Hameed Khan Kawa, tabla maestro and artistic director of Musafir, formed Jaipur Kawa Brass Band in 1995 and since then he has been bringing his mixture of celebratory music around the world.
So Indian brass bands, how did that all come about? “The first time,” Hameed tells me, “was in 1750, during colonization. The British Empire presented an English brass band in Calcutta. A century later and clarinets, trumpets, trombones, tubas, side drums, bass drums are playing at every festivity, on whoever’s initiative: British or Indians, whatever the purpose: religious, popular, military or sportive. The repertoire was Western as well as Indian.
“Brass bands today belong to the Indian tradition. They accompany events such as national or religious celebrations, popular festivals and also life events such as weddings. In India, no marriage, without a brass band!”
Hameed explains that his band’s music is not only international in origin but translates effortlessly across audiences, “Jaipur Kawa Brass Band’s music has strong origins such as English roots, Gypsy influences as this band comes from Rajasthan, North Indian musical structures and basis. It is very joyful and playful, as the musicians are used to playing at the special times of happiness in India. They are demonstrative enough to share this message to the international audiences.
“Jaipur Kawa Brass Band, by traveling all over the world, realizes more and more, that its music belongs to the worldwide heritage of brass bands, but also each country and even each brass band, either military or entertaining, has its own inspiration.”
Despite — or perhaps because of — their global outlook, he admits to looking forward to the gigs in the UK, with its large Indian population, “It will be a great pleasure for Jaipur Kawa Brass Band to perform in front of the Indian community in the UK. They will not only enjoy the music and the show, but also the meaning of some very old famous Bollywood music and the culture itself. The mutual exchanges will be much immediate and closer. We are hopeful that the audience will enjoy the performance and feel the real Indian feast.”
Their latest album sees them mix Bollywood themes with a desire to go deeper into the sounds around them and is sure to go down well. This internationalist group of musicians, whose music shows that even colonialism can throw up unexpected positives, will be on the move again this summer so catch them where you can.
And WOMEX showcase piece which includes video clip and sound clip