Some things change, others reappear quite satisfyingly year after year. Come winter, jazz aficionados in the Valley clear their calendar for the most important date in the season: Jazz at Patan. This annual event featuring Nepal's homegrown jazz band, Cadenza, has grown in popularity since the first concert in 2000, and this year they're eager to play their favourite venue for a concert for peace.
"We play music from the heart, and we're never going to prostitute that," says Navin Chhettri, Cadenza's drummer, vocalist and unofficial spokesperson. There is an eclectic playlist with six original tunes, African rhythms with Hindustani classical music and jazz standards fused with Nepali classical styles. While the band's original line-up has expanded to seven, the concert will also feature the formidable talent of tabla player Robin Lall, vocalist Gurudev Kamad, Santosh Bhakta Shrestha on the ishraj and sarod player Suresh Bajracharya. With the exception of young school-going James Lhalungpa who plays sax in the band, the rest are full-time musicians dedicated to their craft with a fierce defiance that carried them through lean periods when Thamel bars refused them gigs and they were viewed as an oddity bound for failure.
It's not that bizarre to team jazz and eastern classical music together, explains Chettri. The head of jazz is comparable to the ragas, which form the basis of improvisations that are the unrehearsed expression of musicians as they trade onstage.
People (and that includes international artist Sting) seem impressed and not a little surprised to find jazz alive and kicking in the Himalaya. "Playing Patan is always rewarding because the audience response is terrific and basically the place lends it's own energy," Navin says. "This is where we bring all that we learnt and experienced in the year to our listeners. That's cool." With due respect to the musician, that's red-hot jazz.
Jazz at Patan: A Concert for Peace. 6PM, 8 November at Patan Museum. Tickets: Rs 750.
Available at Upstairs Jazz Bar,
Lazimpat and Summit Hotel, Kupondole.