French-American band Thiefs on debut performance in Hyderabad and inspiration behind their music
Comprising bassist Keith Witty, drummer David Frazier Jr and saxophonist Christophe Panzan, this trio is anything but predictable. Although often categorised as a jazz band, their music offers a mix of hip-hop, electronica, dance music, and musique concrete as well.
As a part of the third International Hyderabad Jazz Festival, French-American band Thiefs is making its debut in the city, this weekend. “It’s our first time in India! We’re excited to be here, to bring our music to a brand new audience, and meet people from such an amazing continent! What you can expect is to be surprised,” Christophe keeps us guessing!
Inspired by American rapper Nas’ popular song, Thief, the band was formed when New York-based artistes Keith and David met Christophe from Paris and began practising together. “It was a way to keep and develop a musical collaboration across the Atlantic Ocean,” says Christophe, adding that it was the similarity in ideas that worked for them. “The emotions I want to put in my music don’t have to match the feelings you get while listening to it. The important thing to me is — do you feel something when you listen to the music I play?” he shares.
Juggling between time zones in two countries, the trio keep their music-making process organic and impromptu. There’s no strict format of focusing just on the beats or the lyrics. “Sometimes one of us brings a new track to the session and we then find a way to play it together. Keith is quite good when it comes to making concepts (laughs). On other days, it’s all about the beat. We work on it and come back after a while,” he says.
The band’s latest release, Graft, is a fine example of Thiefs’ music. The 11-track album is based on the themes of uncertain identity and displacement. Using the botanical metaphor to talk about stories of uprooting, and family histories, the outfit collaborated with pianist Aaron Parks and drummer/vocalist Guillermo E Brown (an original member who left the band in 2015). That apart, spoken word artistes and rappers Rwandan-French MC Gaël Faye and Mike Ladd’s contributions on tracks like the duet I Live in Fear adds a dimension to the album. “When a human being or a family is uprooted from their soil and move to another place, one has to adapt between the culture they are carrying and the culture they are meeting — like new fruits from a graft. We drew the same parallels with our music — replanted many times with roots in classical music, Afro-American jazz, rap and electronic music,” concludes Christophe.
Along with the band, artistes Edgar Sekhola, Benoít Lugué and Sushin Shyam. Mumbai-born playback singer and composer Neha Nair, known for her work in Malayalam films, will also join them. Having debuted with Job Kurian in RITU in 2009, the 30-year-old musician went on to work for projects like Ishq (2019) and Varathan (2018).
November 23, 6.30 pm.
At Phoenix Arena.