There are days i feel like the luckiest person walking this earth, been given the possibility to share my love for music with thousands of people living in the most interesting places. But this weekend will go down as one of the most emotional and important ones i’ve ever experienced.
Starting our journey in Syria, a place you’d most probably think of as hostile if you look at Western media, we were immediately greeted by a group of welcoming, friendly, and warm people who share our love for electronic dance music. By the locals, the Syrian culture was explained as one where helping those in need, and looking after others comes naturally. The dance music scene is still in its infancy, but thanks to good access to the internet, there’s great interest in dance music, and a real sense that it’s soon going to be on most DJs’ ‘must visit’ list. The promoters had gone all out and built an absolutely fantastic sounding and looking stage in a hotel 20 minutes from the centre of Damascus. We were really impressed with the enormous amount of effort and investment that had gone to putting on the party. But 20 minutes before our set time, we heard the dancefloor, built on top of the hotel’s swimming pool, had started collapsing under the weight of the 2000+ crowd, and the organisers had had to empty the dancefloor, and use barriers to keep people off it to avoid anyone getting hurt. This meant that the capacity of the venue was reduced and hundreds of people had to be turned away: something the organisers would have wanted to avoid at all costs but they couldn’t take the risk of things getting worse at the venue. Luckily no one as far as we are aware, was hurt, and the party went on - with people pushed to the sides and back of the dancefloor. Obviously, not the ideal scenario for any party, but the love for the music was overwhelming, and the Syrian crowd welcomed us with open arms. We left convinced that Syria’s scene is on the way up, and are looking forward to returning soon: at a venue with a solid dancefloor!
Friday morning, we woke up to the first news about Japan’s disastrous earthquake and tsunami, and my heart sank. A natural disaster of this scale is something i’m struggling to comprehend. It feels like an all too clear display of the fragility of life, and a reminder that everything you’ve built during your entire life around can be gone in a second. Nothing is for forever, life may present you with unforeseen challenges at any given moment.
We started our drive from Damascus to Amman, during which we popped to a roadside stop, only to meet more wonderfully welcoming locals who offered us tea and coffee as we browsed their store filled with the most amazing selection of souvenirs i’ve ever seen at a roadside stop. That evening we flew to Aqaba in Jordan, just across the border from Eilat, and stayed overnight in the wonderful brand new Kempinski hotel. More very somber news were coming from Japan, as the scale of the disaster was becoming clearer.
At the Israeli border, I was singled out for extra background checks, probably thanks to the wonderfully colourful collection of stamps from around the world in my passports and the fact I’d never been there before. A few hours later I was at the soundcheck in Israel, and greeted by an incredibly professional team who had our enormous stage looking and sounding great. I sensed a great level of excitement, and everyone seemed to want to do their utmost to make the party as brilliant as possible. Chatting with Udi the local promoter, it became clear that Israel has a very vibrant dance music scene, and a lot of big parties - much like across the tightly guarded border in Beirut, where we’ve been having some incredible gigs in the past years and that’s known as a legendary party city in the middle east. By now knew that my wife’s immediate family in Japan were ok, albeit shocked and without running water, electricity or gas.
We had a wonderful meal by the red sea, and headed to the party to be greeted by an enormous crowd gathered under the open night sky, and a beautiful quarter moon directly above the dancefloor. It’s hard to describe how special this place felt: it was surrounded by dimly lit mountains, and a cool evening sea breeze was blowing quietly. We played unusually early, from 7 to 10 in the evening, just after it got dark, so the whole thing had a surreal feel. Each party has its unique feel, and this night will go down as one of those ‘emotionally charged’ evenings. On on hand, we had this epic production, and an almost scarily powerful sound system, on the other the stars, mountains, moon, and over 4000 smiling Israelis and us, sharing our love for the same music.
The following morning, we heard more unsettling news from Japan as the danger of a nuclear disaster loomed, and the death toll numbers of the immediate natural disaster were rising. As the finale, on the plane I was sitting next to a man who was returning home after said the final goodbye to her wife of over 30 years and had just died of cancer a few weeks ago. He was now facing his soon-to-start retirement and coming to terms with the enormous change in his life. I so wish i would have remembered to tell him one of the great quotes “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson”, but i’m sure he got the gist of it from our conversations. Listening to him, at the back of my mind i couldn’t help but think of my own father who’s struggling with alcoholism without admitting it, and how it feels in our lives we always have the chance to make a decision for the better, whatever or however small. But no one can make it for us.
I am now sitting in a taxi, on my way back to the loving arms of my family, where I belong, but my head is spinning. Not often in such a short time have I felt the need to re-evaluate how i see the world around me. Far too seldom do i see life this clearly for what it is: a precious, yet fragile thing that too many of us take for granted. Perhaps today is a great day to stop fighting, and realise that we are all the same at heart.
It was very uplifting to hear that despite a magnitude 7 earthquake in Hitachi, still no electricity, gas or running water, and the earthquakes still happening, my wife’s parents are doing great, and filled with a positive attitude and energy to get things back to normal.
Thousands of people aren’t as lucky: You can donate to the Red Cross Japan Tsunami appeal HERE
And videos and pictures from both parties will start appearing here:
The anticipation builds ahead of Above & Beyond’s biggest ever indoor show in the UK at Brixton Academy on October 30th. Over the coming weeks we will be providing you with everything you need to know about this landmark night exclusively via email through our sign up on http://www.aboveandbeyond.nu/london. Expect artist profiles, interviews and mixes, in addition to competitions, free downloads and details of the mindblowing production planned. With early bird tickets now sold out and limited saver tickets now on sale, make sure you get your tickets today to be a part of Above & Beyond’s final London show of 2010. CLICK HERE to buy your ticket.
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SIX THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT… PAAVO
As those of you who have seen Above & Beyond DJ before will know, for most tour dates only 2 members will perform at a time. When Jono, Tony & Paavo team up and perform as a trio it truly is a show to remember. We are pleased to announce that all three of Above & Beyond will be performing out in Ibiza for our Anjunabeach event on July 1st, making it all the more special.
Anjunabeach: Ibiza 2010 looks set to go down in history as one of our biggest and best shows and so if you haven’t yet booked your ticket, do so today. Anyone who buys a ticket for Above & Beyond’s July 1 Cream gig, via www.ibizaspotlight.com and before the closing date of June 25, will automatically be entered into a draw to win a pair of tickets for the secret beach party, where you will be treated to a special beach front balearic-tinged set from Above & Beyond, plus support.
See you in Ibiza!
You can now follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aboveandbeyond ! For those of you who were already following us, you will see we have lost the ‘3’ from the end of our URL. Hopefully you will have migrated over to our new url automatically so you shouldn’t need to do anything. For those of you not already following the twitterings of Above & Beyond… why not!?
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