The Gypsy Jazz Festival may not have had the largest of audiences, but it did manage to create an army of fans for the Gypsy jazz genre in its inaugural edition this March.
The whole concept of organizing a Gypsy Jazz Festival is like teaching Latin to a rapper; by all means, it is, for the lack of a more profound simile, like hearing a different language altogether. Punctuated by the fact that the tides of this form of music have certainly traveled very far from the caravanic sounds of the Iberian lands of Europe, a handful of musicians and organizers did the audacious and organized a multitude of shows that celebrated the music that has enthralled pockets of the world for decades. A far cry from the electronic thumpings that we are treated to these days, the Gypsy Jazz Festival took you to world anew and devoid of the present.
“We knew it would be tough,” states Hari Maharjan, one of the men primarily responsible for the festival. “Jazz is such a wide sphere that I’m certain some jazz players themselves are unaware of the world of Gypsy jazz. By no means is it a knock on their knowledge, rather it is a testament to the fact that jazz music encompasses a lot more than one can gather at times.”
Jazz is a popular word in town, and has been for a while, thanks to the likes of Hari Maharjan and Cadenza, and the efforts of the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory, Jazzmandu, and the Nepal Music School. All of them have played a part in either influencing or education young musical minds about the genre, and it has yielded some fine musicians. This popularity has played a big role in the organizing of the festival.
Speaking of organizing, the mettle it takes to plan something brand new is noteworthy. The upstarts known as JJ Sultans did that with a lot of praise and Daniel Givone, a reputed name in Gypsy jazz circles around the world, was appreciative of their efforts. “It is great when the younger generation puts a foot forward and goes for something that is probably not their first preference musically. They’ve proven to be a class act by showing respect to an art form from way before their time and, in all honesty, it is all due their love for music and their urge to promote something they believe in.” Daniel Givone is no stranger to Nepal and the music scene here. He has been frequently visiting the country for close to 15 years now and speaks of how this kind of music has seen its ups and downs. “But it is so great to see it blooming in Nepal today,” he adds.
Bikin Rajbhandari, Operations Manager of JJ Sultans, candidly admits to having been unfamiliar with Gypsy jazz. “But that’s why we organized the festival in the first place,” he quickly adds. “It’s an introduction to a fresh audience.” As subjective as musical taste can be, what isn’t up for debate is the good reviews the festival received. “From a personal standpoint, it was a success,” continues Rajbhandari. “The concerts around town were well received and the circle of musicians themselves showed tremendous support in packing the houses.” Due to the positive feedback, the young organizers have been encouraged to try it again next year. “We are looking to make it an annual thing now since this year’s festival showed us that Gypsy jazz can make a run on its own, and people are willing to accept and appreciate it,” says Rajbhandari with pride. Yet another event to look forward to in 2015, perhaps!