Here is the letter Kyla Brox, winner of EBC 2019 in Ponta Delgada, has forwarded to the EBU with some of her impressions after the Challenge:
Our Experience at the 9th EBC
I’m so proud to have represented the UK Blues Federation at the 9th European Blues Challenge and thrilled that we won! The response from the crowd, the judges and our fellow musicians was amazing and it feels great to receive this huge accolade. I can’t stop smiling!
The event itself was truly brilliant. It went so smoothly; everything seemed to run exactly to time and exactly as planned, at least from my point of view. Congratulations must go to the European Blues Union and the Santa Maria Blues Festival Association for doing such a great job of organising it all. Held in Ponta Delgada, The Azores, we couldn’t have wished for a more beautiful setting: an amazing venue on a gorgeous island. I loved every minute.
The occasion and the dramatic venue demanded that we came on stage at the top of our game. The full weight of support and the pressure of expectation definitely spurred me on. Not only did we need to deliver our best performance, we had to make sure that we weren’t over or under time. As we got to the end of our last song, “Honestly Blues”, we still had over a minute left on the clock and I decided I wasn’t going to stop! I hoped the band would follow me and just carried on singing. It was that moment of improvisation, flying blind, when I really felt like we were playing out of our skin, purely in the music and the crowd could feel it, too. I dedicated the whole performance to Blues broadcasting legend, Dave Raven, who we lost to cancer so recently, and I’m pretty sure he was shining a light on me through the whole thing.
We are already reaping rewards from our win in the Azores; many new opportunities to play in countries we haven’t visited before, more DJs playing our music, some great press coverage. Taking part in the UK, European and International Blues Challenges has been an emotional rollercoaster, but it has definitely been a good thing for my career. Many thanks to the UK Blues Federation, the European Blues Union and The Blues Foundation for their dedication to the Challenges and the Blues. I’m so happy!
For all of us, EBU board members, it has been an honour and a pleasure to know and work together with Dave Raven, who passed away last Friday. We will always remember his positive attitude and the enthousiasm he put in all the projects we did together. Thanks Dave for the good moments you have always given and shared with us.
A book of condolences, thanks to the UK Blues Federation, where people can post messages, memories etc, can be accessed at http://bit.ly/2HGTEmH
Finally the 9th European Blues Challenge is approaching! And nex April we will be in The Azores, more precisely in Ponta Delgada, San Miguel. Thanks to the joint organization between Associação dos Escravos da Cadeinha and Trovas Soltas, next April the Blues from Europe will move in the middle of the Ocean!
Associação Escravos da Cadeínha was founded in 2002 to promote and encourage sporting and cultural initiatives. It also promotes the main Blues festival in Portugal, Santa Maria Blues, that during the years presented artists such as like Chris Jagger, Diunna Greenleaf, Albie Donnelly’s Super Charge, Ana Popovic, Popa Chubby, Mr. Sipp, Eric Gales.
The festival is produced by Trovas Soltas established in January 2007 at Porto, a company that organizes several other festivals, such as Gaia Blues, Seia Jazz & Blues, Évora Jazz & Blues, Lisbon Blues Fest, Festival Vilar de Mouros 2014 as well as several summer concerts.
The main EBC event will be held on April 5 and 6, 2019 at Coliseum Micaelense.
Eliza Sicińska sent us this report from the workshops in Little Steven’s Blues School, Notodden 2018
Pola Chobot, Adam Baran, Łukasz Pietrzak and I won the scholarship for young musicians, funded by European Blues Union, allowing us to go to Norway for one-week music workshops in the Little Steven’s Blues School, organized beside the Notodden Blues Festival. These workshops are intended for advanced musicians and they concern a work in the record studio as well as coopration in the band. We came to Notodden on 28th July. 29th was the first day of workshops. Classes started at 9:45 every day and took place in Bok & Blueshuset building. There is also the famous Juke Joint Studio with old, legendary studio equipment with the studio console, on which stars like Elvis Presley recorded in Memphis! Our teachers were Norwegian musicians, connected to the Notodden Blues Festival.
On the first day students were divided into groups to form the bands. Polish group stayed together and we also had Norvegian collegues in our band – Karl and Øyvind.
Every day we had one or two lectures on blues music, songwriting, working in the recording studio or masterclasses with amazing musicians who shared their experience with us. In the meantime, we spend a lot of time in rehearsal rooms with our bands. Our first task was to arrange one of the blues standards with our band. We chose Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile. We also were asked to write our own song altogether as a band and perform it the next day before teachers and the rest of the students. We had the greatest fun writing it and we think it was a big hit!
Our version of the Voodoo Chilewas picked among others by Little Steven himself to produce it in the Juke Joint Studio! It was an honor and amazing experience to us.
We also got another appreciation from the teachers. They asked us if we want to open the Notodden Blues Festival with our song! It was a big distinction for us, but unfortunately Pola and Adam had to go back to Poland before the festival started. Well, maybe next time. 🙂
On the fourth evening of workshops in pub Teledølen we all performed what we practiced during our time in Notodden. It was a wonderful concert, every group played really good and every one was different. The original songs were very creative. And everybody cheered for their friends from other bands and were saying nice and warm words about their performances. The atmosphere was friendly and cordial the whole week! The last day of workshops was the first day of the festival at the same time. We had a free access to concerts and we’ve seen an incredible one of Ry Cooder. After midnight concerts had place on the stage in Teledølen and me and Łukasz played a song with local band. After that we went to the airport and came back home… Although we felt like we could stay there forever.
A great thank you to European Blues Union for the amazing opportunity we got from you! This would never be possible for us without the scholarship and I hope more and more young musicians will find out about it and profit from it to the fullest, like we did!
Matt Henderson sent us this report from the Pinetop Perkins Foundation Worskhops in Clarksdale 2018
I was and still am really grateful to you and the EBU for helping to fund the trip. The Pinetop Perkins workshop was unreal, to be surrounded by that much talent, and I feel like it was a pivotal moment for me in my learning of music.
From the moment we parked up at the Hopson Plantation to the final show at Ground Zero, I spent my time absorbing everything. The feeling of being in the Delta, surrounded by cotton fields and some of the best blues musicians around, was something I’ll never forget. The daily workshops with Phil Wiggins were awesome, he’s such a great man and a phenomenal player. His style of teaching worked really well for me, as he’ll get you to figure out most things by yourself when you listen to him; I’m at a stage now where I can generally pick up things by hearing them a couple times, so I really appreciated that he didn’t spend much time laying things out blow by blow, as it were. Phil showed me several tunes like Boodle-Am Shake, CC Rider, and Blackbird that broke me right out of my comfort zone, and the techniques he shared about holding the harp and using your throat for vibrato are things I’ll be working on for years to come. Bob Margolin dropped by a few times to see how we were doing, and having him play guitar to back us up was a privilege.
The nightly jams were like nothing I’d ever done. I’ve played with bands before, and done my share of live shows, but having a stage full of outstanding blues musicians made it feel so natural to get up and lead the band, or just sit back and do my bit as a sideman. I’d go so far as to say that if being able to jam with dozens of great blues musicians didn’t make me a better player in itself, I came away from that feeling so much more confident about my own abilities (which in turn made me play better).
The showcase at the Ground Zero Club in Clarksdale was one of those perfect nights, when everyone is in the groove and feeling loose and just ready to play. Every single band, jam, or improvised set came off brilliantly (thanks in no small part to Jesse Black and Joe Tellmann organising everything). After my main set, as the frontman for the Ground Stompin’ Mardi Gras Goers, I was invited back up to play with Anthony Geraci, Bob Margolin, Guy Smeets, and as part of the All-Star band closing the show. It was a privilege and an honour, and it’s undoubtedly shown me that not only do I have a lot to learn in terms of bandleading and showmanship but that I do have it in me to get up and hold my own amongst some of the living greats in this music. It’s definitely spurred me on in my learning both at home and in performance.
After I came back from the US, people told me I had changed. Not in a dramatic way, but both they and I were amazed by how much my playing and performing had improved in the space of two weeks or so. It was a truly formative experience for me, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of the EBU. Attached, you’ll find a few photos and videos from the trip which I hope can give some insight into what a fantastic experience it was.
Invited by Boris Totev from the Bulgarian Blues Association, French bluesman CadiJo performed in Sofia at the Delta Blues Bar, accompanied by local musicians, on Saturday, November 17th.
As soon as he arrived at the airport, Georgi Dimov, the boss of the Delta Blues Bar welcomed him and during the whole stay, everybody took care of CadiJo with a rare and friendly hospitality. On Friday night, with Boris, they went to a jazz jam at the Jazz Bar. The musicians there had a breathtaking level. Be-bop, swing, Cuban jazz, etc., everything has passed with brilliance, panache, emotion and virtuosity. CadiJo played with them Alligator Bogaloo by Lou Donaldson and it was a real treat.
A big thank to Denis Apov (acoustic guitar) for the acoustic part particularly appreciated by the public. All CadiJo gratitude for Miroslav (electric guitar), Axel Yordanov (drums) and Youlian Traykov (bass) for the electric set, which they have mastered and energized the public as it should. His blues in French have received an attentive and warm thanks to these musicians who, not knowing him the day before, knew how to carry my repertoire to the height of his artistic requirement. That’s the blues!
CadiJo thanks also go to Georgi Dimov for his welcome in this very nice place that is the Delta Blues Bar and of course to Boris Totev for his availability of all times and the organization of this event, which also allowed to meet with Hungarian harmonica player Andras Kohalmi and other musicians and participants in the jam that followed.
A further recognition this year for the Blues Heaven Festival and for Peter Astrup who, after receiving a Danish Music Award, was again rewarded by the French web-magazine Zicazicfor an Award for the Best International Festival 2018. The ceremony took place during the festival and attended by Walter Trout and Paul E. Benjamin from the Blues Foundation and was an opportunity to promote the Blues and the European Blues Union.
The Santa Maria Blues Festival that every year is held in the beautiful Santa Maria island in the Azores, this year had the visit of the EBU President, Davide Grandi, that spent three fantastic evenings for its 15th edition.
From July 12th to July 14th the stage was shared by international artist such as Zac Harmon and Eric Gales but also by the EBC 2018 winners, the Ragtime Rumours, that were opening the first night with a terrific set. A detalied interview made by the EBU President at the Ragtime Rumours will appear soon on our website.
The Portugese organization was perfect, even facing a lot of issues due to the location so far in the Atlantic Ocean, but with the good spirit of friendship and collaboration everything was solved and the festival was a big Party! Thanks to Adalberto, Jose and Antonio and we are looking forward for the EBC 2019 in Ponta Delgada, San Miguel island of the Azores!