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.