'Jazz in India is sort of reinventing itself'

What better way to celebrate International Jazz Day – by talking to one of the pioneers in Jazz music, Drift, The Trio, a contemporary jazz guitar trio from Delhi. Led by drummer Reuben Narain, the band’s music is an eclectic mix of modern music styles like funk, RnB, fusion etc.

with the compositional vision and improvisational styles of jazz greats like John Coltrane, Chick Corea, Thelonious Monk and Pat Metheny.

The idea behind coming together as a band was to write new music that could be a confluence of their personal musical journeys, without being restricted only by commercial considerations.

Talking about Jazz in India, Pranai Gurung, the guitarist, said, “Jazz in India is sort of  reinventing itself.

There were a lot of jazz musicians in the city/country in the ’50s and ’60s. A lot of them we had the pleasure of knowing early in our careers.

Now, there is a new breed of musicians interested in the music again, though it kind of skipped a couple of generations.

It is the same for the audiences too, they are being exposed to it again after a gap of a couple of decades.

Usually they are the younger audiences that are appreciating the music.”

“We encounter many first-time listeners and they show a lot of interest in this genre. Jazz music does require some understanding from the listener, however, it is also a very emotional, honest form of music. I don’t think this country has an audience that is digging its teeth deep into the music yet, but there is certainly an active interest building and, that is a beginning. It’s the storytelling nature of the music that interests the audiences more in this country than the nuances.”

Drift is about five years old and has had a couple of changes but Pranai (guitar) and Reuben Narain (drums) have been there right from the beginning.

The band cut its debut album Nico in 2012 and currently operates as a trio with Saurabh Suman (Bass) joining recently.

The band has performed both, as a trio as well as a part of larger setups featuring vocalists, saxophonists and other instrumentalists from around the world.

Each member of this trio has toured and performed extensively as session musicians with some of the most successful jazz/rock artists in this country and abroad and have been featured at almost all major music festivals held in India.

“Starting the band wasn’t really a plan,” says Pranai, adding, “It’s just the outcome of the musicians we are. It is what we have listened to the most and imbibed the most I guess.

World jazz is a big term. I am not sure how you contribute to an ocean with a drop of water. We just try to stay inspired and play as well as we can.”

Comparing India with places abroad, he said, “Serious music has serious listeners who can experience the music in a conducive environment. There are a lot of concert halls, recital spaces and venues where people can go and listen to the musicians. But, in India, music is still purely an act of entertainment and easy pleasure.”

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