Feeling the Blues

BB King, one of the legendary musicians of the Blues passed away yesterday. Why was he so popular? When his voice carressed and moaned on the microphone, you alternatively rejoiced and cried – the highs and the lows made you feel like you were swinging on a pendulum. The lyrics of the song were not just mere words but much more than that. BB King took you on a journey where you lost track of time and who you were. You felt bogged down by the problems of the world and felt the loss of a loved one. Here’s a BBC documentary that gives you a glimpse of the man behind the music and what the music meant to him. The recording scenario in the video also gives an idea how much technology has changed over the years.

My husband introduced me to the Blues on a rainy night soon after our marriage. The album playing on the stereo of our living room was the Healer and the musicians were John Lee Hooker, Carlos Santana and Bonnie Raith. What struck me when I listened to the album was that the music was a tad melancholic. Then the strings of the guitar played havoc with my senses.  It felt as if the instruments had a life of their own and that’s before the voices got to me. We speak of bhava in Indian music – listening to Blues is all about bhava. One needs to shut the world out and savour the music. It seeps through your pores and before you know it, you’re hooked. Here’s the album that won a Grammy.

Blues is a musical genre that was popularized by the African American community. It originated in the southern states of the US during the 19th century. The songs speak of love, loss, longing and the umpteen problems (economic, political and personal) faced by the community at large. The sense of pathos is evident by the singing and how the instruments seem to weep from the guitar to the saxophone, drums and trumpet. As I write this piece, I am listeinng to BB King’s Why I sing the Blues. I feel the singer’s angst with the world around him. What do you feel?


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About Chitra Srikrishna 50 Articles
Chitra Srikrishna is a Carnatic vocalist and writer living in Bengaluru & Columbus. Chitra blogs for Sruti, runs the podcast Raga Ruminations and produces RaagTime, a radio show on Indian music. Her albums include devotional poetry of Tamil Alwars & Dasa kritis, & thematic compositions on Rama and Hanuman. She's the musical half of a multimedia performance duo HumRaag. Her program BHAKTHI explores the journey of the mystics of India. Her latest Antah Prerna -A Musical Telling of an Entrepreneur's Journey debuted at Bangalore International Centre in 2018.