The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Mark Godfrey'

23

Fanfare Ciocarlia (live at the Sziget Festival, Budapest)

Fanfare CiocarliaReview Snapshot:
Romania-based brass specialists Fanfare Ciocarlia invited some of Europe's best gypsy performers to join them in making make deleriously danceable music for a giant crowd at the Sziget main world music stage. 

The CLUAS Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full review:
Few festivals have the kind of luck that Sziget has, to be in the midst of such genius. From Romania, Fanfare Ciocarlia continues a tradition going back to the Ottoman Empire when gypsy bands picked up gigs and instruments from Ottoman armies retreating from Europe.

Tonight Fanfare Ciocarlia's show opens with a trio of Flamenco-looking gypsy guitarists in cool, neat-fitting black sit in chairs by the front of the stage and cut their guitars into a flamenco tune, the lyrics in Catalan.

It all looked far too clean and polished for Fanfare Ciocalia, known for their lack of self consciouness and pretension. And then the pot bellied men appeared, through the dry ice and onto the back of the stage. Their shirts are unmatching shirts, tubas and horns resting on big guts.

The cocky trumpeter who speaks for the group all evening takes the front of the stage and the “Spaniards” – French-based gypsies Kaloome, we learn - depart. Fanfare Ciocarlia's first tune opens with a trademark shrill horns and a trumpet shuffle before the tubas kick in.

A couple of tunes later the band shifted tempo to fit popped up versions of Balkan gypsy tunes by singer Esma Redzepova from Macedonia, who alternated stage and tempo with Bulgarian traditionalist Jony Iliev and modernist Florentina Sandu from Romania.

The singers all appear on Fanfare Ciocarlia's latest album, Queens & Kings, which took this year's BBC World Music award for its remeshing of Balkan gypsy brass with the flamenco guitars and the speedy violins of other tribes. Hemmed in for decades by the Iron Curtain, Roma musicians are connecting again with cousins in other European lands with whom they previously shared tunes and influences.

From Zeve Prajeni, a tiny ethnic Moldovan hamlet in Romania, Fanfare Ciocalia were spotted and signed by Berlin based Asphalt Tango label in 1998 and haven’t stopped picking up awards and compliments since. Fanfare Ciocarlia's brass specialisms (rather than the strings of their contemporaries Taraf de Haidouks which played the Galway Arts Festival this year).

With the dry ice and the smartly choreographed introductions of various gypsy traditions the stage version of Queens & Kings shows the band have obviously learned plenty of stage tricks on their frequent global tour - which pulls into the Festival of World Cultures in Dun Laoghaire on August 25.

The Irish date suggests there's two kinds of Roma gypsies. Fanfare Ciocarlia's fellow Romanian Roma were earlier this summer kicked off the Ballymun roundabout in Dublin and repatriated. Despised in many parts of Europe for their lifestyle, the Roma have nonetheless produced music and musicians prized by the rest of the world. At Sziget bronzed, blonde young festival goers dance with abandon to Fanfare Ciocarlia and in the nearby Roma music tent, generously arranged by world music label Putumayo. In music alone, it seems, Roma is cool.

Mark Godfrey

Check out CLUAS.com's review of Fanfare Ciocarlia's album 'Iag Bari'.


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Gig Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
23

Sinead O'Connor live at the Sziget festival (Budapest)

Sinead OReview Snapshot:
Solid renditions of her staple songs, but the wrong venue for Sinead O'Connor, who played after a jubilant Razorlight to a crowd more up for rock n 'roll than an artist

The CLUAS Verdict? 5 out of 10

Full review:
Sziget’s sound system, cranky earlier in the festival, wasn't helped by a strong breeze that seemed to carry patches of opening song Emperor's New Clothes to the nether regions of the venue. Sound quality aside, it was obvious from the start however that a large section of the crowd was undecided between O'Connor or burgers.

Sinead O’Connor’s inclusion on the Sziget 2007 bill seemed ill judged, particularly since she was put on the main stage after Razorlight and before Faithless, neither of whom share fanbases with her. It didn’t help that she kept us waiting about half an hour over the announced start time.

O'Connor engaged the waverers by playing 'This Is to Mother You' early, getting lots of help from a talented touring band and in particular her two female backing singers.

Hair shaved back down like the old days but looking a bit dowdier now, she wore the jeans and t-shirt of her younger days but kept on stage banter to a polite minimum.

'Thief of Your Heart' steadied the ship just as this risked becoming the freak show of the evening. The girl who tore up the picture of the pope, explained older audience members. “She used to be a priest.” O’Connor's past is the kind of confrontation with authority that goes down well in Hungary, still reasserting itself after years under the Soviet yoke.

The whole stage place was won over briefly for 'Nothing Compares to You'. There were lots of instrumental tangents and vocal shadings which  were at times lost to the sound system and the carnival size of the venue.

The pain of the performance was obvious though in O’Connor’s facial expressions during 'Thank You For Healing Me', jerking her head back from the mike with a distracting regularity that had audience members worrying loudly.

Kept till last, 'This Is the Last Day of Our Acquaintance' reminded everyone what Sinead O’Connor is, a great artist. But the main stage of a muddy, sprawling, beer-and-burgers rock festival wasn’t the right place to showcase such a talent.

Mark Godfrey


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Gig Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
20
 
Split-t is getting bigger and braver. For the National Day holiday the event management company, which made its name brining Sonic Youth to China, is bringing three foreign names to Beijing and Shanghai for a Beijing club show and a Shanghai festival. Britain’s dance duo Faithless is headlining the bill at the Yue Festival in Zhongshan park, atop LA Latin/hip hop/rock nine-piece Ozomatli and Brooklyn bred rapper Talib Kweli.
 
In further proof that you can’t bring a big name here yet without being sponsored to the hilt, Spli-t thanks Bacardi and Converse in its press release and carry their logos on promo material. We’re not quite sure of the exact nature of the sponsorship but Spli-t have good connections to both Bacardi and Chivas after running successful music events - like Sino Sessions, sponsored b the US rum maker. for them in China. Maximo Park and the Infadels and the Go Team were among those bands flown out for Bacardi-sponsored shows in Beijing and Shanghai.
 
The ticketing system looks interesting, and the priciest yet by China standards. Students pay RMB140, about 14 euros, for the day out in Shanghai. Those who earn pay RMB180 if you buy in advance or RMB360 at the door. In Beijing however similar prices apply for the Faithless gig on October 3 at Starlive down by the Yonghegong Temple. It’s cheaper for the October 2 gig when Ozomatli and Talib Kweli play: RMB100/140/180 depending if you’re student/buy in advance/at door. So much then for the assumption that Shanghai is wealthier than Beijing. It may be down to capacity: Star Live can fit 1000 punters at a pinch, whereas we assume Zhongshan park is more roomy, hence more paying punters. We await to see if the Western-style ticket prices will put off more price-conscious Chinese punters.
 
Getting permission to use a public park can’t have been easy – assembled, standing masses - so hats off to Nathaniel Davis and co at Spli-t for securing approval. Local support is not yet finalized but Beijing bands Hedgehog will be traveling to Shanghai to play with two local monkeys: yes, Monkey Banana and Monkey Soundsystem.
 


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
16

Maybe it was all the thunder and lightning which scared and soaked the festival site Thursday and Friday that drove the crow legged Rastafarian to stumble along in the post-storm mud in what could only be his girlfriend’s pink knickers. He was tame however compared to the Italian who took it all off and stumbled around the muck and pools of rainwater near the main stage, taking mad runs at screeching girls and his mortified friends, his penis swinging in the wind.

Not officially nudist, Sziget is nonetheless one of the best natural locations in the world for a rock festival, an island on the outskirts of one of Europe's finest looking cities. The line up at Sziget 2007 in Budapest (taking place from Aug 8 to 14) isn’t bad either. Sinead O’Connor shares a main-stage bill with The Killers, Nine Inch Nails and Chris Cornell as well as Brits like Razorlight and The Rakes to play in front of 60,000 festival goers, many of whom arrive by a ferry up the Danube.

Maybe the best value of the whole week-long festival are the few dozen Roma gypsy bands who travel from the Hungarian hinterlands, Romania and the Balkans to play. No other rock festival can boast such a strong world music line up, and that's thanks in part to the world music lable Putumayo, which brought the gypsy bands to a special Roma stage on the festival site. A big name on any world music rankings, Romania's Fanfare Ciocarlia pulled a bigger and more boisterous crowd on the World Music stage than several of the western groups playing the main stage.

Sziget is more established and laid-back hippy than many among the dozens of more opportunistic recent arrivals to Europe’s festival scene. It started in 1993 as a way for Hungarians to party off the traumas of a post-war era of totalitarian socialist rule. In the hometown of classical greats like Franz Liszt, the event is starting to pull really big name rock to its main stage. There's plenty of local talent to fill the other 20 stages offering world music, jazz, blues, electronica and lots of other stuff that's not easily categorized. Promising magicians compete for attention with mind-bendingly sexy belly dancers from Turkey who perform in a giant tea tent of hookahs and tea.

Like most everywhere else there's punks and drunks littered around the main entrance who can't afford to come in. Just as well because you have to leave all bottles at the gate - Coca Cola is a major sponsor. The festival has moved on from its hippy origins. ATM machines around the site make it easy for a few hundred stalls to sell. Sziget organizers have everything covered, including a branch of Hungary Post allows festival goers to greet the folks at home.

There's no shortage of t-shirt stalls but the invisibility of security– try finding someone who can tell you where the exit is when you’re tired – allowed some of the inebriated to go stark naked mad. Others were better covered. A grandly sized EU tent had the most comfortable couches south of backstage. There was more than the rain to tempt festival goers onto the deep blue couches. Like free pens and balloons - you have to do a quiz to get an umbrella. Outside beefy men in yellow impermeables power hose the loos. Inside local thinkers and polticians debate the cuntry's issues with youngsters and their musical heroes.

Next door in this "Civic area" of tents the country's culture ministry try to engage youth on the country's parliamentary process by offering pens, mugs and t-shirts. Given that they're emblazoned with a print of the parliament, one of the city's finest looking buildings - and that's saying something in Budapest - the maroon coloured t-shirts are worth having, if you can answer enough questions about the Hungarian political system.

Socialist sports rain down on the Sziget site too. Anyone bored by the music can play table tennis, for free. Budapest is a dream festival town, something to thank socialist egalitarianism for. Great public transport and millions of square metres of accommodation in this town were built by the socialists – the underground system is an identikit of its deep-bellied counterpart in Moscow, Pyongyang and everywhere else Soviet engineers took their trade. There's plenty of traces of the old communist era in the shop signs and proletarian looking old signs for state-owned restaurants and shoes shops which have faded into the decorous, unpainted facades of downtown buildings.

With sights like that this city doesn't need a festival to bring backpackers in. Yet caretakers and housekeepers of the graceful old tenements built during the Austro-Hungarian empire hang out with clipboards at Keleti train station to spot anyone loading a backpack, rasta hats and faded Guns n Roses t-shirt. Others just camp.

(to be continued, watch out for photos coming soon)


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
03
What is it about Chinese punk that gets Scandinavians and Germans so excited? While traveling in Europe this week I read a two page spread on the Beijing punk scene in a German music magazine, and see Joyside and Subs all over the Scandinavian music websites.
 
Not a whimper in UK or Ireland, or Madrid of any Chinese band, aside from your’s truly on Beijing Beat. Scandinavia and Germany have however proven welcoming touring grounds for the likes of scream-a lot Subs, and a bunch of other bands from around China. Subsidies have helped – the Norwegian city of Bergen last year spent public money sending middling bands over to China, releasing two CDs of Bergen music in China, and welcoming return visits by Chinese punks, who then drew on Norwegian connections to secure gigs across northern Europe. There has been some, but less, traffic in the opposite direction: Back in Beijing, illed as the "Drum King of Scandinavia," Emil de Waal is back in Beijing this weekend to play a drum set at the Mao Live over in Gulou.
 
German label Flyfast made a documentary titled Beijing Bubbles on punk band Joyside. While grateful of foreigners help, Liu Hao the hulking bass player with the Shane McGowan grin and attitude to booze is also wary of foreigners’ attention: “I hope they don’t consider us a Chinese band, I hope they just consider us a rock and roll band. We don’t need their curiosity. Some foreigners think Chinese rock is lovely and curious, and I don’t want to be that.”
 
Joyside took their name from a carnival in ancient Rome. The band had considered calling themselves Foreskin Ring after getting bored of the moniker Size Matters – the latter “because Liu Hao was so much bigger than us.”  Say that in Swedish.


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
29
 
After a few great years Yugong Yishan is being knocked to make way for yet another mall. Incongruously located in a bus carpark in the city’s seedy (but being-gentrified) Sanlitun bar strip, Yugong Yishan hosted big names like the International Noise Conspiracy and an after-party for Ian Brown. Hailed among local rock fans because it was run by people who knew their music and knew how to serve a good drink cheap, Yugong Yishan bade farewell with a loud farewell party Friday and Saturday nights. Propreietor Lv Zhiqiang passing out the booze to regulars and all the local rockers who played at the box-shaped, one-storey venue off Gongti Bei Lu.
 
Located opposite the north gate of the city’s iconic Workers' Stadium, the bar was rare in Beijing for spending money on tweaking a decent sound system into place. The word is that the bar is moving into the old city to take over an historic old property which has housed imperial concubines and more recently a failed chic-club, Rui Fu. Lets see if the bar’s old regulars will make the trip over – the old Yugong Yishan also got a lot of passing trade from other Sanlitun bars, something unlikely to happen in the new location given it’s in a neighbourhood where passing trade is mostly old timers on Flying Pigeon bicycles pedalling by. It’s one to watch.
 
Rock will be represented hence in Sanlitun by dive bar Kai, where every Thursday night Tagteam Records spin a “corporate-free, additive free” dose of indie rock to a gang of students and addicts of cheap (and watered?) drinks.
Nearer to Yugong Yishan purported new location, Mao Livehouse on Gulou Dongdajie hosts brit-pop nights by local bands like Gentleman and Black Heart and Billows Fairytale. The larger, swankier Star Live, host to Sonic Youth’s Beijing gig, is still hanging in there, but charging RMB40 a head for what often look like half houses you wonder how long it will last before going the karaoke way. Newer venues emerging: like the Bank, on Gongti Dong Lu can charge RMB80 at the door because they play a glossy mix of dance and Mandopop.
 
And we still have the Stone Boat, a lovely old period building set in a lake inside ancient Ritan Park where usually experimental bands like Panjir (they blend sounds from China, Central Asia and North America) play.
 

More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
22
 
The girls are pretty, distinctively Tibetan and like to braid their hair. Halama is a suitably Tibetan choice of name. Lights and synthesizers. It’s one of the latest surges of Tibet fashionability in mainland China. Three bands are doing the rounds of Chinese cities, singing in restaurants and Tibet-themed bars to mostly Han Chinese.
Some sing in Mandarin too.

Tibetan bands have been coming to Chinese cities for years but last year’s opening of the Beijing-Lhasa railroad has revived the interest in all things Tibetan among Han Chinese. Tibetan barley wine, traditional medicine and even Tibetan beer, "from the roof of the world." Songs about love and loss in the highlands, sung in the blue-yellow-red colours of Tibetan costumes. There’s also a few Tibetan rock bands on the road. Most have been kindly received though not admired by critics.

 

 


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
16
The hair was fastidiously shaggy, the neck ties opened at just at the right notch. And every lead singer wear a hat Pete Doherty style. Even if the singing and guitars aren’t always spot on, China’s rockers can be relied on to turn on the style. So it was at Mao Live, Beijing's first purpose built mid-sized live venue, on Saturday night. Each playing ridiculously short sets – a couple of songs – bands like Houhai Sharks gave way to headliner Joyside, who came on stage about 11.30. The band Singer, whose every album title seems to be a salute to boozing, looks a bit more rakish than others, but lead singer Bian Yuan patently spends an age on that Gilby Clarke-like hairdo. Bass player Liu Hao also nourishes that happy-go-lucky, average guy shtick, recently adding a trademark polka dot shirt and toothy grin. There was T-Rex all over their sound on the night - the band normally worships the Stooges.

Joyside's set was the best of a night of dodgy Britpop. What the evening did show is that there’s a thriving market for rock music in China. The house was capacity-full, the bar was half-dry (no draught beer and the RMB15 (EUR1.50) cans of Yangjing and Tsingdao beer weren’t flying out so faster than the bar staff had time to chill them) and, unlike a lot of recent concerts in Beijing, the vast majority of the crowd was made up of locals. Perhaps it’s the location in no-nonsense centre of town, in the old city, where gentrification hasn’t yet set in and a wholesome dinner costs RMB15 (EUR1.50). Other clubs, like Star Live, sometimes struggle in more salubrious surrounds, or way north up in the nether land of the university district, like D22.

And judging by the number of Union Jacks in sight - on a giant pull down screen over the stage and on specially produced t-shirts on sale at the door - there's a big audience for old-school Britpop in China. Lets see if Whitehall or British Council cash were in the house...


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
13

 

The line-up of the Beijing Pop Festival (September 8 and 9) is finally out. And topping the bill is Nine Inch Nails, who play with Public Enemy and punks the Ramones and the New York Dolls. Brit rock will be represented by Brett Anderson, who, we're told, will play a mostly Suede set. The local acts are usual suspects: Brain Failure, Muma and Thin Man all made the cut.

The festival will happen over two days in a corner of sprawling Chaoyang Park in downtown Beijing. It's now into its third edition, and last year drew an eclectic mix - Placebo and Supergrass were outplayed by a raucous Sebastian Bach, fresh off a tour with Axl Rose. Organiser, rock fan and youthful real estate magnate Jason Magnus deserves credit for bringing international acts - and lining up the sponsors and endless raft of government permits needed needed to run such a big show in Beijing.

Authorities here are still nervous about anything that involves large outdoor crowds, and most Party cadres still don't get rock n roll. Given that ticket prices are kept low, Magnus needs to bring in corporations like Mastercard and Hennessy VSOP to pay the bills. Each festival makes a "modest profit," says Magnus in thisinterview with me after last year's event.


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
10

The inaugural Ch+Indie (“pronounced ‘Chindie’) festival passed off successfully over the weekend in the garden of alternative favourite hang out 2 Kollegas, a dive bar tucked into a park originally designed for a drive-in theatre, which shares the space with several restaurants and KTV parlours. Unfortunately Beijing’s weather has settled into a pattern of ferociously hot days and wet nights. The rain lashed down heavy on Saturday evening about 6.30, driving bands and about 400 fans indoors. Sunday they didn’t bother to put the stage back up. Rather, local favourites like Joyside, Lonely China Day and Subs played their sets indoors. The event was organized by local label Tag Team Records, whose Lonely China Day closed out the festival Sunday night. For an RMB45 ticket per day fans got a taste of China’s most happening indie music – punk too from Subs – as well as cheap beer and vegetarian food. There were stalls too, selling t-shirts and band memorabilia.

Given the stalls and the muck and the beer, there was a real festival feeling about. A pity then that more of the locals didn’t show up. Aside from the rockers the turn-out of locals on Sunday was small. Most were girlfriends of foreign fans. Odd indeed to play your hometown to a mostly foreign crowd. Can you compare it to a bunch of Irish bands playing Chinese pop songs, or traditional tunes on the erhu and guqin, in Dublin's Phoenix Park and the crowd is made up mostly of the local Chinese community? Not really, since China has had a lot of famous rock stars like Cui Jian, but it does again prove how much a niche taste rock music is in China.

 


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
Page 14 of 16First   Previous   7  8  9  10  11  12  13  [14]  15  16  Next   Last   

Search Articles

Nuggets from our archive

1999 - 'The eMusic Market', written by Gordon McConnell it focuses on how the internet could change the music industry. Boy was he on the money, years before any of us had heard of an iPod or of Napster.