Thursday, December 18, 2014

Life is short...and long

A year ago I watched a documentary about an old Irish trawler boat captain and his crew of ragged men out on the wild North Atlantic Ocean. They were at the end of a treacherous four weeks at sea, desperate for a good catch to make their trip worthwhile. The old captain explained how it would break his heart to send his men home to their wives and children without pennies in their pockets.

As he hauled the boat's mighty nets out of the ocean for the final time to reveal only a handful of fish - not enough to even feed the crew for dinner - it became clear that heartbreak was inevitable. After expressing initial disappointment, the captain shrugged his shoulders and said:

"Ah, what can you do? Never mind, ey? I'm sure we'll do better next time. Life is long, my friend. Life is long"

I've always been a fond of the saying 'Life is short'. It encourages me to seize the day, to keep chasing my dreams, to hold myself accountable for how I spend each moment. But as another year draws to a close and I reflect on the things I wanted to achieve in 2014 but didn't quite manage to manifest (some health-related, some career-related, some superficial, some spiritual) I find myself repeating the old Irishman's catchphrase:

Life is long.

I feel calm when I say it. The words remind me that there is time. And that the things I long for will find their way into my fishing nets eventually.

I'm not sure what kind of year you've had, but if it has been one that has left you frustrated, or wondering how on earth you will shift the cloud of blue that hangs above your head, maybe you, like me, will find comfort in the words of the Captain:

Life is long.

As I signing off for 2014, I send you love and seafood and this song....

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Singing in the Himalayas: My Jazzmandu Festival experience

Concert for School Children

It is probably the closest I've come to feeling like a rock star (or should I say, jazz star). The Concert for School Children was one of my favourite moments during the week-long Jazzmandu Festival in Nepal - an opportunity for international artists to share their songs and stories with a ridiculously enthusiastic audience full of kids. I was delighted to sign my autograph on scrap pieces of paper, pose for photos and answer questions such as 'Are there really kangaroos in Australia?’.

With the legendary Bruno Schorp from Paris, singing Woodstock for the kiddies!

Jazz Bazaar Concert at Gokarna Forest Resort

I began my first gig of the festival on a stage surrounded by prayer flags and trees full of monkeys. My first words were, 'I can't believe I'm here in Nepal!' and I may or may not have let out a little monkey-type screech before launching into song.

The man responsible for all of the goodness - Festival Director, Navin Chettri
Traditional Nepali music wafting through the trees at dusk...magic!

My Jazzmandu family

I met so many phenomenal artists during the festival - from France, Cuba, America, Brazil and Sweden. We were all foreigners in Kathmandu - keen to soak up everything the city had for us (including copious amounts of momos!). 

Bruno and Alex from the Pity Cabrera Trio
The very-inspiring KJ Denhert - all the way from New York
Each artist at the festival had their very own 'helper'. I was lucky enough to score this dude - Riwaj. Not only did he lend me his guitar (so kind), drive me to my gigs, carry my gear and make sure I had hot water for my tea...but he also took the time to show me around his city - the tucked-away places far from tourists where I could soak in the magic of Kathmandu. For that, I am so very grateful.

The entire Jazzmandu crew!
The closing curtain

The Jazzmandu Finale took place in the garden of one of the most plush hotels in Kathmandu - The Yak and Yeti. I was the opening act and was lucky enough to be joined on stage for two songs by Bruno Schorp from Paris on bass guitar and Manu Koch from New York on was goose bump-city for me to be able to share my final performance with these two jazz legends!!

Friday, November 14, 2014

In the Nepali media spotlight

"Australian Ange Takats performed alone with an acoustic guitar at Jazzmandu. Before her first live performance she was nervous about the reception of the Nepali audience but Takats’ lyrics and music charmed those who attended the Gokarna gig. Her dry wit definitely helped” - Nepali Times

Okay, so I admit that a few times I found myself sitting in a Kathmandu Cafe unable to stop myself from leaning over to the person reading the newspaper and saying "Um, that's me!" as I pointed to my photo. It's not everyday that an Aussie girl finds herself in the Nepali Times, right? 

Or on the side of a building....

Or live on Nepali radio...

Or on posters around Kathmandu...


Swinging without borders - Article in Nepali Times
A sparkling night of jazz - Article in All About Jazz
When stories and music merge - Article in the Himalayan Times
An interview with Ange Takats - Jazzmandu Reporter

More Jazzmandu articles can be found here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Conquering mountains

People travel to Nepal to conquer mountains. Sometimes the mountains conquer them. It was tragic to hear about the loss of more than 40 lives due to an unseasonal blizzard and avalanche on the Annapurna circuit while I was in Nepal.

I’d read a lot of things about the trekking industry ahead of my trip – sherpas risking their lives in order to make big money – but the complexity of what is going on in the mountains was summed up on the front page of the Himalayan Times during my stay.

The story contained quotes from an Israeli backpacker who described the moment when the blizzard hit – and how, in the confusion of the white-out, tourist began pleading with a 46-year-old porter called Pasang Tamang to rescue them – offering him sums of money in US-dollars to save their lives.

Tamang saved 20 foreigners during that storm but he could not save himself. His dead body was found in the snow…his pockets stuffed full of rescue-money – cash that he, no doubt, had planned to carry home to his wife and two children.

A week after the tragedy I flew to Pokhara – the closest trekking centre to the Annapurna circuit – to escape the smog and noise of Kathmandu. Nearly every person I spoke with during my four days in that town asked me if I was going to go hiking in the mountains – and each seemed dumbfounded when I said, “No, I think I'll just watch them” – as if nobody had ever travelled to Nepal to sit and stare at the snow-capped peaks.

I found myself mesmerised from the moment I laid eyes on those mountains – so unfathomably high – so striking – so powerful – so unpredictable. One minute they were towering over me – the next, they were gone – swallowed by the clouds as if they never existed. 

And then, after hours of nothingness on the horizon, they’d burst through the blue – catching me so off-gaurd with their might and beauty that there was nothing to do but stand in awe and shed tears. In those moments, under those peaks, I felt so small – but at the same time was filled with a desire to be tall – to stretch myself to higher places – to make my life bigger. 

I spent my evenings on the rooftop of my hotel, watching the shadows of the night slowly creep over the town – enveloping the rice paddies, then the buildings, then the surrounding hills. Above this darkening landscape the mountains would stand ever so still, allowing the last rays of the day to paint their snow-capped peaks yellow, then orange, then pink, then grey…and then they were gone for another day.

Monday, November 10, 2014

My multi-coloured heart

I once had a boyfriend who told me that my apartment looked like the inside of a second-hand store.

“Nothing matches. You’ve got all these clashing colours and features,” he’d said as he pointed out the purple curtains, turquoise cushions, bright blue chair, red stools, and multicoloured floor rug.

His apartment, on the other hand, was a whole lot of black and white. Even his cat was black and white. Our relationship didn’t last for very long (not just because of his inability to appreciate my rainbow-coloured-ness, but also because he used to let his cat jump up on the kitchen bench and sniff the chicken breasts he was preparing for our dinner…deal-breaker).

I’ve always loved colour. It makes me happy. I’ve often wondered how I ended up being born into a culture that expects a woman, on one of the most important and celebrated days of her life, to wear white.

WHITE? Are you serious? Blah! I remember telling my friend, when I was only 13 years old, that if I were to ever get married - I'd definitely wear a red dress on my wedding day.

Years later, I find myself in a country that is draped in red, blue, green and yellow prayer flags. Where golden temples stare at you with their bright blue eyes. Where Tibetan monks walk down the street in maroon and yellow robes. Where the first storey of a house can be painted blue and the second storey orange. Where pavements are decorated with multi-coloured mandalas. Where the foreheads of everyday people are adorned with red tikkas. And where it’s perfectly acceptable for a woman to wear a green and mauve floral top, with pink pants, sparkly sandals, red bracelets up her arm and an orange shawl wrapped around her head.

You could say that Nepal, for me, was colour-heaven.

All photos copyright of Ange Takats and not to be used without permission. 

More of my trip photos can be viewed on my Instagram page.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

From Noosa to Nepal...

How does an Aussie folk singer find herself preparing for a jazz festival gig in Nepal?

1) She falls in love with mountains during a road trip across the South Island of New Zealand earlier in the year

2) She thinks about how much she misses the beautiful chaos of Asia

3) She starts to wonder whether her next adventure should combine Asia with mountains...which leads her to thoughts of Nepal

4) She goes to her local organic store and sniffs a few bottles of chemical-free perfume made from essential oils. There's one that speaks to her. She buys it. She later realises the scent is called 'Himalayan Sunset' (hippies might say that this is a sign)

5) She goes to her local travel agent and pretends that she wants to book a trip to Nepal in order to grab a handful of glossy brochures which she cuts out and turns into a collage for her wall (hippies might call this a vision board)

6) She connects with a gorgeous-soul of an Aussie woman who happens to live part-time in Nepal who mentions there's a music festival in Kathmandu

7) She sends her album to the music festival director and waits, and waits and waits for a response

8) She begins noticing prayer flags in places where she has never seen them before and decides that this, along with the perfume, is enough of a reason to book a ticket to Kathmandu

9) She experiences a moment of doubt in her ability to read the signs when she realises (whilst seated at her local Nepalese restaurant) that she doesn't actually like dal bhat and that she has booked a ticket with an airline that is having the worst luck in history (two planes in one year?!)

10) She overcomes these negative emotions when she receives an email from the festival director, welcoming her to perform at the 2014 International Jazzmandu Music Festival.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Boots of Spanish Leather

It's not easy to find a quiet corner at a folk festival but Ashley Bell and I managed to escape the djembe players, choir singers and trotting horses to record this Bob Dylan cover during the Maleny Music Festival. If you saw us play this live during my festival gig, thanks for your company and encouragement.

If you like this clip - I'd love you to share it on your Facebook and Twitter pages. If you don't like it - don't tell me or I might cry ;-) Be sure to check out Ashe's band the Starboard Cannons....they are amAzing!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Winning, losing and wearing tracksuit pants

I cried in front of two strangers at Fairbridge Folk Festival in Western Australia. We were standing outside the Churros stall, discussing what a wonderful weekend of music it had been, when a young woman who was passing by stopped to say: “Hey Ange, I just wanted to let you know that you were my favourite”.

As she walked off I could feel my throat tightening and tears welling up in my eyes. The couple who I’d been chatting to seemed a little surprised at my overly emotional reaction to the girl’s compliment but what they didn’t know is that it came off the back of an extraordinary gig. One of those gigs you live for as an artist. When the venue is absolutely jam-packed full of people who hang on your every word and song. When you sell out of your CDs and books. When you walk away feeling like a winner.

But my tears were not about winning. They were about knowing what it feels like to lose.

As an independent artist you can spend months making tour plans, booking flights, doing radio interviews, promoting gigs online, putting up posters, singing your heart out, juggling your day-job with your dream-job ... only to find yourself performing to a half-empty venue where the audience consists mostly of people over the age of 70 who are wearing tracksuit pants and eating M&Ms out of plastic cups ... or singing to a packed venue, only to sell one CD and have a man approach your merchandise stall asking whether your music is available at the local library ... or travelling a great distance, only to be told on arrival by a festival volunteer that your accommodation for the next three nights will be a swag inside a sheep shed ... or arriving home at the end of a long tour to realise you didn't even break-even.

That's when that you cry tears of frustration and ask yourself what on earth you are doing with this whole 'music thing' ... and why, months later, you cry tears of joy when someone taps you on the shoulder at a festal and says "you were my favourite”.

If you’re reading this blog it means you’ve been supporting my creative career (the winning gigs and the losing gigs) and for that – I am truly, madly, deeply grateful.

P.S. The above photo was taken at Fairbridge Folk Festival inside one of my favourite venues of all time - The Chapel. I did some bonding with Mother Mary and her (rather chunky) Baby Jesus backstage ahead of my performance. It paid off.
P.P.S. For the record - I have nothing against people who wear tracksuit pants.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Octopus beanies and hot chai at the Nash

I had lots of fun (and froze my little boobies off) in Canberra during the National Folk Festival. For those of you who braved the icy winds and came to my gigs - thank you! I benefited greatly from your body heat at my concerts. It was so great to perform again with my band, who also kept me warm on stage with their enthusiasm and awesome-ness. Thank goodness for hot cups of chai tea and the cheap-and-cheerful Vietnamese restaurant in the nearby suburb of Dickson where I enjoyed several late-night bowls of steaming wonton noodle soup!

To see more images from my time at The National Folk Festival and to read some of the captions behind these pics - CLICK HERE

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wine, donkeys and a beagle named Yani

It's such a pity I don't drink alcohol. I've just spent four days hanging out in one of the best wine-making region's in Australia - driving past hills covered in vines, dripping with grapes. I did, however, manage to get drunk. Not on wine, but on the kindness of friends - old and new - who handed me bowls of chilli con carne and homemade chocolate brownies after my gigs ... who allowed me to fall asleep in the back seat as they drove me home after late-night concerts ... who introduced me to their pet donkeys (Lavender and Snowflake) ... who made me feel 'at home' despite being many miles away from my own.

I had a wonderful time in South Australia supporting Irish songstress EleanorMcEvoy. We performed three concerts together. The first was in a heritage-listed courthouse surrounded by roses in full bloom. The second was in a candle-lit concert hall in the Barossa Valley with a stage that featured the most spectacular floor-to-ceiling pipe organ. 

And the final concert was in an old stone church full of Tibetan prayer flags - where a seat was reserved in the front row for a Beagle named Yani.

Big thanks to the following beautiful people who made my mini tour possible: Eleanor, Val, Geoff & Wendy,  Rarnee, Cherie & Ivan, Kathy & David, Jamie & Vicki.

More photos from my tour HERE

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

After the Gold Rush

Neil Young will always remind me of my first love. On Sunday afternoons we’d step away from the chaos of dorm life at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst and escape to the quiet countryside in his big yellow Holden station wagon. Under the old bench seat was a stash of Neil Young cassette tapes. ‘After the Gold Rush’ provided the perfect soundtrack to the emptiness of the landscape - the endless yellow fields and sad-faced sheep.

On the day we broke up, he played me ‘Birds’. We cried together as Neil sang, “Lover, there will be another one, who’ll hover over you beneath the sun, tomorrow, see the things that never come today”.

I forced myself to listen to that album over and over, in the months and years following our break-up, despite the pain it caused. I suppose I was determined to recreate the ‘meaning of Neil’ for myself so that I wouldn’t have to lose his music to that relationship but the truth is – I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to Neil without thinking about that boy. Damn that boy! Then again, there's a part of me that would like to believe that each time he hears Joni, he still thinks of me.

Here's my version of one of my favourite songs by Mr Young.

Friday, March 7, 2014

To knit-for-love

This story featured in my MARCH NEWSLETTER which also has info about my upcoming support tour with Irish songstress Eleanor McEvoy as well as dates for my appearances at Yackandandah Folk Festival, National Folk Festival and Fairbridge Festival.