Beirut – Global week for Syria

by stevenkamperman on 24/04/2016

IMG_5637What is that smell when we get out of the plane at Beirut airport the night we arrive? At first I think a child before me in the row might have shit in his pants… But when I pass by him, it does not get any better. When we leave the building – after the visa officer went several times meticulously through my passport to see whether I really had not been in Israel – we smell it even stronger: an intense odour of what turns out to be garbage. Big parts of the city suffer from it: for half a year there has been no real solution for what to do with it. In some parts the garbage is just packed in piles, though I don’t see them anywhere, and apparrently a lot of it gets dumped in the sea…. A continuos problem that does not get resolved, due to a complicated system of power balance in the government since the civil war 25 years ago.

IMG_5698Ok, it stinks in some parts, and there are several power cut-offs every day (so the elevator stops), and an espresso in our popular – but not even that posh quarters Hamra – costs easily 5$. But wow, how great it is to be in Beirut again! The sun is shining, the city is super green, and the people are radiant. That is what I remember from the last short visit, and it still holds true for 100%.


It is monday, the first day of the Global week for Syria Festival in Beirut, organized by Hannibal Saad, who really does a great job, bringing interesting different styles and views together. At night I will play with my friend hurdy-gurdy-player Valentin Clastrier in Metro al Medina.

IMG_5625That’s a very nice club with a young appearance and a great crew. Since it is the opening night of the festival together with guitarist Eivind Aarset, we get interviewed by several tv-stations, who also record the concert. Always funny to see how much attention Valentin generates with his amazing instrument. Our concert starts with a little improvised meeting with Syrian sufi singer Diab, of which I later see a television recording.


IMG_5622Next two days we are not officially in function. Tuesday we have a lazy breakfast, and extensive coffee with the very nice guitarist Florian Zenker and his wife singer Gjertrude Lunde and check out the lunch restaurant and have one of those amazing Lebanese dishes: stuffed eggplants covered by yoghurt, nuts and pomegranate seeds. Incredibly delicious!

The atmosphere is great, so apart from drinking another espresso, we don’t do much that day. At night I am invited to improvise with some Syrian musicians, and that turns out fantastic. Also we meet two French young people – Camille and Fabian – and we have a great time with them, we will encounter them many times later that week, to our great joy.



IMG_5626Wednessday we are invited for a lunch at the Dutch embassy, where we eat good Indonesian food (wonder why they don’t serve ‘hutspot’ there, the typical Dutch recipy of mashed potatoes, oignons and carrots :-)) We also get to know better two charming ladies of the festival team, Abeer and Zena, and we enjoy their company very much. The day ends with interesting experimental computer music composition by Marcel Wierckx and the nice concert of Florian and Gjertrude in radio Beirut, a popular club in another part of the town.




IMG_5641Thursday, we feel an urge to see more of the city than just nice people and great plates with food. We are supposed to give a concert at the French institute at night, but anyway cannot enter there before 18.00, so we have some time for tourism. We walk to the famous American University (founded in 1866 already and still a very important impulse to the country), we visit the beautiful museum of archeology there, and later we continue to walk to the seaside, where we hang out a bit. On relaxed days like these I always decide to become really relaxed at home too, and just enjoy the sun and the life of leisure. Of course at home there is always little sun and very much work, so these wished always quickly disappear, but I enjoy how it feels here.


IMG_5683The concert with Valentin at night has somewhat of an unfortunate start. The sound guy is really late, and when he arrives all the set-up still has to be done. So soundcheck starts way over time, and there is stress with the organizers. One minute before our concert, it is decided to begin with the other group, since we still did not have a soundcheck. There are no drinks in the break either, so quite some people already leave before our concert starts, and we have to shorten our program, because everybody has to get out of the building before 23.00 (which will become past 24.00 in the end). But, we take it as it is, and the concert turns out fine. After the concert, Basil, one of the very local nice musicians I met, hugs me intensely, with tears all over his face, deeply moved. What a present. Then you remember what it is all about…


IMG_5731Friday, I get in a car together with Florian Zenker and Dutch bass player Tony Overwater, who just arrived, and we go for a rehearsal at the same French Institute for a meeting that night with Syrian and Lebanese musicians, as an example of Tony’s Salon Joussour-meetings in Holland (Salon menas ‘bridge’). Everybody is very well prepared, and we put together a program of one long set. After our late lunch, there is still an interview with Tony and me about our experiences mixing western and oriental music. In small circle, but nice

At night we start strictly on time (!), and lots of people turn up (amongst which Lebanese vocalist star Rhima Kheich). The percussionist perhaps stays a bit on the safe side, but Mohannad the oud player and Ghassan on quanun largely compensate. Great players, and we all really manage to ‘play’ at night: there is an interaction, a musicality, an understanding. And Tony really did a great job forming and keeping it together. Then we have a farewell party with great Lebanese mezze, and we go to bed to have a quick two hours of rest before the taxi takes us to the airport. I love this city and their beautiful people, and I am definitely going to become really relaxed at home too, and take lots of leisure time…


View on the sea from the campus of the American university


On our way to the beach some nice old buildings


So, most of the garbage seems to be disposed in the sea. What are these guys going to do with that fish?


Always traffic jams everywhere


Just everywhere green



Mozambique, with Neco Novellas

by stevenkamperman on 25/06/2013

NecoTelevisionI must admit I turn a little bit nervous suddenly: one day before Neco Novellas and me are supposed to leave for Mozambique, we finally get the approval of the Dutch Fund of Performing Arts that we can go because they will pay the tickets. But we did not yet complete anything in terms of tickets and in my case: vaccinations….


When we buy the tickets, it turns out that the best flight for us is going through Kenia. But in Kenia there is yellow fever. And for that reason Mozambique officially demands that you have a yellow fever vaccination, even if you only pass through transit in such a country. So I go through quite some hassle to get my injection just before leaving. But offcourse absolutely no one at the Mozambique border even asks for it.

And then when we really arrive in Maputo, what Neco says all the time turns out true: it is winter, so there are hardly no mosqituos. And somebody else tells me that anyway malaria in the city itself is extremely rare. So maybe I could have done without the expensive malaria pills as well…

We have a nice two room apartment in the beautiful old center where we are supposed to play our concert at the festival: the Centro Cultural Franco-Mozambicano. A nice complex, designed by the French company of Eiffel, recognizeable by some beautiful metal constructions. The only place for artistic music and dance in Maputo, surviving on a budget provided by the French government. Donc merci La France, dankjewel Nederlands Fonds Podiumkunsten!!!

On the afternoon of arriving, we are supposed to appear on a press conference. Though I am sitting at the table, I understand nothing of the conversation, since everything is in Portugese. But little by little I start to see that Neco still is very well known in Mozambique, even though he left the country some eighteen years ago and did not play here afterwards. People stop him in the street to tell him how much they love his songs. Next day we start with a live appearance on the television, as a duo. Everybody wants a photo with him, funny. Neco explains me later that when he was still living here, 20 years ago, he won a singer competiton on television. And consequently he had four huge hits, of which we play one on the television show (I knew of nothing!).

The rest of the day we rehearse with the local musicians that are going to form the band. Really nice musicians; there is a lot of talent in Maputo with a lot of energy in their playing and in maintaining the exhausting quantity of about 5 gigs a week (!!!!).

Next day, on the day of the festival, I see some really surprising acts, such as some jugglers, who play percussion with their juggling balls. Quite impressive! The hall is packed for our concert, some 500 people, of which quite many of them can still sing the lyrics of one of Neco’s hits. Which offcourse we play.



Though it is nice during the day and there is a beautiful sun, many Mocambiqeans consider it quite cold and stay inside. Whereas in summer the streets are packed and the traffic is quite unpenetratable, now there are little trafiic jams and you can see where you walk. Which is no excessive luxury, because every 20 meters there is either a very bad pavement, a pile of dirt or some big hole in the street where you can easily step into and more or less disappear. A typical case of TIA – a new expression I learn – ‘This Is Africa; don’t wonder’. While walking in the streets the next thing that strikes is that there is a serious garbage problem here. Everywhere there are piles, and it amazes me that I did not yet see any rats on them. Basic problems that should be resolved immediately, but just keeps being unsolved.

But thanks to a small political history lesson, I start to get a glimpse of the complexity of all the problems. After the civil war that ended some 20 years ago,  the situation is still quite unstable: even now the different parties still compete, and though the black socialist Mozambiquan government has been in charge ever since the end of the war, their power is still being challenged by the formers ‘white’ powers, who lost many posessions. Just recently there have been committed new political murders. Compare Dutch political problems to this, and you can only laugh stupidly.

Our second and third concert take place on the same night. First we play in a place called Mbuve. When I first see the stage and no lighting, I get a rather sad impression. But then they turn just one spotlight one, and the whole place starts to live. The concert is really nice, the band is interacting good, and we are really playing with the material. After the concert, some Portuguese girls just cannot stop saying ‘muito bonito, muito bonito’ to me, but because of my very bad Portuguese the conversation does not really come off… After the concert, Neco and I move quickly to the next stage, being the Africa Lounge club, a posh place on the beach with only four wheel drives on the parking place. There we perform a set within the concert of Mozambiquan celebrity Steward Sukuma. He has a cooking band, with kick ass musicians, and a great show going on. I enjoy our own performance a lot: both Neco and me are really loose, and it is like we are two puppets manipulated by the same player. This is a really promising start for our duo!

After these two shows, I am  really tired and luckily the next they we are off. After seeing some beautiful architecture in Maputo, our friends Bea and Roberto take us to eat delicious dishes at a beach club, seeing a perfect moon rise. They say the devil is in the details, I would say the heaven is in it.













Barana in Mexico, day 6

May 13, 2013

Beginning of our concert In Mexico everything seems to change the last minute, so when somebody asks us when we play, either we just don’t know, or in 5 minutes it will be different anyway… But if you accept that fact, there is also quite some vitality hidden in the process. Anything seems possible, and […]

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Baraná Mexico, day 4 and 5

May 12, 2013

Zinco jazz club, Mexico City We have a day off, but everybody is so tired that we kind of waste the day. No museums, pyramids or promenades, but catching up some sleep and checking our mail. But my wish to visit some Mexican jazzclubs comes true in the evening: Denisse, a nice local girl we […]

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Baraná in Mexico, day 1, 2, 3

May 10, 2013

(Jamsession with Cheick Tidiane Seck at the keyboard in Mama Rumba) Just after the British airways hostess tells us the flight from London to Mexico will be ‘lovely’ (because there is practically nobody, en we can each lie down over four seats), there appears to be a problem with the wing. So there is a […]

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For Behsat Üvez ✝ 22 february 2013

February 28, 2013

Voor Behsat Üvez Toespraak van Steven Kamperman tijdens de afscheidsceremonie van Behsat Üvez (2 mei 1959 – 22 februari 2013) in de Oosterpoort, Groningen, 27 februari 2013. “Als je achter vijf konijnen aan rent, vang je er geen een” Met dat Turkse gezegde probeerde vader Üvez de jonge springerige Behsat een beetje in te tomen. […]

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Baraná in Manresa (Spain) Fira Mediterrania

November 13, 2012

The amazing Montserrat mountain It feels a bit absurd: flying to Spain for just one concert. But then again: the Fira Mediterrania is a nice and wellknown festival, and besides, it is a good opportunity to meet other festivals specialized in mediterranean music. What IS absurd, however, is the policy of Vueling airlines against musicians. […]

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Baraná in Turkey, day 10, 11, Canakkale and Izmir

October 19, 2012

Canakkale, room with a view We arrive in Canakkale fairly early, around 13.00. Canakkale is lying next to the Aegean sea, so we decide to have lunch in a fish restaurant, looking over the water. When we walk to the restaurant, we suddenly see a gigantic horse. It turns out to be the Trojan horse […]

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Baraná in Turkey, day 6,7,8,9, Istanbul, Eskisehir and Bursa

October 17, 2012

Taksim square, Istanbul After our first five concerts, we have two days to relax in Istanbul. At first I thought: ‘Hey, that is strange: we play during the week, and not in the weekend?’ But if you think of it, it is perfectly logical, since we play at University stages, and a lot of students […]

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Barana Turkey tour, day 4 and 5, Adana and Gaziantep

October 14, 2012

After the conservative city of Kayseri, we our now heading for Adana, known for its self assured ‘rough’ people. They say everybody is swearing here constantly. First we have to cross the Toros mountains however, where we see magnificent views everywhere. Climate wise, Adana is the hottest city in Turkey, with temperatures of 50 C […]

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