News / Arts & Entertainment

Memphis Blues Competition Draws Performers from Around the World

Memphis Blues Competition Draws Performers from Around the Worldi
X
January 30, 2014 3:44 AM
In spite of a cold spell, things got pretty hot on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee in late January. That's when the 30th annual International Blues Challenge brought together musicians and singers from all over North America as well as Europe, Latin America and Asia to compete for prizes. But, as VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Memphis, just being there was a prize for many participants.

Memphis Blues Competition Draws Performers from Around the World

Greg Flakus
— In spite of a cold spell, things got pretty hot on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee in late January. That's when the 30th annual International Blues Challenge brought together musicians and singers from all over North America as well as Europe, Latin America and Asia to compete for prizes. Win or lose, just being there was a prize for many participants.
 
Brad Absher and Swamp Royale from Houston, Texas performed a song that celebrates Memphis, the self-styled "home of the blues."
 
Absher, who also competed last year, said meeting other blues players is a big part of the experience.
 
"I have met some great players, obviously great musicians, and great record producers and 'uber' fans (big fans).  If you come here and you are not a musician, you are a huge music fan," said Absher.
 
Artists from 40 U.S. states and 16 foreign countries came to the contest on Beale Street, where the Blues has been played for more than a century.
 
Deputy director of the Blues Foundation, Joe Whitmer, said many musicians feel just performing here is a rewarding experience.
 
"Sure, they come and compete; sure, they could walk away with prizes, but having the opportunity to play at least two nights on world famous, historic Beale Street means the world to them," explained Whitmer.
 
One group that travelled a long distance for the event was the Brat Pack, from the Philippines.
 
Vocalist Cristina Mercado was anxious to meet other blues artists.
 
"I hope to get to mingle around with the hardcore blues bands here and I think, really – ‘Wow, what an experience,’" said Mercado.
 
Victor Puertas is part of the Suitcase Brothers duo, from Spain.
 
“You are here right in the place where truly the Blues was born; it is spectacular,” said Puertas.
 
The Blues was first played by African-Americans in places like the Mississippi River Delta south of Memphis. That heritage inspired this year's winner in the band division: Vicksburg, Mississippi's Mr. Sipp and vocalist Castro Coleman.
 
"We are trying to preserve this traditional blues music, our heritage music, and the more countries and states that it spreads in reassures me, as a Mississippi kid, that the Blues will stay alive," said Coleman.
 
Keeping the blues alive is also the goal of the annual Youth Showcase, featuring teenage players from around the country.
 
Eric Hoovestol, who sings with The White Lightnins from Houston, is a fan of his city's most famous bluesman, the late Lightnin' Hopkins.
 
“Houston blues has a lot of history and Lightnin' Hopkins was definitely one of the forerunners and I wanted to respect that so we named the band The White Lightnins to honor Lightnin' Hopkins,” said Hoovestol.
 
As a fitting end to an event celebrating a musical genre based largely on improvisation, the International Blues Challenge came to a close with a large jam session.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

New Orleans-based Water Seed joins Shawna Renee inside the "Soul Lounge" where they introduce listeners to their latest album, a wonderful fusion of jazz, soul and rhythm & blues. The group also explains how the heart of New Orleans influences each of them as musicians and songwriters.