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Women in Blues

For some intriguing reason, this year’s Mahindra Blues Festival (MBF) had several regular fans skip the event, apparently – and unfairly – because it had an all-women line-up. However, those missing the festivities on February 10 and 11, 2024 were losers of sorts as those present were treated to amazing performances by the truncated line-up at Mumbai’s Mehboob Studios as headline act and previous MBF participant, Beth Hart, cancelled her visit at the nth hour after she admitted, on social media, that “my health condition prevented me from boarding my flight…”

Tipriti Kharbhangar

While Sudeep Audio wishes Beth a speedy recovery from her “ongoing health concerns”, Meghalaya’s Tipriti Kharbangar, a former member of Soulmate and dressed in traditional clothing along with her band members, commenced the 2024 proceedings with an acoustic medley, before turning electric in more ways than one: both in performance and in sound. Much credit for that was Mizoram’s vocal live wire Chali, whose powerful voice was certainly a revelation that no one anticipated while performing Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign”, followed by Mumbai’s Kanchan Daniels singing “Highland Garden” that showed her ever increasing maturity as a performer and as a singer. The focus soon returned to Tipriti as she performed Soulmate’s “I’m A Woman’” with her distinctive voice. A fine commencement to the annual two-day proceedings.

As an award-winning blues, soul, funk, and R&B vocalist, songwriter, and saxophonist, Berklee College of Music dual degree alumnus Vanessa Collier arrived next and her years of being a session – and touring – musician, playing alongside diverse talents ranging from Annie Lennox to Willie Nelson, among others, held her in good stead both as a vocalist and as saxophonist as she performed a wide range

Vanessa Collier

of selections. Among prime examples were the riff-driven “When It Don’t Come Easy” and the sound duel between the instrumentation of Vanessa and her dazzling guitarist Laura Chavez on a rendition of “When Love Comes to Town”, a song originally performed by Irish rock band U2 featuring B.B. King. Some of Vanessa’s other songs performed were special to her as it focused on family members, including “What Makes You Beautiful” and “Two Part Sugar, One Part Lime”.

The Blues Band Hunt contest winner – judged by musicians Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa – this time around was Big Bang Blues, who received an opportunity of showcasing their talent in the Garden located within the Studios, playing now rock-blues standards “3 O’clock Blues” (composed by Lowell Fulson), “Hoochie Coochie Man” (Willie Dixon), and “Crossroads” (Robert Johnson), along with a bright reading of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love”. However, the stand out of their set had to be the original “Let Me Find Trouble”,  a down-and-out rockabilly track, based on a reality experience faced by guitarist Sushant Thakur. Partners in rhyme included vocalist Diyatom Deb, bassist Archit Agrawal, keyboardist Shivam Khare, and drummer Naman Dutta who, as a band, were indeed a revelation too!

Dana Fuchs

Following the indigenous talent was the second appearance at the MBF by singer, songwriter, and actor Dana Fuchs, who kickstarted her career by playing the role of Janis Joplin in an off-Broadway musical, ‘Love, Janis’. Her innate charisma and the raw power of her voice were best heard on her originals that included the very Rolling Stones influenced “Hard Road” to her seated performance of a swamp rock composition, “Blue Mist Road”. Dana’s impressive sounds of blues-rock were supported by a tight band!



Samantha Fish

Day two commenced with the sounds of drummer-turned-versatile roots rock guitarist Samantha Fish who provided a whiff of blues, but a larger aroma of eclectic sounds that ranged from country (“Bitch On The Run”), borrowing the bassline of “Fever” to create her very own composition named “Chills And Fever”, the glam-rock sounding “Better Be Lonely”, to a blues-turned-rock rendition of ‘Screaming Jay’

Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You”, invoked into the setlist for its magical sound. Add the genres of R&B, rock & roll, and funk to the repertoire, combined with the legally blonde’s passionate vocal stylings, and you had an impressive musician who was clothed in a leather outfit reminiscent of Joan Jett.

After an appearance by Kanakia Beatz Crew and the Nanhi Kali Choir, Sheryl Youngblood announced her arrival by striding through the audience before walking on stage with her shiny mustard-orange track clothing. Her sounds were definitely tilted towards funk rather than the blues, also performing a medley consisting of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” combined with Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay”. Through her own compositions, such as “I’m Okay” and “Juke Joint Woman”, Sheryl showed that her talent went beyond being merely a singer as she displayed her flair for percussion by utilizing drum sticks on a mic stand and, eventually, playing the drums too!

Impressive indeed but, after a while, her repertoire appeared too stereotyped that soon rendered Sheryl’s set from savvy to stale, before the inevitable all-star jam ended 2024’s Mahindra Blues Festival that still continues providing colourful sounds to listeners.

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