Lotus Cafe regulars consider the Brown Indian Band part of the furniture even though, they haven’t been playing here that long. Maybe it’s because the guys are propped up on couches at the JW Marriott hotel’s lobby. And no, they don’t play lounge music, their sound is a unique fusion of jazz and Indian classical styles. "We always wanted to create and showcase our own music," says the bandleader and bass player Colin D’Cruz, who with their manager Ravi Nayar, dreamt up this hybridized style. "However this remained a dream because of a lack of platform to perform. This only became a reality when the JW Marriott hotel came up with a platform to showcase this innovative style of music."For over a year now, the band has performed it’s distinctive sound of fusion here, perched at the top of the staircase above the Lotus Cafe. With the Arabian sea undulating behind them, it’s not a bad spot for a gig!
"Our sound is a blend of Indian classical and jazz" says D’Cruz "Indian classical music like jazz, is all about improvisation even though it is linear and improvisations are based on one scale called ‘raga’. Jazz, on the other hand, has a broader palette where multiple scales are often used to improvise through harmonic changes. Indian classical music is known to be very melancholic whereas jazz can be extremely exuberant. Indian classical music however, has subtle quarter tones and complex rhythm structures that add a whole new dimension to jazz."
The result is a cool smooth blend that has become the signature sound of the hotel, where they play original compositions six days a week. With imitation the greatest form of flattery, some of their tunes are regularly reproduced at other Mumbai nightspots.
The band members are well know in their respective fields, flute player Dhiraj Kapadia has been involved with Bollywood music for over 30 years. Keyboard player Tony Dias has also scored film music and is a trained western classical musician. while Kapadia and percussionist Jayesh Dhargalkar are trained in Indian classical music. D’Cruz has experimented with nearly every genre of music, performing with various musicians from all over the world, including blues legend Dana Gillespie, Indian Rocker Remo Fernandes, Country singer Gary Lawyer, Playback singer Sonu Nigam and reggae artist Apache Indian.
D’Cruz often performs several different genres of music at any given times but says he’s most at home with jazz, which he calls "the most open, alive and evolving form of music."
So why lounge around on the job?
"The idea is to have an informal atmosphere like a living room, where you have these musicians hanging around and jamming. It has been extremely well recieved and a lot of people actually hang around and listen. They connect with us," says D’Cruz.
By Andy Van Smeerdijk