Music for Peace: Jazzmandu 2006

Features Issue 60 Jul, 2010

Acrowd of people standing on the sidewalk listening to music that is being played indoors, while the evening traffic goes chaotic, is testimony to the popularity of jazz. That is what happened outside the Upstairs Jazz Bar on the first day of Jazzmandu 2006.

Upstairs Jazz Bar
The festival kicked off at Upstairs where it all began five years ago. People poured in early in the evening and by seven, the small bar was packed to the limit, and the enthusiastic crowd spilled out onto the streets. It was Remi Abram on tenor saxophone and Claudio Celada on keys who opened the show. A part of the Remi Abram Quartet from France, they had arrived without bassist Phillipe Guirand and drummer Ulrich Edorh. Brothers Navin Chhetri and Pravin Chhetri of the local band Cadenza stood in for the missing duo. Playing originals, they displayed a combination of bebop, hard-bop and Caribbean jazz. Cadenza also played their own brand of jazz with Rajat Rai on guitar, Samir Chhetri on percussions and Mariano Abello on sax, followed by Arpana Rayamajhi’s vocals on one of the songs. The first night was a success, and the people who actually managed to get past the crowds into the bar enjoyed themselves immensely.

Basantapur Durbar Square
On Day 2, a huge crowd was on hand at the Basantapur Durbar Square where free jazz prevailed. The open-air venue was a welcome change from cramped spaces and the turnout was impressive, though the event seemed short-lived, lasting just about two hours. First up was the duo from Norway, comprising of jazz vocalist Hilde Marie Kjersem and pianist Andreas Hessen Schei, part of the Tub Quartet. With Kjersem’s captivating tunes and Schei’s skillful playing, both the originals and covers performed by the duo brought loud cheers from the audience. Also performing was The Judy Lewis and Orr Didi Duo Project, a much-acclaimed progressive jazz collaboration. Judy’s piano playing has its roots in classical music while Orr Didi, a visually impaired guitarist, shows his inclination towards rock. The combination seems to work well for the duo. Cadenza and Friends took the stage with Nick Aggs of Afro Dizzi Act, who had thrilled audiences at Jazzmandu 2003, resulting in an amazing jam-up.

Gokarna Jazz Bazaar

The much awaited Gokarna Jazz Bazaar was slated for the evening of Friday the 13th where a larger than normal crowd enjoyed cultural folk by local band Kutumba, classical music by the popular Sukarma followed by jazz until the wee hours of the morning. Held at the Le Meridien Gokarna Forest Golf Resort, there was much to savor: an outstanding vocal performance by Hilde Marie from Norway was backed by the able Andreas Schei on keyboards and upright piano. This duo enthralled the audience in spite of the noise from the backbenchers. Another act that impressed was the Judy Lewis & Orr Didi Duo Project from Isreal. Judy’s superb piano playing was matched by the magical deft fingers of the guitar prodigy, Orr Didi. Towards the end, came The Latin Jazz All Stars who were all entertainment with the jovial Steve Barrios telling the crowd, “At midnight I’ll turn into a pumpkin.” He was commanding on the drums while Yunior Cabrerra pounded on his electric double bass. The third member,  Columbian pianist Eddie Martinez improvized on piano much to the delight of jazz buffs. This was a flavor of latin jazz we had not heard before. On this night Remi Abram on sax was outstanding.

The local band ‘Stupa’ received tremendous support from the audience made up largely of locals. Then Cadenza, who need little introduction hit the stage with Venezuelan El David Burgos on trumpet blowing hard and true. The Francois Carrier Trio turned up as a Duo with one member left behind in Canada. “He refused to get on a plane,” was the only explanation given in jest. However, they seemed to do pretty well without the third member leaving one wondering how they would have sounded as a trio.

Late into the night, the stars all came together for a wonderful jam that seemed to go on forever. It was a night of beautiful voices, inspired jams, supercharged solos and the kind of camaraderie that usually comes with playing music together. With music still resonating through their heads, the crowd headed home after the musicians took the final bow.

Jazzmandu Peace Parade

As always, Saturday was time for the Peace Parade to hit the road spreading the message of peace through music. Starting from the Upstairs Jazz Bar the parade headed up towards the Shangri-La Hotel in Lazimpat, and continued for about an hour. Comprising of an assortment of local and international jazz musicians, traditional Maruni and Lakhe dances, vintage bikes and cars among others, the procession was quite a sight.

Red Hot Latin Jazz
Evening at the Shangri-La Hotel was time for the Red Hot Latin Jazz concert, and once again, the seats were quickly snatched up as the venue was packed to bursting. The night got under way with the much-awaited performance of the Latin Jazz All-Stars,    Eddie Martinez on piano, Cabrerra on bass and Berrios on drums. Some were of the opinion that this was the best performance. The Remi Abram Quartet followed along with Cadenza and Nick Aggs and there were solid jams on several occasions. The thumping Afro-Caribbean beats and South American rhythms soon had people up on their feet and dancing; the event was certainly a memorable one.

Jazz at Patan
The Patan Museum Square came alive with the sounds of jazz and classical music on Day 6 of Jazzmandu. The ambience was wonderful; the lighting and the decor impeccably done. A jam session between the various bands got the show underway at about 7:30 in the evening. Most of the artists flaunted their requisite solos in turn, but it was Remi Abram’s soprano sax playing that seemed to grab the attention of the listeners. Cadenza and Friends were up next, followed by Hilde Marie and Andreas.

The concluding part of the show was more classical-inclined, with Gurudev Kamat making quite an impression with his vocal abilities, though he could’ve done with more stage time. T.R Dhandapany was a hit, accompanied by his group of percussionists, who played South Indian rhythms. While the collaboration between the international bands and the classical musicians did hit a few rough patches throughout the evening, the effort was certainly appreciated and made for a good time.

All Star Fever
The All Star Fever at Hotel Shangri-la was almost a repeat of Gokarna, but we heard some enchanting voices when two young ladies took to the stage in quick succession. Arpana Rayamajhi gave a polished performance singing “West Coast Blues” followed by a powerful rendition of “Day and Night” by Yankey Ongmu Lepcha, which reassured the large audience that jazz has a future in Nepal. Another addition to the Cadenza & Friends ensemble was Nick Aggs with his notable Afro. He kept the crowd going and the dance floor was soon overflowing with swirling figures. It was one big jamboree and the crowd loved it.

Jazzmandu 2006 was yet another resounding success with more converts and the attendance gets bigger each year. Well, if you missed this one, see you at Jazzmandu 2007.