Way back in the ’70’s a young sax player turned film student made an important jazz documentary. It has been seen on and off, and occasionally surfaces at jazz events. In the ’80’s he was selected to edit a historic documentary on Miles Davis..which aired nationally and internationally.
Ken Levis went on win accolades and awards, including seven national Emmy Awards, four Peabody Awards, three duPont-Columbia Awards, and a Writers’ Guild of America Award, among others.
In 2011, Ken learned about our film Finding Carlton – Uncovering the Story of Jazz in India- and he found it fascinating. His support for the film led him to mentor us as we went from rough cut to final…and he remains a good friend of Finding Carlton and a passionate jazz listener. thank you Ken !
We happened to point our friend Marc Myers to Ken’s documentary on Jackie and its ability to still communicate with relevance and vigor, even 35 years later !
When we started on this film project we became aware that the BBC had filmed a documentary on jazz in Bombay in 1992..no one that we met in Bombay remembered seeing the video …..so the search was on..
We came across a letter from an H.O. Nazareth , a London based film maker..who appeared to be the filmmaker..the letter referenced Penumbra Films and the BBC as other involved parties.. various attempts to contact the production company directly , including a wild goose chase in London..as well as through the BBC wall of ‘sorry can’t help you, try so and so” turned up nothing..so we put it down in the ” would have, should have, wanted to, didn’t happen’ list…
And this morning, Google in its infinite wisdom turned up a link to part I of the six parts of the documentary – Rhythms of the World – Bombay and Jazz ..In addition to the greats – L. Shankar and Don Cherry …familiar faces showed up..including some friends who participated in our film..(Part 3 – Micky Correa ..and Niranjan Part 4, and also the Sangam band,Braz, Louiz, Ranjit, and in part 5 Sandhya Sanjana)
For whatever reason, its taken many years for this to surface..but its out there and thats all that matters..and makes us wonder whether the fate of jazz documentaries is to roam invisibly across the vaults of production houses (or the BBC?), until some mysterious time, when they appear…
Regardless, we thought it worth sharing this and ..here you go. in six parts ..links to You Tube..a lovely insight from almost 20 years ago !! AND THE MUSIC IS AS FRESH AS EVER…
We are delighted that our friend and collaborator (indeed, our lead historian for Bombay jazz history) Naresh Fernandes is ready to unleash his book !.. Great work Naresh ! This book reflects many years of research and the gathering of a wonderful set of archival material that tells the story of how Bombay and Jazz co-habited, and indeed, gave birth to an era when the swinging sounds could be heard in many a venue.. We are much much appreciative of Naresh’s participation and passionate support for the documentary, and of course for the generous outpouring of archival materials, many of which have found a home in the film..
Naresh’s pre-launch website has already generated feedback and hopefully more and more archival anecdotes and material will be result….Gordon Rodricks in Bombay responded to Naresh’s email and shared this article “the last Gig” – about the tail end of the jazz era in Bombay ..part of his collection of “Jazz in Bombay” history…Thanks Gordon
As we conclude with Part III, we recognize , along with Brad, that there are others who have also undertaken a journey of discovery with regard to the origins and history of Jazz in India. This slide from our presentation at the Institute of Jazz Studies lists many contributors who work has helped with the historical background of this film.. Do take a moment to google some of the names, or peruse the blog for references to their work
So for those who are interested , we continue the story told in the Presentation at the Institute of Jazz Studies on Feb 16th…this time through the voice of Dr. Brad Shope, on the faculty at Texas A& M…with visuals and a film clip
In Alexandria, VA lives a quiet and modest gentleman. Once from Bombay, now a Virginian, but always in Jazz..Over the last 65 years, Jehangir Dalal a respected authority on the origins of Jazz in India, has quietly researched, collected and documented how the music came to India. In fact, it was his early research, as acknowledged in Storyville magazine, that was the source for much of our information on the African-American musicians who carried Jazz from the salons of Montmatre to the grand hotels and ballrooms of Asia.
Much more than a historian and archivist, with jazz memorablia and a music collection that is emblematic of his passion for the music, he is an erudite and deeply knowledgeable expert on Jazz and its characters. A close personal friend of some well known musicians, (who may recognized in the video clip) he is deeply respected by those in the know. This week he turned 80, and admits that he remains under the continued influence ….of Jazz !
Happy Birthday Jehangir !!
Here’s a short clip that shares his story
Jehangir has been instrumental in helping to make this documentary come alive. Constantly available, and ever willing to dig through his trove, he has been a part of the Documentary project from its inception. Thanks Jehangir for all your help and support!
Dr. Bradley Shope is a friend of this project and one of our active historical advisors.
Brad currently teaches in the Division of Music, Theory and Ethnomusicology at the University of North Texas . While researching his treatise “THE PUBLIC CONSUMPTION OF WESTERN MUSIC IN COLONIAL INDIA” (published August 2008, in South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies) his work took him to Lucknow, where he learned that there was a very active western music culture. In the course of interviews with residents in Lucknow, it became apparent that jazz had been part of the popular culture in Lucknow, as early as the 1930s. In his continuing research, he learned that jazz has a history in India stretching back to the late 1910’s !. He cites H.J. Collett who identifies Ken Mac as the first popular jazz musician, “noting that in the early 1920’s he filled 40 engagements a month, playing as many as 30-35 numbers a session’. Many years later in 1947, Ken Mac would perform at the Independence function at the Karachi Club, attended by M. A. Jinnah and other senior leaders of the new country
Brad’s research work has been significant and in a later treatise ‘THEY TREAT US WHITE FOLKS FINE’ -African American musicians and the popular music terrain in late colonial India, he did groundbreaking research in how African American musicians significantly expanded the presence of jazz in India.
“Arriving in India in the mid-1930s seeking performance opportunities and an improved quality of life, African American jazz musicians were active in expanding the presentation and consumption of jazz and Western popular music. Finding appeal in the power and success that African American musicians commanded, Anglo-Indian and Goan musicians also performed jazz in cosmopolitan centres throughout India. In Bombay, Goan musicians integrated Western popular music into local live performances in cabarets, and eventually into some early film songs. This article outlines the role of African American musicians in increasing the terrain of Western popular music in India beginning in the 1930s, and concludes by speculating on the artists’ influence on early Bombay cabaret songs and the ‘hybrid’ music of the early film industry.”
Please share your comments on this post , and in particular, help us with any photos or other memorablia that you might have that relates to early jazz scene in Lahore, Lucknow, or Bangalore.
If you would like to read Brad’s fascinating research , please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks Brad !
Joanna Rabiger has joined our team as an advisor and story consultant. Working with her suggestions, a treatment that blends the historical curve with a character driven, human story is under development
Welcome Joanna !
Passionate about the craft of making documentary films, Joanna Rabiger has worked as an editor, researcher, story consultant and associate producer on numerous independent films, several of which have aired on American PBS’s Independent Lens series. Called upon to write treatments, pitches and synopses in her day to day work, Joanna began writing grant proposals for independent filmmakers at their request. She has now authored more than twenty documentary film proposals, of which six have been successfully funded. Joanna is also skilled at writing copy for festival submission, websites and marketing purposes.
In addition to grantwriting she is available for hire as an editor and as an editing & story consultant, with recent credits that include Marcy Garriott’s international festival hit, INSIDE THE CIRCLE and Carnivalesque Films’ groundbreaking film INVISIBLE GIRLFRIEND. She is editor of the PBS Independent Lens documentary GIRL WRESTLER. Joanna is currently assisting director Lucia Duncan in the fine cut editing of her feature documentary, WHALES OF GOLD, which explores the difficulties faced by a small fishing community located in the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, Baja, Mexico.
Joanna is able to work remotely with independent filmmakers from all over the US. A native of the UK who has lived and worked in the States since 1999, she currently resides in Ithaca, NY but is more permanently based in Austin, TX. Fluent in French, with a serviceable knowledge of Spanish, she enjoys working on bilingual projects, and is also available for hire as a translator/transcriber (from the French language).