Indian band mesmerises Russia with jazz-classical blend

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Koktebel (Crimea) : The international music festival, Koktebel Jazz Party, which had its stage opening with an American band that brought people to their feet, suddenly had its audiences poised and glued to the sound of various instruments put together by a fusion band from India.

Rajiv Raja Combine, with its band members from different parts of the country -- from Kerala to Tamil Nadu to Maharashtra -- for the very first time performed outside India together.

On the first day of the festival that runs through August 26, the seven members of the band including its founder and flautist, Rajiv Raja, got various genres that fall under the umbrella of jazz -- Latin Jazz, Java Jazz, Jazz blues, etc -- mixed with the Indian classical.

What made the performance stand apart was that the artistes, who didn't jump from one genre to the other and the blend was completely smooth -- sans spaces -- and at the same time, the Hindustani classical flavour was carefully retained.

Other than this Indo-jazz band, the jazzy Friday evening here had musicians from the US and the UK.

There was Rebirth Brass Band that play New Orleans style jazz and funk, and Rick Margitza from the US and Incognito from the UK, which performs acid jazz.

The 20-band line-up for the festival, whose ticket revenue will be transferred to a Koktebel school, includes music groups from Russia, China and Armenia.

On Saturday, the Sedar band from China, artistes Vanessa Rubin and Don Braden, and the New York Latin Jazz All Stars band from the US will be performing.

The third day will have the New York All Stars playing together with the Russian artistes -- Dmitry Chetvergov and Chet Man.

"This year's festival is being held at five venues.

"A surprise for the guests will be a jam session with famous Moscow sax player Sergei Golovnya and participation of many stars of the 2018 Koktebel Jazz Party," the festival's founding member Dmitry Kiselev said during the opening.

The festival began under the name Koktebel Jazz Festival and its inaugural edition was held 16 years ago.

It got split into two different festivals ever since Russia took over Crimea after a referrendum in 2014, an issue that is still contested in various global fora. While one of them still runs with the same name though in Ukraine, the other half takes place here at this resort townlet, Koktebel.

Kislev announced that the artiste line-up of the programme was not revealed in advance as an American musician could not come to the festival in 2015 because of a letter from the US State Department, which threatened prosecution if he attended.

"To save ourselves from similar failures, we now refrain from giving the schedule away much before the festival," he said.

(Mudita Girotra is in Crimea at the invitation of the organisers of Koktebel Jazz Party. She can be contacted at