One of the most anticipated music events, the Mahindra Blues Festival, which will be held in Mumbai on February 10 and 11, is in its 12th edition. This year, it will present an all-women lineup for the first time. According to the organisers, the edition “breaks traditional rules, highlighting the important but sometimes overlooked roles of women in the world of blues.”
The blues originated in the 1860s amidst the Afro-American communities and included elements from ballads, spirituals and chants as a platform to create a narrative on discrimination and other ills they faced. Prominent women artistes of the early 1900s such as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Etta James, Billie Holiday and others have been a tremendous influence on the genre.
Jay Shah, VP, cultural Outreach for the Mahindra Group, says, the organisers have attempted “to curate a festival that is inclusive in all its textures”. The festival’s stages, including the Polka Dot Parlour and the Soul Strat Saloon, will pay homage to legends and honour the contributions of Indian blues-rock stalwarts. The Garden Stage will see performances of those shortlisted by the Mahindra Blues Band Hunt.
“Right from the inception of this festival, we have paid close attention to gender, age, nationality and even the type of blues, showcased every year. Within this category of music are different sub-genres, such as party blues, Chicago blues and New Orleans blues, amongst others,” says Jay.
Last year, the festival catered to a 4,000-strong audience. “With every edition, we have tried to bring to the audience different facets of the different types of blues. Gender has always been an aspect we were careful about and we ensured there was always a good balance of men and women artistes over the years as well as from those from varying races, genres and geographic locations,” he adds.
However, this year we decided to break our own rules and tip the scales in favour of women, says Jay, adding that Mahindra has always stood for an equal world that supports woman power and was conscientious about “walking the talk”.
“Yet, the selection of artistes had to be based on merit as well; we didn’t want to select artistes just because of their gender. They first had to meet the criteria of excellence. We have been working on an all-woman lineup for a while now, but it all fell into place this year,” he says.
The festival will see homegrown talents, such as Tipriti Kharbangar from Shillong and Mumbai’s Kanchan Daniel, sharing the stage with American artistes Vanessa Collier, Sheryl Youngblood, Beth Hart, Dana Fuchs and Samantha Fish. While Tipriti’s music reflects the rich musical heritage of her hometown, Kanchan’s powerful vocal range has often mesmerised her audience.
Tipriti is also a guitarist and co-founder of Soulmate, a blues rock band in Shillong, along with Rudy Wallang. In 2009, Tipriti won the Best Female Vocalist in the Jack Daniels Rock Awards, while Rudy won the Best Guitar Player. In Mumbai, Kanchan has her own blues-rock band, called Kanchan Daniels and the Beards. Formed in 2012, the band has gained reputation for their renditions of R&B, funk and psychedelic rock over the years, apart from their signature blues.
”This year’s all-female lineup is not just a celebration of the genre but a bold statement in the ongoing story of the blues. The iconic lineup not only amplifies the voices of talented women but, by doing so, brings a different facet of the blues, thereby keeping the enduring spirit of the genre alive and thriving,” says Jay.
The Mahindra Blues Festival will be held at Mehboob Studios in Bandra on February 10 and 11, 2024. Tickets starting from ₹3,999 are available on BookMyShow.
Helming her own blues band, Sheryl Youngblood belongs in the Chicago Blues Hall Of Fame and is a Gospel Grammy award winner. Apart from being a singer-songwriter, she also plays the drums and is an audio-video technician.
Vanessa Collier, who also plays the saxophone, has been nominated for seven Blues Music Awards and went on to win in the Instrumental Horn category in 2019, and again in 2020.
Beth Hart has been nominated for the Blues Music Awards for six consecutive years, is also a Grammy nominee. She won the Blue Award in Instrumentalist Vocals category in 2018. Her most recent album A Tribute to Led Zeppelin was released in 2022, and is a collection of Led Zeppelin covers.
Singer-songwriter Dana Fuchs known for her raspy, bluesy voice, has often been compared to Janis Joplin. Heavily influenced by Etta James and Esther Philips during her initial years, her album Borrowed Time was released in 2022.
Samantha Fish is a guitarist as well as singer-songwriter and has seven solo albums to her credit. The artiste was featured in the documentary short Love Letters: Samantha Fish Live From New Orleans which aired in 2022 and 2023.