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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

Hamilton Live: Dustbowl Revivali
|| 0:00:00
...  
🔇
X
September 02, 2015 12:19 PM
Dustbowl Revival is an American roots orchestra with eight full-time members who performed live at "The Hamilton" songs from their new CD, "With A Lampshade On."

Dustbowl Revival is an American roots orchestra with eight full-time members who performed live at "The Hamilton" songs from their new CD, "With A Lampshade On."