Recognised as one of India’s finest music festivals, the Delhi International Jazz Festival, now in its eighth edition, was held at Nehru Park, New Delhi over the last weekend, from 1-3 March. The event was organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and featured an impressive line-up of jazz bands and renowned artistes from 11 countries.

The festival witnessed a footfall in thousands this year. The audiences were treated to one great performance after another—from old-school jazz to contemporary tunes from around  the world.

Day 1 of the festival kick-started with a powerful performance by a popular band from Germany, called Pulsar Trio. The band presented a jazz fusion set, with Matyas Wolte playing the sitar, Beate Wein on piano and Aaron Christ on drums. Wolte spoke to us about playing jazz on the sitar: “I started with guitars, but the sitar fascinated me a lot. So I learned how to play it and jazz is a mode of communication for me. I couldn’t part ways with that. When we founded the band, each one of us wanted to find their strength on a specific instrument so that the resulting sounds are very different and unusual. Sitar was the answer for me.”

The next performance was by Dean Nookadu Quintet from Mauritius, a five-member band with Dean Nookadu on piano, Denis Serret on bass, Nel Bucktowar on saxophone, Patrick Desvaux on guitar and Fabrice Ramalingum on drums. Their focus is on developing original contemporary jazz compositions by infusing folk rhythms and melodies of the Indian Ocean islands region.

An emerging Indian jazz band, Lucknow Experiment was next on stage. It is led by drummer and composer Kartikeya Srivastava, with Pranai Gurung on guitar and Sonic Shori on bass. A band was conceived with the idea of exploring original music in a guitar-based groove or funk. The members told us that they try to tell personal stories through their compositions. At the music festival, the band was joined by one of India’s leading Latin Jazz pianists, Pradyumna Singh Manot, who goes by the name Paddy. What came out of this combination was a fresh rendition.

The last performance of the opening day was by Hvetter Omry Trio from Israel, with Hvetter Omry on guitar, Or Lichter on bass and Nadav Chef Luzia on drums. The trio played beautiful instrumental folk-jazz, which reflected musical influences from the Middle East.

Day 2 began with the Korean band Go Back Project’s pop-jazz performance. The band was formed by pianist and composer Chae Ji Hye, and six out of eight members of the group performed at the event. The band’s motive is to blend traditional Korean music with modern world music using instruments like guitar, drums, piano and bass. Chae Ji Hye told us what draws them to jazz music. “The various ways in which one can improvise jazz appeals to us. The charm of jazz lies in the freedom it gives to musicians to interpret and improvise with the music in their own way,” he said.

Next up was the Aziz Ozouss band from Morocco. The members include Aziz Azzi on violin, Oussama Menay on bass, Mohamed Amine El Bliha on percussion drums, Matsima Benis Don-Berger on piano and El Mahfoud Janadi on guitar. The group aims to come up with a new mix of music. To achieve the same, they try to merge classical Moroccan music with various international styles. Next, Fran Molina Trio, a jazz flamenco band from Spain gripped the audience with its performance. Comprising Fran Molina, Carmen Cervantes and Fernando Alandes, the band concluded Day 2 with its performance.

Day 3 treated music enthusiasts with five performances, starting with an 18-member jazz band orchestra, X-Band from Kazakhstan. Supported by the government of Kazakhstan, the band aims to popularise jazz in their country.

Thailand’s Asia 7, a fusion-jazz band, displayed its unique combination of Thai, folk and jazz music. In addition to instruments like fiddle, lute, saxophone, guitar, keyboard, base and drums, the group makes use of strong vocal elements in their compositions.

A seven-member band from Austria, Jazzmed also performed at the Delhi event. It is formed by a group of physicians who created a musical benefit project to support the initiative Doctors Without Borders. Their compositions lean on elements of funk, Latin jazz and African styles of music.

The three-day event was concluded by Fusion, a Syrian band. The band is passionate about “harnessing the power of music for change”. Active throughout the difficult times in war-torn Syria, the band still plays concerts across their country, with a mission to bring people together through music.

Fusion comprises percussionist Simoun Moraych, bassist Mohammad Tarek Almiski, guitarist George Malek and nai player Iskandarani Ahmad. Their music is the outcome of mixing different genres and types of music—Arabic, Oriental, Indian and Sufi, fused with jazz styles.

Post the successful conclusion of the music festival, the bands are scheduled to perform in 22 different Indian cities over the course of coming weeks.

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