Divya Naik came away entranced by the phenomenon that is Buddy Guy at the recently concluded Mahindra Blues Festival
Generalization is an inherent quality in every one of us. Blues is equated with sadness, melancholy and gloom. Battling all these perceptions and assumptions, a bunch of people still beg to differ. In the suburbs of Bandra at the minimalistic Mehboob Studios, all biases crumbled when folks – which included kids, uncles, aunties, grandparents, parents, teenagers, youngsters and even those who were blind (and of course not deaf) – came together under one roof, for the blues.
With Buddy Guy as the headlining act for the second time in a row, the turnout was full, not surprisingly. And as a cherry on the cake, acts such as John Lee Hooker Jr, Taj Mahal and Ana Popovic graced the stage – each bringing with them their own signature styles and the flavour of the blues from their homelands – be it the jazz blues, delta blues, detroit blues, soul blues or blues rock.
Mumbai based Overdrive Trio opened the festival, this being their first ‘big’ performance. John Lee Hooker Jr followed next, leaving everyone in awe with his deep throated voice, brilliant stage presence, contemporary arrangements, and intones filled with emotion. With the track Suspicious, he got the audience swaying and chanting along and with the famous Boom Boom, he managed to get a kid from the audience onto the stage to accompany him. Jeffrey James from his troupe also managed to wow the audiences with some exceptional fingerboard demonstrations on his part. Hooker’s tracks - Stormy Monday, Groove Thang and Check Yourself aptly showcased his niche which can be defined as modern blues.
Day Two saw two Indian acts, namely Blakstratblues, featuring Warren Mendonsa opening for the festival. Guest singer Nikhil D’souza joined them in the latter part for a cover of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good. Shillong based Soulmate, with their loyal fan following got everyone grooving with Set Me Free, If You were my guitar, Come around My House and Cup of Tea. The audience was reluctant to let them go despite the time constraints, but then, as they themselves put it, they had to make way for the next artist who had come all the way from Serbia – Ana Popovic. Ana, who had accompanied and jammed with Buddy Guy quite a few times, is one of the few successful women in an exceptionally male-dominated world of blues. Her art is unassuming, effortless and appeasing – just like her stage presence. Her guitarist, Ronald Jonker managed to make heads turn with his onstage antics and vivid expressions.
The crowd, however, was already lined up outside Stage Three – the stage which was set for the Blues legend – Buddy Guy. Time passed, restlessness crept up on everyone and levels of exhilaration reached new heights when Buddy’s band mates came onto the stage and started with their bass playing. And then came the moment – he was there, right in front of everyone, for us to have all to ourselves – Buddy Guy, with his archetypal smile which so well defined the lines on his face that we all had seen in the numerous pictures and videos all our lives. We had heard those tunes innumerable times, and now, that great old man was right in front of us, playing them out, playing his heart out.
From The Things that I used to do to Are you Lonely for me Baby – it was just the way we had heard it all before – with those radical gumbos, the sudden sweet and sustained guitar riffs, raspy vocals which a gentle menace to them – everyone knew it all, because they were all singing along – word by word. With She’s Nineteen Years Old he took everyone on a trip – a bending curve coming with each note. The Way You Been Treating Me saw him demonstrating what he was the best at – tension and release in his rendition and guitar playing, both, in the most riveting manner.