Understanding of music, especially jazz, is not essential to enjoy Ashis Ghatak’s engaging book. The words entrap us in an atmosphere that shows love, adoration, admiration, and wonder for the person he is writing about. The book offers a riveting account of the great pianist that is Louiz Banks, which is not just limited to his artistic endeavours or his personal life, but also the environment that produced Banks and honed him.
More than a simple jazz biography of a living legend, the book, released on his 80th birthday recently, is a study of the musical zeitgeist created by Banks: His identity, his musical influences like Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea.
The book is divided into 15 chapters which are titled after the names of his songs. From the first chapter ‘Into the Light – The Birth of Dambar Bahadur’ (Budaprithi), who is responsible for creating the iconic Mile Sur Mera Tumhara anthem and many more such jingles, the book talks about how his father changed his son’s Nepali name to Louiz (after jazz trumpet player Louis Armstrong) after his father himself adopted the name of George Banks. The other chapters speak of key events in Louiz’s life — from a young boy playing the trumpet and piano in the clubs of Calcutta, his arrival in Mumbai, his work with RD Burman, personal life, unheard details of the jazz scene in India during the ’60s and ’70s, and more.
The book also includes a comprehensive archive photo section of the great composer with his parents and siblings, with international artistes, his overseas tour performances, family photos, along with a few images of his other passion — painting.
It took Ghatak almost five years to put the book together, journeying to places like Darjeeling, Nepal, Mumbai to trace the growth of Banks from boyhood to adulthood, and side by side also meeting up and chatting with the greatest names of the Indo-jazz fusion music industry veterans to record many of the stories about the enigmatic musician.
Ghatak’s account proves to be a fascinating detailed look into the life of the Godfather of Indian Jazz. It’s a glittering, engaging, comprehensive biography and a must read for all his fans.
Book: Louiz Banks: A Symphony of Love
Author: Ashis Ghatak
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
Price: Rs 595