Swinging it with Sasha and Saad
The Goethe Institute auditorium was crowded beyond belief. Sasha Pinkas and Saad Chowdhury were making the young and old gathered there swing to the beat of their nouveau concept of Jazz. Sasha from his hometown in Southern Germany, bathed in different stage lights, made the audience forget the fever and fret of the scorching summer in the metropolis.
Sasha's infectious joie de vivre, on the saxophone, and Saad's mastery over the keyboard and piano, plus the drumming and singing by the rest of the “Jazzy Chopstick” proved a happy weekend, with no tickets at the entry to add to the fun-filled break.
One had met the “Chopsticks” a few years back, and this second performance was a renewal of musical fervour and jollity.
Looking around for jazz musicians, Sasha found Saad, a very good piano player. “Without piano you can't have jazz. Saad is the only professional in the group. I'm playing the saxophone for 37 years. I come from Munich, Germany, and play by ear. I used to play in blues and rock back home but my desire was always to play jazz and here I could make it.”
Jazz, though, in Sasha's youth was a little bit different. “Today we have lounge music, funky music and many new styles in the last 20 years. In jazz one has a structure of common understanding of the musicians in the group. Jazz means improvising, following feelings: For example, Saad being a good player, I let him play 24 bars. In jazz everything is free and open-minded. In Bangladesh itself, the concept of jazz is changing by influences over the last ten years. As we can trust each other, it is easy for us to progress.”
Sasha also plays the clarinet and a bit of piano, guitar and flute. He had lessons in the clarinet and the piano. Music is in his family -- with his parents playing the clarinet and piano; and his daughters playing violin. His parents didn't mind him going into music as an extra-curricular activity. His profession, at present, in Bangladesh, is export-financing trade, and he deals a little with garments too.
“When we began three years back, this kind of music was strange. But now, those exposed to western music through television and other media, and the expatriate groups welcome it. We play in public, on average every two weeks. We practice at my place once a week. We practice by ourselves too,” says Sasha. They sit together, improvise, and write as well. They had a live recording in 2007 at the German Club and are looking forward to making a new album shortly. Saad, 26, says that he feels in control with his piano over the last three years. “My range of music is wider: My ability to communicate through music is much more sophisticated. I chose the piano as it has a wide range of notes: It's as if you have an entire orchestra at your fingertips.” Saad says that the piano is an instrument which deals with balance: Balance of the hands: balance of the body: balance of the mind with the body. This is as one creates and improvises. In school he sang and played the bass guitar. Music for Saad, in Bangladesh, involves performances, private parties, and was also doing tuition. He himself has studied under several tutors, the one in Bangladesh being Shanta Gunasekara.
Asked what he tells his pupils: he says with a chortle,”Come with the right attitude. Do your homework. Piano playing should be interesting for the pupil.” Saad enjoys recording, as for film documentaries e.g. a Save the Children documentary called “Little Hands”, and “Mother tongue” as well as playing. Right now, he's going back to playing classical music after many years.
Shamim Ibrahim, who played the drums for “Jazzy Chopsticks”, has been into drums for 26 years.
He's played in all the top bands in Bangladesh, including “Miles”, “Nogorbaul”, “Obscure” and “L.R. B”. He began music at the age of six, graduating from the “tabla” to the drums. Shamim is an auditor dealing with labour laws.
Raymond Billinis added vocal to the passionate punch of the performance of the “Jazzy Chopsticks”. He is also into painting.
By Fayza Haq
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed