‘Freedom’ of speech?

A friend of mine from Azerbaijan has brought this news story to attention via Facebook:


In short: two bloggers in Azerbaijan have been detained and tried with very little access to outside support and could face a couple of years each in prison.  This is occurring in a country identified as a democracy.

For those who might say “so what?”, Reuters have picked up on the story and UK MPs are putting an early day motion together on the subject.  If they can take an interest, so can we.

This post has been cobbled together in a hurry.  Feel free to shoot holes.

If Music … Play On!

Time continues to fly around here but now in a growingly musical manner.  I have joined a couple of bands and at the beginning of last month played a first gig with one of them.

Our venue was the Foreigners’ Club: a very friendly place down the road in Okpo.  With a line-up of drums, bass, guitar, and two singers we had put together an acoustic set of fifteen songs (all covers) in the space of about seven rehearsals.  Nerves tingled a little as we got under way but with a good-sized and appreciative crowd in attendance we soon found our stride and enjoyed a very successful evening.  Alas, it may be a while until we play again as work and holiday travel commitments are intervening heavily but we will be back.

Sunday the following week was a warm, lazy day for taking a scenic drive round the coast.  Three of us were out and having spent a good couple of hours in the sun, we were looking for a place to get a drink.  As the road passed through a small village perched thirty metres or so above the water’s edge, I caught a glimpse of a sign advertising Hof (a local tap beer) and coffee.  We turned around and went back to it.

The sign was attached to a very closed-looking establishment.  We could hear music coming from a veranda upstairs but that was the only indication of life.  As we turned to leave, someone shouted down from above, inviting us to stay and come up.  The next thing we knew, the door had been opened by a smiling woman and she had led us in.

Upstairs on the veranda was a laptop plugged into a hi-fi amp and a group of five people, three of whom were brandishing alto saxophones.  They were taking it in turns to fire up a backing track on the laptop and play lead.  The little group was very enthusiastic and the standard of playing high.  We were sat down, offered refreshments and invited to relax and enjoy.  With the convivial company, the good musicianship and the beautiful view out over the sea it was a pleasure to accept the invitation.

It transpired that our hosts were a saxophone club.  The strongest player of the three was a teacher leading the other two; he also played in a jazz quartet.  Seeing that band in action would be a definite pleasure.  Maybe somewhere sometime…

Moving on from gate-crashing to attending a ticketed concert, last week saw us at the Geoje Arts Centre listening to a classical music ensemble called Ditto.  Essentially a string sextet plus a pianist, they are all handsome young chaps who play with a winning combination of vigour and accuracy.

Opening with a delicate duet of violin and piano playing Beethoven’s Romance for Violin and Orchestra No. 2, they built steadily to a full sextet for Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence at the end of the programme and made good work of some very challenging pieces throughout.  The crowd would only let them go after three encores and as we left the auditorium we passed a queue of mostly school children waiting for an autograph signing session.  Clearly a talented and popular group of musicians, it was encouraging to see such a response.  I wish them the very best.

Last Saturday night, a small group of us went to check out a newly opened “DJ Bar” in Okpo.  The place was empty and the DJ was laptop mixing an uninspiring collage of hip hop but there were some turntables in the booth.  Could be the start of a future story…