The Whole World Gets the Blues

The Whole World Gets the Blues
October 14, 2010
Katrin Figge

Legendary Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards once said, “If you don’t know the blues, there’s no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock ’n’ roll or any other form of popular music.”

Blues, the music genre that developed at the end of the 19th century in African-American communities in the southern states of America, still enjoys a loyal following among music lovers today.

And even though it may not be as commercially successful as other music genres like rock and pop, its fans are loyal, understanding that, without blues, most other forms of popular music wouldn’t even exist.

The Jakarta Blues Festival 2010, organized by the Indonesian Blues Association (InaBlues) for the third year, is set to expand the blues fan base throughout the archipelago by bringing together more than 40 international and local artists who will take the stage on Friday and Saturday in Senayan, South Jakarta.

During a press conference on Wednesday afternoon at the Sultan Hotel, the organizers said they were optimistic the event would become even bigger in coming years.

“Compared to 2008 when we held the event for the first time, there have been a lot of changes,” said Frans S Sutino, the festival’s chairman.

“We only had one stage, and the festival took place on one day only. Last year, we had four stages. This year we still have four stages, but we’ve also extended the festival to two days.”

Another change this year, he added, is that the festival will not only take place in Jakarta, but most of the artists will also travel on to Bali to appear at the Bali Blues Festival on Tuesday.

“Prior to the festival, we held a blues band competition in four different cities — Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta and Surabaya,” Frans said.

“We were looking for young local blues talents, and the best ones, the winners of the competition, will also perform during the festival.”

Oding Nasution, one of the founders of InaBlues and a musician himself, said it was important to give young artists the chance to get their names out there.

“Most of the blues musicians in Indonesia are already old, like me,” he said, with a laugh, adding it was about time to give a new generation the chance to shine.

Organizers also pointed out that this festival was a good opportunity to compare the local talents with well-known musicians from abroad, to get a feeling where Indonesian blues musicians stand on an international level — and maybe see if local musicians might someday have an opportunity to be invited to festivals outside the country.

The lineup for this year’s festival includes Matt Schofield from Britain, Kevin Borich and Kara Grainger from Australia, and Gary Clark Jr. from the United States, as well as a number of Indonesian artists, such as Gugun Blues Shelter, The Trees & The Wild, The S.I.G.I.T., Oding Nasution, Endah ‘N Rhesa and Abdee Slank.

“I am part of this festival for the third time in a row now,” said Abdee, guitarist for the Indonesian rock band Slank. He is billed as Abdee Slank when he plays solo shows.

“In the first year, there were only a few people who came to watch the festival, and honestly, I was a little pessimistic [about the future of the festival].

"But then, the second year, the number of people increased a lot, and I was especially happy to see so many young people and teenagers in the audience.”

He said he hoped that in the long run the Jakarta Blues Festival would become as popular and well-attended as any rock or pop music festivals.

Ana Popovic, a blues guitarist and vocalist from Yugoslavia, said that even though there had always been very talented and good blues musicians in her country, the audience at blues shows had always been rather small.

“I started my own band when I was 18, and we were just a couple of kids playing blues music to other kids,” she said.

And even though blues music might not be as popular as other genres, Popovic has certainly made a name for herself.

She recently released her album “Blind For Love,” and even had the honor of sharing the stage with blues legend B.B. King.

For Rudy Wallang, a guitarist-vocalist for blues duo Soulmate from India, the festival will mark the first time he has performed in Indonesia.

“I am very honored to be here,” he said. “People always expect musicians from India to come with a sitar. All I can say is, when I was young, I used to listen to Tom Jones, Ella Fitzgerald and The Beatles. And somehow I ended up loving blues.”

The artists participating in this festival all have one thing in common: they agree that music, especially the universal feelings of loss, longing, joy and pain associated with the blues, is a universal language, capable of bringing together people from all over the world through a love for this music.

Maybe Kim Mok Kyung, a blues singer and guitarist from South Korea, summed it up best when he said: “I actually don’t think you can explain blues with words. It’s a matter of what you feel.”
Comments: 0