UPDATED: Black Atlas is an American Airlines special promotion for African-American travelers. You can see the series of videos on the program’s Youtube channel. Sometimes the videos give the impression that African-Americans are new to a region. Like in this video about India. (In the video, alongside all the usual tourist stereotypes, the link is between the ideas of Martin Luther King Jnr and Mahatma Gandhi, is played up for example.) But that is such a misrepresentation about African American travel to South Asia. Just take jazz. Indian filmmaker Susheel Kurien’s “Finding Carlton” about bebop guitarist Carlton Kitto and “the bygone age of jazz in India” will hopefully start setting the record straight. Jazz music in India (mostly in Lucknow, Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta), dates back to pre-World War II American military presence there, visiting swing bands, and US State Department sponsored tours by African-American recording artists. The film will also explore the influence of American jazz on Bollywood. (BTW, on his blog, Kurien has a few posts about that connection.) Just on the basis of clips of the film, I can see the film starting to pop up at festivals soon. Tomorrow night a rough cut will screen at the monthly DocuClub, which screens work-in-progress documentaries–here in New York City.
In the first clip (above) sax player Micky Correa talks about Bombay (Mumbai) big bands. A few other legends’ names get thrown in.
In the second clip Carlton Kitto tells a story about he played in Duke Ellington’s band:
The film’s Youtube channel also have clips of Ellington playing in India, video cliff notes on the history of jazz in India by American academic Bradley Shope (parts one, two and three) and the new crop of Indian jazz musicians, like Sonia.