CounterCulture has organised a festival to celebrate the big daddy of Blues, Robert Johnson

The blues have truth. Period. It is from this truth that Led Zeppelin created history, Deep Purple became a phenomenon, and even Usher and Rihanna made their multi platinum records. Celebrating the blues and the birthday of Robert Leroy Johnson, the father of the blues is “Ode To The Blues”, a blues festival that has been organised by CounterCulture in Whitefield.

“The response has been incredible, even with the rains and the terrible weather people have been coming in out of interest and an affinity for the blues. Also there has been a lot of buzz that was created around the event, we had movie screenings and several activities allowing the people to get accustomed to it and this is going to culminate with a concert that will feature some of the best blues bands in the country,” says Guru Somayaji, who has been handling programming for Ode To The Blues.

Robert Johnson, played like the devil tuned his guitar. While popular culture has propagated the myth that Johnson made a Faustian deal to be able to play the way he did, Ravi Khanolkar, a blues aficionado and a man who has had the opportunity to speak with the big names in the blues says, “I have done a lot of research on the subject and have spoken to several people who have confirmed that the deal Johnson is known to have made with the devil is 99.9 per cent a myth.”

Vinoo Matthew, member of Bangalore based, Ministry Of Blues began his association with the blues when he heard Taj Mahal for the first time, “The music made my hair stand up, and it was directly intended to convey emotion. This festival is a great idea and is going to do a lot to take the blues out to the masses, but then again one event is not going to change anything. But it is going to help in generating interest among the people.”

Credence Clearwater Revival, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin have all come out of the blues, and so have names like Alicia Keys and some of the other big R&B names. The blues belongs to a particular culture and time and each period has its own interpretation of the blues, which results in the different genres that we have today. “The blues have always been around, and there have been very few bands that have gotten hooked and have made a conscious decision to remain hooked. Robert Johnson has influenced several of the artists that I have been influenced by. Every big name from every era of music has been influenced by the blues,” explains Aum Janakiram of Chennai band, Blues Conscience.

A crash course on Robert Johnson is the 1986 movie “Crossroads”, a film that has been made to celebrate the man and his handiwork, or should we say fretwork. The 2008 film Cadillac Records is another film that introduces you to a few more names like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Chuck Berry. “These films are a fantastic way of getting introduced to the blues as they go straight to the heart of the matter. And what took me 20 years to master, you will receive in a nutshell,” explains Ravi.

The blues came out of the sadness and misery of slaves, but in an almost ironic way it applies to the sadness and frustration we might have in the modern day. The slaves found joy in singing about their pain and rebellion, “For the workers then, their songs and singing was a catharsis – a release. The blues is a mature form of music, and it is a process of discovery, where you start with the music of the day and you work your way back to find the source,” says Ravi Khanolkar.

The Ode To The Blues festival will close with the concert at CounterCulture, Dyavasandra Industrial, Whitfield on May 7. There will be a pick up and drop facility from Koshys at 3 p.m. For details contact 98441-46919.