Pics: Jazzmandu/Niranjan Shrestha
The first faint strains of trumpet filtered through the trees at Gokarna, which is by far the most scenic venue during the annual Jazzmandu festival. The Jazz Bazaar is a fixture on the calendars of those who plan their Octobers around this music festival that promises great music from a variety of artists. Contrary to its name, Jazzmandu has gone way beyond its roots and incorporates a good number of genres.
Rocket Men, a five-man ensemble band from Hamburg are just starting their set, and the sound is a fusion of 'intergalactic jazz, drum and space'. The music takes the audience on a journey through vistas real and imagined and this was wonderfully epitomised in their track Istanbul from their album Weightless.
Jazz Bazaar at Gokarna is a family affair and that is one of its enduring attractions. Picnic mats are strewn all around, there are children running everywhere, old grannies in their little camp chairs, shawls and blankets on the ready to combat the chill that evening will bring. There is no stuffiness, no pretence, just a whole lot of people enjoying some excellent music.
And as it gets dark, Gokarna gets magical. The lamps come on, roaring fires are lit, and Janysett McPherson takes the stage. This Cuban-French singer is a veritable powerhouse of large rich notes sung with honeyed silkiness, her version of Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose had the crowd on its feet, dancing and singing along. She also set the right notes for the much awaited next act- Cadenza Collective.
Navin Chettri, is one of the founders of Jazzmandu and is also one of the first in Kathmandu to blend Jazz with Afro-funk and Nepali folk beats to produce a sound that is distinctly unique and instantly recognizable. They were joined on stage by Philipp Puschel and Lasse Golz, the horns section from Rocket Men and once they got on stage, that’s when the party really started. Mats were rolled away, seats pushed back and the dancing began. Momo Funk and Baja Gaja, two of Cadenza Collective’s most loved tracks were performed with great gusto and were received by the audience with equal vigour.
Lyrics Born from the Bay Area of California are not a jazz band per se but infuse their music with hiphop, humour and just so much energy that any arguments about whether they should be included in a jazz festival’s line up becomes nit-picky and pedantic. Plus Tom Shimura can sing. His rendition of James Brown’s 'It’s a Man’s World' was romantic, soulful and a strong reminder of the power of music to empower and heal. I Like it, I Love It and Lyrics Born has left Kathmandu with a legion of new fans.
Jazz Bazaar is reminiscent of large backyard cookouts with family and friends and familiar faces that ends with everyone partying and dancing and when it finishes, it leaves you with a tinge of remorse that you didn’t do more to enjoy it and a promise to yourself that you’d make up for that lapse in judgement the next time around. C’est la vie- see you next year Jazzmandu.
Swinging without borders
The young in jazz
What they can do in Jazzmandu