• Thu, Jul 25, 2024

An Ode to Jaga Jazzist

gig Reviews Dec 06, 01:02pm

...aka a gig review of a gig that was more than just a gig.
 Photo Courtesy: Vijay Kate

Zorba is a really lovely venue – it’s huge and open-air, and has charming ambient lighting and lots of greens everywhere; grass, bushes, shrubs. You turn around and you can see the elevated metro line, with trains constantly patrolling. Turn around again and you can see the band and the stage, set against the backdrop of a gigantic tree – around 300 feet or so tall. There are multiple levels there; it’s like an amphitheatre but not quite. You can sit on the grass or the cushions they leave there, or you can get yourself one of those round tables and chairs, or even grab a little jute stool (mooda). Despite the size of the venue, it still has an intimate air about it, sort of like a night out with good friends and good music, where you just sort of lie around and inhale the experience. Jaga Jazzist finished their massive set – an hour and forty five minutes – and everyone got up. It was a standing ovation, one of the most sincere ones this writer has witnessed.

You see, this wasn’t just a gig; it was so much more than that. It was an exchange of the purity of the music that Jaga Jazzist played with so much heart and integrity and the openness and the very cultivated vulnerability of an audience (most of them, anyway) that felt each note of the evening with searing honesty: Catharsis for some, jubilation or ecstasy for others, an indescribable wave for many others. Close to two hours and we were only just getting started. It was an emotional upheaval, one that resulted in an altered perspective of the idea of music for your humbled writer. They ended their set with a new song, dedicated to the audience there, which they called ‘New Delhi Skyline’, and we sauntered off soon after – reeling from an overwhelming experience is often underwhelming in the cruelest of ways. 

As for the specifics, the band is nominally a jazz band, a nine-piece one with each member moonlighting on multiple instruments. They have a tuba, a trombone, a trumpet, a saxophone, an upright bass and a regular one, a glockenspiel, three guitars, a hundred keyboards, electronic and acoustic drums, and so much more. They also have soul. It’s not the kind of jazz that you sit around and chat to, swilling fancy Scotch and devouring hors d’oeuvres like the bourgeoisie. I mean, you can do that too – no one’s stopping you – but their music is far more involved than that. It has moods and tempers; swings and waves form and disperse and noise and music coalesce and scuffle. It’s psychedelic, heavy, experimental, progressive, cinematic, theatrical, dramatic, ethereal. It gets dark often, sinister even, and just as often it offers melodic redemption and absolution. Irrespective of the atmosphere, each beat, each note, comes with its own unique shivering intensity. And they’re never afraid of experimenting; stretching passages beyond what would normally seem acceptable just to develop the tone of the piece into something grand, and successfully each time. Add to that the glorious venue and the biting Delhi cold, and you have a gig unlike most others.

“Do you like music?” asked their drummer, Martin Horntveth, who was handling mic duties, interacting with the Delhi crowd.  

“Yeah.” (In unison)

“Do you like dance?”

“Yeah.” (In unison)

“Do  you like drama?”

“Yeah.” (In unison)

“This next one’s called ‘Music! Dance! Drama!’ “

They also played ‘Prungen’, a couple of new songs, and, of course, ‘One-Armed Bandit’, which opened with an extended intro that segued into the song, building up a degree of tension that was released as soon as the opening lashes on the keys appeared. The thing with the band is, while all nine of them are suitably virtuosic and exquisitely skilled on all the instruments they play, at the end of the day, they’re not playing instruments, they’re playing music. They switch roles, they switch focus, they allow each other that all-important musical space, and never does the song suffer – crystal clarity settles in seamlessly with an understated showmanship and an acknowledgement of the fact that the music itself is powerful enough to grip an unsuspecting audience and trap them into a euphoric trance, and their appearance on stage and all the lights and peripherals and frills serve to accentuate the experience, not define it.

Delhi’s Soul’d Out opened the evening. Really, they were part of the supporting cast on the night. They did an admirable job warming up the crowd, and there was some really interesting interplay between the bass and drums, and the guitar-saxophone tussles that featured heavily in their music were also a delight. They put up a solid display, and then Jaga Jazzist took over and did their thing. And then the night was over – all too soon – and all we could do was head back to our respective homes. It’s a shame I still don’t know what the correct pronunciation of Jaga Jazzist is.

Disclosure: This gig by Jaga Jazzist at Zorba, New Delhi was organized by Rock Street Journal (RSJ).

Jaga Jazzist play at Blue Frog, Mumbai on December 7 for 100 Pipers India Music Week - III

Facebook twitter Google Plus Pinterest

Leave a comment

Recommended Stories

The Bacardi NH7 Weekender - NCR, Nov 30 - Dec 1

The Bacardi NH7 Weekender hit Greater Noida again this year for the NCR edition of the festival. Meshuggah, Nucleya, Mutemath, Scribe, And So I Watch You From Afar, the lineup had it all. The festival also had hot air balloons, gallons of alcohol, a Ferris Wheel, and so much more. Akhil Sood with the full report. Click here for stray observations from the festival.


Dec 09, 2013 

By Akhil Sood  

Odds and Ends - Bacardi NH7 Weekender, NCR

There were a lot of little observations that needed to be made at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, NCR, such as capes, Kailasa, Trilok Gurtu, wrist bands from hell, and lots more. So here they are in full technicolour. Click here to read our full review of the festival.


Dec 09, 2013 

By Akhil Sood  

The Celeste Fest 2013, Mussoorie - Oct 25, 26

A stunning location, some great music, some not so much, rum in the hills, shattered bass drums, and memories of staring down to look at the clouds - the first edition of the Celeste Music Festival, held at the George Everest House in Mussoorie, was a grand success. Aditya Varma was there to witness the ins and outs; below are his thoughts.  

Nov 06, 2013 

By Aditya Varma  

The Bacardi NH7 Weekender 2013 - Pune, October 18-20

Buckets of alcohol, crumbling ATM machines inside old, old vans, bands playing on top of a bus, the curious incident of the missing bread, "All Star" jams - The Pune edition of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender 2013 had it all, or most of it, really. Akhil Sood writes. 

Oct 23, 2013 

By Akhil Sood  

Odds and Ends - Bacardi NH7 Weekender 2013, Pune

Naturally, a three-day music festival will have a lot of things happening, not all of which can be crammed into a review. So we thought we'd have this special section for stray observations made at the Pune edition of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender festival, held on Oct 18-20. Read on for Scribe vs. a heckler, the perils of drinking buckets, the Red Bull Tour Bus, dogs, sugar rushes, and more. Click here to read our complete review of the festival.

Oct 23, 2013 

By Akhil Sood  

Things I Learned at the Ziro Festival of Music 2013 - I

Bhanuj Kappal went to the beautiful valley of Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh, for the second edition of the Ziro Festival of Music, featuring a host of indie acts from the country, as well as a visit by Lee Ranaldo and The Dust, which has Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley (formerly of Sonic Youth!). He came back a changed man, and has jotted down a comprehensive list of things he learned at the festival. (Part II here.)

Oct 18, 2013 


Things I Learned at the Ziro Festival of Music 2013 - II

Bhanuj Kappal went to the beautiful valley of Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh, for the second edition of the Ziro Festival of Music, featuring a host of indie acts from the country, as well as a visit by Lee Ranaldo and The Dust, which has Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley (formerly of Sonic Youth!). He came back a changed man, and has jotted down a comprehensive list of things he learned at the festival. (Click here for Part I)

Oct 18, 2013 

By Bhanuj Kappal  

The Scene feat. Until We Last, Pinocchio's Moment of Clarity, and Space Behind the Yellow Room at Blue Frog, Mumbai

Minus its pedestrian name, The Scene – a series of monthly gigs organized by NH7 and Blue Frog – is a great initiative that not only helps young bands by putting them up on the big stage at the Blue Frog, Mumbai early in their lives as performing musicians, but also allows us wastrels and wanderers the opportunity to check out new music. V 6.0 featured three bands which had unusually long and weird names, so Akhil Sood, who calls himself quite the post-rock enthusiast, went to check out the gig. Here are his numbered thoughts:

Oct 17, 2013 

By Akhil Sood  

Pentagram, Shaa'ir & Func, The Lightyears Explode, and Drawing Short Straws Live at Blue Frog, Delhi

Pentagram with their very first gig at the Blue Frog, Delhi. Shaa’ir + Func and their explosive live act. The Lightyears Explode with their endearing indie-pop-punk thing. And Drawing Short Straws and their hypnotic experimental sound. The Gig Week finale had it all. Aditya Varma was there as our resident documenter.


Oct 03, 2013 

By Aditya Varma