In 1935, a violinist from Minnesota named Leon Abbey brought the first “all-negro” jazz band to Bombay, leaving a legacy that would last three decades. Only a few years after Abbey’s arrival, swing would find its way to the streets of India as it influenced Hindi film music – the very soundtrack of Indian life. The optimism of jazz became an important element in the tunes that echoed the hopes of newly independent India.
This book tells the story of India – and especially the city of Bombay – through the lives of a menagerie of geniuses, strivers and eccentrics, both Indian and American, who helped jazz find a home in the sweaty subcontinent. They include the burly African-American pianist Teddy Weatherford; the Goan trumpet player Frank Fernand, whose epiphanic encounter with Gandhi drove him to try to give jazz an Indian voice; Chic Chocolate, who was known as the Louis Armstrong of India; Anthony Gonsalves, who lent his name to one of the most popular Hindi film tunes ever; and many more.
Taj Mahal Foxtrot, at its heart, is a history of Bombay in swing time.
Taj Mahal Foxtrot is the winner of the Dr Ashok Ranade Memorial Award and the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize. It was shortlisted for the Economist-Crossword Book Award in the non-fiction category, the Tata First Book Award and the 2012 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research.