Category ~ Legendary Musicians of Karachi
Extract taken from – Broken Souvenirs-Part6
Alex Rodrigues was one of the most recognisable faces in the iconoclastic world of jazz in Pakistan. His sedate but soulful saxophone sessions were just the right salve for a weary traveller in a hotel lobby–a popular soundstage for his performances which spanned six decades.
At the age of 17, he started playing the sax and clarinet–his favourite musical instruments–under the tutelage of Karachi-based musician Nicky Correa.
Although Alex did not go to a music school for training, he had the natural skills to carry his passion for sax playing to the highest standard.
“In the early 30s I joined the Islamabad Hotel Sherzade. I played there for about 5 to 6 years,” said Rodrigues in an interview conducted a few months before his death.
Alex then began playing for the Inter Continental hotel, later renamed the Pearl
Continental hotel. On and off Alex played for this hotel for almost 40 years.
His career brimmed with tales of early jazz bands and memorabilia from the subcontinental evocations of mainly Western music.
In 1941 he was invited by star crooner Janno Vaz, also a talented sax player, to join a jazz band. Rodrigues counts that band as the first full-fledged jazz ensemble in the yet to be formed Pakistan. Next he became associated with Alex Correa’s band. Rodrigues’ mean sax playing and the band’s lively renditions was instantly noticed by The American Patrol, a popular U.S. band which was on tour in the Asian subcontinent.
Glenn Miller’s band also visited the city and appreciated the performances of Rodrigues’ band.
“At the KGA where the acoustics are good we out-performed some of the visiting American bands,” he said, recalling his pre-partition days of fame. “Our band was invited to the United States several times but we never did make the trip,” he said. That was indeed a golden era–a time when musical instruments were cheap and easy to procure.
His brief appearances in church and community functions were equally memorable. Sometime in the ’60s Rodrigues played with big-name jazz player Dave Bubeck. “I felt so important (during the collaborative performance) at Denso Hall,” he said. He collaborated also with Pakistani singer Muhammad Ali Shaikhi.
His musical genius allowed him to become an ambassador for his country and his minority Christian community. Rodrigues was part of the official Pakistani cultural troupe that visited Britain some years ago.
His one regret was that jazz, his favourite style of music, was even less understood than appreciated in his country. That was particularly disappointing since he felt that he had evolved his own style. “The sax is such a mellow instrument. My technique is unique and nobody seems to have picked it up.”
Alex Correa & Nicky Correa
Alex was ranked by both his peers and colleagues alike as the best percussionist in Karachi.
Nicky Correa was equally adept at playing all instruments. Both men were the front men for a string of popular bands.
The two musicians stayed together. “I felt I was lost when they passed away,” Alex Rodrigues, their lifetime friend and colleague, said.
Hilary Rodrigues is the grandson of the great Alex Rodrigues and has dedicated this clip to him and the Legendary Musicians of Karachi
Additional information by ldg
The name of the jazz musician that Alex played with at Denso Hall was David Brubeck.
The name was incorrectly recorded on Broken Souvenirs
It was 1958 when Dave Brubeck visited Karachi.