The piano men of Bangalore

Black and white in Bangalore

A couple of days ago, Naresh Fernandes, tireless researcher, journalist and author of Taj Mahal Foxtrot (a book that looks back in time at the jazz scene in India) posted a beautiful piece of music in the newly formed online group, ‘JazzInBangalore’ on what else, Facebook.

“Group’ used to be what musicians called themselves, as in ‘beat group’ or ‘rock group’ but these days the word has been hijacked by FB and so musicians are scouring the dictionary looking for other words to describe themselves.  ‘Ensemble’ and ‘project’ and ‘collective’ are gaining popularity.

Times have a-changed.

Naresh was paying tribute to Bangalore with his post, featuring the late and great Bangalore pianist Dizzy Sal, an enigmatic mystery some in the music fraternity have heard of, but very have actually heard live. Till Naresh dug it all up from the dusty attics and dank basements of history.  Naresh’s book is a must for anyone who likes jazz.

Dizzy sal

I loved the tune called ‘Jingles’ written by Wes Montgomery. Accompanying Dizzy (whose playing is mighty fine), are Gary McFarland on vibes and Attilla Zoller on guitar. Nice work if you can get it.

It got me thinking.

Today in 2013, there are three amazing pianists, also from Bangalore, who have a few things in common with Diz, besides making this city their home.

They’re Berklee-educated , they love to play jazz. And they’re bloody fantastic.  So I thought I’d introduce them on one stage, so to speak, meaning this page.

Sharik Hasan comes from a very artistic family. It’s in his genes, you could say. But Sharik is also relentless in his pursuit of great music. He sounds better and better each time you hear him.


Sharik likes to experiment with different formats and has no issues sharing the stage with another piano player.

A rare thing usually, but in Sharik’s world it seems to be common. He’s played with Harmeet Manseta (piano player from Delhi) and I was privileged enough to hear him and Aman Mahajan one night at B Flat in Bangalore, a place that fosters, nurtures and promotes jazz.

Sharik is still pursuing the study of music and it is clear that he will soon be enthralling audiences all over the world, not just in Bangalore. As he comes home to Bangalore each year in the summer and winter, when school’s on break, you can hear his growth, his increasing grasp of the vocabulary of jazz and the subtlety that marks greatness.

Sharik Hasan plays Blue Monk here with his buddies from Berklee.

Aman Mahajan is not only a sensitive, intuitive, technically superb pianist, he is also a brilliant composer. Here’s one of his tunes Connections – alas I’m singing on it too. But I really think this piece shows off his amazing piano playing and compositional abilities.


Aman can play a variety of styles with equal fluency. Hip hop to jazz, electronica to blues, Latin to Indian and much music in between. He likes to experiment while staying faithful to the music.

I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world to have Aman as part of my personal musical odyssey, and our journey has only just begun. Each gig, each new song, each new idea we explore only shows me what an amazing future Aman has ahead of him and how I treasure each moment in the now.

Karan Joseph started out playing blues and rock and roll when I first heard him back in 2005 or 2006.  He was shy, nervous and unwilling to admit that he knew a thing or two about they keys. Then he went off to Berklee and returned, the beast unleashed the monster bared. We performed together sometime in 2009 with Amit Heri (a killer Bangalore guitar player) and Karan absolutely killed Giant Steps, probably one of the most difficult and complex tunes to ever be written.


Here he is in his bliss, playing some blues.

Karan’s been performing with a diverse set of musicians demonstrating his ability to hold it down brilliantly whether it’s fusion, funk, show tunes… you call it, he can play it.

It’s unlikely that Sharik, Aman and Karan… indeed Dizzie Sal were originally from Bangalore. You can tell this merely from their names. But that’s Bangalore for you. People come here from all over the country, settle down, tune up their pianos or plug in their keys, and get going to create fantastic music.

No other city in India is like it.

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