Month March 2019

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A night of the Blues – Mahindra Blues Festival

Mahindra Blues Festival
Melissa posing at the Mahindra Blues Festival

My introduction to Blues music started with Beth Hart at the 9th Mahindra Blues Festival. If you’re like me, you probably never heard of her before this. Even though the festival was easily accessible to me, at Mehboob Studios, Blues was never a genre I was interested in. I can only say that by divine intervention, I attended the second day of the 9th Mahindra Blues Festival.

I should have had a clue when a friend, stayed back in Mumbai from Pune, specially to see Beth Hart perform. While SugaRay Rayford was good (I had to google his name) I cannot forget Beth Hart. Her performance blew me away. I never thought Blues could be a genre that energized! When she performed it felt like gospel music to me.

Later friends expressed sadness at missing out on seeing Beth Hart singing. After viewing her live, I understand why. After doing a little research, I realized that I had heard blues rock royalty that day. For the uninitiated, Beth’s career spans 2 decades. She sings blues rock, jazz fusion and soul. She plays piano, guitar, bass guitar, cello and percussion. But beyond this as a performer she was outstanding. Her voice moved the room and increased the blood pumping through the veins.

She is the second woman I know this year, who struggles with Bi-polar disease. Both super creative beings, Beth says in one of her interviews ,”If you work hard at something, you’re going to find a way that you can live in this life, no matter what your handicaps are.” And it’s true once her music takes over you forget everything else. 

She shines. We went away amazed at the lady’s story telling abilities, voice and stage presence. In short total ‘Paisa Vasool’ (Worth the price of the ticket).

The line up for the festival

It is nice to  see platforms like these that are introducing a healthy dose of culture in our lives. Mahindra group is a known patron of the arts. While this would be a strategic move, let’s give them credit for expanding our universe. 

As an aside the show attracts a little older crowd, I saw old men with jackets and hats. Adding to the feeling that we were listening to classy music. The  show was well managed and zero waste! We experienced this when they handed out drinking water, in paper cups so as to avoid using plastic bottles. 

Next year is the Blues festivals, 10thanniversary and we look forward to what is in store!

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Kochi with a twist

“This is your time to travel, you may not get this much time again.” Encouraged by the husband to travel, I researched on where I could possibly go. As luck would have it, there was an art festival happening in a city, I always wanted to go back to.

Sunsets in Kochi

The Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018 is in its 4thyear. Having read about it over the years, I thought this would be a great time to visit. The trip was surprisingly easy to plan. I managed to convince a friend, she booked us cheap air tickets and I booked a cheap Bed& Breakfast. We were set. Sometimes taking the easy route is a good decision.

The first thing you will notice is the way the Biennale is spread out in Fort Kochi. It lets you soak in the culture of the place. The art has Dutch, Portuguese and Keralite venues as the backdrop, not to mention the sea following you throughout. Truly a beautiful setting!

As mentioned the choice of Fort Kochi to host this Biennale is spot on. Some of the reasons to attend:

Beautiful settings to take a break at, Dutch building -David Hall and fresh catch on display, at Fort Kochi!
  1. The place gets properly intertwined with the show and leaves you feeling as if you have got a proper taste of Kochi
  2. Kochi is one of the safest places I have travelled to in India. I would recommend it for women travelers  
  3. Kochi can be as affordable or expensive as you like and the quality of the south Indian fare will still be good. This is my experience after my second visit.

My travel partner asked me if I think the theme of the Biennale ’Possibilities of a Non Alienated Life’ went with the art that was on display. For me it did make sense. It opened my eyes to the conflict in different parts of the world. We may not be touched by it directly, but it is important to be aware. The art was engaging and composed of paintings, installations, movies and experiences.

I highlighted artists that were memorable to me. However I would not want to judge one over the other. I commend the Biennale for the number of topics dealt with from across the world and India, that made me a more knowledgeable world citizen. 

So, in no order of importance some of the artwork that stayed with me includes: 

Walid Raad- ‘I thought I escaped my fate but apparently’
Waalid Raad’s tongue-n-cheek work – ‘Comrade leader comrade leader

Artist Walid Raad– ‘Comrade leader comrade leader- you’d better be watching the clouds.

This artwork made me outright laugh.Quite aptly his political commentary is satirical. I loved the idea of middle eastern leaders appearing as flowers, which in reality has been used as a code for their names. And the piece ‘I thought I’d escape my fate but apparently’ are quotes taken directly from the media and represented in the artwork

Shilpa Gupta- ‘However For in your tongue, I Cannot Fit- 100 Jailed Poets

Shilpa Gupta’s – ‘However For in your tongue, I Can Not Fit- 100 Jailed Poets’.

This installation is beautiful beyond belief. It does not allow you to view it complacently, but you will get pulled into it. It features individuals incarcerated for their politics and poetry. You hear their voices all at once above the mikes. It makes one think about the freedoms we take for granted were what someone else sacrificed their life for. The stories make you feel grateful for being born in a democratic nation, where it is not the rule but rather the exception that the government will snuff out your voice.

Shirin Neshat’s -‘Turbulent’.

We didn’t sit through all the videos as there were many and we didn’t have enough time. However, this video touched me. The explanation said that in Iranian culture women are not allowed to sing to an audience. Then watching the woman singer, sing her unintelligible song to an empty audience, bought home the point of female oppression so clearly. (No picture available)

Henri Dono- ‘Smiling Angel from the sky’

Henri Dono- ‘Smiling Angel from the sky’ and the ‘Trojan Ships’

This artwork fascinated us with its light, movement and colour. This installation came alive because of a button on the door and yes, we kept pushing it. No wonder this form of Indonesian puppetry, is considered visual art.

While I love visiting new places, I also love getting deep into oft visited places especially if there is more to explore. So here’s a shout out to the universe to make it happen many more times with Kochi.There were also student & collateral pieces that were housed in different places off the main Biennale venues. We tried to take in as much as possible and I will be doing a pictorial representation of more of the artwork- so stay tuned.

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