Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

Jamming Through the Uprising in Bahrain

April 22, 2012

There is a small revolution, an uprising, a bloody protest movement going on in Bahrain at the moment. But that does not prevent people from getting together to make music, and there was no way I was going to stop myself from going out to do the same as I am on my worldwide tour of open mics and jam sessions in conjunction with the Formula One race season that will take me to 20 countries this year – to which I will add Turkey next week, and of course, France, where I live. So it was off to the Dublin Club at the Ramee Palace hotel for me last night to take part in the weekly Saturday night jam session.

Interview in England and French (after 4 minutes) with Josh Gend, bandleader of the Hot Beats, who host the open jam session at the Dublin Club in Bahrain every Saturday night, speaking here with Brad Spurgeon:

I had last been to the Dublin Club two years ago when Bahrain had not yet fallen under the Arab Spring situation it is currently in with Shiite protesters asking for more rights and even trying to overthrow the government. In preparing for the trip here, I was pleased to learn that the Dublin Club not only still exists, but that it still has its Saturday evening jam AND to top it all off, it happened to be a 10 minute walk from my hotel in Juffair.

There turned out to be yet another added attraction to the whole thing, and that was that the resident band running the open jam session at the moment happens to be from my fellow countrymen (and women) from Quebec. It was a seven person band called Hot Beats. They were indeed, HOT! They started off with a set of their own before they ran three sets – yes 3! count ’em! – for the jam session.

Despite the fact there is a revolution going on around here, the pub was quite full of both spectators and musicians. Of course, this is helped by the fact that the U.S. military base is nearby, and a lot of the men of the armed forces go to the pub. Still, if felt as if there were slightly fewer people.

The other thing that had changed is that two years ago each musician was allowed only one song. Last night, I got in four over three sets. It was a great pleasure, and the atmosphere in the pub made it almost entirely possible to forget the tension that had been felt outside this little island of music in a country where there had been violent protests daily since I arrived on Thursday morning from Shanghai.

In fact, in my podcast interview with Josh Gend, the bandleader, he spoke about the same phenomenon for him and the band working in these peculiar conditions. Oh, and for my French readers, check out this podcast in particular, as it starts in English, but we slip into French for the second half, starting about the 4 minute mark.

Tomorrow its back to Paris for me for a few hours before I head off to Istanbul for a sports conference, and the hope of playing a little music there too….

Mini Post From Bahrain: Not Yet in a Jam

April 21, 2012

I traveled from China to Bahrain on Wednesday, arrived in Manama early Thursday morning, spent the next two days getting my bearings and reporting on the uprising/revolution in this country. Played some guitar in my hotel room, but did not spend a great deal of time looking for places to play as I had so much professional work to do. Last night, however, going out to speak to some regular, middle class Bahrainis about their country, I took my guitar – just in case. No, nothing happened. Except when I returned to the hotel and the two men at the reception desk asked if I could play some music for them. So I played “Wicked Game” in the lobby of the hotel. Stay tuned, because the plan is that tonight I will take part in a jam session in Manama. Will report on that tomorrow.

Down Night in Bahrain – Hard Rock Times

March 12, 2010

It’s so depressing when you write a nice long blog post and then the computer eats it before you get a chance to put it up. Especially at nearly 1 AM. So I give up. In short, today was not a fruitful evening on the musical front. But it was not entirely without – for as I walked from the circuit shuttle drop off point at the Gulf Hotel back to my hotel I ran into a Hard Rock Cafe just down the street from my hotel. It reminded me of the evening I had at the Hard Rock Cafe in Kuala Lumpur last year when I went to listen to Eddie Jordan’s band there, and I did a blog post on Eddie and the Robbers at my F1 blog at the NYT.

Hard Rock Cafe Bahrain

The neon guitar of the Hard Rock Cafe in Bahrain appeared on the horizon of the cityscape....

So tonight, I went into the Hard Rock Cafe and had a beer. The place was bursting with people and at the bar where I sat were about five men dressed in the traditional white Arab garb – not sure what they were drinking. I asked a nice blonde barwoman if she knew a place to play music, like in an open mic or jam, and she knew nothing. She was from South Africa, but had lived here for some time. She said, though, that the woman at the door, the greeter, had lived here a lot longer and she might know about places to play.

So I left and on my way out, I asked the greeter woman – who looked Filipino – if she knew where there might be a place for an amateur musician like me to play.

“You know, an open mic or jam session,” I said. “Just some place where they might allow anyone to go up and play a little music. I’m here for a few days and brought my guitar and I’d like to find a place to play.”

“At all the bars in all the hotels,” she said.

“Okay, thanks,” I said, and got out fast.

That was it. Back to the hotel. Play a little music all by myself with the knowledge that I may have had a down day today, but there was definitely an open jam session at the Dublin Club tomorrow and I was told they’d fit me in.

So I went back to the hotel itching to play. I’m like a violinist I remember reading about when I was a teenager. It was either in a radio and TV announcing course I took or it was in a ventriloquism course, I cannot remember which, but the quote was very interesting. The violinist said: “If I don’t practice for one day, I notice it. If I don’t practice for two days, my family notice it. If I don’t practice for three days, my audience notices it.” Well, I may be the only one who notices it when I don’t practice for a few days, but I’ve still begun to get a little itchy if I can’t play every day.

So I went into the bathroom in my hotel room since it is well insulated from the other rooms next to mine, and also because it echoes nicely and gives me that feeling you get when you sing in the shower – or just a bigger sound. And I sang two cover songs I often sing, “Father And Son,” by Cat Stevens and “Just Like A Woman,” by Bob Dylan. I set up my handheld recorder that I use for my interviews in the paddock, propping it up on the towel rack in a way that Jac Holzman had me do (not in the bathroom but on a towel on a table in his hotel room in order to absorb and deflect any bad sound vibrations from the glass-top table) in Amsterdam a few years ago when I interviewed him, the founder of Elektra Records for a story. Anyway, I thought I’d put up here the results of those two recordings I did in the bathroom of my hotel tonight and leave the musical adventure at that for today as I wait with anticipation for tomorrow. You can click on the songs below to hear me singing them in my hotel in Bahrain tonight:

Father and Son

Just Like A Woman

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