All around the world, in cities where a number of ex-pats live, you can find an international group. In Astana the group is smaller than in other bigger cities but it is quite active. Like most clubs they have a website which has plenty of information about the city. They send regular emails informing their members of events in Astana, as well as the weekly groups which meet around the city, varying from knitting and sewing to skiing and hiking.
Back in the summer I received an email advertising a Blues concert which would take place in the concert hall of the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation (aka Бейбітшілік пен келісім сарайы).
This is the pyramid shaped building near the school, in which I work. Illuminati conspiracies aside, this is an impressive structure designed by Sir Norman Fosters company, which houses exhibition halls and a concert hall, having been originally built to host a religious congress, signified by the doves which decorate the apex.
Not many international performers come to Astana, so I was hoping to get to see this. The performer was Dana Gillespie. Having grown up in the ’80s with a father who preferred country music I never really liked Jazz or Blues until I was in my 20s.
The tickets were about £10, but I actually never found out where to get them so ended up forgetting all about the concert! The day of the concert I received a text from my Cornish friend (who had actually worked with me in the same school in Kuwait and had somehow been tempted to Astana – I am sure it wasn’t by me) offering me tickets to the concert. As it turns out, from one moment to the next, the tickets were free and colleagues from her school had organised tickets!
I was late, as usual, for the concert, but we had great seats overlooking the stage! The concert was fantastic! I am slightly biased, as I learn the saxophone and love Blues music, as well as jazz and despite the saxophonist’s problems with his reeds, and the broken string on the lead guitar, we thoroughly enjoyed the concert. However, it was clear that other members of the audience enjoyed it more! The scene was typical of other concerts in Russia and the ex-Soviet republics!
Throughout the performance and after specific songs, fans would, and do, go up on stage with bunches of flowers to congratulate the performer. However, after the first few bunches the presents got more obscure. Plastic bags were handed over and Dana Gillespie asked what it was – M-yo-d, in English, honey!! Then more honey was handed over, and more! Feather boas were presented to the main guitarist! The group looked slightly bemused!!
The end was the definitely the best part. As the last song was being sung, a few young ladies started dancing in the aisles. They slowly moved towards the stage. Others joined them and they slowly moved up on to the stage to join the bewildered band. One lady was gyrating in front of the guitarist, a young French lad was wildly throwing his arms and legs around in front of the piano!
We all agreed that we had never seen anything like that on stage before and also couldn’t imagine anywhere else in the world, where performers would feel safe enough to let members of the audience up on stage so easily – apart from maybe Falmouth?