Absolutely beautiful. Pots and pans and some spoons, knives and glasses, too. I wish I was there.
For your Saturday evening listening pleasure, this is ‘Luz’ by Efecto Madarina from La Paz, a jazz ensemble I was turned on to last week. Soulful Vero Pérez is the vocalist.
From an interview with Pérez in the Bolivian Express:
BX: In your opinion, how big is the jazz scene in Bolivia?
V.P.: It’s actually very small. It is considered a kind of elite [group] of musicians who take themselves very seriously and choose not to promote their music – something which we really disagree with. We think jazz music, like any other music, could be commercial and could be heard by many. The problem, however, isn’t only with the jazz scene but the whole music scene in Bolivia. Musicians are too cautious; we have too much insecurity, artists here go by the simple idea of making music for money and competing with others for fame. We have to understand that music is sacred; it is an extremely sensitive and perfect way to express one’s emotional and physical thoughts.
If you ever make it to the Bulgarian Black Sea coastal town of Kavarna, you’ll likely find yourself staring at this two-and-a-half story high mural of heavy metal journeyman Glenn Hughes which graces a building just up the block from city hall near one of the city’s main squares. Further up the block you’ll find yourself standing between a giant shirtless Billy Idol and a crooning John Lawton of Uriah Heep fame.
This heavy metal urban beautification is the brainchild of Mayor Tsonko Tsonev, whose primary quest since taking office has been to turn this city of 12,000 into Bulgaria’s rock capital. By any measure he’s been wildy successful.
An avid hard rock and heavy metal fan, Tsonev has attracted dozens of top metal bands to his hometown –Deep Purple, Motörhead, Manowar, The Scorpions, and Robert Plant among them– as part of the annual Kaliakra Rock Fest, later renamed the Kavarna Rock Fest.
How deep is his passion? In October 2010 Tsonev unveiled the world’s only statue memorializing former Black Sabbath frontman Ronnie James Dio. The 250 kilogram bronze, dedicated just five months after Dio’s death, has pride of place in the center of the city’s main park.
More of the murals are below. Can anyone help with the name of the Bulgarian musician?
This is Michal Elia Kamal, vocalist for the Istanbul-based band Light in Babylon that I came across on the city’s busy Istiklal Avenue pedestrian thoroughfare last March. After a pair of cold and rainy days, finding them blanketed that chill with a smile. The trio apparently has that effect on lots of people since a Light in Babylon post late last winter was the most visited on this blog in 2012. Michal, Metehan and Julien, thank you. I hope you’re all doing exceptionally well.
With just 11 days to go (!) until departure on my round-the-world trip I’m trying to close the book on as much of 2012 as my limited time will allow – mainly by trying to put a few more photos and notes collected over the past year to some use before purging them from my hard drive. It’s also a useful exercise to glance back briefly to what brought people here, and what they enjoyed while spending a few moments here.
So, in case you missed some –and some of you quite likely did– here’s a rundown of the most read posts from the past year.
10. If you were wondering where the Northampton Transport Peace Bus Wound up..
You do find the darnedest things on bike rides around here. I was happy to see this one gain a bit of traction.
9. French Presidential Election Posters
A visit to Paris and Normandy in April nicely coincided with the French Presidential elections. Which meant lots of political posters. And books, too.
8. Trains and Stations – A Fetish in Fifteen Photos
A compilation of rail-related photos I snapped over the past six or seven years. Trains will always remain my favorite mode of travel.
6. Anti-Austerity Demonstrations in Ljubljana
This mid-November demonstration in Ljubljana presaged Slovenia’s Autumn of Discontent.
5. Five Long Exposures Inside Shanghai’s Bund Tourist Tunnel
Taken during a five-minute train ride below the Huangpu River. So hideously tacky that it almost works. At least for long exposure photography.
4. The Devil’s Sonata – A Piran Portrait in 19 Pics, Part I
It took me more than five years to publish a longer post about the city whose name this blog carries. And I even made the terribly sophomoric mistake of adding ‘Part I’ to the title. Which means I have to come up with a second part and I’m desperately running out of time. Good thing there’s no strict deadline.
3. 30 Minutes in Istanbul’s Spice Market
Exactly what the title implies. Sugar and spice and (almost) everything nice.
2. Carnations, Neo-Nazis and a Water Cannon – More Demonstrations in Ljubljana
I was glad to do my very modest part to spread the word a bit about the autumn demonstrations in Slovenia. Mention and a link from Boing Boing helped. They’re continuing, by the way.
1. Light in Babylon – Istanbul Street Music Quickie
Some really beautiful music. Be sure to check the post for lots of links to the band’s tunes.
All-time most read post? I doubt anything will ever match ‘Did anyone tell the Amazon swimmer about the candiru?‘ unless I come across another fish that enjoys lodging itself into a penis.
What to expect in 2013? Bar none, the best year ever for Piran Café! That’s a promise I intend to keep. As always, thanks for visiting, and enjoy the pic gallery.
Here are a few dozen shots from last night’s excellent mega concert in Ljubljana’s central Kongresni Trg, or Congress Square, that was part REM tribute, part environmental awareness shindig. At top is Vlado Kreslin, one of Slovenia’s most popular and respected singer/songwriters, belting out Texarkana.
Projekt REM: Energija Ciste Glasbe (Pure Energy Music), organized and sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Ljubljana, brought together more than a dozen artists and bands for a five-plus hour show – each act played three or four songs, one of which was a unique take on a favorite REM tune. Below is Lollobrigida, a Zagreb-based techno/pop band whose entertaining and energetic performance reminded me of the B-52s. If you guessed that she’s singing Shiny Happy People, you’d be right. The song fit them, too. They were a blast.
Forgive me for finding myself instantly cloaked in a shroud of cynicism anytime any official organ of the U.S. government puts its name, front and center, on any green initiative. (Talking the talk for the world’s second largest polluter is one thing, walking the walk is another. But let’s leave that for another time.)
Which was why I appreciated the remarks made by U.S. Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli who, while sharing a story of his experience at the first Earth Day back in 1970, told the crowd how divided the U.S. remains on issues of environmental protection. He seemed to be genuinely embarrassed when making that statement of fact. That kind of polarization, he said, isn’t the case in Slovenia.
But that’s not really why a massive crowd filled the square by the time darkness descended on a near perfect late summer evening. They came for the music, and the performers largely delivered. A few personal highlights: I saw Elvis Jackson (lead singer David Kovšca above) for the first time; they were certainly inspired during their lively ska/hard core interpretation of Losing My Religion. Another was Kreslin, who joined the Croatian Surf Punk band The Bambi Molesters.
Twenty-two photos in all, below.
If globalization had left you wondering what Great Britain’s primary export has been over the past 50 years, the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics provided a high energy reminder.
A few scattered notes from the what was certainly the best of the three Olympic Games finales I’ve seen:
Besides the brief speeches by IOC boss Jacques Rogge and London 2012 Chairman Sebastian Coe near the tail end of the evening, this extravaganza seemed to have little to do with the Olympics. It was a rock concert, dancefest and sing-along for a crowd of 80,000 spectators and some 10,000 athletes featuring some big names of pop music’s past. It was also part Broadway/West End, featuring more than 3,500 volunteer performers, and almost operatic in scope –we weren’t allowed up for air until the pause brought on by the pair of quick speeches.
The headliners were The Who – Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend with a few sidemen in tow– who brought the show to a rousing conclusion. There was Muse, Fatboy Slim, Ray Davies, George Michael, Annie Lennox, Nick Mason, Liam Gallagher, One Direction, the Petshop Boys, and many others. Madness sang and played “Our House” 29 years –to the week!– since I last saw them stomping and shouting that same song.
The archival footage of John Lennon, during a stirring rendition of “Imagine” performed by the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir and Liverpool Signing Choir, fit in beautifully. There was Freddie Mercury, too, singing the opening lines of “Day-O” with the crowd swaying along. After shedding a few tears during that video memorial, Queen’s guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor got together “Brighton Rock” and “We Will Rock You”.
Eric Idle was terrific. Backed up by a Monty Python ‘Best of’ cabaret style review, he led the crowd in a “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” sing-along. I’ll admit it: I sang along with that, and “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka. “I am the Walrus” and a few others, too. (Spice Girls not included).
Here’s a brief slideshow, 21 pics in all.
And finally, below is some admittedly crappy footage of the finale, The Who playing My Generation, shot with a dancing GoPro2. At least it’s not crappy footage of the Spice Girls reunion.
It was no contest really –Jelena Ždrale is by far the finest string-plucking mother-to-be I’ve encountered this week.
Last night she was jamming along with co-conspirators in Krizantema na Klavirju, or Chrysanthemum on a Piano, a theatre/poetry/music performance project that shook the cobblestone on Gornji Trg in Ljubljana. Fun stuff. One of the highlights? As singer Janja Majzelj was wrapping up a song that evolved into a People are Strange mash-up (of sorts), two men dressed as knights strolled by. They wound up on stage, of course.
The performance was part of Promenade Gornji trg, a summer-long series of events held in this Ljubljana old town neighborhood to highlight the area’s small shops, galleries and restaurants. Definitely worth a visit if you’re popping through the Slovenian capital this summer.
A few more shots:
The shooting experiment I undertook last night turned out to be a dismal failure. I’ll spare you the details. But I did manage to salvage a few shots at a jazz concert on Ljubljana’s central Preseren Square. Credit for that goes to Allen Ginsberg.
I was first drawn in by the confident cadence of Derrianne Dyett, a young women from Trinidad & Tobago, who was reading the opening lines of ‘Howl‘. I hadn’t heard that performed in more than a decade. Listening to it in the shadow of Slovenian poet Prešeren’s statue put a big ole smile on my face. I felt less old.
The bass guitarist who is the subject of this triptych is Benson Itoe from Cameroun. He made sure I left more energized.
This news planted a big smile on my face this morning. Youssou N’Dour, a man who helped expose me to some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard, has been named the Culture and Tourism minister in Senegal’s new government.
N’Dour, a Grammy-award winner and one of Africa’s most recognized artists, announced his candidacy for February’s presidential elections but his bid was rejected by the country’s constitutional council in late January. That decision, coupled with a ruling that allowed 85-year-old incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade to seek a controversial third term, fueled rising anger in the streets and sparked deadly riots. N’Dour quickly became a voice and face of the opposition and later threw his support behind former Prime Minister Macky Sall in the March run-off election again Wade. Tensions finally eased when Wade conceded defeat to Sall, who took 66 percent of the vote, just hours after the polls closed.
Like Brazilian legend Gilberto Gil, another of my early heroes in ‘World music‘, N’Dour opened my ears and eyes to an entirely new world of music, west African rhythms which themselves were the pivotal roots to so much of the music the world has enjoyed as a consequence of the African diaspora.
The shot above was taken at the Salle des Etoiles in Monaco in November 2009 when I finally got to see N’Dour perform live. He was singing this:
Here are a couple more shots from the same performance; nine in all are on my flickr stream here. To celebrate, I’ve changed the license to Creative Commons/Attribution 3.0, so you’re free to use them non-commercially. (With credit exactly as listed with photos, please.)
After a pair of cold and rainy days, the sun made a brief appearance here in Istanbul this afternoon. I decided that it wasn’t coincidence that I came across the band Light in Babylon soon thereafter jamming on Istiklal Avenue, this city’s busiest pedestrian thoroughfare. The wet and chill left me with a cold; the trio’s music blanketed it with a smile. Thank you.
You’re welcome to download and use these creative commons images (non-commercial use only).
This is vocalist Michal Elia Kamal – captivating voice.
Metehan Çiftçi playing the Santur, a Persian hammered dulcimer:
and guitarist Julien Demarque:
I bought their CD, Life Sometimes Doesn’t Give You Space, and you should too. I’m looking forward to giving it a listen when I’m back home in Ljubljana Wednesday afternoon. Hopefully they’ll let me use a song or two in some Istanbul videos I’ll be working on over the next couple weeks. Maybe if I ask really nicely.
Okay, okay. By popular demand, one more picture of Michal Elia:
DJ Spooky on what to say to a climate change sceptic:
“What planet are you on?”
More with the multimedia artist one critic called ‘Einstein with a better haircut’ in this Mother Jones interview.
It’s called Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage, will include 40 songs, and I’ll be buying it. The least I can do for a band whose music formed a large part of my life’s soundtrack. Great trailer, too.
It was a shame I didn’t see them live here in Slovenia, but I enjoyed them plenty of times back in the U.S. Here’s a snap I took during a show at the Cleveland Music Hall on 12-Aug-1985. The ticket was $12.50 and I still have the stub. I hid the zoom lens in my pants.
And while I’m at it, here’s a 1986 release that was part of the soundtrack during organizing days back in the mid-1980s. I haven’t felt the kind of energy that’s now spreading across the world in those 25 years since. The message is as resounding now as it was then. Yes, I’m excited.
Life’s rich demand creates supply in the hand
Of the powers, the only vote that matters
Silence means security silence means approval
Let’s begin again.
Some happy news, via Luaka Bop:
As was probably the case for many, the first song I heard by Baca was Maria Lando, from the David Byrne/Luaka Bop compilation, The Soul of Black Peru; love at first listen.