Duke Ellington Visits India
Paul Robeson Inspires Bhupen Hazarika
Duke Ellington visited India in 1963. During the Civil Rights movement, he would say, speaking of the African Americans "Their demands are coming more strong, as it should be..this thing that we are in, music, that is the music that is recognized as the American music which of course is mostly Negro".
Mahalia Jackson in India
Mahalia Jackson toured India in 1971. Some of her concerts were attended by Indira Gandhi for whom she sang "We Shall Overcome". The song "We Shall Overcome" was translated by a Hindi poet Girija Mathur into Hindi, "Hum Honge Kamyab" and remains an immensely popular song.
Our Negro Brother Paul Robeson
Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet's Poem "To Paul Robeson" was translated by a Bengali writer Subhash Mukhopadhyaya. Based on this poem, a song was performed in Bengal calling Paul Robeson a brother.
"They are afraid of living
They are afraid of dying
They are afraid of dreaming
They are afraid, Paul Robeson"
Jazz in Bollywood
Jazz was highly influential in Bollywood, and in Bombay in particular. A recent documentary "Finding Carlton - Uncovering the Story of Jazz in India" has uncovered some of these connections.
Inspired by Paul Robeson's rendition of the song 'Old Man River', Indian musician Bhupen Hazarika composed 'Ganga Behti Ho Kyun' in Hindi and 'Bistirno Dupare' in Bengali. Bhupen would also sing Lead Belly's song singing
"We're in the same boat, brother
And if you shake one end
You're gonna rock the other"
John and Alice Coltrane Look to the East
John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane both would look eastward in their music, and to India in particular. John Coltrane met Ravi Shankar, and did a piece "India". Alice Coltrane would do several musical pieces, including the album Journey in Satchidananda and her piece "Turiya and Ramakrishna".
Fisk Jubilee Singers Bring Negro Spirituals to India
The Fisk Jubilee singers visited India in 1890. A newspaper described their performance, "Some could not sustain the sudden thrill and left the room. On the conclusion of the melody, there was dead silence for some moments, and then there was such applause as has seldom greeted a public performer in this city."
John Handy and Ali Akbar Khan
John Handy and Ali Akbar Khan had a collaboration which continues to be one of the finest meetings of Jazz and Indian Classical Music called "Karuna Supreme", a title taking from John Coltrane's "Love Supreme". Karuna or Compassion is a Buddhist concept.