“The most important blues singer that ever lived,” is how Eric Clapton described Robert Johnson, considered by many to be one of the biggest influences on blues musicians. Though Johnson was barely known during his lifetime (1911-38), he became a legend in the years that followed.
In 2003, the Rolling Stone magazine listed him among the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.
Now, Bangalore-based NGO Maraa, along with CounterCulture, a restaurant and art space in the city, is celebrating the birth centenary of the great musician through a festival of films titled Ode to the Blues. “The list of films we have are very informative, but also feel like live concerts, given the large elements of music they have in them. It is a great entry point for people who listen to the blues but don’t know enough about it,” says Ekta Mittal, a member of Maraa.
Six international films are lined up for screening at the Page Turners book store on MG Road.The festival opened on 1 May with Martin Scorsese’s Feel Like Going Home, which traces the Delta blues, said to be one of the earliest styles of blues music. On Monday, it was the turn of Wim Wenders’ fictional film The Soul of a Man, the story of the lives of artistes Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson, and J.B. Lenoir. The Road to Memphis by Richard Pearce, which will be screened on Tuesday, traces the musical odyssey of blues legend B.B. King, paying tribute to the city that gave birth to a new style of blues. Marc Levin’s Godfathers and Sons will be screened on 4 May.
The festival concludes on 6 May with Clint Eastwood’s Piano Blues, with the director and piano player exploring his passion for piano blues by putting together interviews and performances by artistes such as Pinetop Perkins and Jay McShann.
While Bangalore does have a culture that leans towards jazz and the blues, there has rarely been a platform that discusses the city’s connect with the genre, says Mittal. This time, in addition to the film festival, there will be discussions on the blues, along with screenings of short films by lesser-known film-makers, at the premises of Jaaga, an artists and technology collective, between 4-6 May.
Entry to all events and screenings is free. For details, log on to http://www.counterculture.co.in/ode_to_the_blues.html