Saturday, November 15, 2014

INTERVIEW WITH VICENTE ZÚMEL - SPAIN´S BLUES RADIO ICON

Vicente Zúmel is the ultimate blues aficionado in Spain.

Like a bull fighter, he has stepped into the ring with the best blues bulls on the planet. Fearless he has championed the blues and brought it into the Spanish music scene with an enormous amount to pride and devotion.

In his role as a journalist and photographer, the Barcelona-based Vicente has captured the blues greats from Europe, USA and Canada.

In his non-profit field as a radio host he has spun the blues and entertained the ears of a nation for over 3 decades.


Before he retired in 1999 as a blues harp player he has shared the stage with blues legends such as Memphis Slim, Champion Jack Dupree, Louisiana Red and Johnnie Mars, even sharing the stage with the legendary John Mayall.

In 1987 his band, the "Harmonica Zúmel Blues Band" was honoured by the Blues Foundation in Memphis (USA) as one of the best non American white blues bands.

In 1990, his band travelled to Lisieux, (Normandie) France representing Spain at the European Blues Festival and in 1988 they published their LP "Stratto Blues".


And as a blues music festival organiser he has brought to Spain some of the true blue roots performers such as John Mayall, Koko Taylor, Little Charlie & The Nightcats, John Hammond, Carey Bell, Pinetop Perkins, Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith, Jimmy Rogers, Big Daddy Kinsley, Luther Johnson Jr, Kenny Neal, Little Willie Littlefield, Mick Taylor, Albert Collins, Luther Allison and Phillip Walker, just to name-drop a few!

From February 2005 to March 2009, Vicente Zúmel was the founder member and president of Barcelona Blues Society, a non-profit organisation devoted to promote blues in our country.

It is not a surprise that in 2013 he was honoured with the "Keeping The Blues Alive" Award by the European Blues Foundation. In fact, he was the first Spanish person to win the award.

According to Valencian veteran blues harmonica great Danny Boy, "Vicente is pioneer of the Blues in Spain. He is a true blues lover and the "Real Blues". He also plays the blues harmonica and he is a pioneer by founding a Society for the blues. Everyday he spreads the Blues news through his radio show and website. He is huge!! And, as a good friend. I feel great admiration for him!"

Of course, you can read more about Vicente on his website - http://www.LaHoraDelBlues.com


INTERVIEW
"Harmonica Zúmel Blues Band"
playing his own blues
"Fes-mho Nena" for a
TV Show in 1985

CBBlues: Thank you for conducting this interview.

Vicente Zúmel: You are welcomed


CBBlues: Please share with my readers the time when you were hit with the blues spark and started to follow its heart left vibrations into your long dedication and career?

Vicente Zúmel: I felt I was hit with the blues when I received a present that was an Elvis Presley EP with four songs. Two of them were “Shake, Rattle & Roll” and “Lowdy Miss Cloudy”, but at that time I did not know these tracks were blues songs. 

Sometime after I received another present, an Elvis Presley’s album with Christmas songs that included “Santa Claus is back to town” and I got mad with this song, although I still did not know it was blues too. This happened in the middle of the sixties. 

 In 1969 I began to listen and discover a lot of music with my hippies friends (southern rock, psychedelic… and the music of those years, but the bands and music I loved best were groups like Canned Heat, John Mayall, Fleetwood Mac, Savoy Brown. I also began to listen to Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Frankie Lee Sims, Bukka White, Memphis Slim, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, Paul Butterfield, Big Joe Turner, Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson, Otis Rush...

And it became an endless list. Since those days, I could not get out alive of blues!!

A couple of years later, a friend of mine gave me a Marine Band harmonica and it was then when I began trying to make it sound.

During the seventies I got as much as blues records I could and little by little I became gradually involved with blues in different fields.


CBBlues: If you can put into words, please explain to us why you have held this musical format close to you for so long?

Vicente Zúmel: Now blues means lots of things to me. Ithas been and still is the music of my whole life. At home we only listen to blues, so blues is a very important part of my life. It has been always with me, in the happy and sad moments, so I could not imagine my life without blues.

Charlie Musselwhite and Vicente
Blues fills now my time, not only seeing it live in clubs or festivals but always doing a non-profit work. 

For about 30 years I have directed and conducted La Hora del Blues radio show in Radio PICA (now some podcasts at Radio Tube Live). I run a Record Reviews section in my website www.lahoradelblues.com with more than 3.500 record reviews that is monthly updated. Now I’m preparing a huge book about black music anniversary events.

Since about three years, I organize once a week live blues shows on a Barcelona museum (Museo Europeo de Arte Moderno, MEAM)… so blues has been and is close to me


CBBlues: There are more and more blues societies starting around Spain, why do you think that is?

Vicente Zúmel: I think that although blues is a minority music there are really devoted and committed people who think it should be preserved and promoted. As a minority music these people have felt the necessity to get in touch with other people who loved the same music. 

Thanks to the social media people have discovered other people with similar tastes and then create these associations is easy. In fact the first blues society in Spain was created by me and a small group of blues fans.


CBBlues: How do you feel that these satellites of blues culture could be promoted to a wider audience?

Vicente Zúmel: Nowadays it’s quite easy to promote these satellites of culture. Thanks to social media, people can be aware of the activities they do and become interested on them. 

In fact we are connected to the most remote parts of the world. But not only in Spain these non-profit associations are flourishing. In USA we have the Blues Foundation which does a huge work to promote blues and in Europe we have the European Blues Union, which also is very active. 

In fact my wife Roser belongs to the board of the EBU, so if you do a serious work you will certainly get a wide audience and followers.


CBBlues: How do you feel about blues festivals? 
2013 "Keeping The Blues Alive"
Award by the European Blues Foundation

Vicente Zúmel: Blues festivals are important to make blues known among huge audiences. For bands it is also a good way to get exposure and sell records. 

Sometimes these “blues” festivals include much rock in their line-ups which in one sense is not good because they sell as blues something that is not blues but, on the other hand, people who will never go to a blues gig can discover a good blues band among some other rock bands.


CBBlues: Do you feel that there should be more blues awards given to certain performers?

Vicente Zúmel: No, because more blues awards will devalue them. 

I think is better to give few awards but really give them to people who totally deserve them. If we begin to create awards and awards finally they will not be considered as a really important and unique thing. Only think there is only one Oscar Award or only one Nobel Award. What would it happen if everybody could create new Oscars and Nobels Awards?


VINTAGE VIDEO  1999 * Vicente 'Harmónica' Zúmel + Johnny Mars "Mars & Zúmel's Boogie" Vicente 'Harmónica' Zúmel, Johnny Mars, Amadeu Casas, August 'Tha' Tharrats ON "PLASTIC" TV2 1999