Friday, November 27, 2009

Get Rid of Your Culture!

Below is a new study on what it is defined as the "integration" issue in the Netherlands, came out of a study / research results done by a government-social institute:

" Almost 40% of the Dutch think there are too many immigrants in the Netherlands, a drop of ten percentage points on 2000, according to a new report from the government's social policy institute SCP.

The report also shows both the native Dutch and immigrants consider new arrivals should learn the Dutch language and leave behind their original cultures."


I agree that learning the language of the country you are living in is essential. In fact it is the most important thing to do after arriving in a country, before searching for work or get adapted with new life and new society, but to leave behind original culture??

This is the most bizarre thing I have ever heard.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Week of Concerts

last week was a historic one, for me, to be part of a festivity, celebrating the arrival of great musicians, from west and from the east.

I posted earlier the three concerts I have been to and what an experience.

The first one was last Tuesday at the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam, watching the legendary British band Deep Purple, one of the bands that made the genre Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Click here to read my post on that concert .

The second concert I have been to was of one of the most talented and prominent American Metal bands, it is Alice in Chains. I have never seen them before, so it was a new experience to see them as it is for them with their new singer, DuVall. Click on the link here to read the post on that concert

It just became more beautiful, I mentioned it as being historical for me, especially with the third concert.

Kadim Al Saher!

The legendary Iraqi and Arabic singer had a concert in Brussels, Belgium. That was extraordinary for me, an eye opening. I know that Al Saher is known for his classical Arabic language songs, but listening while watching his performance doing his songs live for the first time was something sensational.

Read here my experience attending Kadim Al Saher concert, it was indeed exceptional and a good finale to my week of concerts.

Week of Concerts 3: Kadim Al Saher - The Living Legend

I am proud to be one of the thousands of fans attended Iraqi legendary singer, Kadim Al Saher concert in Belgium last Saturday. This is the first time ever that this European city host a concert for the Iraqi legendary singer.

This is another reason I am proud to be on that show.

There were fans of all ages; families, young and old, from different countries, such as Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Palestinians, and from western countries too. Like me, I came all the way from Amsterdam, there were people who travelled from Germany, Sweden, France, and other European countries. Many were already very early arrived at the Paleis des Beaux-Art (Center for Fine Arts). While smoking at the main entrance of the center I watched people in their cars trying to find parking space with the stereo loud playing the latest album by Kadim Al Saher, Drawing with Words.

The hall was nice, but before I was skeptical of what kind of acoustics it can produce from a performance like Al Saher's? I was right, and sad, not only because the design of that hall was not up to the altitude and the size of the music played, but the person sitting on the soundboard, in my opinion, was someone who is obviously lacks the least of experience related to control a band playing oriental instruments in such a concert hall.

I wondered if the band did some sound check in the first place!

What made things worse was the technical failures. During the first song, for example, and after less than 5 minutes of Kadim Al Saher singing, his microphone went off. That didn't ruin the moment, the public continued that part of the song with the backing vocals, while another technician brought another mic for Kadim Al Saher.

Through the whole concert, almost two hours I didn't hear neither the Nai or the Oud sound.

Very sad!

Musicians in Al Saher band were the victims, especially that anyone can see their perfect musicianship throughout the show; one time the keyboardist (whom playing and the sound of his keyboard remained the entire show hardly heard) another time one of the violin players, a third time one of the percussionists, and even the drummer, all were making signs to the sound engineers every now and then to fix the sound of their instruments.


That sound engineer should be sentenced to life in prison

Yet...enough talking negative

That concert was not doomed, such things happen. Belgium concert was a great success. It was not a music performance or a band show only, it was the chance for thousands of people to show their feelings; joy, pride (of their country), happiness, honesty interacted between perfect musicians and the public towards their idol, Kadim Al Saher.

It was a night a night to remember, forever.

I said that about Dream Theater's concert last month

By the way, this is one of the very little concerts I went to where I hear people cheering with the presence of their beloved singer and his band to the level that you can't hear the music. Chanting, singing loud along with the music, and the singer, shouting Kadim's name with a tone with full of love in their voices, there was laughter, joy, anticipation to the giant who was standing before them on stage. That was the situation on that show. It was not quiet at all, but not chaotic either. Even the singer was surprised when he began singing the first verse of the song "Layla", all was quiet, listening, Kadim Al Saher paused and with a beautiful smile addressed the public in Iraqi dialect "... this is the first time... you become soooo quiet just like that..."

The public exploded with laughter followed by big applause.

The public stood for Kadim Al Saher when he arrived on stage with the biggest welcome anyone can see for an artist accompanied by deafening applause. The flashes from the camera's did not stop, in spite of the early warning by the organizers of the show that taking pictures of filming is only allowed in the first 5 to 10 minutes. During the show there were people who struggled with the bodyguards to get to Al Saher closer just to have a simple handshake or an autograph, not to mention those who brought presents for him. There was a young women who tried to approach Kadim Al Saher on a number of times between and during songs, but did not succeed. At the end of the show and while he was walking towards the exit she ran towards him and ... almost there, one foot distance from him, but the body guards were faster and stopped her. I thought she collapsed afterwards and have been dragged away.

I was disappointed with one thing, that no single song from the new album played. Kadim Al Saher asked the audience what they like to hear. I thought that was one time, but I realized that the legendary singer meant to please his audience by asking them what they like to hear. On one occasion and after the end of one of the songs, a group on one side of the hall started singing "hatha al loon..." (this color on you...), immediately he turned to his band and asked to play the song... I was happy to see live Qusay, the main violinist in Al Saher band, playing his solo part like I used to hear on tape years ago.

I can't remember all the songs played, but below are some played:
- Hel Indeky Shak (Do you have any doubt)
- Mustebbida (despot)
- Hatha al loon... (this color on you...)
- Baghdad
- Layla
- Ahibeeny (Love Me)

Kadim Al Saher talked about the agony of the Iraqi people, taking the members of his band as an example of the Iraqi people who have been in a lot of trouble traveling across the world, and wish that the agony, the suffering of the Iraqi people, all Iraqi people will end one day, and that his message to the world is of peace and love, two things as the ultimate wish for Iraq and its people.

I realize that whatever the words, the sentence I can put in this post, it won't be up to the standard describing how great this singer is. The lesson I learned after all: Kadim Al Saher is not only a genies, Kadim Al Saher, he is extraordinary person, with musical wit. His musical conduct, composition, and technique while singing, in addition to his attitude on stage and during interviews has put him side by side with Arab music stars such as Abdel Wahab and Abdel Haleem Hafidh.

I guess I am not saying something new about a great and wonderful person, like Kadim Al Saher, but at least this is what I think and feel.

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Week of Concerts 2: Alice In Chains - 013 Tilburg Show

The second concert I have been to last week was of a band that some critics put it in the grunge metal genre, others just categorize their music as plain metal band.

That is Alice in Chains

That was one hectic show to attend, because I had to drive a long way from Amsterdam. Traffic was horrible and thought that I would not make it to the show as the clock was ticking after 8PM when I arrived in the southern city of Tilburg.

I was lucky! For unknown reason there was an hour delay till the band came up on stage. Crew members kept on moving left and right organizing and setting up stands, microphones, placing paper sheet (I think the set list) in designated places, with a big screen in the background where the Dutch flag kept on it for the whole time...etc The resentment in the faces of many attendees was obvious, I even heard someone standing behind telling his girlfriend that the staff of 013 were not happy with the delay of show from 8PM to 9PM.

Lights were dimmed, a big heart appeared slowly over the Dutch flag on screen, and with the same slow pace each member of the band walked out, and the hall was on fire.

The sound was horrible, I know it is a metal concert, but it was too loud for such a concert hall, and part of the joy listening to the songs was lost. Yet, that didn't ruin the a show of a band full of musicianship whom their focus was to please its fan base.

Highlights of that show were "Them Bones", "Again" and "Dam That River". The band did a great job of Promoting songs from their new album, by playing four of 5 songs, I don't remember. By the way, I didn't like "Black Gives Way To Blue", but after the show, I have second thoughts. Songs like "Rain When I Die" and "Check my Brain" are typical AIC songs that any fan would love to listen.

The band played three acoustic songs on that show: "Heaven Beside You", the beautiful "No Excuse", and "Black Gives Way To Blue", which ended with a big picture of late singer Layne Staley with peace sign and a cigarette hanging from his lip

"Sludge Factory" was the beginning of a second leg of heavy, powerful section of that show. Another three songs followed from old and new that rocked the house.

No Alice in Chains can be complete without the masterpieces "Would?" and "Rooster". The two songs were the finale for a very loud and good show.

Jerry Cantrell, the driving force behind the band, a man who looks much younger than his real age when watching him from a distance, a great and professional guitarist. Yet, watching AIC on DVDs, TV and now live makes me always think that Cantrell is influenced by the attitude on stage of no one but the master of the riffs, Tony Iommi. His quiet presence just reminds me of that, but that was not the case on a number of occasions as he did some headbanging on one song, or jump up on another.

This of course has its impact on the public and set more fire to the show

Someone asked me "what do you think of the new singer?"... "is William DuVall the right replacement?" I confirm, he is the best and closest to the way Alice In chains songs should be, it matches the style these songs are written, most importantly the harmonization with Jerry Cantrell, but I won't compare DuVall with Layne Staley, because Staley was unique. Mind you, that doesn't mean that DuVall is not a good or up to the AIC songs, to the contrary, he is one of few singers with high tone and long range voice, just fantastic singer.

I don't think anyone who write a review on Alice In Chains would ignore mentioning the band's bassist, Mike Inez, the great and one of the most energetic musicians alive. Simply, he is excellent. A man playing with power, the smile and interaction with the public remained during the whole show, and he ensured that he greet and thank the public at the end of the show with a big thank you.

To summarize all, it was a nice evening after all, despite delay, hectic traveling, I did enjoy seeing an great metal band, and enjoying listening to their music. 002 004 012 024 028 057 058 062

Week of Concerts 1: Deep Purple Rocks Amsterdam

Tuesday, 17 November was the first one, at the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam: a sold out show of the mighty Deep Purple
No, they are not old or lacked the power they used to have. Their performance was fun as before, and it is my privilege to have their show booked in my agenda every year.

I am going to their concert again next year, even if they didn't record a new album, that's for sure.

If there is something unique about Deep Purple as one of the most influential rock/metal bands to date is their combination of power and fun. I said it before and I will keep on saying it. I love this band for those two reasons. Like any band, I don't like ALL their songs, but I love most of their songs, and my collection of their live and bootlegs will never seed to exist, it will keep on growing. I like how they joke and have fun (with these confident exchanges of smiles) among each other- Maybe the exception to all that is the great Ian Paice, but... I couldn't have the chance to catch up a glimse of him from my angel.

I was surprised when the band came on stage, seeing how Ian Gillan lost weight to a fightenning level, honestly, I wish this legendary singer health and long living, wouldn't think of him being ill and that loss of weight is caused by some illness. However, he still charming and one hell of a handsome man.
By the way, Ian Gillan mentioned that they are planning to record a new album for next year, but did not say when.
I can't wait

Which song I would drop out from their setlist? I ask this question because this is common question by many fans of a band like DP with a history, rich history. I would think of "Strange Kind of Woman", but I changed my mind after hearing it on that show, because of the energy and the way they play it live. I would think of "Fireball", but that's a trade mark, nooooo, I won't think of dropping it either, and I just hate those who talk about "that song is worn out and the other played too much on their shows" and all this bla bla bla
Everytime I look to the selist, trying to find a weaker song that can be dropped, I fail to select one.

The selection of songs was also different from last year, I loved this setlist, especially that they played two songs from their 1984's "perfect strangers" album, which they never did, at least not to my knowledge: "Wasted Sunset" and "Not Responsible". The latter was a puzzle to me, considering Gillan's age, I was wondering how he would sing such a song after all these years. Believe me, he did it and I loved that live version.

Don Airey's solo was classic and the great thing when it followed by the excellent "The Battle Rage's on", what a song!

Another highlight was Gov't Mule guitar player Warren Haynes, who joined Deep Purple on stage for the Black Night encore.

The set list for Heineken Music Hall show is:
01. Highway Star
02. Things I Never Said
03. Not Responsible
04. Strange Kind Of Woman
05. Wasted Sunsets
06. Rapture Of The Deep
07. Fireball
08. The Well Dressed Guitar
09. Wring That Neck Play Video
10. Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming
11. No One Came Play Video
12. The Battle Rages On
13. Space Truckin'
14. Smoke On The Water
15. Hush
16. Black Night (with Warren Haynes on Guitar)

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Deep.Purple.HMH 025

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Burj Dubai Fountains

On the first Saturday I was there, I read in the news that people living in Dubai had a rare opportunity to see the fountains during the day.

I didn't have the chance to visit these fountains, because my trip to Dubai were limited to driving through Zaid street and downtown.