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Kabul Korrespondence

Fresh, factual, and funky view of Afghanistan and the surrounding Central Asian region

White City in KyrgyzSTAN: Bishkek and Osh

Sunday, May 01, 2011

We arrived in Bishkek with a lot of ambition and excitement, for me personally it’s been the one country I was most excited about visiting. After we landed we were picked up at the airport by a cool dude named Vicktor, who has turned out to be the 'dude' in Bishkek in regards to the music scene. He organised the press conference and our first gig at a 60s themed cafe that we were a little reserved about, but it turned out to be a great warm up gig with a healthy crowd that was up for some rocking. 


                                       Press conference at ID Club Pulse in Bishkek

Our next gig was on a whole another level, playing for Bishkek's elite at a fancy bar called Movie City Bar. The crowd was stiff, but we looked so chik surrounded by all the mod-deco. Might not have been our best audience, but it was still an interesting experience. 

The gigs at the Pulse Club were intimate and with the most appreciative audience. We played a clean, pure acoustic set and it was well received. And to top off the night we had great in depth conversations with the musician dominant audience after. 


From here on we turned up the volume to 11 with concert at the legendary Zeppelin Bar. Look what Andronik is saying about the venue:

“We were really pleased to get a chance to play at this legendary rock joint in Bishkek.  It´s a hang out for bikers, rockers, punks and hippies, absolutely loved the venue, the sound, the attentive sound crew and no the least the wild rocking crowd. Hoping to play here again, next time we´re back in Kyrgyzstan!”


During our stay in Bishkek we also were invited to play live at the local TV show and to give radio interview.

                    White City on Channel 5 in Bishkek

Here is Ru’s feedback about our visit on the radio:

“We arrived at a run-down industrial estate complete with decrepit, crumbling walls and broken glass over the steps for our first Bishkek radio interview. Ushered through what looked very much like a prison door, we crowded into the groaning lift and were transported to the wholesome, sunny world of Bishkek OK radio. Run by American ex-pat Wes, a lovely man who's been here with his wife for 17 years, he's been broadcasting the English language station to the city for most of that time, playing an 'everyone's invited' mixture of classical, jazz and rock to the masses. We did a short interview about the tour, where we came from and gave him an exclusive first - a rendition of our new song, Honey Goliath on acoustic guitar.”

                                    Ru with Wes at the studio on Radio OK in Bishkek

                              Travka and Andronik at the studio on Radio OK in Bishkek 

After Bishkek gigs, interviews and live performances on the TV our plan was to visit second largest city in Kyrgyzstan- Osh. We landed in Osh and were met by one of the young founders of Youth of Osh, a grassroots NGO started by 4 young Kyrgyz women with the aim of creating activities for youth. We were taken to the venue a park in the centre of the town, where we saw a flurry of activity as volunteers organised stalls and activities or the Earth Day Festival. Our stage and Sound equipment was rudimentary but considering where we were it was pretty amazing that we even had the gear. The crowd of curious onlookers swelled as we did a 3 song sound check and by the time we returned to the stage at 5 pm, there was 500 keen youth waiting patiently.

Andreas's drum kit was typical of what would be found in a toyshop, cables were faulty and the stage was rickerty, but we rocked on anyway. And I think the crowd picked up on this, cause they gave us so much energy and cheers that we were able to feed off on this. We played 3 sets and considering that we had come from a concert the previous night and only one hour sleep before our flight to Osh, I think we did pretty well. But the most pleasing aspect of this part of the tour was meeting the people of Osh, who are so kind and hospitable. Our aim of coming here was to bring rock to all corners of the Stans and to dispel an idea that places like Osh is dangerous [many people had advised us to cancel this leg of the tour]. What we found was a small city that was rebuilding and heeling after a troublesome last year. The youth were just so surprised and pleased that we had made the effort to come to their city. We were very pleased with our visit to Osh, here is what Ru is thinking about it:

Ru: “We didn't really have time to digest this information as we travelled to Osh with one hour's sleep and then straight onto a stage in the main square in 35 degree heat. We just plugged in and played. The equipment was rudimentary and the sound rickety. Andronik had to bend down every ten minutes to unstick his bass drum pedal from the skin and his wafer-thin Chinese hi-hats ended up turning inside out! But none of this mattered, because once we started playing, the kids went crazy. Jumping, headbanging and making rock-signs aplenty. We played for 3 hours in all over three sets with help from local Kyrgyz singer, Kanykei and 'Osh's only rock band' The Left. It meant a lot to be able to invite local musicians up on stage and jam with both established acts and kids just starting out in music. We hope we can keep in contact and support them in the future.

But I thought the best bit was after the gig and I'm not just talking about the hundreds of autographs and photos we had to do. We got to talk to the locals about their lives, about the conflict in Osh. We walked with them (yes, on the streets!) and saw the burned-out buildings. Although there's still obviously tension in Osh between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, both ethnicities were at our concert and we felt that, with time, there's a lot of hope for the city. Plus the fact that we converted many of these kids to ROCK!”

All in all we find Kyrgyz people really great, with advanced knowledge of music and a definite, refreshing European flavour to them.

Andronik: “Since we want to play in each Stan, we decided to call together a bunch of Kyrgyz friends and fans to the Turkish restaurant “Kebabistan” in Bishkek, for a farewell dinner and spontaneous gig. After some good kebabs, beers and Kyrgyz champagne, we got our semi-acoustic gear set up and did a few classic white city songs. Our friends loved it and sang along, while the staff were caught between excitement over the novelty of a band playing live in their restaurant and anxiety over what their neighbours might say. We were only told once to lower the volume, was a nice way to end our pleasant stay in Kyrgyzstan. We´ll be missing lovely Bishkek and Osh and all the nice people we met!”

Just got to Almaty…Stay tuned, next Stan is Kazakhstan!

posted by Travis, 2:15 am


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