Tracing the story – now back to 1922


Thanks to Abe Thomas in Los Angeles, we were made aware of Astri Ghosh (New Delhi) and her efforts to document an oral history of Jazz musicians in India. Astri has shared this interesting article by Burnet Hershey  from the New York Times Magazine and Review of Books – 1922 – a jazz journey along the “Jazz Latitude”,–round the world from San Francis to New York, via Japan, Saigon, Siam, India, Egypt, Jerusalem, Monte Carlo, and Paris….Astri graciously quotes what Burnet Hershey  has to say about Jazz in India at that time:

“In Calcutta, as in Bombay and throughout India, where the English civil service man makes his home, and where a handful of white business, army and professional men make up the European colony, Jazz is welcomed as a “lifesaver”. In this country of few diversions, it relieves the tedium of routine existence. India sounds like a paradise for romance, but the colonist, the army officer who has spent many months and years amid the “dirt of Asia,” is blase and weary of the life. He has turned to bridge and poker. Now he gladly seizes upon jazz. And there is always the “stengha,” the whisky-soda, faithful auxiliary of jazz.

In India, the full state of jazz has not yet been evolved from ragtime, although the frequent streams of returning officials from England all bring with them new cargoes of tunes – direct from New york via Leicester Square. But by the time they reach there, they are old and shopworn.

Copyright New York TImes

Journey along the Indian coast in the Arabian Sea to India’s little brother Ceylon, where you find jazz in its most antiquated state. It isn’t jazz, but they think it is. They have only arrived at Down in Jungle Town. The record, played on a venerable gramaphone, was one of the old ones which announced the song and the band. But the one-step is there. On the terrace of the Galle Face Hotel, on the edge of the Arabian Sea, an Arabian moon, swaying cocoanut trees, chirping monkeys and cawing of big birds mingled with the strains of the local band”.

Although a somewhat disparaging view of Jazz in India, never the less, an important historical document that references Jazz in India – 90 years ago…

Click here for the entire article, Jazz Latitude,by Burnet Hershey, June 25, 1922, Copyright the New York TImes

Thanks Astri , and do keep us posted on your Oral History project !!

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