Talking Jazz with Rhys Sebastian of Bombay Brass

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Mumbai’s Bombay Brass is an eleven-piece big brass band, performing originals and covers, inspired by the wedding brass bands at baraats. They blend in modern harmonic arrangements with a feeling of nostalgia. Led by saxophonist Rhys Sebastian, the band boasts of a stellar line up such as Ramon Ibrahim of The Fanculous on Trombone, Robin Fargose on the Trumpet, ID Rao Tenor playing the sax, Zohran Miranda on Electric Guitar, Saurabh Suman on the Electric Bass, Vibhas ‘Titu’ Rahul on percussion, Rahul Wadhwani on Electric Keyboards, Jehangir Jehangir (JJ) on the Drums. The band also features the Indian Flute played by Avadhoot Phadke, Chirag Katti on Sitar and Mother, Merlin D’souza on piano in their song ‘Anytime Now’. This wind instrumental band is influenced by the styles of Blackstratblues, Snarky Puppy, Maceo Parker, and Shankar Jaikishan.

We, at The Indian Music Diaries, caught up with Rhys Sebastian to talk about jazz and his band.

Rhys talks to about how he and all the members have spent a lot of time on the road as touring artists performing at weddings, corporate events and festivals which brought them closer together, enabling them to write and record original music.

Q. Tell us about your EP? What’s the inspiration behind it?

Every song is treated differently with the same instrumentation. It’s not necessarily a defined genre which makes it fun for us and hopefully engaging for our listeners to interpret it as they like. The inspiration behind the songwriting was experiences close to home; bad roads, Indian Ragas that inspire us time to time, long fun drives on good roads and local Goan festivals with food and music in a fishing village. 

Q. You have your band members playing with other bands and pursuing their solo career as well. So how do you manage their schedules with the band?

I try to plan the groundwork for recording and performance with as much advance notice as possible. We aim to be at the top of our game when we get together in order to maximise our time, energies and resources. Good food also always helps so we try to keep the menu enticing!

Having too many members is never a bad thing. There’s more to learn, share and experience when surrounded by people that inspire me. I feel I can contribute positively as well. A large part of the credit also goes to Ayan De who mastered our EP, along with JJ, our drummer who mixed it.

So, in the end, it’s all about planning beforehand and executing it well.

Q. From performing covers to your originals, how has your journey been?

The experience has been enlightening and enriching. I have a newfound respect for all my peers who pursue making original music because there’s a lot more that goes into it than just the art.

Bombay has a rich jazz history and a lot of elements of jazz can be seen in Hindi film songs in the 60s and 70s. Hence, jazz for me has been more than just a genre, it has been an education where elements of it can be included in pop music. Jazz is like a vocabulary and you can use the information in jazz to very subtly write other genres of music as well.

Q. Tell us about your new music?

It’s in the works. We’re thrilled to have released original music in our debut EP and are working towards incorporating more compositions into our live set. I don’t want my music to just have a saxophone or the horn but include other elements as well. For instance, the song ‘Anytime Now’ has the sax and the trumpet but also has major piano parts in it, which my mother played in the song.

I don’t force myself to write, instead, I just write and want the flow of the music to come organically to me.