By Michael Giuliano
Fifty years after participating in the Woodstock music festival that shaped a generation, a living piece of music history looks to pay tribute to the now-iconic gathering.
Juma Sultan, a musician who played with Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock in 1969, will be making an appearance at the Hudson Valley Exposition alongside Kiss The Sky, a group known as a Jimi Hendrix “re-experience” rather than just a cover band. Led by guitarist Jimy Bleu, Kiss The Sky takes a revolving stable of recording artists from the New York metropolitan area and brings them together to capture every essence of the original Hendrix spirit.
Not content to just play the same songs that made Jimi Hendrix a household name, the band is often decked-out in similar or replica clothes that the original band would have worn, and plays with identical instruments with similar amplifying effects to truly recreate the original sound. Bleu even trained himself to play guitar left-handed, behind his back, and with his teeth, all of which were signature Hendrix moves.
“To me, this is one of the most truthful versions of Jimi’s music I’ve seen,” Sultan said in an interview. “I’ve played with ‘cover bands’ who are good, but he [Bleu] is different. He is very charismatic and brings an original character to the music.”
Sultan, a member of the Blues Hall of Fame, has been playing music since the early 1960’s, when he started out primarily as a jazz musician playing the upright bass. After moving from his hometown of Monrovia, California, to New York City, he was fortunate enough to become acquainted with Hendrix, as well as a slew of other talented musicians. After collaborating several times and strengthening their friendship, Sultan was invited to be a part of Hendrix’s Gypsy Sun and Rainbows band, now playing percussion instruments.
Over the years Sultan has toured with other former members of Hendrix’s band (each of them also having performed with Kiss The Sky), and is looking forward to performing for a large music festival called WE2019 in North Carolina in August. WE2019 is a two-weekend festival looking to recreate the magic from the original Woodstock concert, featuring eight artists who performed at the last concert 50 years ago.
“It can never be repeated or duplicated,” Sultan said, talking about his experience at the Woodstock concert. “I experienced unity, brotherhood, and love, and that’s something that’s hard to bring out today. The spirit that prevailed there still lives, but it’s dormant [now].”
The Hudson Valley Exposition takes place on Saturday, Aug. 3, from 1 to 10 p.m. at Riverfront Green Park in Peekskill. The “Rockin’ the Green” concert, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock concert, begins at 4 p.m. on the main stage. Visit www.hvexposition.com for more details.