Thank god ! It was a happy-kinda-Friday last week. As, a day dreamer like me couldn’t have resisted the side effects of both, together on a mid week day. I am pretty sure my gentle peg of Dewar’s White Label, and live Jazz music could have been quite a toxic duet to prompt another ‘no-food’ night for me.

Phew! Nothing such happened though, as I was quite busy meeting Rie, a dear friend and one of the few saxophone players in the city in today’s date. She has been a session musician and has been actively playing with jazz and funk bands across the country for some good time now.

I was there that day to attend one of her appearance along with her band ‘Afterglow’ at that very charming new French bistro, ‘Le Bistro du Parc’ at Defence Colony, New Delhi. It’s a small and smart place which in some ways looked a little cluttered to me, because of the tables, chairs, glass cabinet and much more.

However, the white cutleries against the white walls and the ebony furniture added much to the French valor of the place, I must say. Overall, rustic yet charming is the message. Definitely a must visit for the love birds in the city, considering it as a just another reasonable weekly deal.

So, we were busy discussing about the setting up of ‘Afterglow’ over the hours before her performance, the band which Rie formed last October herself. Later, I realised that we discussed a lot more than ‘Afterglow’, that evening.  Here are few excerpts following my heart-to-heart conversation with Rie Ona – a session musician from, Japan, who has been actively playing with jazz and funk bands across the country for more than 12 years now.

Afterglow - The band.

 RIE ONA – A CLARINET & SAXOPHONE PLAYER

Birthday: 27th July First Performance: Junior High School, in Japan
High Point of Your Life: Last year when I collated my own band, ‘Afterglow’
Hometown: Japan Low Point of Your Life: Not Yet!
School / College: Kyoto University of Foreign Studies Sun Sign: Leo

 

What does your name Rie Ona mean?

Ans: Well, it means a branch of a tree in my home town. This is how we perceive it in Japan.

It’s been a long 9 years of stay in Delhi now. How do you feel about it? What do you think is your take back home so far from the quite a successful journey. 

Ans: (Chuckles) I’m still in the process of learning and reaching out to my audience. In this entire stay of mine in Delhi, I have learnt that music is always been a connecting link to start meeting people and build up friendship. Without this I don’t know even how to start my new life in a new place. Delhi is a lovely city; you get to interact with different people from different parts of the world coming here with various purpose and dreams.

Covers or originals, which do you like presenting more for your audiences? And why?

Ans: Well, since its (Afterglow) inception back in Oct, 2015 we have managed to pull of 28 gigs in total as an ensemble in Delhi-NCR. Frankly speaking my band members Shivam and Sonic always helped to create some gripping original numbers for the band. As they are treasures for the band, all we ( Rie, Shivam( keyboard), Sonic(Bass), Sreenath and Manoj(Drums) intents to express the beauty of each songs and it never stops and the songs keep growing.  We all have long time favourite song and star musicians who inspire us. We also cover those songs we have dreamed to play. But yes, It’s definitely originals that we (Afterglow) intent to present for our audiences every time.

How many musical instruments does Rie know to play in total? 

Ans: (Laughed out loudly) Ummm…4 musical instruments in total. I know how to play Clarinet, I know how to play Guitar, and I know how to play Saxophone. I think it’s enough for me talk high about myself. Honestly saying all are in progress and more efforts needs to be poured.

You have spent a good amount of time living abroad, like 6 years in Jakarta and now over 9 years in Delhi,India. As a human being whose passion is music what are the obstacles that you have faced in urge to live up to the societal expectations at all of these various locations.

Ans: Hmm, if I have to say from the perspective of my last location which is Delhi, the scene here is slightly different. India has a very rare scope or preference for Jazz bands. It’s just that they are not that well exposed to this genre of music. However, the scene is constantly changing; now-a-days people gradually started taking interests in global musical festivals. The only challenge that still exists is ‘Vocalists’ have always been a criteria for Indian audience, we are trying hard to break that myth by emphasizing on the fact as a band, that musical instruments does express equally well as a human being. It’s just you’ve to connect your heart with them subtly.   I believe that along with the growth of western music instrumental bands like us, audience base will also increase and our type of music become more popular here. Lots of not yet famous but hard working musicians with passion are pushing up this together. At the same time, my band really appreciates those venues (not many) keep hiring us to present our music.

It’s not always about Rie Ona, but the greatly talented musical quartet, collectively as – Afterglow that’s how the audience of Delhi-NCR perceives, at least. What is the mutual respect sharing ratio between both the entities, if we may know? 

Ans. Afterglow was a new born baby back in October 2015. As a band leader, to spread the band name was my duty. In the initial days, most of the venues told me that they don’t need to be quartet, duo or trio work better for them. I understood the needs of the venues but I kept asking back to hire Afterglow only. And, gradually things changed they started offering us the stage to present what we wanted to perform. Now, I feel so happy and accomplished when people call me to check dates available with, Afterglow for them.  I was ardently committed for the first 6 months to ensure the band’s name gets familiar in the city circuit. I have down it so far and feel like starting to collaborate with other musicians again as Rie Ona for my own further learning.

What are the major projects there in your pipe-line? How optimistic you guys are about them? 

Ans: We’re currently working on the production of an official video for Afterglow. We aim to start with the release by next month. At present only one thing in our mind i.e. to reach out on full swing for our audiences over local gigs and platforms.

What are your favourite Jazz bands, or players? Why they inspire you the most?

Ans: Well, there are many, but if I have to name a few, it would go somewhat like this David Sanborn( Straight to the heart) , Hank Crawford (Wild flower), Gerald Albright( Georgia on my mind) , Michael Brecker (African Skies) , Anat Cohen ( Place and Time) etc. They really reaches somewhere deep in my heart and makes me feel that even any easy song, can be played with a fire in it like they do.

Any message in particular for the prevalent Jazz scene in India?

Ans: Afterglow is still a new band. We hope that we could start to take part in music festivals where all the other Jazz bands become one team to achieve a magical day.

Spur-of-the-moment

Favourite venue in India to perform : Depot29, Bandstand, Piano Man Jazz Club, Le Bistro du Parc, Hungry Monkey, La Bodega, Qla, Cocktails and Dreams Speakeasy, Sandys kitchen and bar.

Maximum number of hours spent, for an in-house jamming so far? As Afterglow – it was at Ashiwin’s (a restaurateur) home party we jammed for 5 hrs, till 3:30 am in the morning. The best part is guest(s) also jammed with us that day.

A skill as a musician you wish you had or could have learnt in your journey, so far? Good ears to hear chords. In India, musicians are amazingly known for that!

If you are given a choice in life, what would you have loved to be, apart as a musician? May be a, kindergarten teacher, florist, traveller , but I have done something like that till now, and only one more thing i wished to be is a musician, that’s why I  am the happiest person now following my dreams.

What tickles your funny bone? Twilight Dance Comedy.

***Photo courtesy for this report : Mr.Vishal Dixit & Mad Paul. 

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