Hartman de Souza

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over two years

Hartman de Souza holds a degree in Philosophy and Sociology and has a background in education, journalism and theatre. He regularly handled the ‘Time for Jazz’ programme on All India Radio.

While Hartman de Souza locates the history of jazz music in Goa, Bombay and Calcutta within the musical traditions native to Goa, he also considers this cultural phenomenon in many ways distinct from other forms of western music that took root there.  This is not just because jazz was musically of an entirely different order, but also because, as he points out, it gave some Goans the chance to rebel against the narrowness of their Goan identity.  So while their training in music – through the church and other institutions – was instrumental in developing the musical consciousness of the handful of individuals Hartman is studying, their attraction to jazz was often at odds with what was expected of them even as Goan musicians. “Jazz…beckoned only to a few and did so while inviting the scorn and pity of the larger community.”

Given the above, he is concerned not so much with the particular qualities of jazz as it was played by the dozen-odd musicians who form the subject of his study, as with the individual personalities and different trajectories of each of these musicians. His chronicle will presumably not concern itself with the musical history of jazz in India, however short-lived, but focus instead in a personalised and fictionalised manner on the lives and times of certain of its prominent exponents.

Mainstream jazz, according to him, has its roots in Black American musical traditions and is more a worldview than a musical style. However, in characterising the jazz played by Goan musicians as ‘Mainstream’, Hartman thereby implies that these musicians also shared the philosophy that underlay mainstream jazz, and employed it to express the same sense of alienation from their environment. The study intends to recreate the lives of the musicians through the use of episode and vignette, rather than undertake a sustained analysis of their music. 

Hartman’s research will take him to the Indian cities where surviving jazz musicians – and families of those who have passed away – reside.  He will also visit newspaper archives to trace articles on popular Western music.  Since his canvas includes not just the period when jazz was actually being played – 1954-67 – but the larger context of Western music in Goa, he will also visit shipping offices, for instance, to check old records on Goan ship bands.