Archive for » September, 2011 «

The Man Who Was Untired of Repetitions

The bandleader Mickey Correa, the last link to an incredibly rich part of Bombay’s musical history, passed away today at the age of 98. This picture was probably shot around 1939, when Correa was hired to lead an orchestra at the Taj in Bombay. He stayed there until 1961. Over the decades, his band was a nursery for fresh  talent. The musicians who emerged from his ensemble included the pianist Lucilla Pacheco, the saxophonists Johnny Baptist, Norman Mobsby and George Pacheco, and the trumpet players Chic Chocolate and Frank Fernand.


Beethoven in Bombay

  In December 1905, Giovanni Scrinzi, an Italian musician living in Bombay, wrote a letter to The Times of India with a bold suggestion. The time was right, he argued, for the city to establish a permanent orchestra. Bombay was home to  “a not inconsiderable class of cultured people of all communities” who would appreciate such a venture, he declared. Already, the city’s elite had supported a school of art, Elphinstone College and a museum. But music – “the most ideal and perhaps refining of all arts” – was yet to receive the encouragement it deserved. “Is it not fair that an appeal should be made on its behalf?” he concluded.


Functional fusions

Sees Need of Indian Blend to Save Music of America
Hindu Scholar Regards Jazz as Atrocity – Urges Compositions with ‘Atmosphere’ to Supplant It

That intriguing headline from December 1922 drew me to spend a pleasant afternoon at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Centre last fortnight. It had come up in a random internet search and as I read it, I knew I had to track down the entire piece. It is, after all, the earliest evidence I have seen of anyone thinking about the genre that, 45 years later, would come to be called “Indo-jazz fusion”.

The article had appeared in Music Trades, a journal for North American sellers of musical instruments and sheet music, and accessing it proved much easier than I imagined. Having struggled with clunky Indian libraries through much of my project, I was astonished at the enthusiasm demonstrated by the staff at the New York Public Library in helping me find what I needed. An email to the institution’s website elicited an instant response, telling me at which branch the journal was available. Fifteen minutes after I presented myself at the reception desk, I had been issued a temporary membership number and found myself being handed a couple of reels of microfilm.


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