National Center for the Performing Arts and the NCPA Jazz Collective!

National Center for the Performing Arts, NCPA as it is widely known, has been a center of prominence when it comes to showcasing & promoting cultural diversity and artistic excellence. From its inauguration in 1969, NCPA has been renowned globally for its work in this field. We have seen legends enthralling the audience and we have seen talented artists starting their journeys from NCPA. It is one of the most fascinating cultural institution that India has had over years.

NCPA has recently set up its very own NCPA Jazz Collective. It is a 4 piece band comprising of Jazz pianist Pradyumna Singh Manot, vocalist Sanjeeta Bhattacharya, upright acoustic bass player Abhinav Khokar and drummer Saurav Ghosh. We recently caught up with Farrahnaz Irani, General Manager – International Music and Pradyumana Singh Manot, NCPA Jazz Collective to understand more on the vision of NCPA and the band. Here are the excerpts from our discussion:

After Symphony Orchestra of India (which is a niche in itself), NCPA Jazz Collective looks to capture the attention of audience towards Jazz. What inspired you to take up the cause for Jazz in India?

Farrahnaz Irani: For over a decade the NCPA has been steadily working to increase the jazz audiences, now we know that there is an appreciation for the genre so we take it up a notch by ensuring the highest quality of jazz to audiences in and around the country.

While setting up NCPA Jazz Collective, what were your thoughts on the kind of artists you were looking at? How did you choose the artists in the band?

Farrahnaz Irani: We have a dedicated jazz committee which has been formed for precisely this purpose. These musicians have all excelled exceptionally within the country and outside. It was an absolute natural fit & selection process.

What inspires you to take Jazz as your genre? What kind of sub-genre do you identify yourselves more as a band?

Pradyumana Singh Manot: Jazz is the music of freedom, swing and telling one’s own story. It is groovy, complex, challenging, instantaneous, and highly interactive. It is the most exciting music form for me. As a band we will also do some Latin Jazz and the blues.

As individual artists, what is that you bring as “your own thing” in this band?

Pradyumana Singh Manot: Jazz is highly individual music. The musicians play it in their own way and tell their own stories. That itself makes every jazz band unique as it does ours. Jazz musicians always solo saying their own thing. We bring in our life, our stories, our emotions into the music, live onstage!

What are your personal goals when it comes to the NCPA Jazz Collective? What is the reach you would want to envisage for Jazz in India?

Farrahnaz Irani: My personal goal is to make jazz a self-sustaining genre. We believe that with the NCPA Jazz Collective we would reach out to different cities & countries to showcase what Indian Jazz can offer & more importantly a showcase to the world that there is an audience for jazz in the country, they just need to be tapped.

What is your plan going ahead with the band? What are the future projects that you are involved with?

Pradyumana Singh Manot: To perform at as many quality venues as possible, to spread jazz and to grow as jazz musicians, to inspire younger musicians to study jazz and to inspire more listeners of the Jazz idiom. Personally I have a four other projects. Los Gatos, which does AfroCaribbean and Latin Jazz. Poco Loco, which takes popular music and rearranges them in various styles of Latin Jazz. Two more are in the pipeline and I will announce them later.

Jazz is known for connoisseurs of music. How do you see the connect with mainstream audience? What kind of response have you experienced or you are expecting?

Pradyumana Singh Manot: When Jazz is swung and played well everyone enjoys it. It’s a misnomer that the mainstream audience will not enjoy Jazz. They do. It just has to be done the right way. Jazz is truly for everyone as any music form is. I have always got warm appreciation from all audiences I have performed for! Everyone loves good art!

NCPA has been a flag bearer for Cultural Diversity in India for many years. How do you ensure the relevance of NCPA in the fast changing and internet driven times?

Farrahnaz Irani: The NCPA is and always will be a centre to preserve & promote the performing arts even before the internet era ever struck this nation. The joy of seeing a live concert will always trump an internet experience.

Well, when you hear these words with conviction, you will only believe them to be true. And there is not even an iota of doubt on the growing popularity of Jazz in India. It is only fair to say, with NCPA taking up the onus to grow Jazz music in India by setting up their own band, there will be new benchmarks set in the industry now. NCPA Jazz Collective is a beautiful mix of artists and we know that Pradyumana, Sanjeeta, Abhinav and Saurav will etch a name for themselves in this complex yet beautiful genre. The NCPA Jazz Collective will be performing on 5th of October and it is a must see event for all the music lovers. There can never a bigger appreciation for artists than experiencing their performance live. We are going for sure and we would recommend this to everyone in India to catch them live as the band debuts as NCPA Jazz Collective!

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