Every December, at the Bengaluru-based Technicolor India’s annual jamboree, in which 1,000-odd employees and clients bond over music and theatre, country head Biren Ghose is at centre stage. No, he doesn’t deliver speeches or best-employee prizes — he strums his guitar and belts out favourites. Naturally, this has become a widely anticipated event for three years running.
Ghose grew up with music of all sorts in a multi-cultural family — his father is Bengali, mother Parsi and wife Punjabi. His passion for jazz, picked up while he was still in school, was influenced by his musically-inclined mother, and a great aunt who was a trained Western classical musician. He also learnt by haunting restaurants in Kolkata and Mumbai that hosted live performances by jazz bands in the 1960s and 1970s.
Starting a band and playing at events was a natural progression. Since the 1980s, Ghose, now 59 years, has also been an active mover behind the annual Jazz Yatra (now called Jazz Utsav) held at Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, which has hosted great performers like Sonny Rollins, Stephane Grappelli, Freddie Hubbard and Ranjit Barot. He is also one of the 20 members of the Bangalore Music Group, all professionals from different walks of life, who play for each other at a member’s home once a month. They will be filling Ghose’s home next February and he’s looking forward to it.
Ghose feels jazz should be taught at school: “It will help kids learn to improvise.” In the animation business — where Ghose has spent almost a decade — themes almost never change, but their packaging does. Technicolor India, part of the $5 billion multinational media and entertainment technology group, is mostly active in the computer-generated animation and visual special effects space (think Harry Potter, Kung Fu Panda and a client list that includes Nickelodeon, Disney, Paramount and Warner Brothers). Ghose says: “Like business, jazz is all about having a theme and innovating around it.”
Ghose is also a serious collector of jazz from around the world — he has about 2,000 CDs, 800 LPs and hundreds of cassettes, stacked in a specially designed alcove, which he calls the Jazz Wall, at his home. He carries over 10,000 jazz songs on his music player at any given time, and makes time for jazz festivals when he travels overseas — his 38-year career has included stints at UTV, Eros International Films, the UB Group and Escorts. “Typically I attend a performance, interact with the artiste, and then pick up their CDs,” he says.
Nowadays, Ghose buys a lot of his music on the web, and jovially says, “I could have easily bought a flat in South Mumbai for what I have spent on the collection.” Ghose’s dreams are also marvellously technicolour — they have taken the form of a ‘jazz cruise’ from Florida to the Caribbean, jamming with some of the world’s best, you guessed it, jazz musicians.