Archive for » June, 2011 «

A Woman in a Man’s World

Lucilla Pacheco plays the saxophone at Green’s Hotel. It wasn’t an instrument she usually played.

One evening in 2007, as I wrapped up a presentation at an art festival in  Panjim on the role Goan jazz musicians had played in bringing swing to the Hindi film industry in the 1950s, a woman came up to me with tears in her eyes. “You played a track with my mummy on it,” she said.

Her mother, I knew immediately, was the pioneering pianist Lucilla Pacheco. In the 1940s, Lucilla Pacheco was one of the few women on the Bombay jazz scene, playing in the all-star band of Mickey Correa at the Taj Mahal Hotel and with the Anglo-Indian band leader Ken Mac. She later joined the Hindi film industry, and performed regularly with the arranger Anthony Gonsalves. But she isn’t remembered merely for being a woman in a man’s world. In the 1960s, she introduced the Hindi films to their first electronic instrument: the Solovox.

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India’s first jazz record

Jazz, it’s clear, was the world’s first pop. The joyous form had the good fortune of being born right around the time that the gramophone was invented and global shipping was speeding up. In the first decade of the twentieth century, wax cylinders and shellac discs of Dixieland stomp made their way to the further corners of the planet faster than any other kind of music had done before. That’s proved conclusively by the image of this jazz band, shot in the Calcutta zoo in 1926: it’s led by a Canadian and his sidemen are from the Philippines, Austria, Mozambique, the US and Russia.
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Bombay, It’s Ours

In 2004, the Sri Lankan pop sensations from the 1960s, The Jet Liners, held a reunion concert in Colombo. As a finale, they performed this song: Bombay Meri Hai – a tune that has been a Bombay party standard since was released four decades ago. The first time I realised that the tune was hugely popular south of the Palk Straits was in 2000, while eating a meal in a Sri Lankan restaurant in the New York borough of Staten Island. As I tucked into my hoppers and curry, a Sinhalese version of Bombay Meri Hai called Ran Ran Ran blasted out of the speakers. I marvelled at how a song composed by a guy who lived around the corner from me in Bombay had spread around the globe like this.
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Category: Audio, Bombay, India jazz, Jazz

The Man With the Golden Guitar

A version of this article first appeared in Time Out Mumbai.

In 2004, in a review of an album called Integration, the Guardian declared, “Of all the attempts to bring together jazz and Indian music, this must be one of the most successful…[The tunes] strike a perfect balance between the two idioms, and there is none of that phoney ‘Eastern’ flavouring, featuring sitars and such like…the music swings in a completely natural way.”

The album under consideration had actually been released 35 years earlier, but had been reissued after a fortunate series of events – bringing Bombay-born guitar player Amancio D’Silva back into the spotlight eight years after he’d passed away.
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