(MEMPHIS, TN) – Since the Blues Foundation was founded in 1980, it has held the mission of preserving and promoting blues around the world, and this year’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award honorees demonstrate just how successful the organization has been over the past four decades. The nine individuals and organizations receiving KBAs in 2020 don’t just hail from the blues’ traditional territory of the American South but from such far-reaching blues outposts as Denmark, Poland, and Colombia.
The KBA Awards, chosen annually by a select panel of blues professionals, salutes those who have played crucial roles in advancing the art and commerce of blues. This year’s esteemed honorees will be recognized for their achievements at the Keeping the Blues Alive Awards brunch, taking place on Friday, January 31, 2020, 10:30 am., in the Holiday Inn Memphis-Downtown Ballroom.
The 2020 Keeping the Blues Alive Awards recipients are Peter Astrup, Dr. Rob Bowman, The Cali Blues & Folk Festival, Hal & Mal’s USA Blues Club, Jimiway Blues Festival, Dr. Janice Johnston, Jus’ Blues Music Foundation, Kentuckiana Blues Society, and Kathleen Lawton.
Peter Astrup is well known to thousands of musicians in Europe and the United States, and has dedicated his life to establishing and expanding, the blues music scene in his native Denmark and throughout Europe.
Dr. Rob Bowman is an associate professor of music at Toronto’s York University, is an accomplished blues educator lauded for his scholarship as well as for his support of Toronto’s blues music community and his involvement in Canada’s prestigious Juno Awards.
The Cali Blues & Folk Festival is a signature event of the Centro Cultural Colombo Americano in Cali, Colombia. Founded in 1954, this nonprofit binational center is dedicated to enhancing the friendship between Colombia and the United States through an array of arts, cultural, and English language education programs.
Hal & Mal’s USA Blues Club has been operating out of the circa-1923 GM&O freight depot building in downtown Jackson, Mississippi, Hal & Mal’s USA Blues Club was founded in 1985 by brothers Hal White (now deceased) and Malcolm White, current director of the Mississippi Arts Commission.
Jimiway Blues Festival was founded in 1994 by the father-and-son team of Benedykt Kunicki and Oskar Kunicki in Ostrów Wielkopolski, Poland. Named in tribute to Jimi Hendrix, this nonprofit initiative is rooted in the mission of presenting a broad spectrum of blues music styles.
Dr. Janice Johnston has been an advocate for blues musician health since becoming involved with The Blues Foundation in 2013. As the chairperson of The Blues Foundation’s HART Fund, Dr. Johnston has worked tirelessly to expand the offerings of this fund, which was established to ensure that blues musicians can get the resources needed to secure healthcare for both acute and chronic conditions.
Jus’ Blues Music Foundation was established in 1995. This Georgia-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization was founded “to preserve blues heritage through cultural arts by nurturing the soul of the blues with historical blues education programming.”
Kentuckiana Blues Society is located in Louisville, Kentucky and was founded in 1988 with the goal to preserve, promote, and perpetuate the blues tradition in all its forms. Through extensive research and documentation, the KBS has made major inroads in authenticating the history of the blues in Louisville.
Kathleen Lawton is one of the world’s preeminent blues DJs who has hosted the radio show Crazy ’Bout the Blues on San Mateo-based KCSM-FM since 1988. It can be heard live on terrestrial radio at 91.1 FM and streaming via the Internet, every Friday from 9 p.m. until midnight Pacific time.
The KBA ceremony represents just one part of The Blues Foundation’s 36th Annual International Blues Challenge. The IBC Week kicks off Tuesday, January 28, 2020, with International Showcase performances on historic Beale Street, and concludes with the finals at Memphis’ Orpheum Theatre on Saturday, February 1 at 12 noon. More than 800 musicians will arrive in Memphis from all across the globe to battle for glory — along with prizes and bookings — in the International Blues Challenge, the world’s largest and most renowned blues music competition. Showcases, jams, panels, workshops, and master classes will occur daily up and down Beale Street, with the music jamming on into the wee hours after the IBC challenger performances conclude each evening.
For more KBA recipient details click here. For more information about the International Blues Challenge, including the full schedule of events, IBC merchandise, and links to reserve discounted hotel rooms in Downtown Memphis, click here.