Monday, 14 May 2007

Eurovision Song Contest 2007

I had the privilege of watching the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest direct from Helsinki at Peter, Cansin and Micheal Can's place Saturday night. I don't know if privilege is the correct word because on the whole the acts were painful. Yes, the Eurovision performances are usually bad but this year they took badness to another extreme. The performances also oozed more camp than a tent display but this did not make up for the mediocrity. This year the event was held in Finland as their contestant, LORDI, won last year.

Here is a partially tongue-in-cheek and highly critical review based on my recollections:

Spain - Backstreet Boy clone jobs were big years ago - it's about time you tried something remotely original

Georgia - not the diva's singing was horrible but the beat and music made me wish for a nightclub. I thought this song was a dark horse and I was wrong, although the random country (can't remember which) giving Georgia 12 points (top marks) also recognised the song's potential.

United Kingdom - Either the Brits don't get Europe or the Europeans don't get the Brits. The best evidence for those who think the UK is not European comes from the Eurovision contest. Year after year, despite the hype, the Brits receive very few points; this is similar to their (lack of) success at Wimbledon. Oddly, Malta gave them 12 this year.

Ukraine - the pre-contest favourite got what Eurovision is all about - over the top kitsch, ugly and awful enough to be enjoyable. Came second.

Germany - should have remained in the smoky cellar-level Reeperbahn club they likely came from.

- 'Shake it up Sekerim' (Shake it up 'my sugar') by Kenan Dogulu was average and bland - what one gets for trying too hard. Turkey needs to go back to the drawing-board and find a lesser-known act with edge, preferably one that hasn't recorded Turkcell ads. Came fourth, helped by the top points from ex pat-heavy Germany, Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom.

- song style and lyrics similar to Turkey's. I wouldn't be surprised if the songwriters swapped notes. Again, back to the drawing-board.

Slovenia - opera? Ouch, hurt the ears.

Bulgaria - a singer who can drum - at least this song was better than anything by Phil Collins solo.

France - yawn.

- Trad Irish music went out when the plastic Paddys (fake Irish pubs) started hosting salsa dance nights. Verdict: less trad and more rebelliousness required. Came stone cold last.

Serbia - How this song won I will never know. Serbia not only won but thrashed the pants off the competition. I guess they made a big public relations tour of the region prior to Eurovision.

Russia - stuck to the beautiful young ladies singing a pop song formula - better than average. Well, at least the ladies were decent. Came third.

Please do not buy me this year's Eurovision DVD or CD for I already have enough beer coasters :)

A note about voting: if Eurovision brought in a rule restricting the points swapped between neighbouring countries the contest would be more interesting and less predictable. Have Greece and Cyprus ever not awarded each other top points? Likewise with the former Yugoslav and Soviet countries.



Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Pakistan Music

Pakistani music is diverse and I managed to sample a few styles during my trip.


Although there was music at both of Hani's wedding receptions, it did not take a prominent role.

The music at the second reception consisted of a tabla and a sitar, the basis for Pakistani classical music.


Every Thursday in Lahore there are two special performances: Qawwali music at the Shrine of Data Sahib in the afternoon and Sufi drumming and dancing at the Tomb of Shah Jamal in the evening. Thanks to Malik and the personnel at Regale Internet Inn, I and the other Internet Inn customers had some of the best seats at both events.

Following are three photos and three videos from the Qawwali performances of 28 December. Vocals dominate the Qawwali style of music and the singing can get quite animated at times. Worldwide, the most famous Qawwali singer was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, someone Eddie Vedder was privileged enough to work with.

Every so often a man would come around to collect tips for the group then performing. At least two or three different formations performed. Some people went and threw notes over the band or other audience members just like at a Turkish wedding.

Following the Qawwali performance, outside of the Shrine of Data Sahib some Gypsies performed in the street. They are societal outcasts with their long hair, body piercings and different dress but are seen as holy/providing good fortune, hence the crowd. Note the bells hung around their belts. These guys also attended the Sufi dancing that night.

Sufi Drumming and Dancing

That evening, several of us from the Regale Internet Inn caught rickshaws to the Tomb of Shah Jamal just outside Lahore for an evening of dhol drumming and sufi dancing.

Prior to the dancing the brothers Goonga and Mithu Sain drummed, at one stage joined by a saxophonist. The below video is pitch black and the sound is muffled because I recorded it with my camera in my bag as taking of images was not allowed. Despite these defects, the sound is still cool, particularly for anyone into jungle p0rn music or under the influence of mind-altering substances.

Later in the evening the dancers came on and starting dancing their freestyle Sufi styles. The almost purely male crowd were enjoying their hash in various forms and everyone had mellowed out so I slyly recorded the next video. Two of the dancers whirling themselves into ectasy in the below video were not originally meant to be dancing. The guy with the hat gave Drummer Goonga Sain a 1,000 rupee note (the largest Pakistani denomination, about USD 16.50) and for that his mate was allowed to sit front and centre and he could dance with impunity. The guy in the mustard-coloured dress insisted on dancing despite the best efforts to get rid of him by one or two of the 'real' dancers.

Despite the extremely loud drum noise, asleep in the tree above where I was sitting were pigeons. Unfortunately, the two people sitting next to me were shat on 2 or 3 times by these winged rats.

As the night was cold, the concrete seat uncomfortable and, most importantly, I wasn't smoking the weed, I did not totally get into the sound and left with other Regale Internet Inn backpackers before the performance finished early the next morning. Outside the courtyard, other drummers were doing their stuff in front of another audience.


A Bhangra band provided entertainment New Year's Eve at Regale Internet Inn. The group consisted of Chimta (large tongs), harmonium (squeezebox), ektara (single-stringed guitar) and dholak (drum) and voice.

The harmonium

The ektara



Sunday, 26 November 2006

Yves Larock Live At The Armada, Mersin, Turkey, 25 November 2006

This week, the above poster advertising Yves Larock 'Africanism' was plastered around Mersin. What caught my eye was the fact Yves Larock obviously was not a Turkish act, and, judging by the 'CH' on the poster, probably came from Switzerland.

Last night, after some umming and erring, flatmate Levent and I decided to go. The Armada is a new (opened this year) multi-purpose venue located on the coast east of the Hilton Hotel. Earlier in the day, a workmate called The Armada to see if males without female company could enter. A common policy in Turkey for decent nightspots is to bar single or groups of males. In typical Turkish fashion, the answer was 'maybe'.

The bouncers did accept our 20 YTL and we were allowed in. A decent crowd (500?) was in attendance, and, although not completely full, it made a perfect fit. Following a mix of Turkish and foreign dance music, Yves Larock came on after midnight. With the theme 'Africanism' on his posters, I was expecting more tribal music, than the house he played. As a person who has not been to a real disco for a long time, I did not care about semantics. Neither did Levent. We enjoyed grooving on the dancefloor almost continuously for more than 3 hours.

The great light and smoke show complemented the music. Sometimes the machine smoke was so thick the visibility was zero. The tobacco smoke also hung around.

Last night reminded me of my escapades at The Planet nightclub in Adelaide several years ago. The number of people of Mediterranean origin was the same, althought there were no broken glasses underfoot at The Armada, only cigarette butts.

By 2:30 I had tired and was ready to leave, although Levent, with the combination of raki and beer in his veins, wanted to keep going.

After 3 am we left and walked into town to Haci Baba Restaurant. I ate kelle-paca corbasi (sheep's head and feet soup) whilst Levent settled for mercimek corbasi (lentil soup).

After a great night, at 4:45 am I collapsed asleep in bed.

Reading Yves Larock's website this morning, I see that the Mersin gig was his only performance in Turkey. He came to Turkey just to perform in Mersin!!!! He must have a Mersin girlfriend, know The Armada owner or something...


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Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Pearl Jam To Rock Adelaide

In the next few days my favourite band, Pearl Jam, will play two concerts in Adelaide. Last week, U2, another great group, were also in town. Unfortunately, I'm on the other side of the world and cannot attend.

This time reminds me of February/March 1998 when I went with university friend Ryan to see U2 in Sydney and then a week later saw Pearl Jam at Thebarton Oval.

A few days ago, members of the two bands performed a cheesy version of Neil Young's Rockin' In The Free World in Melbourne. Here is a much better version from Pearl Jam's 2003 Adelaide concert. If you look carefully, you may be able to see my sister Anna's and my bobbing heads in the front row. Anna received one of the broken tambourines this night. Other Pearl Jam Adelaide 2003 concert videos are here. If you haven't had enough Free World Rockin', there is also a video from Pearl Jam's Milan concert I attended a few months ago.


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Sunday, 2 July 2006

Pearl Jam in Italy/Switzerland!

My favourite band, Pearl Jam, will be touring Europe this autumn. In September I will see them in Bern, Switzerland and Bologna, Verona and Milan, Italy. 4 concerts in 5 nights!

I have my flights booked and tickets purchased. I can't wait. As an added bonus, my cousin, Graeme, currently in Geneva doing post-doctoral research, will join me for the tour. I also hope to catch up with Karin, Julia, Chris and maybe even Bill if he makes the journey from The Netherlands.

My schedule:
12 Sep 05:30: Arrive to Basel, Switzerland
13 Sep: Pearl Jam concert, Bern, Switzerland
14 Sep: Pearl Jam concert, Bologna, Italy
16 Sep: Pearl Jam concert, Verona, Italy
17 Sep: Pearl Jam concert, Milan, Italy
18 Sep 22:20 Depart from Basel, Switzerland

Verona's venue is an ancient Roman colloseum. I'm particularly looking forward to that concert, although it is the only one I don't have Fan Club tickets for.

Between Istanbul and Basel I will fly EasyJet. They have just started flying between Sabiha Gokcen Airport on Istanbul's Asian side to Basel and London Luton. My return Istanbul-Basel flight cost 157 EUR in total, including taxes and a 5% credit card charge.

A few Pearl Jam links:
The Sky I Scrape fan site
Official website
Official Tour website
Cool Europe Tour Map
I Got Bugs tour page

Italian Concert Venues

UPDATE: I have posted my best photos from Pearl Jam's concerts in Bern and Bologna


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