The queen of blues

The queen of blues
December 21, 2009
Allan Moses R.
The Hindu

Often described as a forerunner in promoting blues across the world, British born international blues legend Dana Gillespie performed in the city at the Airtel Bengaluru Habba recently. Dana tours world over promoting the famous blues that she has mastered over years of singing and training. “I initially started singing solo playing a guitar because I couldn't afford a band. Later I found my niche in blues and though I love pop and folk, blues comes closest to my heart. It demands an experience and voice that I have grown to fill in.”

Deeply inspired by American bluesman Chester Arthur Burnett (Howling Wolf) and Bloody Water, Dana proudly claims blues to be the mother of all western music. Singing for 45 years, she has over 60 albums under her belt from when she recorded her first album at the tender age of 15.

A regular to the subcontinent and an annual visitor to Bangalore, Dana affirms that she feels at home in India. “I've been coming here since the 70's and got loads of friends who are like a second family to me.”

“Indian and Arabic music have fascinated me for long. I've played with a range of artistes and have seen a lot of experimentation of Indian instruments and musical styles. I find the cultural bonding to be inventive and deeply spiritual.” Dana even recorded three albums in Sanskrit under the pseudonym Third Man.

An actress from the late 60's, Dana has had an adventurous career on the silver screen starring in films and theatre productions such as “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, “The People That Time Forgot”, “The Lost Continent” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” among others. “Those were memorable days but given a choice I would put music over films. Through films I learnt about cameras and exotic locations.”

Dana also aired a radio show for over 11 years titled “Globe-trotting with Dana” which she claims was the only radio show across Europe to broadcast an array of musical genres.

Her dream project is of course her London Blues Band. With guitarist Jake Zaitz, pianist Julien Brunetaud, bass guitarist Jeff Walker, saxophone and harmonica player Mike Paice and drummer Simon Boyer, the London Blues Band is a rich mix of artistes from different regions rendering internationally acclaimed pure jazz and blues music.

Dana pioneers a blues festival at the Caribbean island of Mustique since 1995. “It was an idea. Maybe a mad one but it has become a success. For two weeks every January, blues musicians from across the world play at my dear friend Basil Charles' bar. CDs sold there will raise funds for the scholarship of poor children in the neighbouring island of Saint Vincent.”

As a message to blues artistes in India, she stresses on the need to be passionate. “Blues is about simplicity. Most blues performers play great music but never like the real blues musician. One needs to walk the walk and live the life and do it from the heart. That will truly reward you.”
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