You can strum it, pick it, slap it, stroke it, beat it, wail it, scream it, tap it, moan it, blow it, bow it, scratch it or use any technique you fancy, so long as the technique doesn’t eclipse the feeling, and that’s the Blues.

From its roots in the luminous continent of Africa to the slave trail of the New World; from the Caribbeans to Europe and Asia, the fourth, fifth and seventh notes have been giving voice to the down trodden, love struck, city slickers, cotton pickers, jail birds, drunkards, gamblers, crooners, hedonists and every human condition you could care to express in songs and riffs since time was measured in beats and not by Rolex.

And with four stages and 40 bands, Jakarta let rip two days of blues festivities to satisfy the gluttony of blues enthusiasts of any age, sex, creed and nationality. The head liners came from America, Europe and Australia, but it was the blues from the Global South that truly stole the show.

The young and the young at heart from Asia took to the stages to deliver impeccable interpretations of classics, and fashion new ideas for tried and tested recipes. Spotted Zebras, barely teenagers, reworked numbers made famous by giants such as Led Zeppelin with mastery beyond their years; The S.T.I.G.I.T. blasted the loudest rock/blues tunes of the night; The Jakarta River Blues Band went for the favourites, with covers and originals in the Chicago Blues tradition of sax, trumpets and trinkets; Soulmate, from North India, combined blues, soul, funk and soft-rock to compel young and old to ask for more, which they politely obliged; and Fonticello, unapologetically, fused blues, rock, heavy metal and heavier still metal to deliver a loud, blistering set not on the usual tools of the trade, but on four cellos accompanied by drums and bass.

But the true gem of the night was on the Green stage, the smallest and least acclaimed performing platform of all. On it The Trees and the Wild mesmerised punters with their blend of melodic, acoustic tunes. The Trees and the Wild are three geeky looking kids, unassuming, shy, floor-gazing, guitar players with a repertoire of melodically laid back harmonies regulated by experimental rhythms and patterns. Their 45 minutes set went far too quickly, but the aficionados know where to find them, as they are not likely to disappear anytime soon.

In a true festival atmosphere, everyone danced, sang and got what they came for—forget about life for a while. Most of the performers mingled in the crowd to watch and enjoy other performers. The virtuosos gave free music lessons, and for those least musically gifted the wall was employed for short and sharp outbursts of creativity.

Fotos: Jakarta Blues Festival 2010