Friday, March 11, 2016

Mahindra Blues - Feel the love

I'm currently sat in the hotel bar of a very nice Taj Hotel in Hyderabad where I have spent the last 3 days with work, waiting for Indiadam to arrive and move to a much more budget hotel version and a weekend exploring Hyderabad.

So while I am sipping on my even-for-London-standards-expensive second G&T, I thought I'd better finish of part 2 of my Mumbai culture blog as I am sure there will be some new adventures to be reported after a weekend in Hyderabad.

As you will have noticed, Indiadam has made it back to Mumbai after two months. This doesn't just mean that the hotel room we are still (!) staying in is tidy for once but also that exploring India together is finally back on the cards.

The weekend Indiadam came back, Mumbai was hosting the "Mahindra Blues Festival" at the Mehboob Studios (is it my bad German humour that makes me giggle at the name?). I got very excited when I saw that Joss Stone was one of the headlines but as she was playing the day Indiadam arrived at 10pm which happened to be a Sunday night, that wasn't really an option. However, Saturday had a full afternoon/evening of acts on and although I had never heard of any one them (which doesn't mean much as my music knowledge is mediocre at best), it sounded fun and after finding some other people interested, I was off to the Blues. Compared to the races, tickets were quite expensive for Mumbai standards at 2500rs (25 pounds) but considering they had 4 live bands playing on 4 different stages it really was quite a good deal (one good think about London, very few places will feel expensive after living there). And the phone can come for free!! Bargain...

So we arrive at the boobies studio and the whole thing is set up very nicely. One stage in a garden, food stalls with tables and cushions, an old fashioned vinyl store... All very professional. First stop: Bar. After a pretty shocking headache from some Indian white wine the day before, I decide to give the wine a pass and check out the remaining drinks menu. A VERY attentive waiter keeps suggesting the "special" cocktail to me - some Indian Vodka mix. Not really knowing what I want and quite impressed by his enthusiasm, I decide to order the super-extra-special cocktail. Less than 30 seconds later, the realisation comes that I have made an error... the Vodka is some Indian special variant of Absolute Vodka and although the bottle looks very pretty indeed, I have a feeling my European tastebuds prefer the normal vodka without Indian Masala. Only gets worse when the waiter pours some green looking gel of a weird texture in it... It is worth mentioning that while Mr Enthusiastic is mixing my poisonous looking cocktail, the other 10 (!) waiters behind the bar are too occupied watching him mix that they completely fail to serve anyone else for about 5mins. I get handed my drink and it's vile. The gel has made it thick like a milkshake and the taste is.... I don't know... definitely not for me. I try to dilute it with 50 ice cubes over the hour to something more drinkable but fail miserable. Next time, I'm back on white wine and will deal with the headache if I have to.

By now the music has started and we go and see the first act called "Soulmate" - apparently a regular at the festival. It's a local Indian band and they are pretty cool, the main singer is a woman with an amazing voice and although I am still sipping my disgusting drink, I'm having a really good time. A small anecdote is that we managed to sneak into a VIP area for about 5mins until we got called out for having the wrong wristband (so many wristbands) and back to the normal world we are...

Next up is the Heritage Blues Orchestra, not local but all the way from the Unites States of Amerrriica! Full on band with two amazing guys who are wearing stylish suits, hats and sunglasses. Very smooth... One of the other singers is one of those super talents that can play the guitar, the harmonica and probably two other instruments at the same time. Very impressive but also depressing for the unmusical likes of me who didn't ever manage to play ONE instrument to a half decent standard. Either way, the atmosphere is good and they get the audience involved - unfortunately, we are stood right next to an older gentleman who loves responding to their requests very enthusiastically but cannot pronounce the "v" - so it goes "L" "O" "WE" E"... Still, I can feel the love for Blues and Mumbai.

Before the main act, some upcoming band is playing in the garden but we decide to get some food instead. Not sure the mini pizza is worth the fight in the 30min queue but at least it's something to eat before THE main act (I am still sad I am not seeing Joss Stone the next day).

The main act is Keb Mo and even though I have never heard of him before, he's good and we enjoy the last set. His performance is quoted than the orchestra but then I guess he is on his own.

I decide not to stay until the end as its really busy by the end and getting out of Bandra on a Saturday night is painful enough without the blues festival. On the way back in the car, the Bollywood music is back ok and somehow the Blues feel like part of a different world... A world I miss from time to time in Mumbai but the I've also discovered that Mumbai culture has lots to offer that is different and can keep up with what some of the big cities around the world have to offer. And the good thing is that getting tickets for anything is much easier than in London... So watch this space for further updates. For the more sports culture interested ones, the cricket World Cup is on soon so hoping to be able to report back on some live action.

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