Billy TK Jr and Chicago blues legends plan cultural exchange

By Te Ao - Māori News

Māori blues guitarist Billy Te Kahika, aka Billy TK Junior, is on the pathway to growing the family of lovers of the blues across the world.  

It is the final gig for Billy TK Junior on home soil, with the blues family from Chicago.

"We’re going to create an international elite family of people that love the blues," Te Kahika says. "But having said that, not so elitist that we’re not going to put up opportunities for people coming up the ranks.  

"Kids from Chicago, young blues guitar players and singers, can come to Aotearoa New Zealand to share their craft and experience and open up their vision of what's out there in the world.  And conversely, take ours back to Chicago."

Carlise Guy of Nu Blu Band from the United States agrees.

"What we’re trying to do is a cultural exchange.  The embracing that I’ve received over here, we want to be able to do the same thing in the US, and Chicago specifically, because that is like the hub of the blues community. Music is a universal language," Guy says.

Late last month, Te Kahika opened for blues legend Buddy Guy on the biggest day for blues in Chicago.  Afterwards, he returned home accompanied by the Guy family band Nu Blu and Chicago blues queen Carlise Guy.

"I’ve found a new family that are my whānau from Chicago. I’ve done a lot of touring around the world and the acceptance and family experience I’ve had with Carlise and her family, and the Buddy Guy's Legends and blues club family, has been just epic," Te Kahika says.

The highlight of the current tour has been the Nu Blu band's performance on the treaty grounds on Waitangi Day.

"Our national day concert on the treaty grounds, Carlise and Nu Blu were the first non-Māori international act to headline there, to perform there on those grounds, and then we did a massive show that night in Paihia. So yeah, it is the start," Te Kahika says.

It is an experience that has had a lasting impact. 

"Being able to look out on such a wonderful stage that they set up for the event and watching the people and the scenery was just beautiful, just beautiful mountains and pretty green and blue water and white sand.  I’m like wow this is like paradise," Guy says.

The tour marks the coming together of blues singers and musicians under Buddy Guy’s aspiration to keep the blues alive.  Across the world, the language and culture may differ but the music is the same music that originated out of African American slavery.

"It's coming back to life. We don’t get much radio play so Buddy has actually started a radio station, which we’ve got Billy playing on there now in the US and we’re going to try and bring that here as well," Guy says. 

"So we’re just trying to stretch out the community a little bit, let everybody hear the blues the way we have it in today's world."

Report by Dean Nathan for Te Ao.