| 22 Mar 2023
CounterCulture to kick off fifth edition of An Ode to The Blues on 9 May

MUMBAI: CounterCutlure will celebrate the fifth anniversary of its music intellectual property (IP) An Ode to The Blues', come Saturday, 9 May. The multiple format festival will involve live music performances, spontaneous busking, film screenings, LP listening sessions, discourses and workshops. This year’s An Ode to The Blues line-up includes UK blues artists Rick Payne and Steve Treble along with Madou Sidika Diabate from Mali and Indian blues acts such as Soulmate and White Mug, amongst others. spoke to CounterCulture’s Programme Director Guru Somayaji on his take on this year’s blues tribute festival.


Tell us about this year's An Ode to The Blues

When we started ‘An Ode to The Blues' in 2011, it was just meant to be a little show in tribute of legendary blues singer Robert Johnson’s 100th birthday. But, now, five years later, it has become a festival to watch out for annually. We never anticipated the level of love people in this city have for the blues. This year’s An Ode To The Blues introduces artistes from UK and Mali. We are very excited about that, and while doing some calculations, we realised that we have done more than 120 gigs as a part of ‘An Ode To The Blues’ in the span of five years, which is a staggering number.

Is it going to be different from the past four years? If so, how different would it be?

We have more artistes and this year, we have organised it in such a way that it encourages viewers to come early to catch all the action. This time, we will be creating an interesting lighting design on one of the stages! In addition to that, Peter Isaac from The Chronic Blues Circus has let us showcase his collection of vintage amplifiers. Not only do you get see some fantastic acts, you get to hear them play on some amazing gear.

How much time does it take to prepare a multiple format festival like An Ode to The Blues?

We start putting this festival together in January. Creating the schedule for An Ode To The Blues is challenging as we work most of the year. Identifying international artistes takes time, and this is mostly done through networking with friends, agencies and cultural institutes around the world. Also, a large part of this festival is possible through the support of the people at Kingfisher who help us with sorting out the other venues in the city. Without their support, ‘Blues Around Town’, our festival within a festival that we do can be difficult.

Could you tell us how and why you got associated with Momoe for ticketing this year?

An Ode To The Blues, as a festival, has evolved progressively and Momoe is a payment gateway for restaurants and as a start-up is a progressive thinking company. They have wanted to include events in their portfolio for a while. Like they say great minds think alike, and this association seemed perfect.

What are the different ways in which you are marketing the festival?

Busking (street performance) is one of the biggest ways we market the festival. Anybody on the street however busy they are, stop by, even if for a minute to absorb the music. Through busking, we have the opportunity of meeting some amazing people, who have remained friends of the festival and us. Of course, one knows the strength of digital marketing. This year, we have also used the traditional means of Radio and Outdoor Hoardings.

In your opinion, over the years, has ‘An Ode to The Blues' brought out more blues fans?

When we set out to do this festival, we never knew that fans across all ages like this genre of music. It is groovy, has some amazing musicianship and great lyrics. At the end of it, whatever music you listen to today, some of it has roots in the blues. If blues fans had not grown, we would not be doing this festival.

Have you seen or expect to see a change in consumption of blues music in India?

After having done it for five years, we are hearing of Blues musicians from as far as Gujarat, Kerala and more. Seldom would have thought that at every corner in India there is someone slowly chugging away at the 8 and 12 bar Blues!

Is CounterCulture working on any new live music properties?

At CounterCulture, apart from being a live music venue, we are a bunch of people that think of fresh ideas all the time. Without this thought, we would not have had other properties like Indie March, Time Capsule, Metal Factory and our newest baby – Madras Express. We are working on a few, which you will find out more about in some time.