Friday, July 20, 2012

The Taverns of Your Mind: Bombay Jazz Palace

There were two cinemas in Mussoorie, the Himalayan hill station where I grew up, that we regularly visited. One featured mostly English movies, Rialto. The other, much grander in name, Picture Palace, showed Hindi sari-rippers.
Picture Palace, Kulri Mussoorie

Attending the movies was a weekly event for most of my youth. For Rs. 1-3 you could  spend two hours totally lost in a world of colourful and musical magic.  Perfect therapy for kids stuck in a boarding school hundreds if not thousands of miles away from home.

In about 1970 a really cool (far out, was the phrase we used in those days) restaurant opened just down the Mall a ways from Picture Palace. It was called The Tavern. There was so much to commend the place to us. Situated geographically between Picture Palace and Rialto it was the ideal meeting place for groups of us after whichever brand of Wood we preferred to support, Bolly or Holly. You had to go upstairs, which implied some sort of ‘club’ and gave a slightly iniquitous aura to the venue.  This was reinforced once you got inside and saw that on each table were HUGE ashtrays made out of some sort of steel car part (gasket?). They screamed, “Fill me up with butts and ashes!” Heady stuff for us conservative cloistered bunch of Christians. 

The Tavern, Mussoorie

The owner of the Tavern was friends with someone who had access to a steady supply of American rock n roll records which proved to be the ultimate pull factor for us.  The Doors, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Creedence and Santana were always on high rotation at the Tavern.  Cigarette or not, money or not, just hanging out at a window table that overlooked the Mall, listening to the tunes was proof enough of having arrived at an elevated level of coolness.

To honor those wonderful memories here is a groovy set of tunes called the Bombay Jazz Palace a compilation album of fourteen tracks influenced by both traditional Indian music, and various species of jazz and funk. The majority of the album's music dates from 1970s or late 60s, forming part of the Western counterculture's growing interest in Asian culture.
The first ten songs are by European and American musicians (many of whom have names like classmates of mine: Dave Mackay? Vicky Hamilton?) exploring the instrumentation, rhythms, and scales of Indian music, with varying degrees of authenticity. The final four songs show a kind of mirror-image, with Indian musicians taking influence from popular idioms of Western music from the 1970s.
Notable musicians featured include Lalo Schifrin, Dave Pike, Ravi Shankar, and George Harrison.


Light a Wills, order some sheekh kabob and naan, sip a fresh lime and soda and chill out at the Tavern of your mind!

            Track Listing:
            01 Latin Tala (Paul Horn and Nexus)
02 Zoom (Volker Kriegal)
03 Haschish Party [Georges Garvarenz]
04 Blues for Hari [Dave Mackay and Vicky Hamilton]
05 Raga Jeera Swara [The Dave Pike Set]
06 Contemplation [Between]
07 Secret Code [Lalo Schifrin]
08 Tabla Samba [Grupo Batuque]
09 Path to Ascension [Yves Hyatt]
10 Acka Raga [shocking blue]
11 Dispute & Violence [Shankar Family and Friends]
12 Raga Bairagi [Shankar Jaikishan]
13 Universal Magic [Ananda Shankar]
14 Bombay Palace Part 1[Muhavishla Ravi Hatchu and Indo Jazz Following]


mmatt said...

thank you kindly ajnabi for this "mood" music and wonderful story of a time and place past. truly far out and happening!

ajnabi said...

Mmatt, thank you for dropping by.

iggy said...

Happy to "visit" this wonderful place of your youth. Thanks so much for sharing.