Archive for August 13th, 2011

BB King and Bihar

Amitav Ghosh | August 13, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (2)

 

 

For several months now I’ve been looking forward  to the publication of Taj Mahal Foxtrot: A Story of Bombay’s Jazz Age by Naresh Fernandes. The extracts I read were prefaced by this brief description: ‘The book listens to Indian history through the ears of jazz musicians and jazz fans, such as the journalist Dosoo Karaka, a fierce critic of Nehru who wrote about political scandals and popular music with equal glee. The book opens in 1935, when Leon Abbey’s first “all negro band” visited the subcontinent, and comes to a close in1967, when rock and roll blasted into town. It tells a story of India – and especially of the city of Bombay – through a menagerie of geniuses, strivers and eccentrics.’

The extracts were fascinating – intensively researched and extremely well written (the book already has its own website. Amongst much else, the book will I think, open up some interesting issues concerning the making of culture in the 20th century: it turns out that the CIA (which was also busy promoting Abstract Expressionism at the time) played a considerable part in sending jazz groups around the world!

In any event, the extracts started me thinking in many different directions, so when I saw the names ‘Joe Bihari’ and ‘Jules Bihari’ listed as the composers on BB King’s ‘If I lost You’ and ‘Shake it up and Go’ I began to wonder whether there might now be some sort of connection between blues music and the girmitiya diaspora in the Caribbean (after all Louisiana, Trinidad and Jamaica are not far from each other).

I wasted no time in writing to Naresh – but only to be disappointed:

Dear Amitav,
Your query got me all excited and I wondered if there was a forgotten link between the blues and chutney music. Alas not. But I discovered something I didn’t know — that Bihar is a place in Hungary, from where Joe and Jules emigrated:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bihar_County
There’s a novel there somewhere, with a title like Bihari Goulash…

 



ucuz ukash