Jazz centennial

TUNE in to 6EBA’s Blues, Jazz and Beyond, and you could be sharing the airwaves with audiences as far away as Europe and the USA.

Presenter Arthur Gracias notched up his 100th edition of the Perth community radio show in January, and over the years he’s built up a loyal fan base, including renowned international musicians.

“Friends in Spain, England the US and India tune in regularly,” he says. “You can tune in anywhere in the world.”

His weekly 90-minute show is an exploration of jazz from its earthy beginnings, when it was the music of the American slaves, to contemporary jazz masters.

And Gracias usually closes the show with one of his indo-jazz compositions.

Growing up in Kolkata in India, music was a family affair.

“I come from a very musical family and was playing aged three or four,” he says.

“Music was in the house everyday.”

• Arthur Gracias. Photos supplied

Kolkata was an RnR base for Americans in the 60s, and Gracias began to experiment by fusing Indian classical music with the sounds of jazz records brought in by yanks.

He soon became a central figure in indo-jazz, a style that would later influence bands like the Beatles.

Based on rhythmic cycles, rather than harmonies, the Indian “tunes” are perfect to mix with the improvisation of 20th century jazz, Gracias says.

“You can bring out subtle moods of the season and explore it,” he says.

At just 11 he was playing professionally with his cousins at hotels, cabarets and concerts around Kolkata.

He quickly mastered a variety of instruments, including mandolin, keyboard and banjo, going on to study at London’s Royal School of Music, and furthering his musical career under German musicologist, Hans Jurgen Nagel.

On his return to India, Gracias’ compositions were in demand, and pretty soon he was in the thick of India’s Bollywood film industry, “writing for up to 40 piece orchestras.”

He also wrote the music for the BBC program Beyond the Himalayas, Music of Central Asia, and was commissioned by the UN to compose Brotherhood for its Harmony Day celebrations.

Immigrating to Australia, Gracias’ brand of indo-jazz has seen him regularly perform at the Ellington Jazz Club, and every Friday he’s on 6EBA.


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