Slow Dancing On A Rainy Day

Slow dancing with little Abel on a rainy day in Hong Kong. His head curled up in my neck, while firmly grasping on to my sweater. His right foot is leaning on my hand and I can feel his little toes curling up, trying to grasp onto my fingers. Looking out from our living room window the view reaches out over the Marina bay into the grey distance towards Hong Kong Island that has disappeared in the mist. Below us on the main road I see colourful umbrellas passing by slowly. Abel is breathing softly while sleeping on my chest. It’s raining cats and dogs and the sound of the rain drops hitting the rooftops accompany Abel, Bob Dylan and me while we dance the moment away.  It’s precious. Beautiful. All elements in place. Life is and should always be about this.

Cup of Coffee

This blog is about my daily cup of coffee. I have to commend the microwave here, for always being there for me and my coffee. Every morning, as soon as I have made myself a nice cup of coffee, Abel gets jealous and he wants the attention that I had reserved for the coffee. Abel screams louder than the coffee so I end up attending him. And the coffee ends up getting lonely and cold. Some time later it takes me and the microwave about 60 seconds to warm up the cup of coffee. It ain’t as good as it was freshly brewed, but it is good enough. As so many things in life. It is good to appreciate the little things that are not great or excellent or amazing, but just good enough.

What do you do when a legend dies?

Listen to his voice and his music, over and over and over again.

Look at him, into the eyes that never look back.

Revisit the memories you gathered over more than two decades that were deeply, tearfully and joyfully coloured by his music.

Regret and rejoice that you have never seen him live.

Feel the impact and influence he had on you.

Feel old.

Feel sad.

Feel done.

Feel alone.

Say goodbye to whatever he was to you.

David Bowie

GUMI

GUMI was formed during the New Year’s celebrations of the year 4707. Its original bandmembers were G. and M.  End of June this year, GUMI had their first and last performance ever.  A performance to celebrate her birthday, and to say goodbye to him, now living in Cambodia.

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It was a memorable evening, and GUMI played their songs: In Cerca di Cibo (In Search of Food), Wo Dengzhe Ni Huilai (Waiting for your return), Gloomy Sunday, Pinocchio – In Groppa Al Tonno, Meihua, El Choclo, Blue Monk, Love in Portofino, Ushti Ushti Baba (Macedonian folksong).
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Naxi Orchestra

Lijiang is the capital of the Naxi Kingdom. The Naxi are an ethnic group who descended from a race of Tibetan nomads.I read about their music, which is an ancient form of Chinese music, that survived the CR, among others because the musicians buried their instruments to save them. Naxi music is also called “the living fossils” of music in China and is a combination of literary lyrics, poetry and music styles from the Tang, Song and Yuan dynasties and also has influences from Tibetan music. When I arrived in Lijiang, I didn’t really like this town. The old town of Lijiang which is in the top of favorite touristic places in China.  It was just too touristic, and feels a bit like a big Nanluoguxiang (Beijing) town. Then I read about the Naxi orchestra and for sure I wanted to check that out. It turned out to be the most interesting thing that Lijiang has to offer in my opinion, even though the Orchestra plays every evening for tourist. To me, it still has an authentic feel to it. Reading about this ancient music from China and then seeing the members of the Orchestra… Well, have a look yourself:

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The oldest member of the Naxi Orchestra is 87 years old!

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Kaki King in concert

Yesterday I went to see Kaki King in Paradiso, Amsterdam. My older brother introduced me to her music, and I was quite interested. She is known for her non-conventional way of playing the guitar and somehow I do not know many very good female guitar players.

 

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Dan Brantigan had a trumpet next to him, and I was waiting for him to play on it. Au contraire, he played the electronic flute, or how to call the thing he played, which reminded me of the asthma inhaler I used when I was very young. He only played trumpet during one song, which was a pity.

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Paradiso is located in a former church in Amsterdam, and the most famous music venue in The Netherlands. It is a cultural icon and according to Wikipedia, Keith Richards once said that the Paradiso concerts were the best live shows the Stones ever did.

It was interesting to see that there was a decibel meter in the concert hall. It is known that 80 dB is the safe and legal limit to which the hearing may be exposed. Regular noise above 80 dB would inevitably lead to hearing damage. I forgot to bring my ear plugs. I will definitely buy some professional ones for in Beijing. They don’t care about the level of dB in Beijing. At least here they show you to what you are exposing yourself 😉

 

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Cats The Musical

I have always wanted to see this musical, since the first time I heard of it, many many years ago. I thought they did not play it anymore at all, so when I saw the announcements last year of Cats going to play in Beijing, the decision to go there was easily made. Many of my friends’ faces turned into a nasty ugly one when I asked them to go with me. Musicals are not particularly liked by most of my friends. Luckily Serena, my dear friend and former colleague, is like me considering this. We really wanted to see this musical so we already bought tickets in November for the show end of January and we were late as the cheapest tickets were sold out back then already. Still so popular. Last week after work, we went to the Beijing Exhibition Center to finally see the show.

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What I like a lot is that Cats is based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and other poems by T. S. Eliot. I like T.S. Eliot, especially The Waste Land which I read during my graduation project and still reminds me of that period. Cats has been performed all over the world and has been translated in more than 20 languages. I prefer the original, so I was more than happy to discover that it was performed by an Australian cast and all was in English, except for a few lines of Memory in Chinese. (The crowd went wild!) There was a minor alteration of the storyline, I was told, there was a fight of the Pirate Cat against a bunch of Mongolian Cats who tried to capture his boat. That was not in the original. Maybe this was the version especially for a Chinese crowd where the Mongolian Cats attacked and were defeated. What surprised me as well is that here going to a musical looked a lot like going to the cinema. The smell of popcorn was so dominant! Eating popcorn during a musical? Strange to me. And not only popcorn, people were eating a lot of things, pealing oranges and so on.

Nevertheless, I finally saw Cats! And it was in a beautiful theatre in Beijing!
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Between The Bars

Elliott Smith – Between The Bars

Drink up baby, Stay up all night
With the things you could do, You won’t but you might
The potential you’ll be, But you’ll never see
The promises you’ll only make
Drink up with me now, And forget all about
The pressure of days, Do what I say
And I’ll make you okay, Drive them away
The images stuck in your head

People you’ve been before
That you don’t want around anymore
That push and shove and won’t bend to your will
I’ll keep them still

Drink up baby, Look at the stars
I’ll kiss you again, Between the bars
Where I’m seeing you there, With your hands in the air
Waiting to finally be caught
Drink up one more time, And I’ll make you mine
Keep you apart, Deep in my heart
Separate from the rest, Where I like you the best
And keep the things you forgot

Live Music Events and so

There haven’t been many pictures posted on my blog for a while now. I am very aware of that. Maybe it was because of the lack of a good camera. Probably more cause of laziness on my side, as I actually have quite a lot of pictures that I just haven’t posted. I decided to change that from now on. Today I bought myself a Christmas present! 🙂 A very nice digital camera, the Nikon P5100! I am happy to be in the possession of a camera now, it is actually my first digital camera! So I am into taking pictures again.

For this post I will show you some old pictures, taken by my mobile phone camera or taken by friends. I have been to quite some live music events and want to show you some. Beijing is the place to be in China considering artistic, musical and cultural events.

This picture was taken at the Beijing Jazz Festival last September in Haidian park. The range of styles was wide: Cool Jazz, Be-bop, Swing, Fusion, Rhythm & Blues, Latin, Flamenco and Funk. A cool, nice relaxing outdoor event with great music. I have forgotten the name of this band though.
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Near the Beijing Drive-Inn, there is this little old shed, called Dos Kolegas. This live music venue is very well known among serious rockers and if you want to see a bit of the underground music scene of Beijing, this is certainly one of the places to go. On the picture you see the stage, with on the background the band who was just about to play. They are called Hedgehog and truly one of the most interesting bands I have seen till now in Beijing. Especially cause their drummer is a Chinese girl who rocks and certainly knows how to hit the drums.
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Mao Live House is another place to go if you want to see some good live music. This picture was taken during a Beatles Tribute last week. Great Beatles songs performed by well known Chinese bands and artists. It was somewhat funny to see some of them starting their performance a bit nervous as they are not used to sing songs in English. The one guy who sang Yesterday, even forgot some of the lyrics. Unimaginable, but nevertheless, his performance was good.
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Here is a picture of my good friend Simon and me after the Beatles Tribute. We were with a bunch of nice friends, who brought some friends, and with this troop we went to a bar called Salud, located in a small street, Nanluoguxiang, that is filled with tiny restaurants, stores and bars. It is in a hutong which gives it even more charm than it already has.
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Last Thursday I went out eating with Xiaolu in Nanluoguxiang. We went to a cute Taiwanees restaurant and had some delicious dinner. After that we walked to Houhai (an area at a lake with many bars and venues), it was so cold as we made our way through the hutongs. When you walk on a big street with many cars it is not as cold as walking in hutong as all the cars just heat up the street. Crazy to realize what difference it makes. And believe me, it really makes a difference! The lake was frozen, although it is not strong enough yet to ice-skate on. I really want to go ice-skating there when I am back from Holland again! We went to the East Shore Jazz bar. A not so big bar, with a cosy atmosphere and beautiful view over the lake. The music was just good old fashion jazz. With a mug of hot chocolate, we enjoyed! Great to go out again on a weekday and spend an evening there.
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The next picture has been taken in a bar called JiangJinJiu. A small venue located at the square in between the Drum and the Bell tower. I just love this place, the atmosphere is, I think the best one I have felt of all the live music venues and bars I’ve been to in BJ. Surrounded by the huge impressing Bell and Drum Tower, this is just a little gem. On the picture you see the band Chocho Maldito, with Checo Fernandez on guitar and vocals, Da Peng on double bass and Xiao Yong on percussion. Checo is a friend of Tato, my colleague at Microsoft and it was them I saw performing on the night I met my funny cab driver on my way home. Check out their MySpace to hear their music.
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This evening I went to see a Korean musical. Zhixi arranged tickets for Mark, Wei Ti and me and although it was all in Korean with Chinese subtitles (read: Maysha couldn’t really understand the story) the play was very nice to see and to listen to. This picture shows the theatre with Wei Ti making a jump of joy!
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It was not allowed to take any pictures during the show. I saw sooo many people taking pictures, but I could not although I wanted to because of course I just got myself this little Nikon present, but the theatre guy was just standing behind me, and as soon as I took out my camera he was standing next to me already, the ******#%$%#$#%! So only a pic of the end.
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Only seven days left now until I am heading home for the holidays!

Funny cab driver

Last Friday I went to see a colleague of mine perform in a nice cafe. He played percussion and the music he and his mates played could be described as etno music, from the province XinJiang. Click this link to go to his MySpace, you will immediately hear the kind of music they were playing. I like it a lot. It was a wonderful evening, the atmosphere in this little bar was just great. Since my arrival in Beijing I haven’t been to a place with such an atmosphere before. Really enjoyable and relaxt.

I went home by cab and the driver was listening to old 80s and 90s hits from the West. He told me he really liked this kind of music and I heard those soft pop rock ballads from those times. I smiled, and he asked me whether I knew this music. I said, of course, I grew up with it. I heard TLC with I don’t want no scrub, and the driver hummed along. Then he quickly switched it to something else. He let me hear a song from a band and asked me whether I knew this band. He was soo fond of this one. His favourite! It were the Backstreet Boys, with one of their famous hits. He hummed along as he could not sing the English words and I sang along. He smiled as he noticed that I could (I know, it is shameful) sing along with the lyrics. So there I was, in the middle of the night, in a cab somewhere in Beijing on my way home, with this Chinese cab driver listening and singing this cheesy Quit playing games with my heart song. He and his Backstreet Boys brought me home safely. Just another great night in Beijing.