Lounge Preview | The Mahindra Blues Festival, Mumbai

This year’s hottest draws are the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Jimmie Vaughan and Shillong band Soulmate


Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi
Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi

Stomping the blues

This year’s edition of The Mahindra Blues Festival (MBF) has all the right notes for a blues fan—the new sensation, Grammy Award-winner Tedeschi Trucks Band, and the four-time Grammy-winner and blues-rock guitarist Jimmie Vaughan will perform in India for the first time. Shillong band Soulmate will launch their third album, and perform along with folk musicians from the North-East.

The venue remains the same: Bandra’s Mehboob Studio. Slide guitarist Derek Trucks and vocalist-guitarist Susan Tedeschi will be performing with their 10-member band and special guest Doyle Bramhall II on 15 February, and the husband-wife duo will also share musical skills at a free workshop hosted by Brian Tellis on 16 February at The True School of Music, Mumbai. Trucks, voted No.16 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 100 greatest guitarists of all time, is one of the youngest recipients of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jimmie Vaughan
For V.G. Jairam, partner at Oranjuice Entertainment, which is organizing the festival, this year’s hottest draws are Chicago blues band Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials and soul blues musician Zac Harmon—both debut performances in India. Calling Harmon “the younger version of Buddy Guy, a seriously high-energy performer”, Jairam says that Lil’ Ed & The Imperial Blues “is a phenomenal act, people are just going to be dancing on their feet when Lil’ Ed is on stage”.

As with Soulmate, this year’s MBF will see the return of Mumbai’s impressive blues-rock project Blackstratblues, led by guitarist Warren Mendonsa with Beven Fonseca on the keyboards and Adi Mistry on bass. “The reality is that there are not too many blues bands in India,” Jairam says, adding that the sold-out student tickets to the MBF each year suggest that younger audiences are being drawn to the blues.

The festival began in 2011 as a way for automobile manufacturing company Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd to connect culturally with the US consumer base for their tractors. “The blues were born in the Mississippi delta, which also happens to be a primary market for us,” says Jay Shah, head of cultural outreach at Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. “We try and curate a festival that is well-balanced on the basis of gender, different styles of blues, and ethnicity.” This year’s sales are already picking up, Shah says.

The finale jam sessions on both days of the weekend festival hold promise for the audience as well as the musicians. “Besides being blues musicians, we are big fans of the blues,” Soulmate’s guitarist Rudy Wallang says. “Where would we ever get a chance to see them all live at once, let alone share the stage with them—Jimmie Vaughan, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks...dreams do come true!”

The Mahindra Blues Festival, 15-16 February, at Mehboob Studios, Bandra (West), Mumbai. Tickets, Rs.800 per day for students, Rs.2,000, Rs.3,000 and Rs.11,000 for a weekend premium lounge (including seating and unlimited alcohol). Tickets are available on in.bookmyshow.com, at Rhythm House, Kala Ghoda, and select Barista outlets. For details, visit www.mahindrablues.com.

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