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Posts Tagged ‘Tbilisi’

It’s official – The Face on My Bedroom Wall is finally going to visit my home country:

“Vancouver, BC September 15, 2008 – In the wake of the recent conflict in Georgia, Bryan Adams will head to Tbilisi, Georgia, for a September 19th concert billed as Peace, Freedom and Democracy for Georgia. The free concert will take place at 8pm at Rikhe Square in Tbilisi, the capital and largest city of the Republic of Georgia.

The performance comes 40 days following the first date of loss of life in that country – a significant day for the predominantly Orthodox Christian faith who believe the souls of those departed continue their journey after 40 days.”

Actually, Bryan Adams has a history of going into country’s following internal as well as international conflicts (e.g. Vietnam, Pakistan, Jordan, Sri Lanka, etc.)

Those of you who have read The Face on My Bedroom Wall can only imagine how much this means to me personally – very few in the entertainment world have admitted the relevance of this conflict on a global scale.

But let’s face it, for a country that shares its name with a US state, hence the constant confusion (not so much following the recent events, in fact) it really is quite an achievement.

Above all, this once again proves that in this day and ago, any conflict or a mere unrest in even the smallest country on the map affects the rest of the world no longer just indirectly but in fact as directly as ever – one more proof that in our everything world, we are, indeed ONE – the same planet, same species, same dreams, goals and fears.

May have come across as a cliche before, but in today’s reality, this couldn’t possibly be more relevant and true at this very moment…

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Back when my family and I still lived in Georgia, the only association I had with the date of September 1st was the end of my summer holidays when I, along with my peers, ran back to school first thing in the morning and resumed my studies.

Years later, it is no longer just a date that symbolizes going back to school but something rather patriotic and all the more meaningful not only to an average young pupil but on a larger scale to every Georgian residing back home and abroad.

In other words, as of today, September 1 has been declared the day of Georgian Unity.

More than 1 million people across Georgia protested Russian military action and the Kremlin’s backing for the country’s two separatist regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Many waving the red-and-white Georgian flag, protesters linked arms in the capital, Tbilisi, in a human chain that snaked through the city under cloudy skies.

Flags flew from balconies and protesters chanted “Long Live Georgia!” and “Stop Russia!”

According to Reuters, countrywide, police said more than 1 million people took part in what authorities said was a show of unity after Russia last month crushed a Georgian bid to retake breakaway South Ossetia from pro-Moscow separatists.

By the end of the rally, the figure could not be independently confirmed by any one source, but it could arguably account for more than one-fifth of the country’s 4.5 million + population.

“Today we can say Georgia is not alone because the whole world is standing beside us,” President Mikheil Saakashvili told the crowd on Tbilisi’s Freedom Square.

He said Monday’s protest marked the largest gathering in Georgia since the country of split from the Soviet Union in 1991.

In the meantime, earlier today the European Union held an emergency summit on Georgia. Collectively shying away from any particular sanctions, the leaders decided to postpone talks on a new EU-Russia partnership scheduled for later this month if Moscow has not withdrawn its troops to pre-conflict positions in Georgia by then.

Not many, including the Russian Federation, could have imagined the small Caucasian Republic of Georgia, often confused in the US with one of the American States, taking the center stage in one of the most talked-about international upheavals in the recent period.

In fact, the conflict that swiftly escalated into a war between nations a few weeks ago in the heart of the breakaway region of South Ossetia came very close to ignited a new Cold War between the US and Russia, let alone striking a serious diplomatic dispute between a large portion of the western world and the Kremlin in Moscow.
“We are not afraid of anything, including the prospect of a new Cold War,” Russian President Medvedev was quoted as saying Tuesday by the ITAR-Tass news agency. “But we don’t want it and in this situation everything depends on the position of our partners.”

Is it over? Not quite….. But what’s next – nobody knows. And that’s the scary part.

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The other night, as a girlfriend of mine and I were wrapping up a girl’s night out in Central Park, I couldn’t help but check the time on my watch with 2 min intervals desperately trying to make it in time for nine p.m. No… Not what you think! There was no prince charming waiting impatiently by CVS for a goodnight kiss… It was even tackier than that, trust me. Can I really admit it? OK, let’s try: I didn’t want to miss my daily doze of a horrible, cheesy Russian soap opera on one of the cable channels – crazy or what??? Never been much of a housewife, or quite frankly have NEVER been a housewife (not yet, anyway) and not big on romantic novels either, so what’s this all about? Nostalgia – that’s it!

Years ago, when I was still a little girl, Russian TV aired the very 1st Latin American soap opera which became an instant sensation across the Soviet Union. You may find it unbelievable but this is actually true – in 1996, President Boris Yeltsin decided to broadcast a popular Brazilian soap on election day in an effort to keep voters away from the polls!

And as for American soaps – do any of you remember the endless saga by the name of “Santa Barbara”? The show was a huge hit in Russia, being the first American program to air there after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Being the first soap opera of “insane” length and complicated twists (Latin American soap operas aired earlier were generally not longer than 200 series), the very name of it became the local ironical denominative of soap operas and, even more so, of long stories about personal love filled with all sorts of madly entangled interpersonal twists.

Who would’ve thought that foreign telenovelas would have made such an incredible impact on such a huge, vastly populated nation, and in fact the entire Soviet block. But trust me, it’s actually true – even as a little kid, I remember the entire capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, and later Moscow after we moved there, being completely taken by the lives and dramas of all of the characters of these soap operas.

I just came across an article about Russians finding their utter heroes in Mexican soaps, which was written and published in The NY Times in 1994. Here’s an excerpt:

“In her gala opening performance at the Rossiya concert hall, Victoria Ruffo did not dance. Or sing. Or tell jokes. For two hours, against a giant backdrop of billowing sequined white tulle, the Mexican star of Russia’s favorite soap opera, “Simply Maria,” sat in an armchair on stage.

With the help of an interpreter, Ms. Ruffo chatted in Spanish with a bubbly Russian master of ceremonies and at the end, she answered a few questions from an audience of more than 2,000.

Russians are addicted to television soap operas, particularly to Mexican soap operas like “Simply Maria.” When communication workers went on strike last month and the show starring Ms. Ruffo did not air, the protest calls were so ferocious that the Government quickly acceded to the strikers’ demands.”

Crazy, isn’t it? Not in the slightest bit exaggerated either, I can tell you this from my personal experience – people were SO hooked on these nonsensical addictions, it was basically the only real entertainment and stress relief for our people back then.

And by the way, these soap operas were a million times bigger in Russia than in their countries of origin:

“I had never heard of Victoria Ruffo before,” explained Zarina Martinez Borresen, the cultural attache at the Mexican Embassy in the mid 90’s. “The show doesn’t have the same success at home as it does here.”

I remember my grandparents, who really were very bright and busy and all the rest of it, don’t get me wrong, discussing the details of every episode as though Maria’s problems had really been their own. “Did you see how Juan Carlos looked at her when she told him about the baby?”, “Do you think Maria is going to stay with Victor or go back to Juan Carlos?”, etc. No kidding, I’m dead serious!

Missing an episode was the biggest small tragedy in every family back then – even the husbands who initially criticized and laughed at their sentimental Soviet wives became addicted to it little by little. “Forget the soccer, ‘The Rich Cry, Too’ (Los Ricos Tambien Lloran) is on television!” It was that intense.

But unfortunately (or rather – fortunately) the undying enthusiasm wore off with time as we became more open and exposed to some of the more intellectually stimulating forms of Western art, television, entertainment, etc. It is in our blood though – even now.

Sometimes my friends and I laugh about it, we still remember some of the crazy plots and names of characters – it’s quite nostalgic of us, if you think about it, and may seem a bit “retarded” to others, but it really was a part of that whole political “collapse” – and perhaps in many ways, it helped to make that transition a little more bearable and slightly less “shocking”?

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Some of you probably heard about the Euro 2008 soccer semi-final results – Russia got completely swamped by the Spanish team. In fact, they met twice during the tournament, and on both occasions, Spain pretty much outplayed Russia, particularly in the semi finals.

Now, fear not, my friends, this blog isn’t about football (sorry, I should say “soccer”!) but rather about sometimes – only sometimes – actually feeling like you miss being home, in my case, back in Europe.

One of my best friends in Moscow sent me a message on Facebook this morning and we had a brief chat about the Euro 2008 – she couldn’t believe that I missed all of the games, except for the highlights (Russian cable TV made us, the viewers, watch the scored goals a million times over and over again!) – “It’s time you come back home,” she added, jokingly.

And then I realized something…

A lot of my friends – both in Russia and Georgia – have never really approved my moving abroad. Not only because we don’t get to see each other that often (I visited Moscow, where my parents are still based primarily, last September, but believe it or not, I haven’t been in Georgia for… 4 years… shocking!!!) but also due to a simple fact – you’d be surprised how many of my friends and relatives strongly believe that one should live and die in one’s very own homeland. An admirable kind of patriotism, no doubt, and as much as I love and miss both of my homes and the family and friends, I sometimes wonder if I could ever go back for good, having lived away from home for so long now… Should I feel guilty? I’m not even sure if this is good or bad.

Ever since I was a little girl, watching all the Hollywood movies, listening to what we used to then call “The American music” ranging from Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson, Whitney, etc. I had an inexplicably strong urge to one day live in this country and do what I love the most (and have always loved, in fact) here, in USA. A part of this fascination was definitely an offspring of my parents’ ultimate dream for me to live here someday.

When the first group of ex-Soviet people were finally allowed to cross the border into the Western world, my parents came to the States to visit some friends on several occasions, which was pretty much unheard of at the time. So every time they went away for a couple of weeks to the Land of Hope and Dreams, my cousin (it’s weird calling Ketuta my cousin, she’s my sister, for God’s sake – after all, we grew up together!) and I used to mark the days of their absence on our individual calendar as our grandma had suggested to keep us entertained and out of mischief… 🙂 We were rather impossible, particularly when we were plotting the next “disaster” as a duo! 🙂

Back when the Soviet System Collapsed and people were hopeful and excited about the future back home, my dad, was offered a very tempting and creative job in NY with a Green Card, refurbished home, etc. to go with it, and had my mom not insisting on going back to Georgia (“How can we ever leave our home, family, friends???”, she was definitely against it!) I’m sure we would have moved right away. But we stayed back in Tbilisi, and guess what? A year or so later, a civil war broke out! Good timing! 🙂

The next opportunity was also turned down, but this time by none other than yours truly. When I came to New York to perform at the Alan & Marilyn Bergman show several years ago, my agent strongly suggested – no, he actually insisted – that I stay in the US and pursue my career here, except not in the pop world but on Broadway, instead. Because of all sorts of reasons, I declined the tempting offer and stubbornly made it clear that I wanted to live in London and that was it.

Well, I did move to London some time later, and I have to say I never ever regretted the teenage decision, although deep down, I always had a quiet urge to one day move here, to America, but this time on my own terms. How was it different from the previous offer? It was actually a great offer, now that I look back on it, but somehow I didn’t feel prepared at the time and don’t ask why – who knows! Immaturity being one of the issues, for sure 🙂

So when I think about the struggle and a long path that perhaps could have been easier and shorter, after all, under different circumstances, I don’t for a second want to go back and leave all of this behind, especially being half way “there”, it would mean betraying myself in many ways. And as much as I love and miss my friends back home, there’s a constant will power and a passion for what I do and why I do what I love in a country that was always an ultimate dream destination for me – and there’s no way I could let it go. Those of you who had to make that journey at one point will surely understand what this is all about…

I don’t think I’d be so passionate and so madly in love with all of this had it dropped on my lap too easily and too quickly… Doubt it.

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One’s dream of making it in the entertainment industry has become a cliché over the years, and in many respects, it has gradually started to lose its “mystery” factor and has become so much more accessible through the internet and reality TV. People are more likely to respond with a certain degree of cynicism or at least skepticism when you tell them that you really are doing this for the love of music and not for the shine and glitter of fame and fortune.

Perhaps somewhat to my disadvantage, I was born and raised far from where it all happens and where, as the guidebook of industry states “dreams come true” – the former Soviet Republic of Georgia (country, not the state!) There was very little, if any, showbiz action back in the USSR in the 80’s, but having had the luck of growing up in a very artistic family (my dad is an architect and a painter and my mother is a classical pianist), I was exposed to music and painting very early on. Eventually, my love for painting and drawing was conquered over by my passion for music.

When foreign music was forbidden in the Soviet Union, my father always managed to get hold of the very latest hit records from abroad and I was introduced to the likes of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross – you name it! – from day one.

The day I saw the making of “We Are the World: USA for Africa”, I must have been 2 years old or so, I was instantly hooked on it and my parents knew that was it – nurturing my love for music was worth a shot, they thought.

Years later, when I started traveling around the world and working with the people whose names and records I could only admire on the back covers of some of my most favorite artists’ albums, I finally found myself amidst that very crowd of musicians I had only heard and read about back home.

We often admire big stars and their fame and fortune, but rarely stop to think how much effort, hard work and rejection they must have gone through to get to this stage. I think those in the industry often ignore the fact that people really must and in fact do want to know the creative process of making those dreams come true – the journey from A to B. It is far from 1, 2, 3 and you’re a star. Luck being one of the strongest components, I often wonder why talent has become so much less of a winning factor…

When I started taking my very first steps in the music business, I was surprised to find out that my love for making music had to be often substituted with a certain degree of the knowledge of “ins and outs” of the showbiz and how it all works. Recording music and performing it in front of an audience is in many ways the moment of payoff. Selling the music and going with the flow of the bureaucratic “behind the scenes” process is the tougher nut to crack, but it’s pointless complaining about it – there is a degree of creativity and fun in some of that, too!

I often hear people complain about the ever-changing music business, and yes, perhaps it is not what it used to be (and probably never will be), but we can’t ignore the evolution period and have to try and make it work for us. People will never stop craving for music – demand for new music will always be there, I strongly believe in this, but the tough part is trying to make it in this evolving business of music.

The digital world is an exciting one, but at times I lament the gradually disappearing “old-school” way of the traditional format. I remember buying records and opening the sealed the package on the go, desperate to flip through the album sleeve and read the songwriting/production credits, the long “thank you’s”, etc. Getting my favorite artist’s new CD was a sheer thrill in itself, yet nowadays, with a click of a button, you can get just about anything on the internet. Convenient – of course it is – but the adrenaline is not the same, or is it?

The one thing that hasn’t changed – and probably never will, at least for those craving to create – is the excitement you experience while writing new material and seeing something new and fresh unfold right in front of you from literally NOTHING. Leaving the studio with a great new song under your belt that nobody else has heard outside of the control room – it’s such a joy! That’s one of those moments when you know it’s so worth doing what you do. And when you share that offspring with your audience and they actually respond to it, all the politics and business issues become so meaningless and so much more trivial than the end result.

Reading generic press releases and recounting biographical facts has its advantages, of course, but sometimes we just want to read a personal journal of building one’s career at an undoubtedly interesting time in the world of music and the digital revolution. So, to make a long story short, this is one artist’s account of the journey – first hand, in real time… You’ve read the bio, so I can’t surprise you with a straight-forward “I was born in 1984 in Tbilisi, Georgia” – you can read all of that on myspace, but instead, here’s a more personal side of the story so far…..

Stick around, see how it all unfolds, ask questions of you’ve got specific ones, and let’s just have some fun… Freedom of speech is a wonderful phenomenon – not something I’m too used to coming from Russia…with love!

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