About Rawa Blues Festival

Spodek Hall before Rawa Blues Festival edition 28th

Spodek Hall before Rawa Blues Festival edition 28th, Author: Remigiusz Orłowski

Rawa Blues Festival takes place every year at the beginning of October, in the city of Katowice, Poland. Since its very beginning in 1981, Rawa Blues became the biggest and with the time also the most recognizable blues event in Poland.

For the first 10 years it was organized as a nationwide all-day blues sessions in several venues. With time it evolved, becoming an international blues festival at the beginning of the 90s. Then, the organizers started to invite the world 's greatest blues artists. The organizers and independent journalists claim that Rawa Blues Festival is the world’s biggest indoor blues festival.

The beginnings

The idea of the Rawa Blues Festival was introduced in 1981. The first festival was organized in the Katowice Theater and gathered about twenty blues bands from all over Poland and 500 fans. Organizing the festival on that times was a big challenge, considering the political background. It was the time when Polish people were struggling with the socialistic system. In 1980, there were the beginnings of Solidarnosc (Solidarity) movements. In 1981, a martial law was introduced in Poland by gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski as head of the authorithanian government. It was the time, when even basic items were hardly available.

And in that hard times, a group of people, mainly students and blues musicians, decided to organize a blues sessions in Katowice, starting first Rawa Blues edition. On the beginnings, during the 80s the festival systematically received more and more recognition. Polish blues journalist and musicians consider that times of the festival as a key element in fostering the development of Polish blues scene. Rawa Blues Festival is the only festival, where all legendary Polish blues artists have played, and where a lot of them started their artistic career. The list include: Tadeusz Nalepa, Dżem, Easy Rider, Jan Kyks Skrzek, Irek Dudek, Martyna Jakubowicz, Jan Janowski, Silesian Blues Band, Nocna Zmiana Bluesa to name only a few.

International Blues Festival

The changes in Poland at the beginning of the 90s allowed for much more also for events’ promoters. Irek Dudek and his crew took the opportunity to expand the formula of Rawa Blues Festival to become an international event. Wide contacts established with musicians and promoters in western Europe and U.S. allowed to invite many legendary blues stars to Rawa Blues. Thanks to that, blues artists were one of the first stars that came to Poland after destruction of the Iron Curtain.

Many of the stars that have played on Rawa Blues Festival include artists awarded and nominated to Grammy Awards, W.C. Handy Awards, Blues Music Awards, Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame and others.

Selected list of the greatest include: Luther Allison, Junior Wells, Koko Taylor, Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers, Marcia Ball, Lonnie Brooks, Janiva Magness, Carey Bell, Guitar Shorty, Rory Block, C. J. Chenier, Alvin Youngblood Hart Trio, Magic Slim & Teardrops, Eric Sardinas, Nora Jean Bruso, Eden Brent, Debbie Davies, Little Charlie & The Nightcats, James Blood Ulmer, Vernon Reid, Corey Harris, Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials, Big Bill Morganfield and many others. There were also artists from Australia, Western Europe, Great Britain and other regions, performing at Rawa Blues Festival so far. Every time the blues stars have played on Rawa Blues Festival, they have always been happy to feel the great atmosphere of thousands of blues fans gathered in Spodek hall. That is why, the festival collected a great feedback and recognition especially among the American blues artists.

Keeping The Blues Alive award

In 2012 Rawa Blues Festival has received an exceptionally prestigious award. The biggest international blues association, The Blues Foundation, has granted Keeping The Blues Alive award in Festival International category to Rawa. The title honours people and organisations that have significant contribution for promoting blues music and culture.

Facts about the Festival

The organizer

The festival director is Irek Dudek, a Polish singer, composer, multiinstrumentalist and songwriter. He is well known in Poland and western Europe for his blues achievements. In 80s, his artistic alter-ego, rock’n’roll band called Shakin’ Dudi gathered an incredible popularity in Poland. The band performs and records LPs until this day. Ireneusz Dudek is also recognized for his activities for popularizing the blues music in Poland, where Rawa Blues Festival is his greatest work.

The other organizers are Rawa Blues Association and a team of dedicated enthusiasts and volunteers.

Name origin

The name of Rawa comes from the river which flows through Katowice.

Current formula of the Festival

The festival is organized every year on first or second Saturday of October. It starts as early as at 11 AM, when artists on the Side Stage start playing, competing for the audience award – people gathered around the Side Stage vote for the best band . The chosen artist opens the concert on the Main Stage, which begins at 3 PM. At 6 PM the final concert starts, when the greatest blues artists from around the globe perform.

The bands which are invited to play on the festival are selected by the festival council, with members - Polish deserved blues journalists and the festival director – Irek Dudek.

Event location

Since the beginning the festival has been organized in Katowice. The city of Katowice is located in southern Poland, being a capital city of Silesian Voivodeship and Upper Silesian agglomeration. The region and the city is known mainly for its industrial character and the most populated area in Poland. But yet in 70s, in Katowice there was a strong blues scene, well recognized nationwide, which was especially specific when taking into consideration the political background, when Poland was a socialist country, and the blues was almost forbidden as a mark of western culture. The festival is organized at Spodek hall (`spodek’ means saucer in Polish), which is a symbol of the city. It’s the arena of the most popular sports and culture events that take place in this region of Europe. Built in 1971, renovated in 1997 and in 2009, it can hold up to 8,000 people during concerts and 11,000 during other kinds of events. Its exceptional design is even today a source of pride for the citizens.

Prepared by: Remigiusz Orłowski, corrections: Łukasz Rak

Image gallery