Funerals are mournful affairs – but what if they didn’t have to be that way?
Mumbai’s Joseph Vessaokar is a jazz trumpeter who believes funerals are simply the end of one’s suffering, and likes to “jazz it up” with his funeral band, Joseph and the Top Cats.
Walking through Bandra’s Bazaar Road, it is common to hear strains of jazz and blues wafting through the air. If one asks locals where the “bandwalla” is, one will be directed to Joe Vessaokar sitting outside his bungalow, playing his trumpet passionately (video above).
Born in a family of musicians – his father and nine siblings are all musicians – Vessaokar, now 66, joined his father’s band when he was 13, and picked up the trumpet when he was 19. He has been performing at funerals and weddings for over 40 years.
Music doesn’t discriminate or segregate, and neither does Vessaokar. His jazz band plays jazz and blues at funerals of people of all religions and regions, be they Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Gujarati, Sindhi, or others. “Music is one way of life that gives so much of peaceful things,” he believes.
Not only does Vessaokar play at funerals – as many as 15 a month – but he has also played at contemporary music and jazz festivals like the Mahindra Blues Festival, and as a supporting musician in Bollywood, with the likes of RD Burman.
Also, remember the band from Dev D’s “Emotional Atyachaar”? Yes, that was Joseph and the Top Cats.