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Swinging in Bombay, 1948

Henry Green, Frank Fernand and Hal Green at the Bombay Swing Club debut concert

Henry Green, Frank Fernand and Hal Green at the Bombay Swing Club debut concert

BSW 1959 BrochureOne day in the late 1940s, musicians Hal and Henry Green asked Bombay businessman JJ Davar if he’d lend them his extensive collection of swing discs so that they could start a jazz record listening club.  After tossing the idea around for a while, they decided that it would be a better idea to set up an organisation to perform live music instead. Trumpet player Frank Fernand joined the conversations and, on November 28, 1948, the Bombay Swing Club gave its inaugural concert at the Cama Hall.

Though I mentioned the Club in Taj Mahal Foxtrot, I only recently obtained details about the organisation’s origins, thanks to material  mailed to me from Australia by the amazing Maxine Steller.  She not only sent me a copy of an autographed programme of that concert, she also had a clip from the Sunday Standard that had been written on the BSC’s first anniversary. The article describes in some detail the trouble that Bombay Swing Club’s debut concert ran into: the worst cyclone the city had witnessed in decades.

“Electricity having failed, Eddy Jones, Clarence Bean and Henry Green worked feverishly at night with candles (bought at Rs ¼ a piece) sawing, cutting, hammering, painting to get the music stands and stage props together on time,” the article said.
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I Lost My Heart to You

Amchem Noxib, released in 1963, was only the second Konkani film ever made. It was produced by the formidable trumpet player Frank Fernand, who features prominently in Taj Mahal Foxtrot, and he composed much of the music too. The soundtrack is like his musical autobiography, containing church music, village fiesta music, Goan folk and swing.
This doo wop tune is sung by Molly. The actors are C Alvarez and Rita Lobo.

Bombay in Swing Time

[This is a slightly edited version of the Preface to Taj Mahal Foxtrot. It appears in the latest issue of Time Out Mumbai.]

Taj Mahal Foxtrot, a tale that unfolds across five continents, began mundanely enough with a stroll down the street to interview a musician who lived around the corner from my home in Bandra. It was 2002 and the objective of my mission, I must confess, wasn’t entirely noble. I was seeking to excavate gossip about a scandalous affair that had titillated the world of migrant Goan musicians in Mumbai in the 1960s. Being inherently lazy, I had decided to bring my inquiries as close to home as possible and made an appointment with the musician-father of my college friends Larissa and Max Fernand. I didn’t know much about the man, except that he’d played in jazz bands and in the Hindi film studios. He seemed as good a starting point as any other.

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Remembering Anthony Gonsalves

[This article first appeared in Seminar and has been reproduced in The Greatest Show on Earth, a new anthology of writing about Bollywood edited by the excellent Jerry Pinto.]

 

Midway through Manmohan Desai’s classic 1977 film about three brothers separated in childhood, a man in a top hat and a Saturday Night Fever suit leaps out of a giant Easter egg to inform the assemblage, “My name is Anthony Gonsalves.”

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The Vile Parle Wonderboys

Over the course of my research, I’ve occasionally encountered names of performers in programme brochures and on record labels that have, frustratingly, remained little more than just that: names. None of the other musicians I have interviewed have been able to give me more than sketchy details about these performers, I haven’t been able to track down their families and there’s little about them in the news clips I’ve found. Among these tantalising phantoms are the Theodore brothers: Joe, Harry, George and Bertie aka Lups, who led one of the first Indian swing bands to play a stint at the Taj in the late 1930s.
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