Jazz from Goa: interview with Colin D’Cruz-one of India’s most accomplished jazz musicians

Interview by Hello Panjim, courtesy of Jazz Goa

HP- Tell us something about yourself.

CD- I’m a Mumbai goan looking forward to being a Goa goan very soon. I’ve reached two important milestones in my career. One is, after decades of playing everyone else’s music I’ve developed a style of my own and the biggest compliment I get these days is when someone recognizes my bass playing on some tune they heard somewhere, they call up to confirm and…voila! The other milestone is probably every musicians dream, to produce music out of my own studio. A dream that will come true for me within this year when I setup my own state of the art studio in Sangolda. I’ve also setup an organization called Jazz Goa with the help of fellow musicians and jazz enthusiasts in Goa.

HP- What drew you towards Jazz?

CD- Jazz is a huge word, it should be spelled jjjaaaazzzzz! Seriously though, I think jazz is the most open, alive and evolving form of music that allows a musician to be him/herself. Most other forms of music demands a musician to follow trends and tradition or create stuff that’s currently hip.

Whereas a jazz musician goes about his business listening, assimilating and finally innovating with yet another genre of jazz! We now have Dixieland-jazz, swing-jazz, bebop-jazz, funk-jazz, rock-jazz, pop-jazz, fusion-jazz, Latin-jazz, mando-jazz, dulpod-jazz… to cut a long story short, there’s a -jazz attached to every genre of music. And there will be a -jazz attached to every genre that comes along. I’m a musician who’s attracted to anything that looks, feels, smells, tastes and even sounds like music, so naturally I choose jazz as I get to play it ALL.

HP- What sets apart Jazz music from other genres?

CD- Jazz is the only form of music that embraces all other forms and it is no longer American music. Today jazz can safely be called world music.

HP- What led you to become a jazz artist?

CD- From among all the different genre’s of music I grew up listening to, for some reason it was always jazz that struck those extended chords within me. I could always hear the human and very often super human element in a jazz rendition.

HP- Your favorite jazz artists/tracks.

CD- You’ll need to extend this interview to a few thousand pages to answer that. My all time favorite however was a bass player called Jaco Pastorius who revolutionized bass playing taking bass right upfront, over, under and right through a song.

HP- To whom would you attribute your credentials as a jazz musician?

CD- To everyone I’ve worked with and everyone I’ve yet to work with.

HP- Where and how did you train to be a jazz artist?

CD- I have no formal training in music I learnt music listening to other musicians, assimilating what I liked and using it consciously or subconsciously in performance until I developed a style of my own.

Once I decided to play professionally though, I did study the technicalities through some great music books that are easily available these days.

HP- How do you prepare for a gig?

CD- I make sure there’s enough soda to go with the whisky…just kidding! It depends, if it is a concert where I would be performing my own compositions, I get the tunes composed, then get the band to rehearse and sound the way I heard it in my head. As it often turns out, input from the rest of the band takes the tune to a dimension I would never have imagined. So you see music is all about collaborating and connecting, don’t believe any of those fantastic one man bands. They’re faking it for monetary reasons, not that I have anything against it. All’s fair in love, war and music.

HP- Talking about gigs…where and when did you first perform/how long have you been into jazz?

CD- Like most musicians I first got into music with school/college bands. I then graduated into five star hotel resident bands whose repertoire was made up mainly of jazz standards. I did that for ten years, playing music every night made me a musician.

HP- What is the jazz scene like in India, and Goa in particular?

CD- The jazz scene in India, Goa or anywhere in the world is the same. There’s a niche group of players and listeners that grows all the time. Hopefully with jazz’s open armed evolution, it will grow into the global sound of music.

HP- What have been your highs and lows in your career thus far?

CD- The highs have always been the applause at the end of a track performed, the lows would be finding out that the applause was actually for the sixer Sachin hit on the big screen just besides the stage at Jazz by the Bay in Mumbai.

HP- How would you explain your roll as a jazz musician in society?

CD- A jazz musician gives people a high that’s less destructive than some other highs.

HP- Define jazz.

CD- Jazz is improvised music. Sometimes structured, sometimes orchestrated, sometimes free of form and very often spontaneously created.

HP- Notable gigs/performances…

CD- The world renowned Hennessey XO jazz tour has always been featuring jazz artistes signed by the American Blue Note label. Last year for the first time a jazz band outside the label, from far away India, was selected for this prestigious international tour. I was the bass player for that band. An unforgettable experience for sure. More recently my indo-jazz fusion band ‘The Brown Indian Band’ has been approached to open for Sting’s European tour this year. Fingers are crossed about that one.

HP- Collaborations with other musicians…

CD- I am continuously collaborating with musicians from all over the world thanks to the internet and my website http://www.hullocheck.com

HP- I understand you have been into different genres of music and worked with various ensembles. Tell us more…

CD- As I mentioned it before, when it comes to music I want it ALL. Name the genre and chances are, I’ve been there. You’ll find traces of just about every genre in my own music. There are very few musicians in the world today, who would match the number of bands and musicians I have worked with.

HG- Currently performing at…

CD- I currently perform on two resident contracts in Mumbai at the JW Marriott hotel in the afternoons and the Taj Lands End hotel in the nights. I also take time off from these two gigs to perform at concerts and corporate events in India and abroad. So that should average some sixty gigs a month!

HG- Your hobbies/interests…

CD- My main hobby and interest is my profession today. Everyone else works for a living, I play for mine. Someone once told me ‘All play and no work makes…makes me tick!’ Seriously though, I am very keen on improving the plight of most goan musicians in Goa.

I was one sometime ago so I should know the raw deal most of them get. My plan is to set up Jazz Goa as an umbrella organization for not just jazz but all the other immense artistic talent in Goa. To start with, my studio in Sangolda will record and produce deserving artists. Jazz Goa will then launch the best from there at a global level.

Jazz Goa has already produced four audio CD’s and a DVD that is available in Goa exclusively at Vibes Music in Margao and online at http://www.jazzgoa.com.