The highlight of the Diwali celebration at the Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, was the jugalbandi between contemporary jazz band—Brian Molley Quartet—and Rajasthani folk musicians.
A cool November evening. The poolside garden lit up with earthen diyas and tiny bulbs. Soft music wafted discreetly in the air. People in festive attire. Glasses tinkling in the corner where drinks were being served. Hectic preparations at the live kitchen. The perfect party scene greeted me as I dropped in at New Delhi’s Taj Mahal Hotel. The hotel had invited me for its annual Diwali celebration. But I was here for a more personal reason—to listen to the UK-based jazz band Brian Molley Quartet in jugalbandi with Rajasthani folk singers. As I took in the scene around me—in sips and bites—a drum roll sounded somewhere beyond. A dozen torch-bearing men and drummers entered the garden, walked around in a procession and departed, leaving us curious about what would happen next.
After a couple of minutes, the Brian Molley Quartet took the stage amidst a burst of clapping. Most of us were delighted to find Indian Raga pianist, Utsav Lal, present as the newest member of the band. After they performed a couple of their numbers, they were joined on stage by a band of Rajasthani folk musicians. The jugalbandi that followed was mind blowing. The deep saxophone, cello and keyboard merged mellifluously with the soulful Rajasthani folk songs. The music held the crowd captive for the rest of the evening. Some impromptu dancing complemented the cheers and claps.
As the music died down, it was time for the Diwali crackers. The hotel staff merrily lit them and many guests joined in the fun. I find the bursting of crackers rather unfriendly to the environment but not wanting to spoil the fun, I stayed quiet and away. The Taj Mahal Hotel had thoughtfully procured Diwali gifts—traditional diyas designed by the visually challenged members of the National Association for the Blind.