Jazzmandu 2004

Features Issue 29 Aug, 2010

Putting Kathmandu on the International Jazz Circuit
Kathmandu Jazz Festival 2004, the biggest in its series, brought together not only musicians from diverse cultural backgrounds but also lovers of music, particularly jazz from all over the globe to witness what might be the next Montreal Jazz Festival, which attracts thousands of tourists each year. Jazzmandu is an idea put together by some young Nepalis to bring the joys of Jazz to the Himalayas and spread the message of peace through music. The festival this year was an incredible event with five international and three local bands performing in venues in and around Kathmandu and Pokhara.

It all began in the year 2002 when Upstairs Ideas was born. Three years down the road, Jazzmandu has growing support from friends, families, sponsors, fans of Jazz and most importantly the willingness of international Jazz artists to travel to a country in crisis. The tremendous response has made this event the biggest Jazz party in the Himalayas. So much so that the event was also included in the Destination Nepal Campaign as one of the major national events in the Nepali calendar.

Although an event of this magnitude had never been undertaken in the country, the Kathmandu Jazz Festival soon gained a reputation for high quality jazz, sound and performances. Credit goes to the organizers, Chhedup Bomzon and Navin Chhetri  who brought in three international bands and Mr. Don Burrows, Australia’s leading jazz musician to Nepal for the first ever “Jazzmandu 2002.” This inevitably gave a boost to the festival’s reputation, in terms of its ability to attract world-class stars and masters.

Jazzmandu Peace Parade- a street festival to promote peace (the first of its kind in Kathmandu) on March 14th was a real treat for musicians, traditional Lakhe dancers, Buddhist monks, vintage car owners and bikers, Nepali musicians, music lovers, and most of all to the pigeons that were set free symbolizing freedom and peace. Starting the rally from Upstairs Jazz bar, an eclectic blend of the pulsating beats of the congo, maadal, trumpet, tambourine, and the lulling tunes of the sarangi, saxophone and the baasuri (flute) set the stage for the participants to march or perhaps dance all the way to Hotel Shangri-La, the end point of the rally. Adding more color to the rally were traditional masked dancers performing the Lakhe dance, one of the most popular dances in Kathmandu, the reverberating chants of the Buddhist monk who led the rally, and power bikers all in their Enfields. Even though the rally lasted for a short distance, the effort and enthusiasm of the organizers as well as the participants in promoting peace (when needed most in the country) with such exuberance was indeed very commendable.

And although the fest is over the fever still continues…. It was indeed a great Jazz Festival!

The Great Jazz Party comes to Gokarna
Jazz at Gokarna was the ultimate high for jazz lovers with most of the musicians taking part in the concert. The program kicked of with local classical musicians Prastar followed by the Gandharvas who played the traditional sarangi. When the Jazz musicians, Simak Dialog from Indonesia took over, we were transported to another world altogether. They enthralled the audience with acoustic and electric instruments played with an Indonesian feel. The strong percussions added much vigor to their music. Next: Urban Connection from Norway blew our minds away with their incredible improvisation and delightful techniques. Steinar Raknes playing the double bass with drums sticks left the audience in awe. Frode Nymo on saxophone was unstoppable and simply amazing. Cadenza and friends got the audience dancing to their hot groove. The sax and flute solos brought delighted whistles from the fans, while Navin Chhetri thrilled everyone with his vocal improvisations. The heart and soul of the evening was the blues band from Shillong, “Soul Mate.” Relying largely on their original material, the band had most of the crowd up on their feet and cheering. Tipriti, their female vocalist belted out blues and soul with power and conviction taking the crowd to a higher level. Rudy’s masterful handling of the solos was remarkable. Max Lolo from Benin, Africa cut his own niche with Cadenza, bringing about a change in beat and sound. His unique vocal in African and raw guitar sound added variety to the musical extravaganza.

It was the most wonderful experience- Good music complimented by good food and superb organization. There were buses available from Lazimpat to the venue every hour. The event went without a hitch and everybody had a ball. The happy faces said it all. Jazzmandu gets more popular each year. According to Saral Pradhan of Le Meridien, Gokarna where the concert was held “there was a much larger crowd than last year. Jazzmandu is catching up.” The festival then moved on to different corners of the valley where the great Hannah Vasanth Trio of England joined the festivities. The Pokhara gig having been postponed takes place on April 2nd. Looking forward to Jazzmandu 2005...-DR