India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was known for many things but what was not known was that his oration could make for a jazz composition. More specifically, his famous “Tryst With Destiny” speech, delivered on the eve of India’s independence at midnight on August 15, 1947.
Saxophonist and composerTed Nash won the Grammy award for Best Instrumental Music for his track Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom (video above). Apart from Nehru, the composition includes speeches by John F Kennedy, Franklin D Roosevelt, Lyndon B Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela.
In the video above, Nehru’s speech begins at the 11 minutes 40 seconds mark. Here’s a studio version of the segment, with Nehru’s speech being read by New Age guru Deepak Chopra.
An article in Forbes described the method: “Nash transcribed the actual pitches and rhythms of the speeches and then transformed them into original motifs, riffs and grooves. He also imbued each composition with the character, location and era of that leader via contemporary jazz.”
“Nehru’s inaugural address, rich with passion and intelligence, expressed so colourfully the arrival of India’s Independence,” Nash told The Times of India, explaining what drew him to the speech. “You can feel the emotion in his delivery. It gives you goosebumps. He spoke in a very narrow range, so the resulting thematic material stayed contained to smaller intervals than that of the other speeches on the album.”