Two days after the Tsunami scare, Oahu dwellers experienced the Honolulu City Festival: a bittersweet celebration, as a lot of the Hawaiian cultural heritage comes from Japan and the Hawaiian islands were spared, while Japan faces the catastrophic aftermath of the earthquake. The fireworks, which were slated to close the City Festival, were cancelled as a sign of respect and condolences to the Japanese survivors.

In Honolulu, a Tsunami of cultural forces celebrated life and artistic expression. On Waikiki beach, a high energy dance group, Takarabune, brought their primal screams of youth and joy straight from Japan.

A crowd of tourists gathered around the group as they prepared for their performance. In red kimonos – and make-up and hair right out of Lady Gaga videos – this innovative and audacious company urged the audience to get closer as their drummers warmed-up and the dancers cheerfully greeted the onlookers.

Takarabune’s music reminded me of the percussion of the Intrepida Trupe, the performers of De La Guarda, combined with animated screaming from the dancers at the top of their lungs, like lava spewing out of a volcano and releasing the world’s tension. The vocals did not stop there, there was singing in Japanese and greetings to the audience in English: “We love you” and “We are crazy dance from Japan”, followed by them engaging the audience in singing along to a melody. Unlike traditional dancers, who don’t break the fourth wall, these performers stared directly into the eyes of as many viewers as they could connect with, all the while moving very quickly and precisely around their improvised beach stage. The young dancers’ energy is more contagious than what I felt with The Blue Man Group or any interactive performance I have witnessed in New York, London, Rio or Paris. The following was taken from their website:

Takarabune is a creative dance company of Awa Odori, one of the most well-known Japanese traditional dances with a 400 years of history. They push the limits of this venerable traditional art: their signature dance style is so aggressive and vigorous that it has been characterized as ‘dance beyond Awa Odori’. Their performance at a number of Awa Odori events held in Tokyo has generated growing interest among a variety of media, and the group has gained a reputation as the hottest Awa Odori group (ren) in Japan.

Takarabune was founded by Akira Yonezawa from Tokushima, the birthplace of Awa Odori. The members are mostly in their teens and twenties, the majority of whom have more than 10 years of experience. Its skilled dance and music and the dynamic performance captivate the audience.

Awa Odori performances have dancers and musical accompanists. In Takarabune, all members are dual-role experts trained both in dancing and musical accompaniment, unlike typical Awa Odori groups where members are divided into dancers and musical accompanists. This allows Takarabune to build a uniquely dynamic program on the stage. Witnessing one performance will only give you a glimpse of what Takarabune has to offer. Takarabune has so much more!

In October 2009, Takarabune was the first in the Awa Odori community to run a one-man live show at a club. The show, as well as two subsequent shows in 2010, were enthusiastically received with all the tickets sold out on all days. Their next show has been scheduled on May 7th and 8th, 2011.”


Pop-infused contemporary art is rooted deep in tradition. On the surface, irreverent artists seem to negate the classic form. If you listen a little closer – watch their feet as they move – Takarabune gives away just how much of their choreography is taken from martial arts and ancient Japanese culture.

Two weeks earlier and thousands of miles northeast, another music performance awoke me from a state of stupor caused by mainstream radio stations and washed out Grammy stage performances. Buddy Guy himself took to the stage of Buddy Guy Legends in the Windy City to join some of his finest fellow blues brothers. My husband and I had been searching for the Green Mill, supposedly a favorite hang out of Al Capone’s, and almost by accident stumbled upon the dark and discrete Chicago corner between Printers’ Row and Grant Park.

After an amazing set by the internationally acclaimed Jimmy Johnson (and looking at the gallery of memorabilia from rock n’ roll icons who performed with Buddy on the walls), the audience was treated to some really sexy guitar riffs and melodies in the incredible voice of the man himself.

Buddy Guy talked about the hip hop stars of today’s big record labels and how their lyrics were inspired by the old days of Chicago blues. Even the down-and-dirty rappers’ catchy choruses are inspired by late night conversations and jamming sessions of serious jazz and blues musicians. The beats may have changed but the lyrics are not some new invention. Noone re-invents the wheel. Artistically speaking, this is not to say that truly original work is impossible. Rather, this is to say how delightful it is to find new artists willing to admit that their work reflects their forerunners, and also to see lifetime legends whose body of work has come full circle.

The Memphis Blues Tour, Cyndi Lauper’s new artistic creation, is conquering fans throughout the tour’s many stops. A legendary pop icon better known for her dance hits, Cyndi is putting her amazing voice at the service of classic, irrefutably good music. And she is collaborating with some incredible musicians along the way. I saw the Memphis Blues Concert at Town Hall in New York last year and was very impressed. Cyndi took it a step further with her concerts in Brazil last month. She infused her biggest hits with Brazilian beats, courtesy of Brazilian percussionist Lan Lan (my cousin). The Memphis Blues band packs concert halls in this age of overtly produced Justin Bieber copycats and singers crawling out of Matthew-Barney-inspired sculptures. Young Cyndi Lauper fans in Brazil who inherited their parents’ records are learning about the blues. Art is gaining something valuable and refreshing with the cross-pollination of different cultural backgrounds.

Posted by Kaz, filed under

. Date: March 26, 2011, 10:58 pm | No Comments »

10  Apr
The Brit in Me

The Spring morning weather in New York yesterday was very English.  I was listening to Mika, Kaiser Chiefs and Kate Nash on my iPod on the way to work, as their music suits this light rain mood.  One of my American co-workers got into the elevator with me and asked me what I was listening to, and upon my response, he goes “Don’t encourage this weather to stay”.  As it turns out, I do have a melancholic-yet-beautiful appreciation for rainy days I didn’t have before.  I welcome the serenity it brings – the “let’s sit at the pub with chips and beer and watch the football (soccer) on the telly”.


The time I spent in the UK was interesting, especially the times I spent in London.  But because the time I spent in Bristol was often boring and lonely, I tend to forget the things that got ingrained in me by living there.  I go make tea when someone is trying to wind me up, I put onion marmelade in most sandwiches, I say “wicked” and “brilliant” more than I should, and the cynicism has definitely stayed.


Working in an office full of Brits, words like cheeky, mufti, rugby and mate are an integral part of my vocabulary.  On most rainy days I can’t even tell I am in the US from nine till five.  When I’m out at a pub and Noel Gallagher’s voice plays, I can’t help but singing along.  With the World Cup approaching and the level of excitement in my office increasing everyday with the countdown, I long more and more to join avid soccer fans in the banter about their teams.  61 days till the first day in South Africa.    Brazil will play the first game on June 15th,  against Korea.  Then we will play Cote D’Ivoire and Portugal and come out victoriously as the top team in Group G.


So I may not miss the cricket, and I certainly don’t want the clouds to hang around forever… but in the meanwhile,  I’ll enjoy and Blighty Spring that has lingered over Gotham.



Posted by Kaz, filed under No tag for this post.. Date: April 10, 2010, 4:58 pm | No Comments »

It has been a while since I posted, but I write everyday. I like to share only the things that tie together different audiences and different points in time. And as such, it should come as no surprise that I like editing. This is a posting I wrote towards the end of the summer 2008, and the more recent ones are soon to appear here. Let’s just say I was in need of inspiration, and I have truly found it.

All the world is a Tim Burton set. Sorry, Shakespeare. Not a stage where we reckon why be or not to be. The world is a series of stories with lights and shadows, bright colors, music, fantasies, dreams, luxury, magic, losses, epiphanies, contrasts and most of all bittersweet ironies. The scenes move from set to set with clockwork precision, imitating art (story arch and everything) but not always logic to put us, characters, at ease with the shocks to the system.

In London this morning, tourists braved the rain to enjoy their bank holiday in Leicester Square. Rushing off to see a new Oscar winning movie or the exhibit of the modern photographs at the National Portrait Gallery. Asking for directions, shouting into their mobiles, finding indoor entertainment, trying to get to places in spite of the tube’s planned closures on the Circle Line… Floods rending obsolete the few other tube arteries that pump life into London’s offices during days when Canary Wharf moves the world’s capital from pockets to other pockets. Bank holidays are business as usual, just with different kinds of tasks to tick off the to-do list. It all ends in bohemian happiness on evenings in Brick Lane, where every tribe mingles. Everyone is happy on Brick Lane.

This velvet morning was a far cry away from the buzzing tables of the Nobu lounge in Mayfair on Friday night. I had joined three people for dinner: one was leaving to Switzerland the next morning and one who was headed to Russia. The DJ at Nobu was playing house music that would put Nikki beach in Saint Tropez to shame, and the crowd flowing into the room was right out of NYC’s Bungalow Eight five years ago (perfect, polished, unforgiving.) I could not help but imagining, even envying them, going from that room in London to the Audemars Piguet watch factory amidst Swiss plains; or meeting technology moguls somewhere in Eastern Russia… the changes in backdrop and background actors, props and soundtrack in one’s life from one moment to the next. The third person around the swanky round booth was my boss, who had just come from Scotland along with myself…

The week before, in Scotland, some friends and I went horse riding on Turnberry beach. Life paused for a while. Around us, there was ocean, hills, sheep, stables, lakes, swans, archers, golfers, other horse riders and ladies in robes heading to the spa. Was I in the same planet as London and New York??? We got all the way into the water with our horses (Gypsy, Striker and Mojo) and rode towards the world famous lighthouse that towers above the Ailsa golf course.

The Turnberry resort is an hour and a half southwest of Glasgow, and isolated from any city at all. The nearest village, half hour’s drive away, consists of one “everything-shop”, one Scotch shop, one pub and a Post Office. You might need subtitles to understand most of the staff. Everyday, in the late afternoon, a proper Scot roams the entire grounds playing his bagpipes, kilt and everything. The presentation of the Haggis is delivered with pomp and circumstance, a glorious poem that has been read for over a thousand years (in what language, I cannot describe) and a procession around the main dining hall. The haggis leads, lifted up on a silver platter; a man twirling two bottles of Scotch around each other follows, and behind him the bagpipes. Even the magicians are impressed, as they are in the audience during dinner (and those two from Urban Magik are hard to impress). The sun sets over the Firth of Clyde around nine at night, and the sky is still light enough at half eleven, when you can still see the perfect sillouette of Ailsa Craig, the island where the curling stones come from: a perfect Tim Burton set. It made me think of Big Fish.

The people populating the resort for the week were some of the brightest minds in banking. They are so much more approachable and simple than what their jobs imply. It made me think of Bjork’s song Human Behaviour: the stuff that makes us all more similar than different. Some of the most successful people in this lifetime have more in common with you than you would guess. Some of them can’t play golf, even though they’ve tried. Some love taking cardio rebounding classes at the gym. Some did not think JK should have killed Dumbledore after all. They hate flying. They like Sharapova but prefer Nadal over Federer. They are chocaholics. Some love Tim Burton and hate modern art. Some of them have been stuck in trains on the French countryside for many hours just like me.

Just before Scotland I had been in Normandy, France. Around the big house where we were staying, gorgeous rose gardens and an incredible vegetable garden were thriving in the late Spring weather. The colors were like those in The Secret Garden or the house where Edward made his garden sculptures with his scissored hands. The children were running, laughing, playing football and sliding down an improvised toboggan from the edge of the property neighboring this house. We were barbecuing and drinking fine Bordeaux wine, properly aged in this house’s own cave. The hosting couple were pouring Pastis and Absinthe to the guests that kept on arriving… Lorenna, whom I have met when she was only four years of age, was DJing from her bedroom balcony, playing some proper carioca funk music and some French Brazilian forro. Dallilah, from Tunisia, had made tangine and other typical dishes from her hometown in Tunisia to go with the barbecued lamb. Country life like this is what big city people crave. It is a role in a period piece for a character right out of Vanilla Sky.

The Mont Saint Michel is a short drive away from this town of Laval. We headed up there to walk the cobbled streets inside the fortress, feel its history, get lost in its stairs and passageways, to watch the tide rise from up there and turn the fortress into an island again, as it does every day. There was a wishing well half way up, where I tossed a coin and made a wish ten years ago. That wish came true. I made another one this time. They say this place is magical and you ought to be careful what you wish.

Before Normandy I was in Paris, and having been there a few times before, was able to confirm the impressions it had left on me. Paris is still very much the same: poetic, fashionable, gourmand, unique and, at times, deceiving. How so? Well, Paris has hidden joys and hidden ugly truths that one would only find if they know where to look. It’s made of mixed cultures and clashing objectives of its own inhabitants and its floating population of tourists. Since I was showing my mother around, I steered her down the safe routes. Being fluent in French is not a requirement, but it certainly helps understanding what the other people around you are up to, especially in the subway train. The crowds enjoying the sunny day in the Jardin des Tuileries were more pleasant than the crowds that roam certain parts of Montmartre at night. The crowds roaming the Boulevard Saint Germain were some of the same reoccurring characters playing in scenes at the Meatpacking in NY or Trastevere in Rome. Much like directors casts the same actors over and over again, these capricious neighborhoods seem to choose the same faces to adorn its streets. Same sky, different latitudes.

Before Paris I was in Rome. The same Rome of gold, grapes and Gladiators… wealth, war, grand fires, love affairs for Egyptian queens and religious fervor that echoes its message through the planet for the past couple of thousand years. Not really the same Rome though. If I have ever seen dramatic juxtapositions of old and new, happy and sad, elegance and decadence… this epitomized it. This was not HBO’s reconstructed Rome of jewelry and gold-plated palaces, buff men and voluptuous women with deep dark eyes, but it definitely rivaled that version with a large Via of haute couture designer shops that lead to the Spanish steps. Around the corner from Rich Row and Luxury Lane, you can stumble upon a majestic church undergoing renovation, and at its steps a Gypsy-looking young girl, pregnant, maybe of seven or eight months, begging. Many other beggars and pilgrims walk those same streets. The right soundtrack here could be James Blunt’s song that goes: “Many prophets preach on bended knees, many clerics wasted wine… do the bloody sheets on those cobbled streets mean I have wasted time?”

Away from the walls of the Vatican, Trastevere was always buzzing, as it is home to all of Rome’s bohemia. I met up with my fabulous gay friends at Cul de Sac, half way between the Campo di Fiori and the Piazza Navona. Haute couture designers and filmmakers I have known since 1999 in NYC who have moved across the pond walk the art pantheons of brand new old glamour. The next evening I was at their house again for some more Prosecco and fine antipasti.

Rome is colorful, and its palette is unique. It is an irreplaceable experience. One can argue that after a few travels through Europe, the sets start repeating themselves: mountains, beaches, fields, busy cities, more of all of this all over again blah blah blah. But it is not just the language and the food that differentiates all the settings. It’s the history and the texture. The sunset has so many more hues and is somehow better reflected by Rome’s ancient low stone buildings than the glass skyscrapers of Gotham.

Back in Gotham, Central Park is all blooming, bright green and lush, so different than when I had last seen it in the late Fall last year. The people lounging around Sheep Meadows are more than background actors. There is a radiating vibe emanating in all directions. A dear friend of mine is writing a book on how to survive after leaving the City that never sleeps. All actors who ever played on this stage know that they will never play to a crowd so hard to please but so intoxicatingly rewarding all the same.

It has been about seven years since I went to a party that defined Gotham glamour for me. It was a Monday night and Mark Baker was throwing a “British Invasion” at Lotus. To get in you needed to be a celebrity, a model, a fashion designer, or friends with Mark himself. Matt Damon was there, along with half the Willemina high board and a few mere mortals, like me. In hindsight, I know that the only three British things about that night were the Sex Pistols record the DJ played once, a flag, and Mark Baker himself.

Coming back to these NY locations (of all my prequels), I stumble upon the amazing things I took for granted when I called it a “wrap” and hopped across the pond. Walking aimlessly through Greenwich Village, I ran into two amazing characters who are local cultural staples. Certain New Yorkers are like the Chrysler building, they are institutions in their own merit. Like Amy Sacco, Noah Tepperberg, Diane Von Furstenberg and a few of my personal friends whose names you wouldn’t recognize but whose faces you have seen if you’ve lived there.

After a while of not being to New York at all (almost eight months), coming back again is like returning to a soundstage, a back lot in Hollywood. A few restaurants and bars I used to hit up were shut down. Most of the construction sites that were empty when I left were now occupied by towers, where most of the condos were already sold. The frames-per-second rate around here still favors high speed. The quirks and obsessions that plague most Manhattanites are still the same of Woody Allen’s scripts, with a touch of Carrie Bradshaw’s fragrance and fabrics.

When you strip away the props and strike the sets, New York itself is the naked soundstage, where you can build whatever you would like. It is where you clap and it echoes, but with just two actors in the room you can improvise an entire show. Departures are fascinating, so you can gather stories to tell, but arrivals are brilliant, and a tabula rasa can be even better. The End.

Posted by Kaz, filed under No tag for this post.. Date: February 24, 2009, 7:04 pm | 2 Comments »

25  Sep
Away with Words

Paragliding Every trip starts with a thought. A simple thought that one dares to voice. Another person agrees with. It soon turns into a game of calendar crossword and budget juggling and as soon as the credit card digits go through you know you are really going. You write e-mails telling your contacts or trying to make new ones at the destination. Departing is always a function of finding the right words to map out your take-off and landing. When you get to a place you have never been to, and one that is very different from your own surroundings, you find you are out of words to describe it. The ineptitude of your own vocabulary makes you feel as though you are unworthy of journalistic depictions of this journey, which has certainly been made by so many others before.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Kaz, filed under

. Date: September 25, 2007, 3:55 am | No Comments »