of over five thousand jazz enthusiasts and over a hundred jazz originals composed by local talent and produced by Jazz Goa. Many of these tracks reached No.1 on international Internet Charts and this only encouraged me to do even more.’
Colin has recently rearranged a number of Portuguese folksongs and Konkani classics within a Jazz envelope. He injected Latin rhythms and new upbeat tempos. He recorded the songs in his Goa Studio using accomplished and largely unknown local singers and musicians. And when he completed and entire project and then did something precarious. He uploaded the Goa Jazz Project into the wilds of the Internet. The sounds are truly refreshing. The new interpretations have been well received. Today, you will find that every Goan Disk Jockey’s engaged by Goan Social Clubs around world the have added these marvellous tracks to their play lists.
‘It’s a unique way of bring local music and talent to the rest of the world.’ Colin says.
Colin attributes success to his, ‘open mind, open ears and best is yet to come philosophy.’ This keeps him in tune to the evolving sounds of music, widened his musical horizons, and helps him endeavor to uncover opportunity on a continuous basis.
Today, Colin D’ Cruz blogs, hosts a Jazz Radio Show on occasion, produces music out of his studio, opens the doors for Goan Jazz Musicians, and continues to perform across India and Internationally. He travels to Canada at least once per year. When here, he works. And its good work too.
Follow Jazz Goa on the World Wide Web, and catch Colin at one of his many local performances in Canada this month including the Goan Overseas Association of Toronto’s Viva Goa 2019. •
Article and Interview (c) Albert Peres. Goa Culture List
Interview with Colin D’Cruz, Goan Jazz Bassist, at a recent appearance at Toronto’s Jazz Bistro. Colin and a stalwart group of friends, musicians, and music lovers, formed the spirited Jazz Goa organization to develop and promote Jazz emanating from Goa.