Colin D’Cruz, a household name among Goa’s music lovers. A name that when taken transports one to a different world, a world of music of a different kind. In Colin’s words, he called his music ‘improvised’. A pioneer in the world of Jazz music in Goa, Colin D’cruz believes in a “best is yet to come philosophy with my music and also my life.”
Crediting his success to his dear lovely wife Diana, Colin says, “Something I’m sure would be humanly impossible if it weren’t for my beautiful wife Diana who I met soon after moving to Goa. She works relentlessly by my side.”
Having met both Diana and Colin on a visit to their home, I regret not being able to spend more time with the lovely couple. Both came across as extremely sweet and down-to-earth. At that time I was unaware of how far-reaching Colin’s efforts to spread and promote Jazz music and new talent across Goa were. An autograph would have been in place.
We bring you, in Colin’s own words, his tryst with Jazz.
(1) What is jazz?
Over a hundred years after it’s origins in New Orleans we still don’t have one answer that defines jazz. The legendary answers over the years has been Fats Waller’s ‘If you don’t know what it is, don’t mess with it’, Louis Armstrong’s ‘Man, if you have to ask what it is you’ll never know’, Thelonius Monk’s ‘I don’t have a definition for jazz, you’re supposed to know it when you hear it’ and these are just some of the vague descriptions courtesy the jazz legends themselves.
One reason why there will never be a singular definition for jazz is because it has always been an open, alive and continuously evolving form of music that embraces all other sounds of music along the way. It has reached a stage today, where it can be called ‘world music’ but that would be at the risk of hurting American sentiment.
To me, jazz is a form of improvised music, the key element here is ‘improvisation’. If improvised music is jazz then Indian classical music is a form of jazz with foundations laid over two thousand years before a hip name was coined for it. So jazz actually originated in India? No way, I can hear other countries chorus, improvised music always existed in many forms of ancient folk music around the world too.
So let’s just leave it at jazz has been around for much longer than we know, it’s just that a new name was coined for it in New Orleans and I love the name. Today, jazz has grown into something much bigger than its name. It’s not just about improvisation, it’s about a meeting of minds and cultures.
(2) My Jazz Yatra
My first encounter with jazz was very similar to the best way to learn how to swim, I was pushed into the deep end. In the early seventies, every resident band in Mumbai’s starred hotels played jazz standards predominantly among other nightclub standards. I was offered a job as a bass player in one of those bands without knowing a single jazz standard.
My first night on the job I got a ‘just keep walking’ brief from the band leader and at that moment I thought I was being fired. It turned out, the term used for ‘swing’ bass was ‘walking’ bass and that was my first ever learning experience. The beginning of a lifetime journey towards reaching for the next level. One thing good that came from that experience was the fact that I got my ears trained through sheer fright.
I learnt to hear around the corner, instinctively hitting notes that would not draw grimaces from my fellow band members. Every song that was thrown at me was a challenge and in retrospect, I have to admit I had the best on the job ear training. Ten years of six nights a week gigs gave me my foundation from where I learnt to ‘walk’, ‘run’ and then ‘fly’.
Once I decided to take on music as a profession, I learnt how to read music and with the help of some great books, I got around to studying music theory and expanding my jazz vocabulary over the years. After my ten year ‘internship’ I went out into the world and experienced other genres of music performing all kinds of music with all kinds of musicians across India and around the world.
Goa always topped my gig destinations while I was based in Mumbai. I always had this dream of someday moving back to my ancestral place where music flowed through everyone’s veins, musician or not. The dream came true in the year 2008 when I set up home, studio and bass (base) in a place called Sangolda. I am surrounded by rice fields with mongoose, squirrels and peacocks strutting around nonchalantly.
An absolute paradise compared to Mumbai. I then went about spreading my first love jazz by setting up an organisation called ‘Jazz Goa’. Within four years Jazz Goa had a database of over five thousand jazz enthusiasts and over a hundred jazz originals composed by local talent and produced by Jazz Goa. Many of these tracks reached No.1 on international internet charts and this only encouraged me to do even more.
(3) The story so far
I took on an offer to host a radio show on a premier international music radio station called Indigo 91.9 FM. Hosting a radio show was something I would never have even dreamt of but then that’s show business, an absolute roller coaster ride. I immediately went about producing the two-hour weekly episodes calling it ‘Goa Grooves’. The show featured only originals by local talent and went on air as a first of its kind in India for western music.
Next came television where I produced the same show this time centered around live performance videos shot at local venues, another first time for television in India. Both these shows generated a huge following with people looking forward to, tuning in and staying tuned to every episode. So I was now performing, producing audio and video, hosting radio and television and running a website www.jazzgoa.com all at once.
Something I’m sure would be humanly impossible if it weren’t for my beautiful wife Diana who I met soon after moving to Goa. She works relentlessly by my side, taking on the role of Jazz Goa’s official photographer and videographer and also managing the many bands I perform with. Together we document just about every stage of Jazz Goa’s evolution and broadcast it worldwide, thanks to the internet.
Local talent in Goa finally got a platform that launches them out to the rest of the world. And here’s the best part, it’s done absolutely free of cost. Just my way of giving back to a profession that gave me everything and more.