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The blues is a genre that the uninitiated often inaccurately associate with old, even dull, music. The idea is that blues lyrics more often than not arise out of misfortune and adversity, and will consequently be largely upsetting or depressing. But that couldn't be further from the truth. The lyrics may often talk about losing something, but contrary to wallowing in self-pity, they instead talk about overcoming the adversity.
"When I first said blues, people thought it equates to old music. Then I said even John Mayer sings the blues and they were interested," says Owen Roncon, co-founder of Oranjuice, a company that promotes and produces music-based events. Two years ago, in 2011, after having toyed with the idea of having a blues event for a while, they finally began one in collaboration with Mahindra — the Mahindra Blues Festival in Mumbai. Now, in just two editions, the festival has established itself as one of the biggest of its kind in Asia, and its third edition will be held this weekend at Mehboob Studios, Bandra.
The first two editions of the festival were headlined by blues legend Buddy Guy. Other performers have included The Matt Schofield Trio, John Lee Hooker Jr and Robert Randolph, with the latter returning for another performance this year with his band, Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Accompanying him will be Michael Messer and the Second Mind Band, Walter Trout and The Radicals, The Dana Fuchs Band, Soulmate — who have played at the two previous editions of the festival — and Delhi-based Big Bang Blues.
Despite this being acknowledged as one of the more important blues festivals in India, the genre is still to find a steady following in the country. "It was a daunting task from the beginning to have a blues festival in the country," says Roncon, adding, "Indie music itself has a niche audience, so blues has a very niche audience." But the festival has, he believes, contributed towards introducing more people to the genre and encouraging more musicians to play the genre.