Thursday, July 31, 2008

Keep Yourself from Idols... Should I?

"Tell me who's your role model and I'll tell you who you are," someone I have a lot of respect in the world of arts said to me many years ago. I was too young to understand the true essence of what he was trying to say with this pompous-sounding statement, but years later, I realized there was more to it than "who's style do you prefer and who's album cover do you dislike".

There's a famous Russian saying derived from the Bible, I believe: "Don't make an idol for yourself" ("ne sotvori sebe kumira") but for whatever reason, it was never a motto I used in my early years. Perhaps it's for the better - that way, I had taken the time and effort to really delve into every ounce of my favorite artists' work and artistic being.

One of my favorites (not the most loved one, but easily the next one down) was an adult contemporary vocal sensation of the 90's who became particularly huge in the latter half of the decade onwards - just as I had approached my teens and had definitely decided to pursue a singing career.

It was at the time when the internet had a few more years to go before it had hit every single household in Russia in a big way. So album sleeves with credits, fan club and management info's were the only source for the determined teenager in Moscow.

I had barely turned 13 when one day I decided to write to her and send one of her songs I had recorded by myself in my bedroom - something I wouldn't have done if I hadn't loved her that much (not a typical "fan" and never have been, for some reason).

Believe it or not (and let's not forget that it was right after Russia's initial introduction and first steps towards capitalism and westernization), in the middle of our morning class at school, I got called into my Principal's office: "Your mom's on the phone" (there were no mobile phones at youngsters' disposal at the time...) What could it be, I wondered....

"Are you sitting down? You got a letter through the mail... From across the Atlantic..." I couldn't believe what my mom was saying - it was so surreal, especially living in a rather isolated world detached from the rest of the western hemisphere altogether... And all of a sudden, a letter from the management of someone I had loved and looked up to - needless to say, I was speechless and couldn't wait to get home from school to see the letter with my own eyes!

And there it was.... Beautifully printed with gold font at the top - quite different from our local barely visible print on poor, worn out paper, that's for sure!

The sweet note was signed by a direct contact at the management company who also happened to be related to the artist herself and whose name (being a die-hard fan) was very familiar to the 13-year-old.

It was so overwhelming - I decided to keep the letter (and have done so, in fact) and promised myself that one day I would work with the people who had been directly involved in making her records that I had played over and over again and sang along with enthusiastically in our little Moscow apartment....

There's something inexplicably satisfying in the very knowledge that I have indeed kept the promise made to my 13-year-old self. And although the dream is still a journey and a reality in the making, it makes me feel immensely warm deep down whenever I remember literally obsessing over the little details and bit and pieces of what is now my life - my very own career that seemed like a faraway dream back then, although there are still miles and miles to go before it's fully achieved.

As for the artist mentioned above, I watched one of her latest "behind the scenes" sessions the other day and I have to admit, it was a truly disappointing sight. Having lost her charisma and artistic honesty completely, I thought I was watching an ultimately fabricated and calculated show - and if that's what they call "behind the scenes".... Wow.

It is a shame that anyone who makes it THAT big is expected to "lose it" and become totally alien to the very notion of reality - they are always expected to lose their sense of being a part of something larger and more important than their own persona. It's as if they live on a different planet altogether where the rest of the universe revolves around them. Unfortunately, more often than not, that's precisely what happens.

As Maria Callas used to say, an artist's responsibility is to serve something bigger than himself/herself - the art. Except it's usually the other way around in this day and age of the showy show business.... Music serves the artistic ego and not vice versa.

What can you do..... Just enjoy the music, I suppoose, while the rest takes care of itself...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Got a Day Job?"

9.30 on a Tuesday morning: Turtle Bay's busy staff entrance of the United Nations; security guards surrounding the metal detector doors; visitors queuing up in the main lobby for a multi-lingual tour and suit-n-tie, prim bureaucratic silhouettes going up and down the escalators and waiting by the Secretariat elevators.

Yet another General Assembly resolution is awaiting its approval and the Security Council is pondering over its adoption in the SC Chambers behind the milti-national flags and the famous sky-blue UN backdrop that we often see on television across the world.

Dashing over to the 2nd floor briefing room to attend a "UN accredited press only" conference with one of the head bureaucrats, humanitarians, diplomats, etc. Usually, it's the same old story: all the goodwill in the world, highly enthusiastic speeches and rather critical questions (slowly crossing over into more "editorial" comments) posed by the press corp...

Welcome to work, Tinatin - the day job has now officially kicked off!

When I first stepped inside the Turtle Bay building, the last thing on my mind was making a career out of it... Or a side-career, anyway. The purpose of my initial meetings with the UN Department of Public Information was a song that I had wanted to dedicate to the struggle against HIV/AIDS - "I Pray". From then on, one meeting after another with various diplomats in different departments spread up and down across the building... Months of hand-shakes, introductions, letters, CDs sent back and forth through various bureaucratic corridors. It all shaped itself into a brand new project of its own - "We the Peoples", my UN song, or in other words, a song based on the United Nations Charter. An idea that first crossed the mind of an incredibly creative author and UN expert, Ian Williams.

When Ian first mentioned this unusual idea to me ("Put the 'I Pray' idea on hold for now - at least until you are more established so that you can really try and make a difference with the song and its purpose - and think about doing something that has never been done before - write a pop song based on the UN Charter... Now that's original!") I didn't immediately grasp the originality of it until I went back and read more about this big organization that I had only driven past throughout the years but had never known much about.

Whilst working my way up the bureaucratic ladder (and that did take a few months, I have to say) I read overwhelming amount of literature about the UN, asked questions (Ian Williams and my other friend, Mark Seddon, who at the time was the UN Correspondent for Al Jazeera English, were incredibly patient and generous in their informative discussions with the new student of theirs!) and tried to learn all there was to know about this fascinating place located in the very heart of Manhattan.

Up until the entire music project was fully and officially approved on all fronts (no one had ever written a pop song, or any other type of song, for that matter, based on the sacred Charter of the United Nations, so having no analogy to refer to, we really had to cross every single bridge up the UN ladder of approvals), I had quite a few months at my full disposal and I slowly developed a serious interest and enthusiasm for "everything to do with the UN"... Hence, I landed a job at one of the Russian papers as the UN Correspondent.

To make the long story short, it really did become a day job after all. Now I host a weekly radio show on Progressive Radio Network here in NY, a station run by Gary Null (a highly inquisitive mind, I admit!) and to be honest, the split-personality (singer/songwriter vs. political/diplomatic correspondent) has become a serious habit - it's not so easy to distinguish between the two... The music being a passion for life, the journalistic side of my life is a real bonus in every way - not only do I get to live and experience work on both sides of the fence, but the inquisitive mind and an overwhelming thirst for all this information across the board is more or less satisfied through the day job.

Referring to your question earlier on whether I'm a part-time DJ, well I guess you could say that - except not a club DJ but a radio DJ with a political flavor.

So there you have it... That's the day job...

Back to music now! :-)

Monday, July 28, 2008

ZeroGossip: "Love Is More Than Words for Tinatin"

Several minutes ago, a good friend of mine forwarded me a google link to an article by a wonderful journalist, Norm Whitehurst with whom I had the privilege and pleasure of speaking earlier this year when we did our initial interview for his online publication....

"Love Is More Than Words for Tinatin" - By

Back in January, I had the pleasure of talking with someone Billboard Magazine touts as one the the 10 fresh faces to keep an eye out in 2008. Her name is Tinatin and she’s not disappointing. The music she puts out is from the heart and you can tell when you hear her voice. Not only that, she’! Talented, smart, speaks at least 5 more languages than me (I barely speak one) and is a born performer. She’s just released "Love is More Than Words" which can be found on her MySpace page. And for you, she’s let me post it here. Give it a listen and go add her as a friend. Tinatin will be a star in the near future. Trust me. And if you write to her, she responds. Love her!

From January 2008

This year will be a breakout year for musical artist Tinatin. That’s according to Billboard Magazine who listed her as one of the 10 fresh faces to keep an eye out for in 2008. In the US, she’s a well-kept secret who’s about to go public in a big way.

Tinatin was born in the Republic of Georgia 23 years ago into a family already deep in the arts. Her father is an architect and painter while her mother is a classical pianist. Now living in New York, she’s working on an album due out this year. Her music is not only enjoyable to hear, but impactful with messages—from the state of the United Nations to HIV, her voice clearly paints a picture for her listeners.

Her single “We the Peoples,” is available on iTunes and will be a part of her album. Billboard calls it, “a penultimate, contemporary anthem honoring the mission of the United Nations, perhaps more relevant than ever, given the flux of worldwide politics… a resonant affirmation that politics actually have potential to unite.” You can’t get a better review than that!

Holliston: There’s a lot of excitement and buzz out there about your music right now. What is it that got you noticed by Billboard?

Tinatin: I think ultimately, especially in New York, it’s a story. If you have a story, no matter how good or mediocre or perhaps even poor, the songs are, A.) it’s the record and B.) it’s the story and if you can put the two together then it can more or less guarantee a buzz. I think New York is based on buzz. Buzz and hype, to me signify New York.

H: The good thing about that buzz for you is that you do have a good product. And you have an album coming out.

T: I’m actually wrapping up with the material. I worked on the album both in New York and in London and initially I started the record in London with Christopher Neil, my producer. When I got to New York, what I realized immediately was no matter how many similarities between the industries in London and New York, at the end of the day a European record is a European record. And in America, unless you do things the American way, it’s very hard to convince them that no matter how good you may be, there is so much out here and you have to do something different. I had to practically re-do a lot of my material done in Europe to make it more suitable together with my team in London (Christopher Neil and Peter Adams) and the US producers, yet keep that European factor there that would make me slightly different from what’s out there.

H: What did you have to do differently?

T: We had to rethink a lot of the arrangements. Some of the production values had to change. For example, as soon as I got here, Christopher Neil immediately got American producers on board such as Bob Iadeluca and FAB, who’s actually a French born producer and songwriter, and he’s already very successful in America. He got them to really listen to the songs and see what they could bring to the table to make it a little bit more American, a little bit more U.S. oriented, yet keeping the same songs that made the record unique. At the same time we didn’t want to go too American so we could still appeal to the European market, thus writing additional material with Chris Neil and Peter Adams – my UK team – in NY.

H: When will the album be released?

T: As soon as possible! I absolutely cannot wait! We’re just wrapping up with the songs. We need a couple more songs and then we’ll be ready to put it out there and see where it takes us.

H: Does the album have a name?

T: Not yet! It was difficult enough coming up with the first single. We had to pick out a song that would not only be a record—a song, but ultimately it would tell a different sort of story about me. I think that’s when we went for the song “We the Peoples” based on the United Nations charter because it tells a little bit about me—my background as a journalist, my attachment toward the UN. To me it’s more than a song. It’s a story. It’s who I am. That song immediately creates an image of me. And based on that, we had to rethink a lot of the songs on the album because I can’t put songs that are too different from it, too girly, or too romantic. It creates a whole concept for the record.

H: What is it about the United Nations that has drawn you to it?

T: I think that the current climate that I grew up in has been a very exciting period for me. Being 23, I’ve seen quite a bit. I’ve lived through a civil war in Georgia...we moved around a lot. There was a lot that really touched me throughout the years when I was growing up. And when I found the place that really sums everything up for me into one, which is the United Nations, where it covers everything from peacekeeping to HIV-Aids to human rights, the concept of the UN is what really drew me to the organization. There is a freedom to be able to make that little bit of difference as a human being yourself, given the opportunity. And through that and in many ways also through the great idea of author and UN expert, Ian Williams, I decided that if I can work at the UN as a correspondent why don’t I write a song that will appeal to people because ultimately music is the language that is very universal. Everybody can relate to it. Everybody can understand it. Music can click with far more people.

H: With all the attention currently focused on you, how do you keep the buzz alive?

T: I think that’s the tricky part. It’s easy to attract someone to your persona and material but maintaining and sustaining that buzz, unless you have something else to offer requires a lot of work. You have to sit down with your team and say ‘OK guys. We’ve got all this attention on us but what have we got next to give to the audience and critics?’

H: Once the album is released, will you tour?

T: Absolutely. I’m rehearsing with my new band in New York. So once we have our concept together as a band we will start playing some venues both in the US and internationally.

H: Having lived in many countries, does that impact the way you write and the way you perform?

T: I really think it has an enormous impact on the eventual product. Having performed in several countries, that’s when you realize what every audience wants. I think every audience in every country is different. They have different expectations from you, different demands, different tastes...being able to target them all with one record has been the biggest challenge of all. Being able to sit down and say how can we make this universally do we make all these audiences feel they are a part of it...that it was done for them, not just done in a different country and imported. Having that experience of performing before international audiences has been very helpful in determining the final sound of me as an artist.

H: Do you have plans on releasing songs in different languages?

T: Yes I do. Very much so. I think that because I made my debut in France, France can be a very strong market for me. I love their music and it comes down to if you love their music and you incorporate those elements into your music that can click with them as well.

H: What brought you to the United States?

T: When I was little, when I was growing up, during the Soviet period, we were so interested in anything to do with the West. When the first Russians, Georgians, and everyone else from the USSR got a chance to travel, my parents were one of the first to be able to actually go to America through my dad’s work as an architect and painter. And when he came back, told me about it, and showed me the films he took, I was so fascinated by it. And factor in American music and musicians like my all-time idol Barbra Streisand that, to me, means America. America, to me, was the ultimate goal. It was the land that meant everything. If you want to make your dreams come true, no matter how much of a cliché that may be, trust me, this country gives you far more opportunities than anywhere else does in the world. When I got the opportunity to move to America, it was a hard decision at first. But I knew that if I could sustain myself for the first couple of years and attract enough attention to be able to stay here for another couple of years, it would mean there is something here for me. If you make it here, you’re bound to make it anywhere else.

H: And your goals for 2008 and beyond?

T: It all comes down to doing what I genuinely love and being able to share it with an audience that responds. Whether it’s through the album coming out this year, the concerts I’ll be doing, it all comes down to being able to do something I love to do.

Tinatin by Chris Lopez

Did You Know?

• Tinatin speaks six languages (Georgian, Russian, French, Italian, English and Spanish) and is working on learning Japanese. Domo arigato!
• She taught herself French through books, watching French television and listening to Celine Dion music (and translating her lyrics with a French-Russian bilingual dictionary!)
• Her three most talked about songs include “We the Peoples” (co-written by Tinatin, FAB and Arnie Roman; produced by FAB, “I Pray” (co-written by Tinatin, Chris Neil, Peter Adams, Jane Ryall; produced by Chris Neil and Peter Adams), and “Wild” (co-written by Tinatin and Ayhan Sahin; produced by Ayhan Sahin).
• Her full name is Tinatin Japaridze.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thinking of Someone Else...AGAIN!


"Thinking of Someone Else" by Dr. Octavo/Tinatin Charmix is at No.1 in the Club/Dance Charts on Ourstage!

Last time this very song was no. 1 on Ourstage was the original demo version by Chris Neil and Ben "Jammin'" Robbins (also my co-writers on the song) but this time it's the actual radio remix... by none other than Dr. Octavo (Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Britney, Usher, Justin Timberlake remixes... you name it!)

Please check out the banner below for more details!

Thank you all so much for voting and getting it to the number one slot! :-)

Tinatin xxx

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ladies & Gentlemen: Please Enjoy Capitalism!

12.30 a.m. in New York City and a sudden craving for none other than a shrimp salad sandwich literally caught me off guard. Having had a full day and only one meal through it all (is it possible to get too engaged in one's daily activities and forget to eat? You bet!) I realized a little too late that a quick bite could only help before calling it a day.

What does one do past midnight about getting a very specific sandwich, given that I'm a bit of a choosy eater when it comes to late-night cravings (always has been the case, not a recent phenomenon, that's for sure) ?

Back in Russia, at least before the whole "Westernization" period when late-night supermarket, 24-hour McDonald's spots, etc. opened throughout the city of Moscow, solving a simple dilemma like this particular one at any given time of the day, let alone way past midnight, would have been next to impossible. Queuing up for hours on end for bread and butter was the norm back than - that is, unless you belonged to the "foreign" circle of Westerners, whereby you were admitted to the "foreign currency only" specialized stores. But that was far from an easy achievement for a Sovietsky person, therefore, I would have been stuck 20 years ago back in the USSR under these circumstances....

However, we now live in a capitalist society and it is, after all, the 21st century - and plus, this is the Big Apple:

10 minutes after the initial craving, I was already paying for my double-decker sandwich (shrimp salad, naturally - as ordered by her majesty!) with a credit card on the Avenue of the Americas.... And you know something - a decade or so ago, all of this would have sounded like a sci-fi fairytale to my post-Communist regime ears.

But hey, that's what makes all of this so exciting - having had the opportunity to experience life on both sides of the fence. Whereas, I am sure, a lot of you, my readers, have long taken all of these "supernatural" opportunities for granted!

They say you should never forget your roots - and I certainly won't (in fact, I'm growing so fond of the whole pre and post Soviet regime collapse history - at the moment I am literally engrossed in all sorts of literature in any way connected to that era!) - but there's something similar to a quiet relief and silent joy in the very knowledge of being able to live and experience that, which back "then" seemed truly impossible.... Unbeatable, really!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

LIVE or Lip-Sync?

Surfing the internet on a Sunday night after a long day... Quite a contrast from my teenage years in Moscow back in the 90's, that's for sure :-)

Just came across George Michael's live rendition of "Praying for Time" on American Idol, which fortunately was captured on tape. Aside from the obvious relevance of the lyric, probably even more so now than when it was initially written, the truthfulness of this far-from-polished performance made me appreciate real, honesty artistry. Clearly affected by a cold, he delivered such a genuine rendition of an earlier, near-to-perfection record and even managed to compromise the lack of spotless purity in the voice with something so much more admirable and effective than a merely "auto tuned" perfection.

And that really reminds me of what artistry used to be and what it's become in our day and age.

As a teenager, I used to look forward to live albums of the artists I loved, knowing that the acoustic renditions of my favorite songs would not only provide a brand new glimpse into the essence of a song I had already fallen in love with, but also allow the listener to witness the very transformation of the artist's work into something familiar yet fresh and unpredictable (a new arrangement, an unexpected riff, a slight detonation here and there - so real and so credible!)

Nowadays, we basically have to keep our fingers crossed for most (not all!) singers not to miss the lip-sync spot, or at best - maintain a more or less bearable pitch throughout the song... Again, not always the case - thank goodness for that! - but more often than not, that's what the commercial market has to offer.

All very nice that we have the luxury of discovering fresh talent - real talent - online and at various clubs around the city... Great news, I agree, BUT let's face it, who wouldn't want to see that caliber of talent (and even more than that, for I genuinely think the average level of artistic metier and musical integrity is beginning to deteriorate throughout the industry and beyond) on our television screens, radio stations, big concert venues, etc. like back in the day of the Golden Era of Pop/Rock... You name it!

We can all argue about how wonderful myspace is as opposed to what the limited radio Top 40 used to offer to us back in the 90's and the 80's, but hey... Let's face it... This ain't all that wonderful either. We're just left with our own means for finding good music - and REALLY looking for it...

Wouldn't you want to witness a new breakthrough career of a real mega talent?

No denying - something's gotta give BIG TIME in the music business, the internet can't solve this whole mystery by itself - there's got to be another "complementary" route - and the industry's still looking for it. Let's just hope they don't end up wasting too much time and eventually STILL come back to the original form - the traditional way of how it used to be done.

There's only one way to do it, really, although the formats and catalysts are evolving by the day and that only makes it more exciting! :-)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The One & Only: EGO

"Man's ego is the fountainhead of human progress" (Ayn Rand)

It is not a coincidence, perhaps, that I am sitting by the fountain on the spread-out avenue directly facing the skyscraper - that same one, where exactly one year ago I climbed up to nearly the very top for that memorable encounter - the "starting point", if you like.... I'd be lying if I claimed I had no idea what I was signing up for... But it's true that the madness of the ultimate, albeit brief saga was, indeed, beyond my wildest imagination.

If I could turn back the time, I would, without a shadow of a doubt, trace the same steps from A to B... Maybe more cautiously... But maybe not.

Very few tangibles can represent quite so much on a very personal level - buildings are buildings, you may say, and why would I disagree, normally... But sometimes they carry a certain aura of what used to be, and ironically - that, which will never be ever again. A mere routine, the way of life, I suppose.

The insurmountable difficulty of letting go what's been left unsaid, even more so than pondering over what you know can't be undone. Turning your back on that which meant more than words can describe is the toughest task of all... Pretense and ignorance can only stretch their intended capacity to the point up until they both naturally make a predictable transition towards duplicity.

And none of this will represent anything of value to anyone except... the "EGO".

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pop Music: What Goes Around, Comes Around...

Pop Music. Funny how this unpretentious, light-hearted term has truly become a phenomenon and has taken over so many of our lives. Some swear by these two words, others consider the very notion of it way beneath them. But so very few of us have been left completely sterile and ignorant of this genre.

Quite ironically, as I flipped through the online pages of Wikipedia (another representative of today's pop culture - forget Webster's dictionary - Wiki is the big boss now!), I noticed how Pop Music is not referred to as a set genre, but instead: "music charted by the number of sales, plays, etc. that the work receives. It is not a particular genre or style of music, but simply that which is the most popular for the tracked period of time." So true, I never looked at it that way.

Another interesting point made by the same source is that in opposition to music that may require education or formation to fully appreciate it, "a defining characteristic of pop music is that anyone is able to enjoy it."

What about the pop stars? I often wonder how the simple term "singer" has gradually shifted from the very essence of "a music artist" to the pompousness of "a pop icon" and finally has reached an arguably low form of art under a very glittery "pop star" position.

Can't say too many pop stars worrying about this too much nowadays, but a significant chunk of the album-buying (not the single buyers!) demographic in today's marketplace have raised the question on a number of occasions. It's hard to blame them, really, as there are more and more single-oriented records and much less "conceptualized" albums being made these days. How many songs do you really LOVE on an average album you normally buy nowadays? 1? 2? The days of "I love this album, what a work of art" are pretty much over. Itunes has made it a lot easier and much more convenient to operate on these terms - you like one or two songs on an album but aren't willing to spend 20 bucks on a CD of 12 tracks, 10 of which you don't really like? No problem. The obvious downsides are probably present, as well, but let's leave that to the critics...

It is a shame, though, that most artists (not all) have been replaced by what we now call the "pop stars" on a larger scale. Television has certainly helped a great deal, and particularly all the music-oriented reality shows. But can you do? C'est la vie, really.

These afternoon I came across Nickelback's Rockstar video spoof about "Pop Stars" which is absolutely hilarious, but at the same time, quite sad if you look at it from a realistic standpoint. Funny and all that, no doubt, but the ironic thing is that joking aside, it actually is a very objective synopsis of what's popular today. It's pointless feeling distraught and nostalgic about it, what's done is done and that's the end of it... For now. I'm constantly surprised - pleasantly surprised - when I witness first-hand the ever-growing "comeback" of real hunger and thirst among average music lovers for REAL music. Not to say that today's pop hits aren't very commercial and very catchy - no offense at all - but what ever happened to the days when we were regularly discovering the big shots like Elton John, The Beatles, Aretha, Barbra, The Jacksons....? Revolutionary talent, that is... It's hard to beat that sort of caliber, isn't it. Plenty of fabulous one-hit wonders have emerged lately, there's no denying of that! Great sounding, well-produced, highly addictive commercial successes all around... But what happens a few months down the line, when what was hot last month is no longer the "flavor of the month" today?

I read an interesting interview with the legendary Sir George Martin, often referred to as "the Fifth Beatle". His take on today's pop-music scene isn't all that lovey-dovey, either... "I've listened to quite a few records," Martin said, "but I'm not terribly happy with the current pop music."

Everything comes in a full circle, though, no doubt it'll be that way in this case, as well. Just curious to see what will eventually prove to be the final straw that leads on to the new beginning, a brand new starting point of that same old circle.

Interesting times... And remember: what goes around, always comes around :-)

P.S. Some of you might be wondering right now: "who cares?" And that's the bottom line, whether we like it or not - some do, others simply don't! :-)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Rocking Russkies: "Oh, Sweet Home Alabama...!"

The other day, a friend of mine from London sent me an email attachment with a subject that read, rather pompously: "Globalization".

"Oh, not again!" I thought to myself, "How much more of this bureaucratic talk can one tolerate without feeling like an amateur politician?"

On the contrary to my initial gut feeling, the video proved an ultimate proof that globalization is, indeed, a phenomenon which is growing by the day - both online and offline.

As you all know, back in the USSR, the Soviet Red Army was quite famous for its impressive (mainly in size) official choir composed of soldiers turned into musicians and vice versa. Even in the 21st century, many years after the Soviet regime collapsed, the Red Army choir is still going strong, performing extensively nationwide to this very day.

Up to this point, it's all very sweet and patriotic, but what about globalization, you may ask? Good point! :-)

Having imagined a very Sovietsky-looking army choir consisting of nicely groomed musical soldiers of the Red Army, how one mixes that group with a Finnish rock band called The Leningrad Cowboys is quite a stretch, no doubt.

And it gets better, too...

Not long ago, The Leningrad Cowboys (remember how Leningrad was initially called St. Petersburg, way before our time, and in the post USSR climate was reversed back to the same identity?) held a concert in Russia for a screaming group of Russian teenagers. As a special "patrioti" flavor for the crowd, they invited the Red Army Choir to join them on stage for a special performance of a VERY unexpected number... "SWEET HOME ALABAMA"!!!

As "To the Point News" agency suggested, one couldn't have made this up - no way!

To see this spectacular video, do make sure you click on this link !

Monday, July 7, 2008


We, those who love music and have made it a significant part of our lives, more often than not tend to have an all-time favorite piece of music, and even more so, a soundtrack that becomes an life-long companion throughout the years. It can often take on a new meaning each time. However, in other cases, it becomes a time machine, a rare catalyst that carries intangible memories within itself that entice all sorts of recollections in the slightest, most trivial details and beyond.

My personal soundtrack that keeps bringing back so many long lost sensations and memories and creating new ones along the way will always be the one that moved me so deeply on the very day I heard it as a 12-year-old girl in Eastern Europe...And ironically, the film and its script where also based in the same part of the world... For those of you who haven't guessed - it's "Yentl".

The very first time I went into a professional recording studio to record my initial EP, which I refer to as my "first steps" nowadays, I recorded a version of "The Way He Makes Me Feel". It was shortly followed by "A Piece of Sky" - a song that meant the world to me from the start. As I was singing it in the vocal booth, I knew it would become a very special one for me. Having just lost my grandfather whom I absolutely adored, the song took a completely different, more profound meaning in my heart which ultimately transmitted itself on tape... And what you hear on this page is the same demo I made that same night.

Little did I know, that just over a year later, I would be rehearsing the same song with the original writer, Alan Bergman, for the upcoming tribute show in honor of his wife and songwriting partner - the amazing Marilyn Bergman.

(By clicking here you can read more about this incredible, unforgettable experience that I will always cherish very close to my heart. To watch the video of the rehearsal, please click on this link To see the performance at the tribute show, follow the highlight ...)

And as one of my new friends here in this online universe pointed out as a part of his status, "If YOU can conceive it, YOU can achieve it..." And it is so true.

May this power of one's dream never leave our hearts and minds.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My shortest long weekend...

As I'm tapping away on my blackberry at a Japanese cafe/restaurant on the Upper West Side (next door to ASCAP, by the way!) I am truly finding it difficult to believe that I have actually made it back into city tonight....

While the smarter half of the population started their holiday weekend on Thursday (Friday at the latest), I decided to have the shortest long weekend for myself amidst the chaotic routine.

Setting off at 9am for Livingston Manor in the Catskills, we were there shortly after noon at the welcoming home of a lovely family of friends who not too long ago moved out of the city.

A lift back into town is quite a luxury unless you drive, so who could say no? Even if it meant leaving the BBQ in the sun at 4.30 - ridiculously short a visit, clearly. "A couple of hours at the most", suggested my new friends. Who would have thought...!

Well, to make the long story short, it took roughly 4 hours (!) to get back into midtown Manhattan, including a quick stop near LaGuardia to drop off the rented car, a shuttle across Queens to the airport to pick up a cab on the spot, a journey back into the city in a shared taxi with another lady we met in the shuttle.... Basically, not your average holiday weekend, that's for sure!

And on top of everything, hoping for a decent quick dinner, I ended up at a sweet little Japanese cafe with one of the worst "special" rolls (recommended by none other than the hostess) one could have in New York. How lucky can you get?

Next time I take a weekend off, I will double check to make sure it's a real weekend and not a quick fix via LaGuardia! Oh, the lovely BBQ and the wonderful company of fascinating friends, both old ones and new ones, we left behind this return for a crowded airport queue hungrily awaiting a yellow cab!

Let's not forget - tomorrow is a Monday (again!) and I sincerely do hope to hear slightly more positive "holiday weekend" stories from my friends!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day vs. Victory Day!

And here comes the much anticipated, as all the other celebrations that result in a long weekend, Independence Day!

Having lived here for just over three and a half years, I am rarely as excited about the event as most of my friends, particularly because I have never been big on fireworks!

The closest equivalent of the US Independence Day back in Russia is by far May 9th, the traditional day when first the USSR, and now its principal successor state, Russia, proudly marks "Victory Day" as its most sacred of all public holidays.

Probably the only other public celebration that can easily beat the V Day in Russia is Dec 31st, New Year's Eve. The pompousness of Christmas in the West has always bewildered me, and yet I've always felt slightly jealous because we don't have a remotely similar grandeur over Christmas back home, which by the way takes place on January 7th. Nothing compares the vivaciousness in the streets of Moscow on New Year's Eve - every family celebrates it like the joy and festivity of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year all assembled into one night, December 31st, when the President of Russia makes his annual speech broadcasted on every Russian channel exactly at midnight.

Unusual to talk about New Year's celebrations on a humid July afternoon, isn't it. But it really is the biggest public festivity back home that brings people closer for that one night when everything seems hopeful, positive and brand new. May 9th is fun, albeit somewhat bureaucratic, whereas December 31st is what the whole year is all about. I am sure it is a big deal everywhere, but since Christmas seems to be the "ultimate" in the western world, we just make up for it altogether a week later on our side of the pond!

I still remember the night of Dec. 31st - Jan. 1st, 1993-1994 in Moscow, on Stariy Arbat (Old Arbat) Street in the very heart of the city - the night when the first President of the post-Soviet Republic of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was allegedly killed in Chechnya, and my cousin Ketuta, both 9 years of age, with eyes wide open watched the evening news with my parents in the living room.

Ketuta has still not forgotten the Christmas Tree (we call them the New Year's trees back home, hence the big night) that my dad creatively came up with the night before the celebration.... Christmas trees were a big deal at the time - in order to get a good one, you'd have to look for it all over the city and then pay an absolute fortune (well, for us it was quite a lot), so instead, Dad, being a painter himself, decided to paint a Christmas tree on the wall - literally. We bought small decorations for the "tree" and decorates the wall so beautifully and had so much fun doing it - to us, it really seemed like the most gorgeous Christmas tree in the whole wide world! It's true when they say that the little things are what really counts!

Sorry for getting carried away, but since we were discussing the public holidays, such as the one on this very day, the time machine did its little trick on me yet again.

As for the Independence Day celebrations tonight, everyone seems so excited about it, let's just hope the grey skies permit the excitement to flourish to its maximum potential! I remember every time the weather turned out to be disappointing on the Victory Day back in Moscow, the Mayor of the city used to make the clouds "go away" - not metaphorically but literally - with a click of a button... Quite cool, actually. But can't really be an ecologically "natural" process, can it?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

In memory of the ones we love...

As I'm writing these words, I am on a train having just left a vocal session out of town.... Incredible how we remain connected to the rest of the world wherever we are with a click of a button and a solid satellite reception!

The power of a song never ceases to amaze me - we can literally travel back and forth in time as if there's so space between what used to be and has become of it, whatever that "it" may be.

Having spent a wonderful morning in the studio with Ayhan (we're working on a follow up to "Wild", so stay tuned!) I grabbed a quick lunch on my way to the station. And as some of you may have noticed by now, as much as I adore being around friends, there's also something beautiful and serene about one's own company, especially on a gorgeous day like today.

Before I closed my eyes last night, I remembered that today is a birthday of my uncle - someone I was incredibly close to on a special emotional level, someone I admired and looked up to as a child. Obviously we all love and appreciate our families, but I hope it won't come off as a pretentious remark if I say that Georgians tend to be overly protective and immensely attached to their families - and I don't just mean the immediate family, but the cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc. Instead of big get-togethers on special occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, we literally invent celebrations and excuses for such big family get-togethers on regular basis. It's definitely a cultural thing.

When I was a little girl, we rarely had dinner at home without a group of guests piling in (some of them unannounced - a very Georgian habit) as the evening progressed. I don't remember ever feeling a lack of company, particularly we still lived in Tbilisi. Incredible as it may sound, the day the civil war broke out in the capital, just a few steps from our neighborhood, my parents dressed me up in my best dress, and through the flying bullets across the town, we caught a taxi on the main road and went over to my grandma's, where my uncle and his family resided as well. I promise you, it was probably one of the most memorable nights I've ever spent, and that was in the middle of a war - literally - right outside the door, while our big, tight family clung on to each other and tried to make the most of the difficult, even scary times that had just knocked on our doors so unexpectedly. Through the lack of electricity, heating, gas, hot water - the basic needs of a modern society - we were happier as ever and together - so very together.

And at times like this, on the day when I remember the ones that are no longer with us, I feel overwhelmed and proud of having had the joy and luck of calling these dear beloved ones my very own family.

If there's a life after this, in whatever capacity that may be.... Well, may they be blessed and proud of what they left behind.... And may all your loved ones be well and healthy, for I believe there's nothing as important to us as the knowledge of the happiness and well-being of those who are most dear to us.

On a positive note, please watch this beautiful video sent to me by my friend, Darrison - you won't regret it.

Peace and love to you all,

Tinatin xxx

P.S. Duduko, dzalian menatrebi...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

An after-thought of one's inquisitive mind...

As time goes by and the years keep adding on and on to the conscious mind and the overall process of "growing up", I become all the more aware of two factors that are pretty much accepted as common knowledge in the masses: a) the magic of perfect timing, and most importantly, b) the past must be appreciated and can be admired but the present is the key to a bright future, hence, no looking back.

On my way home from the studio earlier this evening, I strolled down the West Side and popped over to my haven, my ultimate addiction - a huge bookstore on Broadway. Although I had initially planned to make the stop as brief as possible, I ended up spending a good hour and a half browsing through all sorts of books, both nonsensical (90%) and really fascinating ones.

One particular biography caught my eye most immediately, called "Callas Kissed Me... Lenny, Too!: A Critic's Memoir" by John Gruen. Some of you may already be aware of my undying passion and deep admiration for Maria Callas, and the colorful world of opera, so I didn't even hesitate opening the brand new hardcover, as I shyly sat down on the edge of a cold step of the staircase away from the crowd.

I found myself feeling completely and utterly nostalgic about the fascinating era that I hadn't even been close to experience due to a much younger age compared to that of the author. Yet I felt so reluctant to close the book and reemerge from that beautiful storytelling by a man who had lived through that period and experienced what we now call the golden era of performing arts.

As I left the bookstore and headed towards midtown, a sudden burst of nostalgia for a "je ne sais quoi" that I had never experienced first-hand and had only heard of and read about in books and documentaries, flew right through me and made me feel almost melancholic in a way. It's hard to explain how or why, maybe I just think too much, but just then I wondered if being born in a vastly different time and having missed that "other" era had left me and my generation of young people at an overall "loss".

Obviously this can't be true altogether, as after all, the technological and other sorts of advancements that we are not only witnessing right now but are also a vital part of in this day and age, are really staggering.

But the thoughts about the times I had only had the privilege of reading about lingered in my mind for quite a bit as I kept on walking towards home. And on my way, I suddenly decided to grab a quick dinner for one at a sushi bar in Columbus Circle.

As I sat by the bar, waiting for my order and reading a beautiful book by one of the Bronte sisters, "Wuthering Heights", I noticed a gentleman who had taken a seat right to my left.

Something I rarely, if ever, do in the city - having recognized him from another local coffee shop where I often go with my friends, he happened to be there as well the last time I was there with a girlfriend of mine and we had a brief chat back then, no big deal - I decided to say hello. I bet it was rather confusing, how many people do you meet living in NYC whom you may or may not have seen in the recent past at some café in the area??? And yet, he did remember meeting us at the coffee shop and he even asked about my friend's baby girl who was with us that afternoon!

I am not sure how or why, but we ended up talking about the increasingly globalizing world and constant need to look forward but not back. I shared my earlier recollection of what my ancestors days were presumably like, and how I lamented the fact that I never witnessed that period myself. He immediately cut me off and explained the beauty of living in the moment and how lucky I am, like my peers, to be a young person with a lifetime ahead of me in this ever evolving world. "You can admire the past but you should always enjoy the present and look forward to the future", he said. So simple, if you think about it, but at the same time, it is so true, isn't it.

We also spoke about how young people tend to take everything for granted in the world we live in, and how older people often complain about the present times and prefer to live in the past instead of making the most of the here and now.

Having moved to America from Italy in 1968, my fascinating impromptu dinner companion, Franco, told me about the days when he used to go to the one and only spot in Manhattan that sold Italian newspapers that were not even brand new - they were at least 4 days old by the time they reached the International Newsagents across the ocean. And now, he said, with a click of a button, the worldwide web makes not only newspapers and other periodicals, but also rare books, music, etc. accessible to anyone through the magic of the internet. "There is not space and time in the world we live in. Not anymore". And he is right.

So why do some of us look back, I wonder, and lament the past, when there is so much to look forward to, and so much to learn from and create with our own imagination, our own knowledge, experience and capabilities. Instead of destructing the world we live in, perhaps it would be an even more wonderful place if more people would take the time to mold the kind of future they believe in and want to inhabit for years and generations to come.

I wouldn't dare complain about the present after this conversation with Franco. Honestly, it's a sin against humanity and what we stand for! :-) Sometimes those who are older than us are not only wiser but also more advanced and somewhat more modern in their perception and outlook. That's ultimately what makes the world go round. If we don't take control of what's here and now, we might as well roll over and die and not take up the space in this ever-shrinking territory.

It's quite bizarre but I haven't enjoyed a quick sushi dinner for one as much as I did tonight in a long, long time. As they say, "you grow and you learn", there's nothing wrong with having an inquisitive mind, is there? As long as it also happens to be an "open mind", too!