Monday, May 18, 2009

Kazakhstan Tour - 2009


On April 20th, we landed in Astana, Kazakhstan for a tour that would bring the JazzIam band through Almaty and also Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for workshops and three Jazz Festivals. Kazakhstan is located where the continents of Europe and Asia meet. It is bordered North and West by Russia and China to the East and South by Kyrgyzstan. I was very excited to see this part of the world and to meet local people and learn about their culture. This trip is about 20 hours counting layovers and planes changes. I had already exchanged many texts and conversations with my first and main contact, Ms. Zhanar Kul-Mukhammed (Cultural Affairs Assistant). Zhanar is an amazing whirlwind of a girl who speaks five languages and really takes care of business. (my kind of girl!) I could hardly wait to meet her. We were met at the airport by an Embassy man and taken to the van and driven to the Hotel Rixos President. This was a lovely hotel and we were very happy to have such lovely digs. Our first day, we started the day with an interview with a local journalist. We always had a translator; in Astana, Mary Anne was probably the most amazing translator I will ever work with. She could remember streams of conversations and recall both sides of a conversation; an amazing woman. Our first interview question was: "Why do you have such a pretentious name" ? and of course, I said , "We are a Jazz band, that's all, no pretension." Then he asked, "Don't you think Jazz is a step backwards from classical music"? So - we were on alert, ready and equipped with knowledge of our craft to answer any of these questions. Each member of JazzIam is a serious musician and teacher.