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MUSIC FROM THE HEART Saskia Laroo
MUSIC FROM THE HEART Saskia Laroo

Trumpet player Saskia Laroo's music fuses jazz, pop and rap to create soft numbers

She sounds like Miles Davis and looks like Barbie. Not surprisingly, trumpet player Saskia Laroo draws crowds whenever she plays, jazz enthusiasts, lovers of contemporary music and the merely curious. At the Taj Fisherman's Cove, she was placed in a setting as dramatic as her music: under a starry sky, with the waves providing a background rhythm. All very impressive, except for the fact that she would have probably sounded much better in the traditional haunt of jazz players, a intimate, smoky bar, sans the temperamental sound system and other `big band' trappings.As a result, although she seemed to be playing her heart out on stage, it didn't make much of an impact on the enormous audience, most of whom were in party mode, socialising animatedly and relegating Laroo's trumpeting to background music in the process.Nevertheless, Laroo — who was born in Amsterdam, plays all over the world, and has been called the Miles Davis of Europe — is clearly talented, even if she wasn't at her best in Chennai. Her most interesting achievement, perhaps, besides being one of the few woman trumpet players, is that she has managed to create a whole new genre of music by fusing jazz with pop and rap. Her style, now known as `nu jazz' or `swinging body music,' has an addictive rhythm that invites people to dance. And its spirited quality is enhanced by vocals, which range from soulful ballads to edgy rap. The rapper who performed with her, for instance, was very MTV, in the obligatory baggy pants and bling rings, with lyrics that ranged from "Say what, say what... work your body girl," to a series of unashamed plugs for Laroo: "We're pushing you over/ Like a Range Rover... Coz we're stealing the show/ With Saskia Laroo... "In the same spirit, the rather prematurely optimistic Taj press release handed out before the evening even began, stated "The evening rocked and the crowd went wild." Not really. There were, however, snatches of magic, like when she played an evocative melody she had written for Chennai. And at moments like that, even the chatter and the clinking of glasses faded, as Laroo closed her eyes and bent over her trumpet to share her song.SHONALI MUTHALALY

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