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Since 1st March, 1999
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Powell strums a jazz swansong
- Outgoing US secy of state to host musicians on AIDS mission to India

Washington, Dec. 11: Outgoing US secretary of state Colin Powell's swansong for India will be a tour by some of America's jazz greats from his black community next month to promote awareness about AIDS in India.

On Tuesday, with little over a month before demitting office, Powell will host the jazz musicians going to India at a function in the state department's Treaty Room. The group will be in India from January 13 to 19.

Among the jazz greats going to India is Ravi Coltrane, who is no Indian, despite his misleading first name.

He was named after sitarist Ravi Shankar, who gave lessons in Indian music in the 1960s to Coltrane senior, the late jazz legend and saxophonist, John Coltrane, one of the most influential musicians ever. Although John died when Ravi was only two, his mother Alice Coltrane, a classically-trained pianist, continued to influence her son with her jazz experiments infused with Indian music.

The upcoming tour of the jazz group has been put together by Black Entertainment Television's (BET) Jazz Channel, MTV-India and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, a Los Angeles-based non-profit educational institution founded in 1986 to fill gaps in arts education created by budget cuts by the government.

The state department is partnering these organisers in executing the tour which will include concerts in Mumbai and New Delhi as well as jazz lessons and HIV/AIDS outreach programmes. Other locations in Indian cities are also under consideration.

Like human rights or child labour in the 1990s, the AIDS threat in India is the latest issue to catch the fancy of philanthropists and non-government organisations in the US.

Microsoft chief Bill Gates is the best example of this trend: his non-profit foundation has already committed millions of dollars to the fight against AIDS in India.

By hosting the India-bound jazz group as one of his last possible public functions dealing with India, Powell may be making amends for his four-year record as America's top diplomat.

Of all the men in the Bush administration's senior set-up, Powell alone made Indians in government see red.

His first major structured meeting with former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh was a disaster and their mutual allergy has been in evidence till now, with Singh recently saying what he thought of the outgoing secretary of state in an interview.

Powell last year annoyed Indians by being effusive about Indo-US friendship on a visit to New Delhi: he then went to Islamabad and declared that Pakistan was a major non-NATO ally of the US without giving any inkling of what was afoot to India.

Powell's meeting with external affairs minister Natwar Singh shortly after the new Indian government came to office did not melt the ice either. But the Americans insist that it was because Singh gave Powell a lecture, as is his wont.

Ravi Coltrane will be joined in the upcoming India tour by another jazz great, Earl Klugh. Others going to India next month as part of the tour are Al Jerreau, George Duke and graduate jazz students from the Thelonious Monk Institute.

The tour is to have the theme Indians and Americans Together Against HIV/AIDS.

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