Piano Lessons – Boogie Woogie Workshop@Penang Jazz Festival

What is Boogie Woogie? That was the question on everybody’s minds sitting inside the Penang Bayview Beach Resort Ballroom.

Boogie Woogie is a form of music that falls under the bigger music umbrella of blues and jazz. Razil ‘Jeep’ Mohd answered our question immediately the moment he started the workshop.

I did a quick research to find out its origin and discovered that Boogie Woogie first emerged in the music scene as early as 1870 in Texas.

It was made popular by newly freed African-Americans.

Pete Johnson who is regarded as one of the greatest Boogie Woogie Jazz pianist appeared in a concert in 1938.

The concert was held at the prestigious Carnegie Hall to showcase African-American music. This was the beginning of Boogie Woogie craze.

Following that concert its popularity soared and was soon included in country music and even rock and roll.

Jeep showed us a few video clips he downloaded from Youtube, they were in black and white probably recorded in the 1930s.

The piano playing was magnificent, fingers and arms moving so fast producing music so lively and fun.

The dancers were swinging around, jumping up and down. It made us in the audience erupt into a thunderous applause, valuable lessons were learnt.

When it came time for him to play, the teenaged girls sitting in the front rows could not stop shaking their bodies and bobbing their heads to the music.

It is such a catchy, fun rhythm it just energizes you to start dancing.

Too bad we already missed the Boogie Woogie Dance World Cup in Austria last March.

He demonstrated to us that while playing Boogie Woogie on the piano, the left hand will have to play a lot of chord progressions, indirectly improving our technique as classical pianists as well because of the exercise.

When the jazz workshop was opened for Q & A, naturally we were scrambling to wrestle the microphone from each other.

Alvin from Penang asked “Are there any Malaysian group that has recorded Boogie Woogie CDs so far?”

“Beside me not that I know of, maybe in the near future there will be”, Jeep answered.

Jim from USA,” Is there any relationship between the style of piano playing that you have in Boogie Woogie and what is often referred to as stride?”

“I think there are some connections because in the tradition of playing we actually have what is called the musical canvas.

For most musicians, jazz musicians in particular call it blues. So imagine blues as the big umbrella and there are many other things underneath it, like soft blues.

And the style of playing one of the genres beside ragtie and boogie woogie is stride.

Stride has a technique of its own whereby the voicing - we call it the way you hold the chord, is not the conventional way that a ragtie or boogie woogie player would do.”

After being exposed to this wonderfully addictive music, I needed more. So I chased after Jeep to find out more. Read my exclusive interview with him here.

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