The Great Jazz Festival: Jazzmandu 2005

Features Issue 49 Aug, 2010

The contribution of the African slaves to American arts is so invaluable, that the debt will never be paid back. Picking up the white man’s guitar and his language, they turned their work songs into an expression of their troubles and sorrow. Their deep-rooted pain became the theme of their music, which they played and sang during their weekend break from work. This form of music later became known as the blues. But it did not stop there; it evolved into other more complex forms of music like rock ’n roll, soul and jazz.

With jazz was born improvisation, and wind instruments were introduced to the ensemble, which kept getting bigger. They grew so big, people started calling them the big bands. The music also went through a transformation leading to extended solos played even on the bass and drums. As jazz moved from one American city to another, new styles evolved, and over the years, spread to other parts of the globe.

The blues roots explain the presence of Soulmate from Shillong at Jazzmandu. Their original blues songs had the audience spellbound. They missed the great gig at Gokarna and were sorely missed. At Shangri-la, Tipriti almost had me in tears with her rendition of a soul searching Khashi folk song. Tipriti’s vocals and Rudy’s guitar riffs were a treat to blues afficianados.

Solid! from Norway was mind blowing. This jazz trio was solid in all departments; Bjorn Vidar Solli on guitar and vocals took the music to another level, leaving the audience speechless. His rich improvisations, superb technique and smooth flow of notes told us what jazz is all about. Daniel Formo on Hammond organ was equally proficient and Hakon Mjaset Johansen on drum was simply incredible, besides being highly entertaining.

Groove Suppa from Mumbai made it for the Gorkarna act and seemed an improved version of last year’s band. With two guitarists complementing each other, the sound was pulsating and with an added percussionist, they emanated a wall of sound. This was modern jazz. An unfortunate motorcycle accident left one guitarist with a broken leg and thus the band played their last gig at the Summit minus a guitar.

When Cadenza took to the stage at Gokarna, it was a reminder of where it all began. And with Chhedup Bomzan (manager/big brother to the band) moving among the crowd, one felt nothing short of gratefulness to these people for bringing jazz of the highest standards to Nepal. Upstairs is where it all started (read Chhedup’s interview on pg 24). Cadenza found a place to carry out their experimentation at Chhedup’s Upstairs Bar, where they slowly switched to jazz. One thing led to another and Upstairs Ideas was born, and then there was Jazzmandu. The festival took Kathmandu by storm and this year we had the 4th Jazzmandu. Cadenza has gone through many line-up changes leaving only Navin Chhetri, the charismatic drummer/band leader from the original ensemble. This year they had Mariano E. Abello jamming with them on sax. His soulful solos changed the mood of the festival.-DR

Free Jazz at Patan
“Solid! is solid” was the remark made by almost all the people who were enticed with the unheard of jazz standards and original numbers played by Solid! at the free jazz show in Patan. Musicians, students, children, grandparents, tourists, passers-by, and even sadhus…people from all walks of life had gathered in the Patan Durbar Square to listen to the free open-air jazz show at Patan Durbar Square. When the band finally decided to pack off after entertaining the lovable crowd for almost an hour, all of us shouted once more to which, Solid’s guitarist Bjorn Vidar surprised us all by singing a beautiful and melodious song. Now, that was a great way to pack off for the day.

Red Hot Latin Jazz

It was a percussionist’s dream day. The beats were irresistible, compelling one to hit the dance floor, Groove Suppa, Mariano, Cadenza and Solid! put together a big jam session that will be remembered through the winter. Indeed a November to remember!

Peace Parade

This parade was a completely different one, vibes that other parades sooner or later have to learn. The streets of Lazimpat transformed into a colorful carnival, full of joy as jazz musicians mingled with music lovers, Enfielders, lakhays and traditional musicians. Peace is what we all long for!

Jazz at Patan
It was an all-star fever in the heart of Patan Museum as jazz musicians jammed with the elite of Nepal’s classical musicians. The scintillating music that showcased the musicians’ brilliant improvisations echoed through the courtyards of the old Palace.

The final jam

The final jam by most of the musicians both at Gokarna and the Summit was thoroughly enjoyable, leaving us wanting more. Seeing so many musicians from so many different bands and so many different countries jell together, cooking up free flowing jazz was the ultimate high of the festival.