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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Matthew Wade sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his new CD, “Diamond from Coal,” his fourth album with his band, My Silent Bravery.