Photos: Mahindra Blues Festival 2016
The sixth edition of the Mumbai festival brought down some fine artists but it felt short of meeting the expections of die-hard blues lovers
The folks that attended Joss Stone’s headlining set on day two of Mahindra Blues Festival 2016 were definitely a bunch that were habitually clued in on the latest on the global blues circuit. Minutes before the 28-year-old English singer-songwriter took stage, when the screen flashed a Twitter contest asking the name of her 2003 platinum album, at least two of the three silver-haired sexagenarians around this author whispered to their wives – “Soul Sessions, yes yes Soul Sessions definitely“. But this knowlegeability doesn’t always mean approval. Three songs into her set that displayed her remarkable soul/R&B leanings, a few of the fans waded their way through the crowd toward the exit. “It’s very pop-ish ya,” justified one gentleman to his buddy as decided to head to the bar. However, the all-star jam that followed Stone’s set managed to pull the crowd back in, as it sated the audience’s appetite with a generous dose of loopy wails and guitar weeps.
In fact, big loopy wails and incessant guitar weeps is what most old-timers come looking for at Mahindra Blues Festival every year. Day one of the festival had loads of it at the sets by New York-based Heritage Blues Orchestra and the Indian staple Soulmate [who treated fans to some new compositions too]. The evening’s headlining act was the three-time Grammy Award winner Keb Mo. Now Mo isn’t your stereotypically charismatic showman-bluesman but he knows how to gently woo the crowd, which he did. At the Garden, Bhopal’s Lal & The People kept whipping up sing-alongs and angsty riffs for the dense crowd. [The band called Mumbai singer Kanchan Daniel to guest on a couple of songs the following day, whose arresting vocals held the crowd captive].
Things were a little dicey on day two — not music wise but when it came to feeding people’s expectation for some good old blues. Malina Moye was every bit the guitar goddess with her mix of blues rock and funk and Stone’s top spot on the lineup indicated a inclination on the part of MBF organisers to expand the usual ambit of sounds one hears at the fest, but we aren’t quite sure if the regulars dug this shift. This is not to say that in the previous five editions, the festival did not encourage modern blues; in the past, the festival has hosted acts like Robert Randoph and the Family Band [funk/soul], Dana Fuchs [blues rock, rock & roll] and Poppa Chubby [blues rock], but maybe it was the combination of the artists and the overall musical mood that one experienced at this edition that didn’t quite scream stellar.
Photos: Suraj Nongmaithem