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A 17-year-old American guitar prodigy joins international musicians at Mumbai's annual Blues festival

Quinn Sullivan, a 17-year-old American guitar prodigy, joins an international line-up of musicians, featuring Billy Gobbins, at the city’s annual Blues festival

Quinn Sullivan started his career touring with Buddy Guy and BB King and is currently one of the best Blues guitar players
Quinn Sullivan started his career touring with Buddy Guy and BB King and is currently one of the best Blues guitar players

“You damn right, I’ve got the blues, from my head down to my shoes,” says Buddy Guy, the Blues legend, whenever on stage with the guitar. The lines sum up what enthusiasts in the city can expect at the seventh edition of the Mahindra Blues Festival. The 80-year-old bent his strings thrice at the festival, held annually at Mehboob Studios in Bandra. The veteran won’t be a part of the music fest starting today, but his disciple Quinn Sullivan will take the legacy forward. He will be joined by well-known names like the Grainne Duffy Band and Supersonic Blues Machine.

Warren Mendonsa of Blackstratblues will represent the Indian contingent at the festival
Warren Mendonsa of Blackstratblues will represent the Indian contingent at the festival

Young gun on stage
The 17-year-old guitar prodigy has been sharing the stage with Buddy and BB King since he was eight. But Sullivan achieved stardom even earlier. He appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show at the age of six. An electric guitar hung round his neck, he belted out The Beatles’ Twist and Shout to perfection.

Grainne Duffy at one of her earlier performances
Grainne Duffy at one of her earlier performances

Sullivan’s third album, Midnight Highway, released last year and he will be using the platform to strum his originals for listeners in India. “I will be playing songs from my new record but there will be a few from Cyclone and Getting There (his first two albums) too,” says Sullivan, who will be playing at the festival for the second time. In the 2015 edition, he had Buddy for company. “Everyone will miss Buddy this time around. But I am happy to be back and headline with my band. In my last trip, I saw India from close quarters and learnt about the people and the music. It opened my eyes to so many things, culturally and personally,” he adds.

Sullivan is also keen to check out Indian bands during his stay. “I had no idea about Blues bands in India, not at all. The first time I heard there was a following for Blues music here was when we were notified about playing at the fest two years ago. I want to listen to the bands in India and meet more local people,” he says.

Blues for all
The definition of the genre has evolved over the years. While Howlin’ Wolf, a master of Chicago Blues, had said Blues is everything related to our daily lives (“If you don’t have money to pay your rent, you still have the Blues”); Duffy, who started her Blues and Soul career in 2007, calls it the grammar of all genres. Along with her band, she toured all major festivals (including Glastonbury); this will be her first in India. “No matter what music is popular, Blues is the foundation of everything. It is the raw power and sentiment that appeals to people. It makes them react. People are usually in a trance when Blues is played,” shares Duffy, who is inspired by Fleetwood Mac and Bob Dylan.

She believes that Blues is evolving with modern Rock and Pop acts as well. “I hear the genre often integrated in songs by today’s bands and acoustic singer-songwriters. It might be blended with different styles but it is growing. One such artiste who blends Blues with his style of country is Chris Stapleton. He performs in stadiums across the US,” she adds.

Duffy will be playing songs from her self-penned album, Out of the Dark. “The sound is similar to Blues, Soul, Rock and Root. They have a little Irish feel in places. Most of the set will incorporate these songs and some new ones that I recorded for my next album. I will also do covers of Dylan’s songs,” informs Duffy.

Among Indian artistes, Blackstatblues - the Blues Rock project of guitar player and music arranger Warren Mendonsa - will be a part of the festival, like they have been in the past.

On: Today to February 12, 6 pm onwards
At: Mehboob Studios, No 100, Hill Road, Bandra (W)
Call: 26421626
Cost: Rs 2,500

Full line-up
Supersonic Blues Machine (ft Billy Gibbons and Eric Gales)
Janiva Magness
Shemekia Copeland
Quinn Sullivan
Graine Duffy Band
Blackstratblues

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