Feel the blues a little...

Feel the blues a little...

Steeped in lyrical emotion and melody, it’s easy to understand why Blues music has such a deep impact world over

Buddy Guy

It was unlike any other music festival. Not Bollywood, not rap, not techno, not EDM, it was a class apart. We are talking about a ‘Blues’ festival right here in India. Returning to Mumbai’s Mehboob Studio for the 10th edition, the indoor festival brought in Blues legend Buddy Guy yet again (for the fifth time) to headline the event. Emerging as a key player in the genre during its heydays through his work with Chess Records, the 83-year-old Chicago Blues pioneer has been a formative influence on guitar players like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. Mahindra Blues Festival 2020 also featured Nashville-based multi-Grammy winning artist Keb’ Mo’, who is known for his post-modern style of Blues as well as modern day’s most commercially successful roots-rock act, Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band.

There’s no other musical genre quite like the Blues. Steeped in lyrical emotion and sultry melodies, it’s easy to understand why Blues music has such a deep and lasting impact world over. Legendary Blues artistes are trying to save this soulful music with a deep narrative. Blues is a way of feeling, a way of expressing. For the uninitiated, Blues music comes from a long tradition of storytelling and defiance in the face of adversities. Indeed, there are modern Blues bands too, trying to revive the art with a touch of modernism and a different kind of energy. This is exactly what the 10th edition of the Mahindra Blues delivered — a mix of the traditional Blues and the modern, with no age, caste or colour distinctions.

Legendary line-up

They say if you have a taste for the Blues then you are experimental, you are liberal. This one of a kind, the once-a-year festival was a completely sold-out event. Blues fans poured in from across the country and some from across the globe to watch legendary artistes soothe their soul. It was a weekend of Blues music that traversed a wide range of emotions and musical styles with bands expressing ‘feeling blue’ in loose narratives, some traditional and some with a modern edge, with verses that talked about injustice, oppression, lost love and so on. The festival not only lived up to the blue feeling but also celebrated pleasure and success. 

Like previous years, Mahindra Blues Festival 2020 included a living legend, a couple of superstars and rising young talents. Day one saw Keb Mo’, who is widely considered the foremost representative of Delta Blues, combines his masterful anecdotal writing skills, distinctive guitar versatility and rich, resonant, Blues-soaked vocals into his signature live performance. With over 18 records and four decades of making music, there’s hardly an issue that Mo’ hasn’t spoken about. Then there was Blues-rock icon Kenny Wayne Shepherd; the five-time Grammy-nominated, self-taught musician from Louisiana threw in a modern twist to the classical Blues music.

Day two of the festival saw the American roots rock band ‘Larkin Poe’ fronted by the sister duo of vocalist and electric guitar player Rebecca and lap steel guitar player Megan Lovell who together represent the genre’s fresh pool of talent. The audience was also enthralled by India’s ‘The Homegrown Blues Collective’ featuring India’s best, an ensemble put together to mark the 10th year of the festival.

Eight-time Grammy Award winner Buddy Guy put up a closing performance that most younger artistes would be hard-pressed to match up to. He showed off a few of his old tricks by playing the guitar with just one hand, with a scarf, with his teeth and with a drumstick. He even boldly walked into the crowd, continuing to play his music to an awestruck, cheering audience. No wonder Eric Clapton once described Buddy Guy as ‘the best guitar player alive’. After his assigned 90 minutes, Guy was joined by Shepherd, Mo’, the Lovell siblings and Soulmate’s Rudy Wallang and each of them gave us a snatch of their remarkable and memorable riffage. It was quite the all-star Blues jam of the decade!

A melody for the soul, a story that never ends, exuberant like never before. Now that’s what you call a true-blue weekend. Till next time then, let’s keep the Blues alive!

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