Madanmohan Rao ( )
Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 690 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festival, telecom expo, millets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.
Each year, April 30 is designated by UNESCO as International Jazz Day to highlight the creativity of jazz and its contribution to uniting people around the world. See our earlier compilation of 130 Inspiring Quotes on International Jazz Day, and coverage of jazz festivals such as Java Jazz Festival (Jakarta) and Montreal International Jazz Festival.
“International Jazz Day is a day the world takes out to celebrate the beauty of jazz and the incredible artists that dedicate their life to learning and playing it, and the culture that the genre brings with itself,” explains Arjun Sagar Gupta, the driving force of The Piano Man Group, in a chat with YourStory.
The Piano Man Group now has two venues for live jazz music: in South Delhi and Gurugram. See our earlier interview and venue profiles here.
“At The Piano Man, we have always been at the forefront of supporting and promoting jazz in India for everyone. It’s our way of giving back to the culture that is so rich in music,” he adds.
The lineup at his venues for this special day includes Wet Volumes, Paddy Sextet, Four + 1, and Gaurav and Parijat. There is a special screening of the movie Swing Time as well.
“The idea behind launching The Piano Man was to create a conducive space for music, and focus on the artists before the audiences. We wanted to create a space where everyone was welcomed without prejudice,” Arjun recalls.
He had spent many years after school performing on stage as well as organising concerts and shows. “I picked jazz as the music for the venues since it is the genre I most relate with and understand, having studied and played it for many years,” Arjun explains.
Over the years, around 2,000 performances have been recorded and played on the YouTube channel of The Piano Man Jazz Club, with many more to come.
Jazz as well as fusion with Indian classical music are becoming more popular in India. “Fusion requires a fair amount of addition for all the artists involved. Besides understanding your style, you must have a functional harmonic, melodic and rhythmic understanding of the style you are trying to blend with,” Arjun explains.
“There are so many amazing musicians on the Indian scene at the moment that it’s fantastic to see,” he enthuses. As examples, he cites Agneya Singh, Raghav Khullar, Aditya Bhargavatulla, Tanisha Bhatnagar, Aniket Chaturvedi, and Vatsal Bakhda from the Delhi-NCR area.
“Our stage has been graced with international performers and bands as well, such as Yohei from Japan, AKODA from Reunion Island and France, Hi5, and Ser O Duo from Chile,” he adds.
As for weekly lineups, Arjun keeps Mondays and Tuesdays for solo and duo artists, Wednesdays and Thursdays for trios and quartets, and the weekend for bigger setups.
“Sundays at our Safdarjung club are for the weekly jam session, where one can hear and meet the upcoming jazz cats on the scene,” he says.
The pandemic posed particular hardships for the performing arts industry. “The pandemic was tough for everyone, I guess. We figured out ways to keep the lights on till revenues started coming in again. It taught us to be better prepared for Black Swans,” Arjun recalls.
He has plans to expand his music venues to other cities as well, in due time. “Jazz needs more airtime everywhere to become more popular and appreciated,” he suggests.
“People need to be familiar with jazz, for it to have a larger audience base,” Arjun adds.
“International Jazz Day has always been this one focal point to get everyone to look out for jazz. It’s always been a buzzing day at the club. I’m screening one of my favorite musicals from 1936 today,” Arjun exclaims.
He also offers tips for aspiring jazz musicians in India. “Stay in a learning and growth zone. Go out and listen to more musicians,” he suggests.
Arjun has advice for audiences as well. He signs off: “The best way to help support the music scene is to go out and listen to live music!”
Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new avenues to apply your creativity?
(All photographs provided by The Piano Man Group.)
See also the YourStory pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups,’ accessible as apps for Apple and Android devices.