Mahindra Blues Festival 2017: With a stellar line-up, lively entertainment's guaranteed
It must have been a masterstroke of business management technique which, in part led the Mahindra group to initiate the now well established Mahindra Blues Festival in Mumbai.
Every February for the past seven years, the legendary Mehboob Studio in Bandra, Mumbai, is home to this event for a weekend. Mehboob Studio is where some of the most famous Hindi movies have been shot. In the two large halls which hold the mystique of some of these iconic films, internationally famous bands assemble to immerse eager crowds in the sounds of the blues, as they would in many parts of the US, Europe and elsewhere around the globe. The high ceilinged halls at the studio have installations of hoists, block and tackle mechanisms and other devices which have helped create the props and scenes for many a movie. The sounds of twanging guitars, voices of blues singing and blues shouts make for a strange mix; the static devices juxtaposed with the dynamic blues vibes!
The concept behind Mahindras embarking on this perennial blues project, says Jay Shah, vice president for Cultural Outreach at Mahindra & Mahindra Limited, emerged from trying to identify a cultural bridge with the farmer community in the US. That community was a huge potential market for the M & M tractor exports. By creating an image of being promoters of an art form dear to that market, that bridge was made.
The event management company Orangjuice Entertainment in Mumbai was already holding the One Tree blues events with world renowned musicians. Brian Tellis, Owen Roncon, Neale Murray and Jairam organised these concerts where artists like Buddy Guy, Jose Feliciano and several others had performed. The association between them and the Mahindra group was the obvious next step.
This alliance has truly been a win-win situation. A mix of contemporary blues musicians have performed in Mumbai. A cultural space in Mumbai has been filled by this blues festival. The Mahindra Blues Festival has also become an important event on Mumbai's social calendar. It is simultaneously a social event where people gather as they once used to for the famous Jazz Yatra series which ran in Mumbai from 1978 until about the year 2000. That festival had a similar social buzz — in both these festivals, the curating of the musicians was an important factor and high quality of music was assured. And, of course, tractor sales in the US have certainly picked up. "Make in India, market in America". A win all around then.
Taking this a step further, the Mahindra Blues Festival also travels to the USA. For two weekends a year, this festival is held in Chicago in the famous Buddy Guy's Blues Club. "A bit of carrying coals to Newcastle," says Brian Tellis, of this leg of the festival.
Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra group says of the current edition of the festival, "The seventh edition of the Mahindra Blues Festival will surely live up to the expectations of the Mumbai audiences; we are delighted to see the Mahindra blues tribe grow year after year". In fact the Mahindra Blues website has the largest following of any blues site in the world.
This year's line up sees the return of the young maestro, Quinn Sullivan with his band. Sullivan has played earlier in the legendary Buddy Guy's band in the past. At just seventeen, Quinn Sullivan might seem too young to be a band leader, until one realises that he has performed on stage since the age of eight! By now, he is truly a veteran having played for more than half his life.
The other person returning to the festival is Shemekia Copeland. This Chicago-based blues singer has left behind her newborn Johnny to perform in Mumbai. On her previous performance at the MBF, the audience couldn't get enough of her soulful singing and asked for several encores. She is bound to be sought after this time as well.
A first-timer in Mumbai, vocalist Janiva Magness from Los Angeles has been awarded the Blues Music award and received the Best Song nomination for "Let me Breathe". Janiva is scheduled to rush back to the US after her performance here as she has been nominated for a Grammy award. Another interesting vocalist is Gráinne Duffy from Ireland. She got into the blues after hearing Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, who in turn had been inspired by that great Blues man Muddy Waters. The blues go everywhere.
Last but certainly not least, Supersonic Blues Machine — which includes the legendary Billy F Gibbons (of ZZ Top fame), bassist Fabrizio and virtuoso guitarist Eric Gales — promises to dazzle the large following at this years Mahindra Blues Festival. Lively entertainment guaranteed!