2007-06-17 15:15:06 UTC
Colin D'Cruz knows how to get heard, says Amit Gurbaxani.
Bass player Colin D'Cruz has lost count of the number of bands he's
played with over the last three decades. However, out of the 50-plus
ensembles he's been a part of, he has one clear favourite: the Brown
Indian Band, an outfit of floating Hindustani, Carnatic and jazz
musicians that he formed in 1994. "It's my ultimate outlet for my
musical creativity, where I can say the music is mine," said D'Cruz.
These days, the fusion band, which currently includes flautist Dhiraj
Kapadia, percussionist Sanket Athle and keyboard player Clifton
Rodricks, can be heard every afternoon spontaneously improvising to
Indian classical ragas at the JW Marriott hotel. That's a slight shift
from their earlier avatar, which performed tunes composed by D'Cruz.
Both versions are special to D'Cruz because the Brown Indian Band is
the only one of his bands that exclusively plays originals.
His other bands include Jazz Junction, and the Bassman's Band, a new
act that starts a one-year residency at the Taj Land's End from August
1. As a result, D'Cruz will go from playing just four to five gigs a
month to performing two gigs every day. How did a musician with no
family background or formal training in music become Mumbai's busiest
live act? By using a combination of talent, hard work, unbridled
enthusiasm, a keen sense of enterprise and canny networking skills.
A self-taught musician, 46-year-old D'Cruz started performing in
school and college bands before graduating to the wedding band
circuit. His first break arrived in 1980 when jazz pianist Bonny
Remedios offered him a spot in his band. D'Cruz says that, at the
time, the repertoire of bands that performed at five-star hotels was
"90 per cent jazz", which meant he had to learn on the job. "I
developed an ear for music, by playing music I didn't know," said
D'Cruz. "I used to take the stage everyday and wonder what would
For the next ten years, he moved from nightclub to nightclub, playing
with all the veterans of the Indian jazz scene. "Between 1980 and
1990, I played almost every night," D'Cruz said. When he ventured out
on his own in the early '90s, D'Cruz dabbled in a variety of genres.
He played blues with Blue Genes and Blues Power, fusion with the Brown
Indian Band, country with the Country Funks, pop with Showtime, jazz
with Just Jazz, and Latin music with Obligato.
Remedios, who has continued to perform with D'Cruz over the years,
believes the bass player's versatility is one of the main reasons for
his popularity. "He's not uncomfortable in any genre," Remedios said.
"That's a talent which not many others have."
In an environment where many establishments are doing away with live
music in favour of DJs and piped music, D'Cruz has almost magically
found a way to stay on stage. Keyboard player Harmeet Mansetta, who
began his career playing with D'Cruz, pins the latter's longevity down
to his never-say-die attitude. "His greatest quality is his tenacity,"
said Mansetta. "Colin has always managed to find gigs. He is one
person who never gives up."
Remedios is more candid while talking about his former prot?g?: "He
makes his presence felt. He doesn't shy away from giving his visiting
card to people. He keeps fishing and he keeps finding fish." D'Cruz is
one of the few Indian musicians to have harnessed the internet to
promote his music. He runs a frequently-updated website that contains
micro-sites to all his bands. It's helped him get in touch with a
number of international musicians, some of whom have performed at Jazz
Junction's monthly spot at Starters and More.
But D'Cruz is not just about self-advertisement. In the last five
years, he has grown into one of the few flag bearers of the local jazz
scenes in Mumbai and his home state of Goa. In 2000, he set up Jazz
Goa with drummer Lester Godhino and pianist George Fernandez. Jazz Goa
is an informal organisation of jazz lovers that promotes local and
visiting musicians by organising concerts and releasing live records.
D'Cruz himself has released no less than four albums in the last two
years (including a self-titled EP by the Brown Indian Band).
D'Cruz says there's a reason why he's been giving the Energizer Bunny
a run for its money: he plans to shift base to Goa next year to set up
his own recording studio. He agrees that Mumbai's more commercially
lucrative but finds Goa both more relaxed and receptive. "It's like a
global village during the [tourist] season," he said. "You can bump
into great musicians from anywhere in the world almost any time. That
never happens in Mumbai."
Photography Vikas Munipalle
Source : Time Out Mumbai ISSUE 21 Friday, June 15, 2007