It’s almost impossible to find anything on the Steve Sequeira Ensemble online, shocking in this day and age but also reminiscent of a time when the good stuff was only played live. You just had to be there!

Eventraveler had a little tête-à-tête with Steve as he prepares for his upcoming show at the Goa International Jazz Festival. A reticent man, he prefers to let his music do the talking but he was pretty vocal about today’s Jazz and the lack of music venues in Bombay.

Reshma:
When I heard you, your music reminded me of Foreplay. Please tell me a little bit about your music and how it all began for you.

Steve:
The music we play is Jazz Standard, but we do it in a different way. We do it the way we see it. The music we play is swing. I started playing when I was 6 or 7 years old. I was a drummer. My mother, thank god, made me learn the piano. I did all my classical piano exams and was playing for bands by the time I was 11 and was playing all over Nairobi. That was a hectic time and we lived in East Africa. The music in vogue then was dance jazz, like Frank Sinatra, as well as traditional African rhythms, which has been my biggest influence and incorporates a lot of swing. “It ain’t mean nothing if it ain’t got no damn swing. If you can’t swing, you can’t play jazz”. Then of course we moved to India, explored the Mumbai Jazz scene in the 1980’s and we also spent five years in Delhi at the Maurya Sheraton as part of the band ‘Ebony’ which was decent but nothing like what we had experienced in Africa and finally ended up in Goa which had no Jazz at all.

Reshma:
I just listened to your wife, Kittu, sing on YouTube. She has such a gorgeous voice…

Steve:
Kittu comes from a completely musical family, her family is full of trumpet players and they even do Bollywood music. She’s been listening to Jazz from the time she was 4 years old.

Jazz has become so different now. There’s hardly any swing at all.

Reshma:
What Jazz do you listen to?

Steve:
Herbie Hancock and a lot of European Jazz, especially a band called Prism and Jaco Pastorius. But there again, they are getting out of swing. America is still very strong in Swing. When it comes to singing it’s mostly black singers but I do like Jamie Cullum. I am not a big fan of Diana Krall, there’s no fire there.

Reshma:
Do you think India’s affinity with technology is leading to our more experimental sound?

Steve:
I don’t like what’s happening in the Indian Jazz scene. I don’t like machines playing music for you.

Reshma:
What do you make of artists like Flying Lotus crossover to mainstream music festivals because of their more contemporary sound?

Steve:
To each his own.

Reshma:
What do you like to do before a big show?

Steve:
I need alone time before I go on.

Reshma:
What would you say to a young Jazz musician in India today?

The future is very very very bright today. There is the True School of Music in Bombay and they are doing so much. We never had any of these things when we were young. There is a lovely school in Chennai and another school in Delhi and these schools are doing such fantastic stuff. It is a pity there are no venues where anyone can play. They have closed down all the venues and there’s only Bollywood everywhere. I don’t understand this.

Reshma:
Where can people hear your music and where do you play in Goa?

Steve:
We are a live band and have no recordings and we play at various restaurants and any information about where we play will be in the newspaper. Our Facebook page is not updated sadly. But go with the flow. You are in Goa … See where the music takes you!

You can hear the Steve Sequiera Ensemble play at the Goa International Jazz Live Festival on the 26th of November at the Stone Eco Resort. Click here for tickets and packages!

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