Saturday, February 16, 2013

Today we had our first 2 concerts at the festival. This festival is not anything like i've seen ever! it's like a miniature world's fair. Every country is represented, well, except for most of western europe and for the US it's us and KFC! But there is a whole section dedicated to Omani traditions and customs, filled with wedding traditions, to songs and dance, making of baskets, playing chess with sea shells and of course food. Then there is a whole international section that is like that Omani section but with countries like Sudan, Russia, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam a bunch more. It's amazing. Tonight we played with the beautiful backdrop of a huge mountain range, it was not a full house but the poeple that were there were generous in their spirit. People have been so friendly and nice here, everyone told us this but it is really true, I have more to say but right now I am sleepy and hope to make more grand statements in the future.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

We arrived today in Muscat. Our day started yesterday the 13th hustling around brooklyn, teaching 2nd grade choir then boarding a plane then 20 hrs later arriving in Muscat. It feels so great to be here, the air is warm, everyone is hanging out eating on terraces at 1am. It's 4 am now and I am doing all in my power to go to sleep, not yet possible though. We are staying in a superbly lovely hotel, everything is beautiful and clean and they made us dinner even though it was after hours! Tomorrow is our day off, time for exploring this lovely city, I hope to see water, market's and nice cup of turkish coffee in the morning!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day 4 in Turkmenistan

Day 4

THis our last day in Turkmenistan, we have our major concert and one workshop at the institute for culture. I am sooo tired this whole day and Sean is very sick. Somehow the sleeping gods would not let any of us sleep, i woke at 3am and couldn't go back to sleep. But we woke up by the time we got to the institute for culture, it is one of the big new buildings that is sided with marble! it's really beautiful inside, the president had us up to his office where he had 5 televisions showing all the ashgabat TV stations, and one of them showcased some of the theatre students from the school. We very welcomed to this concert it was very comforting especially on this day.
The hall was beautifully decorated and all of the students were dressed in their traditional dress, it is very classic and beautiful looking. Also the Ambassador was here at this concert, it was nice to have him at one of our workshops, but honestly he introduced us and surprised with how much information he knew about traditional american folk music. the crowd was lovely, we had lots of audience participation they also showered us with so many flowers. a beautiful tradition to bring up in the middle of the set.


Then we all crashed out at the hotel to get ready for our big show. we were welcomed at the venue by a big marquee with our faces and names on it. It's fun to feel like a rock star for even just one day. Pretty cool. the concert was great. We got the audience to dance, not just the little kids but the teenagers and some adults!!! Sean pulled off some elvis moves and the crowd went wild. We signed lots of autographs and took pictures and were given loads of beautiful flowers and chocolate. It is nice to be able to make someone's day just by playing some music and signing my name. If that all it takes to make a couple of smiles i can totally do that!
we left there and headed to the British pub to see our friend we met at the Susan's house, he was playing the saxophone in this band playing american cover tunes, basically wedding band material. They were really great. it made me think of all the foreign music that i play and what would it be like for me to play the music and have a native be there and have all the cultural context that i don't have with those tunes. They played pink floyd, bob marley, eric clapton, every tune i can have a vivid memory about some experience i had with it, how it is on every classic rock station in the mid-west and probably played 30 million times. But it made me realize that music is music. playing something you love is playing something you love, that is enough and that is communicated clearly when done from pure passion. These guys had that. A beautiful thing. They called it jazz music, and this pub was the only place that they could play that music.
our marquee
after this we packed our bags and left for the airport at 1am, trying to stay awake till at least Baku where we change for our long flight to frankfurt. it is a trip the flying we leave at 3 am on Friday morning and arrive in NYC at 1:30pm on Friday. We are traveling back in time. So wierd!!!

Day 3 in Turkmenistan

Day 3

This day started off playing at a conservatory of music. A very cold in tempature conservatory. We played our show and afterwords this very old woman came up to us and began thanking us and being very sweet to us. Come to find out this woman is 81 years old and was a famous Russian opera singer. She sat down to the piano to show us her talents, as the notes get higher she would pop out of her seat, it was so wonderful. she melted my heart.

The school set up a concert for us by the students, so we walked in the museum and there were 2 rows of boys playing dutars and guzjak, totally spelling these wrong, you'll see the video and see what i'm talking about. the Guzjak is like the pontic lyric only in the way it's tuned but is made from mulberry tree wood and a fish skin! i can't believe a fish skin is strong enough, they said it's catfish. Anyway, i love love love that instrument, i want to play in the band. I think i was born in the wrong place. i love that music! you'll see this band you only need one of these instruments because it's soo cool. I got to play on his instrument and it was soo nice. they said with a little instruction i could be really good. Was that a compliment or just like stick with the violin? anyway, they were fabulous. A pleasure to get to hear the traditional folk music.

We had lunch with the ambassador, at his house. it was so nice to sit and have a conversation with him. He is a very interesting person, he filled us in about all his travels in somalia, and also more of the history of turkmenistan. It's so nice to get the cliff notes of a place.
Then we headed to the orphanage, called the palace for orphan children. And it was a palace. the kids were wonderful we taught them hambone, pretty funny. at the end of our concert this young boy came to the stage and sang to a music track. Oh my god, this boy was a professional! he had incredible stage presence and voice. He could teach us something. It was great, they left us with a CD that the children are all on. i can't wait to hear it.
One of the orphan children singing for us

we played a short set at the embassy which is in our hotel, kinda handy. and then for the final part of the day we had a dinner and meeting of other turkmen musicians at the deputy of missions. She opened her house up to all us, made dinner and then held the night sorta like a salon, everyone played a couple of songs, it was so beautiful. We heard so many different styles of music and everyone was so friendly, it was nice to have a chance to talk to people that live and work here. We played with one of the famous turkmen musicians who does a lot of american music and of course we did "what a wonderful world" It makes me feel like we have landed somewhere.

Amazing Turkmen musicians at Susan Thorton's House

Day 2 in Turkmenistan

Day 2
This day we had been scheduled to fly to turkmenabat early in the morning, but apparently when the president flies somewhere it means the airport shuts down completely. Was good for us, we had time to rest in the morning, sean came down with a cold so extra rest was much appreciated.
Apparently its very cheap to fly so everyone does instead of driving hours. So we were at the airport yet again, except this time it was just one gate, and at the gate we could see these amazing mountains that are 10,000 feet in elevation. I wanted to take pictures but if i had i would have been suspect to be a terrorist so i decided against. anyway, we got to turkmenabat it reminded me so much of travels in northern romania, especially the part where i felt constantly cold and all the old ladies only had a head scarf and light jacket. I am such a wimp. But the buildings architecture and the old style buses and the general vibe is soo similar. They had us play at a place called the American Corners, this is where they teach english some kids get to go to US as an exchange student, they are all really smart and eager to learn. one kid wore his NY sweatshirt to represent. It was a very nice show, acoustic and we got to speak english and people actually understood us.

we left there and headed to our next show which was at this beautiful palace. It was huge, its adored in gold. the theater had red chairs and huge chandelier and was set up for beautiful acoustics it was gorgeous. The house was packed with lots of young people very excited to see us. at the end we received 3 huge bouquets of flowers and signed autographs and took pictures, people we chanting to sean and i as we left "Sarah, we love you" and "We love you Sean" so funny!! It feels so funny to have complete strangers to say that to you. What do fans really mean when they say that? do they really love me?
Our concert venue- Seidi Music and Drama Theatre in Turkmenabat
Seidi Musica and Drama Theatre in Turkmenabat

Our flowers from Turkmenabat

Anyway, our night was not finished we had to eat dinner. we went back to the place that we had lunch and not one person was there, same as when we had lunch but this time they had strobe lights and house music pumping! No one was in there?!. We walked in and apparently they were out of food so we couldn't eat there but they stopped us because they said there was a problem with our lunch bill and we had to pay more money!
Anyway, on to the next restaurant which was awesome. It was called Tractor. We were greeted by two ladies which we promptly gave our bouquets to and made fast friends. The one lady look like she owned the bar but apparently she was a singer who wore a button up jean suit jumper and wanted to thank us for the flowers so she sang it;s a wonderful life complete with the louie armstrong voice, a voice that is only gotten by a woman who smokes at least a pack of cigarets a day. it was really just like louie singing with a russian accent! in the back of this place there was karaoke and lots of young people perhaps having dates. it was a great place to relax and have a drink before getting on the plane back to ashgabat.

We got back to the airport and waited for our plane. Sean got out his guitar and wouldn't you know it a group of gypsy playing musicians came up and started singing with him. It was a beautiful moment. They may be coming to the deputy of missions house tonight for a dinner with us! Now that is cultural exchange!

Monday, December 5, 2011

First day in Turkmenistan

We have arrived in turkmenistan. It was a grueling journey but at some point you lose all concept of time and then it's ok. But at the time we hit frankfurt and we had been on a very long airplane ride and super duper tired all we really thought about was a bed and then we realized we'd be in the airport for the the next 7hrs and then it's another 7hrs to our destination, oh it seemed bleak, but we lost concept of time and it all worked out.
we arrived here and it seem very eastern block communist style except with lots of neon lights. right now i'm sitting in my hotel room looking out the window at the palace of happiness, that was the first thing we saw when we landed. It's huge, it has 3,000 person hotel capacity and the place itself is over looking the whole city. It's where people get married but as sean said it just brings him a lot of happiness just looking at it.
anyway, we just finished dinner with our sponsor exxon mobile, it was a lovely dinner. We had really amazing conversation and so much food. I decided to have a turkish coffee to end the night and that is why i am on this computer right now instead of sleeping.

Today was a good day, i got a walk around outside, look at some of the shops, have a leisure morning, i think that was the first and the last of that. Anyway, i got to have a walk about our neighborhood. I had know idea that i would fit in so well, i wore my very russian style jacket, full length with fake fur hood and i wore this bright green long skirt, which just happens to be customary clothing for here. So an old woman stopped me on the street to ask me something, directions or something, when i said do you speak english? she looked at me and then looked at my clothes in disbelief. You'll see i'll post some pictures of girls all wearing long green skirts and of course the jacket is like any old russian women would wear. Funny.
but it really reminded me of Romania and Prague and maybe a little of kuwait only in the big buildings with lots of neon lights. Women were out sweeping the streets, sidewalks and dirts with traditional old stick brooms, some women where hanging out laundry of their huge communist looking apartment buildings. all the buildings have tons of satellite dishes on them, looks like they might be conversing with the aliens as sean says. i was stopped by a group of men today, i was taking pictures of them setting up the christmas tree. They all asked me to take pictures of them in front of this car. Pretty classic, then the very next question was, how many children i have. Not if i have them but how many!? then they told me that one of them had 9 another had 13, they were proud. Families are very important.

We headed to our first workshop which was at the music conservatory for children between the ages of 10-16. It was beautiful we walked in and two small children offered us some fried dough and turkmen bread, they were soooo cute. We arrived in the new facility, it was nice and we played for many enthusiastic children, they were excellent clappers and singers! At the end we played one of their traditional songs, this little boy sang, he owned that stage, he was such a natural performer, just a beautiful voice. There was also a dance that a group of the students did as well. So beautiful.

It sorta feels like a lawless country. courtney was driving tonight and i was impressed. The driving isn't totally crazy, like they aren't jerks, but there seems to be no rules that you really have to follow except do hit another car, that usually guides decisions, but like staying in lanes, turning in front of people, cutting people off it all open no rules. But it sorta feels like the energy here. There are so many buildings huge palaces but not a lot happens in them. Like tonight we went down to check out the disco that is on the bottom floor of our hotel, it so amazing. It's 1980's style with a giant disco ball in the middle of the room. Thursday night that's were we will be at.
Tomorrow we are flying to Turkmenibat. IT's to be an early morning, I should be sleeping, but right now in NYC it's 1pm and i finally feel awake thanks to Turkish Coffee.