I kinda feel like the reason we have this forum was/is to help re-invigorate the blues. I notice its mostly older folks coming out to the jams and blues shows with little to no youth.
If people are calling me the youth there is a problem!
Any ideas how to get youth out to blues shows? Any successful school of blues programs happening in any elementary or high schools out there?
I won't go on a kids now-a-days are glued to their cell phones rant... Adults are just as bad...
I was thinking about starting some kind of blues to school program. The way I connect to kids is when I connect the dots between blues having a baby and calling it rock and roll to jazz to r &b to hip hop. The last one really gets there attention especially when I play some blues and throw some spoken word in there. It hits even harder when I speak to the social justice reality of where it came from and the social justice issues our world currently faces. Modern Blues Baby!
I don't know if using schools would do anything to get a younger generation into blues, when I was in school the music classes were a joke, and everything i hear about it now is that its geared to marching bands, outside of a football game i doubt there is anyone listening to that kind of music, maybe in the right person it creates a spark of interest, but for most I don't think it ever goes past school.
I hate to say it but putting some kind of blues program into a school setting may make for less interest, simply because it 's being forced on them .
When I first new I was interested in blues I was very young, it was on a TV show this guy came on with a bandolier of harps playing blues pulling out harp after harp, and there was just something about it that talked to me like nothing else.
How you could create that spark in others, I don't know, but i don't think it can be taught, it's just something that happens for the right person when they hear it, it cant be forced.
I hear what the young generation is listening to, and most of it does nothing for me. So I let them hear real music played loud, to be sure they can hear it, and who knows maybe there will be a spark for one two.
Some places have a Blues in Schools program here in the US. I suspect you have to have some musical knowledge and the ability to teach it as relates to blues or harmonica or both. A guitarist is helpful. ----------
I've been lucky enough to observe a couple of Blues in the Schools given by Tas Cru. The public school system seems to have a lot more money to devote to sports over music education. Our local blues society have approached numerous schools in our area to host a Blues in the Schools. We have very few takers. It's usually because of lack of funds. The few that have done have above average music programs.
I've also attempted to organize a blues youth jam. Although we've had other lightly attended ones,this year I could find no kids interested. If it was a rock jam,I'd have no problems. But blues-nada!
I used to go to open mics rather than jams. There seemed to be a pretty young crowd. (Of course, it wasn't always the blues.) Coffee houses skew younger than places that serve booze.
As for a school program, I think it depends a lot on how you do it. Our school had a jazz band that was a select group from the band. It wasn't a class or for credit, so it attracted people who already really wanted to play. (But then we had really boring teachers, so a lot of people in band didn't really want to play.)
If you know multiple instruments you might be able to get a blues thing going. If it's just harp, then you've got a harmonica band and that can include blues, but is more likely to end up like the Harmonicats- still cool, but very different.
We've branched out somewhat to some different genres. Rock, roots, old country, a spiritual or two. You'd be surprised at who had dropped a buck in the guitar case over the years. Sometimes people don't know where they've heard it but it's something familiar and even comforting so they respond. ----------
1. Interest in different forms of music appears to be cyclical, with periodic revivals of roots music. Now there are recordings, and the music is archived for future reference, should there be interest.
2. Musical styles evolve/mutate/merge over time. Old school blues was a mixture of African tonality and rhythms with British/Scotts/Irish 1/4/5 folk forms. Then the British/Scotts/Irish borrowed back from the blues. Etc, etc, etc. Jazz, rock, R & B...
3. See #1
4. Interest in live music comes and goes...
5. I suggest that we play the music we like and don't worry about what people will say in 100 years. Either the music will stand the strains of time or not. We most likely will not be around to care about it.
Seems to me music doesn’t work like that. I dunno if anyone can think of an example where older people deliberately did something which made a style of music cool. I think young people determine what’s cool by doing stuff which has some relevance to them, even if the connection may seem inexplicable from an older generation’s viewpoint. Sure, there are producers making calculated decisions and reading trends, jumping on board. That’s probably unlikely to happen with blues. But, who would’ve predicted SRV and that kind of revival through the 80s. Yah Kham, maybe that’s what the forum is for. I guess it’s for whatever the members make it. Original concept was discussion of Adam G’s YouTube stuff I think. Learning, expansion on ideas he introduced in the videos. Now it’s kind of a funny animal. I still like it. I like it better than Facebook by and large, but I think Facebook has really taken over. This kind of lives as an odd little relic of a previous age, attached to Adam’s site which is mainly for selling his lessons and some advertising I think. It’s slightly ironic I guess, the ‘modern’ blues harmonica forum is using a dated concept hosted on an even more outdated platform, which requires posters to enter a capcha code.
Good points all. "Back in the day" blues was a vehicle to- what- get a drink? Cut up with the boys? Nail down that good lookin' gal? Does any of that sound familiar? Is this not what a lot of "art" is designed for? If younger people today come up with different vehicles to do what they want, who is a 62 year old guy like me to say it's good, bad, right, wrong? I had my day. I happen to love what I'm doing as doe my sweet wife Jolene. We go out where we can and have a great time playing blues and roots, and spreading joy. What we do has never been for everybody. That's ok. Our audience is the ones who respond. Everybody from heavy metal heads to new country guys, rappers to guys with concrete bass boxes in their trunks have liked us. People on every continent listen and watch our youtube stuff. Are we making money? Not so much. But you do what you love and feel deep inside. It has its own value. ----------
I agree with most of what's been written in this thread. I'm much less anxious about "keeping the blues alive" than most people. In that respect I'm a fatalist. I preach a certain approach to music making that I believe is valid, but I very much do NOT believe in domesticating this adult music by forcing young people to listen to it. I think that Sonny Boy Williamson would have laughed harshly until he coughed and died if somebody explained to him how we're trying to "nurture" "the youth" into playing the blues. No. All that's required is to give kids the tools, allow them into the charmed circle when and if they show some basic skill and initiative, give them a space within which they can exercise their creativity--and then, importantly, don't shoot down every new thing they do as "not the blues." That's a recipe for cultural suicide.
We could all take a lesson from the masters like Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, B. B. King, and James Cotton: open it up. None of the six artists I've mentioned were "traditionalists." None played only blues. All allowed their music to evolve as the years went by. ALL, except perhaps for Patton, were in touch with the currents of the pop music of their day. (Please do NOT ask me to back that up that last assertion. Do your research.)
One problem is that blues music, per se, has become a death cult. "The great ones are dying off." "The last of a dying breed." "Keep the blues alive!" Jesus Christ. Enough.
Regarding the point about the purpose of the forum: I think it depends what "MBH" really means.
"Modern Blues" Harmonica = the use of harmonica in creating modern blues, which is music that is different/evolved from classic blues. This would focus on the evolution of contemporary blues music, and trigger discussions about "what happened to the blues" and "what is the future of the blues", along with the role of the harmonica in those two cases.
On the other hand, Modern "Blues Harmonica" = the contemporary use of a 10-hole Richter-tuned diatonic harmonica, irrespective of music genre. So it could cover classical music, jazz, ska, rap, Irish folk, heavy metal, etc. The name of the instrument is a "Blues Harp" or a "Blues Harmonica" (even when it is not used for blues), to differentiate it from a Chromatic Harmonica (which by-the-way can also be used to play blues, as well as any other genre of music).
MBH is a clever brand name, because the meaning can be shifted.
I lean towards the 2nd definition. For me, "Blues Harmonica" is the name of the Instrument. This forum is centered on that instrument, for use in blues, rock, country, folk, jazz, etc. If I want to engage in a forum about Chromatic Harmonica, which is a different instrument, I go over to Slidemeister.com... which could easily be re-branded as Modern Chromatic Harmonica or Modern Slide Harmonica.
The 1st definition is also true. This forum is engaged in the use of harmonica in blues music, and the modernization of blues. Occasionally discussions also talk about use of Chromatic Harmonica in playing the blues (or modern blues) music. So MBH is about the music, not the instrument, in this case.
... invigorating the blues harp!
Last Edited by AppalachiaBlues on Dec 10, 2017 3:24 AM
kham: I realize that my comments may possibly be interpreted as criticizing the basic premise with which you began this thread, and that was not my intention. I know that you're not only well-intentioned but truly righteous, and your ministry is effective: I'm eating differently, buying and cooking differently, because of the conversation I had with you.
I agree with Shaky lee: the problem is that kids want to discover and make their own music. They don't want boomer-approved music. (I love that phrase.) That's just NOT COOL. And kids care so much about cool.
Here are a few scattered shards from my own youth. Maybe there's something in them.
*) My father had a bunch of records in his artist's studio. He'd play current stuff--Sgt. Pepper's, Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band--but he also had lots of old jazz 78s. I ended up listening to a lot of that stuff. At some point I confiscated a big pile of 78s, brought them downstairs, and played a stack of 10 of them over and over on an old multi-disc player, flipping the stack over when it had cycled through in one direction. Those boogie-woogies and blues and novelty songs ended up forming the substrate, the roux, for the music I ended up going on to make
*) Downstairs, my folks had other stuff. They played the three or four Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass albums almost every evening. They had other records, especially Louis Armstrong, Ellie something or other (cabaret). Not a lot of contemporary jazz. I found a Russian Balalaika record and fell in love with it, running around the table to the fast peppy strumming.
*) I was actually driven to purchase my first harp after hearing "Whammer Jammer" on a record somebody had brought to school and deciding that I loved it and could somehow teach myself to play it. Also, kids at school played the Allman Brothers "Live at fillmore East" and Albert Lee's "I'm Going Home". Also "Brothers and Sisters" by the Allman Brothers. A friend of mine was deeply into Cream and I began to listen to all that stuff and became something of a Clapton head.
My parents never once put blues in front of me and said, "This is what you should be playing." Nobody in school told me "This is what you should be playing." And thank God for that. But they did, almost inadvertently, put a wide range of vernacular music (although NOT classical music) in front of me, and let me take my pick. It was in the air.
So preaching, explicit teaching, may backfire. Just make the music accessible. Make it a part of the scenery.
BTW, when I would ask my dad about those 78s's and the musicians who made that music, we'd have interesting conversations. He'd talk about Miff Mole and how some of that stuff was corny and other stuff--Fletcher Henderson, Benny Goodman--was the real deal. He, too, had his standards, his passions, the stuff he loved and the stuff he dismissed. So: when the kids express interest, talk with them. Share your passion.
One last point: instruments. They are shiny objects. Kids love shiny objects. If I were trying to sell the kids on blues, I would specifically make a point of putting instruments in front of them and letting them pick up, touch, and play those instruments. My 11-year-old son has accumulated a trumpet, a tuba, an electric bass, and--most recently--an alto sax. I bought him the sax when he said that he wanted another instrument. He's taught himself out of a basic Hal Leonard band book for the instrument. He's just going hog wild. Yesterday he was facetiming his buddy from school. My son is first chair in trombone; the buddy is third chair. Shaun basically played different instruments over the iPad for half an hour, talking about what he was doing. The kids were sharing notes. For Shaun, it all started with watching "Little Einstein" videos about "the sounds of the orchestra."
Funny thread. The Rolling Stones recently attempted to do exactly what we’re discussing - turn their audience onto the Blues. Go back and read your comments on that thread and see how much their effort was appreciated.
one record my parents had was carlos montoya, I was lucky enough to see one of his last performances.
so i looked him up on wiki.. what was written is relevent to some recent conversation, check it out.
Montoya is credited with having transformed flamenco guitar music into a separate music style, beyond being a traditional dance accompaniment. He adapted flamenco to other genres of music to create his own recognizable style, becoming an international star. However, his style was not particularly appreciated by some serious flamenco students, who considered it less traditional than many others. That he was unpopular among aficionados was possibly because he abandoned the compás that had evolved within flamenco over hundreds of years. Many of his works do not even keep perfect tempo, increasing and decreasing in speed almost whimsically. He was admired for the speed of his picados and found popularity on the international stage as a result of this technically impressive pace
Blues in the Schools is a nice idea but as music appreciation, not a training program - like getting a film appreciation class on Hitchcock, Roger Corman & John Ford. All it takes is one student extracting a small kernel..planting a seed, and a few may be drawn to want to play it.
On a mathematical basis consider this. If a student is 17, Muddy has been dead 34 years, Little Walter, Magic Sam, and Earl Hooker, about 50 - so (if the student was black and from Chicago) those blues are his grandparent's music. Even in the mid-late '60's playing with Hound Dog Taylor in Chicago, the all black audience was 45 and up. Below that age, most thought of it as old people's music.
My daughter, now 28, heard blues and jazz from birth. And when it got to her high school talent competition I expected she'd want to sing some pop song. Her choice was Ella's "A Tisket, A Tasket". I never expected that, but you present the music and who knows? ---------- BnT
Echoing what Kham said... I saw Carlos Del Junco on the weekend at Hugh's Room. It was fantastic. It was mostly rooted in the blues but it was also jazzy and very cross-genre. It was as progressive/modern as one could probably get with the blues and it was great. The interesting thing was even in that room of 100 or so people only about 8 of us were in our 30s. Everybody else was older.
I think one issue is that blues, like jazz and other genres, just isn't played by the mainstream media compared to rock, pop and hip-hop so the only way for the youth to hear it is from their parents, a friend or some other personal connection.
I think another issue is culture. Even though marching band music, Sibelius, Shostakovich, Mozart etc. aren't in the mainstream media a whole lot, if you suggest starting up a marching band or a classical music ensemble nobody would bat an eye. Culturally that stuff is pre-approved so to introduce blues to schools you will likely have to fight for space alongside the pre-approved stuff.
---------- something something harmonicas...
Last Edited by zx679 on Dec 11, 2017 11:17 AM
I know my children will always know the blues and have roots in it due to my constant playing, singing and listening. I also fill them full of good hard rock, sometimes heavy stuff too if the music has a message or moves me.
My question was more looking for strategies to get kids listening to or using the blues to make things modern or re-invigorate the genre a bit.
I am finding that kids from lower socio-economic situations relate strongly to blues when I connect the social justice dots... The music then means something and the current connection to hip hop and some of those lyrics/ideas make sense.
Current political/environmental/social realities are great places to ferment some new music and speak to what is at the heart of original blues. The gnawing hunger of people that want justice, equality and general comfort/ living conditions that is not the current reality.
The blues is some pretty transformative stuff. At least for me and what I sing about!
I only skimmed over most of everyones comments but just a little more food for thought on this post and though not blues per se I do think this is relevant. I have spoken to a surprising number of people in their 20's and 30's that have "heard of" or don't know who the Beatles were. That's almost hard for me to believe but I heard it with my own ears. Having said that I agree with other posts that genres at least are cyclical.
@Kham I agree with you that the realities of the current socio-economic/political landscape seem to lend themselves to The Blues but I don't think that it's sufficient to get the kids to the blues. Without going on a long tirade the younger generation (mine included) are largely institutional, that is, we look to the institutions of government, capitalism, culture etc. to solve our problems and tell us what to think. It is no small irony that many of the problems we face are baked into and caused by the same institutions we look towards for help and guidance.
Put in another way, in my opinion the millennials and younger generations are not nearly as counter-cultural or revolutionary as generations past (and it's not entirely our fault either). While we feel some of the same pains few of us take to the streets and with regards to music we have yet to part with popular modes of expression long enough to form a critical mass that would create a new musical idiom or reinvigorate an existing one like the blues.
A lot of people out there haven't really heard the blues (or blues harp) much before. I found this out busking, which I consider a kind of proselytizing. Maybe they will be curious about what they heard and check out some more when they get home.
I just saw this festival in Florida called " Keeping The Blues Alive At Sea IV" Feb.26 with "Larkin Poe" playing. Two young girls doing the blues justice. Here's a clip. I love seeing under 40 year olds playing old standards and refreshing new blues. I also think keeping it dark and a bit heavy is a good way to attract a different crowd.
I really just want to see people fill live music venues. Sadly up here in Canada we are suffering the same fate as everywhere else. When I spent a year in Australia they replaced the stages with slot machines because it was more lucrative, here its UFC...
They are GOOD, reminds me of some of the hard edge blues laced music from The Pack A.D. Sadly I live in Florida, and if there was any advertising for this it never reached my area, I'd be willing to bet that 30 seconds of those girls playing on TV would create a bit if interest in blues.
It's funny how sometimes an idea will just come to me out of no where. Here is a simple way to get a younger generation interested in blues harmonica, and it might work even better that a couple of cute girls!!
Make a harmonica that looks like an I-Phone, call it the I-Harp, find someone who looks a bit like Steve Jobs to introduce it.
People wont be able to put them down.
Before you know it people will be calling for a ban on harmonica playing while driving.
Interesting discussion. Many say here how a seminal blues track or musician inspired them to pick up the harp. I was the same: a friend dragged me along to a Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee concert when I was a student at university in Christchurch NZ 1976. I'd never heard of them or ever listened to blues before, didn't play any instrument, just went because it was free as part of Orientation.
That random event had a life-changing effect. Sonny Terry's playing made me buy a harp; then I discovered Sonny Boy Williamson II and was totally hooked. I found blues was so rich with musicians who could move me emotionally (the haunting sound of Skip James was a favourite).
As many have said, it's the raw emotional power of hearing those great tracks for the first time that simply blew us away, and I believe they will continue to inspire young people in future generations over and over. Sure the blues as a commercial genre with a big support base of clubs and record companies is over, it had its day. But the harp itself has that raw emotional appeal that hits a nerve with anyone when they hear it played well, whether in blues or other styles. I'm confident there will continue to be new young players coming through wanting to emulate Sonny Boy, Little Walter, Junior Wells - as well as more recent blues stars like Jason Ricci.
Once they get the bug, YouTube makes it so much easier now to follow the seam they're interested in, and there is so much more tech info out there too, so kids can learn faster. I think blues harmonica has a strong and enduring future in the sense of individuals getting turned on by it and wanting to learn, the inspiration and support are available better than ever. The tricky part is finding places and vehicles to express it, and making a living via music and the harp. But the really dedicated, talented ones will find a way I'm sure - they always do.
I don't know what the actual statistics are for the average age of forum members, but I'd venture to say there are a lot of us in our 50's and 60's, so we look at things a little differently than our youngsters. But one thing we can probably all agree on is the influence that our parents choices had on us to some extent. My dad listened to classical and Hungarian music based on his cultural heritage. He even dragged us off to the movie theater to watch "The Story of Franz Liszt." Though I never developed a love for the Hungarian music, I did gain an appreciation for classical music.
Both mom and dad loved the big bands that dominated through the 40's and we did witness a revival of swing dancing among some of the young folks who found that their grandparents music was really fun to dance to.
I always had a rule at home and in the car that dad had control of the music. I told the kids, "When you own your own car, you can pick the music when you're behind the wheel." Thus they were exposed to music of the 50's, 60's, 70's, classical, jazz, new age, etc. None of them ever got interested in harp, but that's okay. I never danced the czardas. Did take mom to see the Glen Miller Orchestra when they played in Albany, NY.
My son, who is now 30, is into guitar and recognizes the talents of the past even though they are not from his era. He has often commented about the skills of Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Billy Ray Vaughn and is not fond of much of the modern music that is popular amongst the kids today. My 40 year old is into salsa, my 37 year old into alternative, my 33 year old was a big Oasis fan and I'm not sure about my 26 year old, but she recently got a mandolin. They all agree on some things, disagree on others. They've each found their own likes and dislikes regardless of what I would wish they liked. Will any of them ever take to the blues? Probably not. Do any of them own a diatonic? No, that's dad's love and I own about 80 or so.
One of our local blues harp players in southern Vermont went out on his own and bought a bevy of inexpensive harps for a class of young kids and did a session with them. Early exposure can make a difference. When I was a kid, mom like to play harp, but she liked chromatic even though she was never accomplished. As a youngster, I got my first blues harp from the local hobby shop for a whoppin' one dollar. In my teen years bought a Hohner Echo with C and G keys on opposite sides and played that to entertain myself. Wasn't until I got into my fifties that my interest in harp resurfaced and my shiny little friends began to travel along with me in the car and multiplying. Now I try to practice a couple hours each day, but do not limit myself to one genre of music. Ask anyone what type of music they like and nine times out of ten the response will be, "I like a little of everything, except..." And the exceptions will include rap, hip-hop, country, opera, classical, jazz, heavy metal, bluegrass or blues.(But not limited to this list.)A lot of people were surprised when Steve Tyler came out and said how much he liked playing country when all people could imagine was seeing him behind the mic with Aerosmith. From all of the posts on this forum, it is very evident that many members like and play a lot of different genres in addition to blues.
So, just keep trying to expose the kids to your music choices and hope that somewhere along the line you hit a responsive chord.
Last Edited by Raven on Jan 01, 2018 8:22 AM
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