The jazz scene was Calcutta…

..says Louiz Banks, in a recently posted video sequence… I’ve edited a sequence that recounts some wonderful stories from the days when Calcutta was swinging and syncopating .. Calcutta boasts the first recorded jazz in India, a ‘hot’ tune featuring Al Bowly when he played at the Grand Hotel in 1926. Interestingly India’s jazz history features two famous hotels , the Grand in Calcutta and the Taj in Bombay.  My conclusion is that without these two ‘characters”   jazz in India would not be the same.

The opening audio for this sequence is from a collection of rarely heard tunes (originally cylinders and ’78’s) from a compilation called “Jazz and Hot Dance in India – 1929-1946” ..Among others, it features Al Bowlly, Teddy Weatherford, and Cricket Smith, and in all probability , Louiz’s dad – “Georgie” Banks.   Warren Pinckney, in his essay , Jazz in India – Perspectives on Historical Development and Musical Acculturation (1989) credits finding this collection as the impetus for his research. Thanks to Naresh Fernandes for unearthing and sharing a copy.


Click here to check out the the time when the Jazz Scene was Calcutta

4 thoughts on “The jazz scene was Calcutta…

  1. This is an interesting excerpt. My approach to the early development of jazz in Calcutta and Bombay is that African American musicians were highly idealized and influential on early musicians. Even musicians I interviewed outside of large urban areas knew Witherspoon and Weatherford, and even listened to their disks. Groups led by AA musicians were pressing cover tunes on 78s, and were broadcasting remotely from some of the posh hotels, which people (especially Anglo Indians and Europeans) were listening to throughout North India. I think you grasp this idea well in this excerpt.

    Brad Shope
    University of North Texas

  2. Pingback: Incredible Ellington — in India ! Pt I « Bluerhythm's Blog

  3. I am rather surprised to see that there is no mention of the 4 International Jazz Festivals held between 1978-82 by Jazz India Calcutta Chapter and again the 8 International Jazz Festivals held between 2003-11 by Congo Square in Kolkata.

    • Thanks for your comment. This post is focused on the the jazz scene that permeated Calcutta from the late 30′ through the ’60’s. The references in the video speak to that time. The historical arc of our film spans 1926 -1978 . Feel free to share additional information about the events that you mention.

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