Music through the lens: Blues For Peace

Music through the lens: Blues For Peace

Blues For Peace is a global movement started by Michael Packer (Blues Hall of Fame, New York). Concerts, put on throughout the world over the last weekend of May with the goal of raising the awareness of peace. The project is a world-wide event which took place on May 27-30 (Memorial Day weekend, USA) and sanctioned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR.

The Greek project was supported by Blues Hall of Fame, Greece. The event was hosted by the MODU venue in Athens and High Voltage Productions.

Here is the lineup, in alphabetical order, of the groups that appeared in the festival:

  • Blues & Soul Shakers
  • Blues Cargo
  • Blues Revenge
  • Bob Hall & Hilary Blythe
  • Daddy’s Work Blues Band
  • Dimitris Rousopoulos
  • George & The Dukes
  • George Gakis and the Troublemakers
  • Giotis Kyttaris
  • Nick Tsiamtsikas & Blues Report
  • Shady Roots
  • Simos Kokavesis & Blues Co.
  • The Jumpin' Bones
  • Theo & Boogie Sinners + (Guest: Bob Hall)
  • Υiannis Monos & Blues Family

I had the pleasure of shooting the whole four days of the festival, meeting up again with old friends and meeting new ones, among which British Blues legends Bob Hall and Hilary Blythe, which were official guests.

With this event, the Greek Blues community declared in a modest but -effectively- loud and clear manner, their sensitivity in social and global matters, and the impact music can have on raising public awareness. In their own words, here are a few excerpts from interviews given to the soul and heart of the event, Mr. Michael Limnios, whom I thank for the licence to publish here:

Michael Packer (Blues Hall of Fame, New York): I woke up with the idea and I am the type of person who tries to make my dreams a reality. I am a 60's person. I did not go to Woodstock but I knew artists that performed at the festival like Richie Havens. He said "words couldn't describe the feeling you got from being there" It was the time of Nixon and the Vietnam War and Woodstock made a huge statement of peace, love and music. Blues for Peace will be much like the spirit of Woodstock sending a much needed message of peace to the world through music all over the globe.

Bob Hall: For me personally blues is that empty feeling that all of us get some of the time. It’s a feeling of not belonging, of being unwanted and unloved, a kind of self-doubt.  You are completely vulnerable on stage, but by pouring out your emotions to an audience, especially in the saddest songs, you can sometimes overcome those feelings. It’s not easy and doesn’t always work, but the rush when you succeed is incomparable.

Stelios Zafiriou (Blues Cargo): Playing music in general is an effort to express feelings. Especially the Blues Music which has a real time expression, just like talking.

Dimitris Ioannou (Blues Cargo): We are all in the same family everybody knows everybody. Let the good times Roll.

Orestis Tsikouris (The Jumpin’ Bones): The Blues are still teaching me to express myself directly and with honesty. Less is more, and that absolutely applies to this kind of music. It also keeps reminding me that in the end of the day it's the simple things in life that matter. This is the culture of the Blues, and that's why very often the people involved only do what they do out of love for the genre.

Theo Alexiou (Boogie Sinners): Playing music and especially the blues, I have the feeling that, some things like...honesty...and expression, grown even better inside me. My personal opinion is can't play the blues without been honest to yourself and to others. As about the expression I mentioned before, I express myself much better by the time I started to play the blues.

George Hadjopoulos (George and the Dukes): Blues music has reminded me of a Socrates saying which goes: «ΟΥΚ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΠΟΛΛΩ ΤΟ ΕΥ» (The best is not among the plenty). In other words,…keep it simple. I believe that blues music has always been a way to express feelings.  The more expressive you are and less influenced by technique and musical rules, the closer you are to real blues expression. Blues could be seen from more viewing angles but the pioneers have long now instinctively laid a structure from which it is very difficult to escape.

Andreas Gomozias (Blues Revenge): I have played the guitar for 35 years and I have tried many kinds of music looking always for an identity. It’s only when I play the blues, with the right musicians of course, that I find my real self.

Tasos Dritsos (Blues Revenge): The musical structure of blues is quite simple, just three basic chords. And yet, with this musical material, you can express everything. That is what I learn from the blues. That with few and simple means, you can do many things. The blues for me is the musical vehicle through which I can express myself better.

Giotis ‘Blues’ Kyttaris: I learned that the blues is not a sign. It's a way of life. You never think that now my life is blues. Just live. The blues is a musical like all the others. That is music. That's all. And as we know there is no man without music because I will not be human. The blues, there is a feeling. That make you feel very bad. The blues have been a sickness, and there was a pain that you never had. Now here where the blues going. It jumps on you early in the morning. And it worries you until you go to sleep. Then after you go to sleep you get to dream all that bad dreams. And is giving you nothing but the midnight creeps. This is the blues.

Dimitris Rousopoulos: The influence of blues music and culture through the environment that was born was great. It became a symbol of resistance and freedom, through this environment people came closer, they found a common means of expression and were able to shout louder what they believe. People like Leroi Jones, Luci Murphy (blues-jazz singer and activist) and many others, managed through their fights, their songs, their texts to show that the Blues is not only a beautiful music that entertains us. It is above all struggle for a better life, for equality and freedom.

Nick Tsiamtsikas: Blues offered me… a lot of debts!

Giannis Pachidis (Daddy's Work Blues Band): Blues offered me…a sweet hug when I’m mistreated, a kick in the ass when I’m broken-down and a companion when I’m lonely; also, the chance to meet some wonderful people!

Yiannis Monos: Blues is the foundation of contemporary music, so simple and yet so powerful in emotions it simply delivers the performer and the listener from the most basic human emotion: pain, but it can be extremely joyful too. No wonder that it has spread around the world so fast.

And here is a collection of some of my photos from the four days of the festival. Enjoy, and let's renew our appointment  for next year!


The gear report: the whole event was shot with the X-Pro2 and the X-E2 used mainly as backup (or where two separate focal lengths were needed in short succession). Lenses used were, Fujinon 14mm f/2.8, 23mm f/1.4 (review coming up), 35mm f/1.4, 56mm f/1.2, 50-140mm f/2.8 and the Samyang 8mm f/2.8 fisheye.

This was, in fact, the first major concert photography assignment I shot entirely with Fuji. Concert Photography is a fast paced, technically demanding genre, being a great crash test for any equipment;  so I guess a report on using Fuji as my only system is due shortly.

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