Ben here. Things are moving quickly and we’re working hard. We are at a twelve hour difference from home, so the jet-lag is about as bad as it gets, BUT we’re loving it here. This country is fiercely beautiful and the people are so incredibly kind and friendly.
First, you need to see Aaron in action. Shortly after Aaron joined the band, he revamped our sound setup on stage. If you know him at all, you know that he’s a perfect negotiator and a kind soul. That’s why it’s great to see him working with our team of Russian sound engineers. They don’t speak english, at all. We have a translator, but that only goes so far when you’re dealing with technical specs, international power issues and general confusion. Check out this pic of him at the helm at our first show.
Also, for what it’s worth, these sound guys are really good. They weren’t sure if we had arms for our mic setup (the ones that stick to mic stand for the banjo to take solos into), so they jerry-rigged up this amazing setup with some drum stands. Unbelievable.
Check out the theater itself.
Definitely a Soviet era theater. You have to pinch yourself when you’re in these places. Who gets to do this kind of thing? Oh! And the green room had this wacky cutout art in it. We had some fun with it. No idea what it says, but we’ll find out.
The show itself was SO much fun. This was at the Russian-Slavic University here in Bishkek and the students were way into the performance. After the show, they rushed the stage and insisted on autographs and selfies. It was overwhelming.
Kyle’s face is obstructed here, but the picture says a lot regardless.
The next day we got up early to be on the BIshkek morning show on their national television station. We’ve done shows like this in many countries now and the experience of playing on morning television feels familiar, with a similar format around the world. The twist this time was that there was a huge fire blazing across the street when we arrived and it made things in the studio a little hectic.
Said fire behind our Kyrgyz-mobile.
We performed Kara Jorgo; the song that we learned for this trip. I enjoyed seeing the hosts get into off camera as we performed. You can watch the entire performance below. PS: We learned just before this that we’d been pronouncing the main words of the song wrong. It’s Kara (J)orgo with a hard ‘J’, instead of a ‘Y’. Listen to us struggle to correct ourselves through the performance. It’s maddening to work so hard on something and find out you got it wrong. Of course, the folks here are forgiving…but still.
We did an obligatory selfie with the hosts afterwards as well.
Our entourage left the station and headed to the city of Tokmok about 90 minutes away for our next performance. This was our first chance to see the fabled mountains of this region and there was absolutely no disappointment.
The city line was marked with a disabled Russian jet that further cemented exactly where we are in the world. There are iconic statues and military vehicles smattered across this country. It’s not as prevalent as Russia, but it’s still very visible. I know we have them in the states as well, but it’s more…imposing here. I’m sure it’s partly in my mind, but I enjoy the stark reminders that we’re far from home.
The University we performed at in Tokmok is one of two in the country that work on the same credit system that we use in the US. We immediately noticed that more of the students spoke english. As with everyone here, hospitality is key. We showed up after lunch with full bellies, and they presented us with yet another meal. Mutton dumplings and fried potato patties (which, incidentally, are very Russian). Check out this picture of Jon politely accepting food he has no room in his stomach for.
The show was fun and the students were seriously in to what we were playing. We always end these shows with Kara Jorgo, but this time was really special. Some students got up and presented their traditional dance while we played. I felt accepted. Like all the work we’d put into the song was worth it.
I was worried that no one got it on video, but a young girl in the audience posted it on Instagram and I was able to grab it and put it on Youtube. It’s not very good quality, but I think it still really represents the moment well. We were moved deeply by it.
Now it’s time for bed. While it’s true that we’re only here for a little more than a week, we get to meet a huge amount of folks due to the nature of putting on shows in front of large crowds. Kyrgyzstan is an amalgamation of many different cultures. Of course, there are a lot of Kyrgyz people. But, there are also Uzbek, Russian, Chinese and a myriad of minorities here. Everyone is incredibly kind and welcoming; the people beam with love when we meet them It’s been a real honor to actually get a sense of the soul of this beautiful place.
More tomorrow from the newest Prowler!