Sunday, 11 May 2008

Rather random meetings

You wake up everyday and you have no idea what to expect, how can you – you’re in a different city every few weeks. The usual is no longer good enough, only the extraordinary.

Sydney, an extraordinary city welcomed me with open arms and showed me her sparkle almost immediately. Her shiny buildings with all sorts housed in them, old, European style buildings holding the secrets to some of the most exciting nightlife yet.

One warm starry night, Ben and I went to the Oxford Art Factory located in the one of the main nightlife areas of Sydney. A dark basement joint in the middle of Oxford Street with a long list of live music acts to satisfy any aficionado. On this particular night, we were going to see Andrew W.K. Who is this you ask? Well, so did I. We had no idea what to expect, but had heard that this was to be one hell of a show.

I decided I didn’t want a conventional pic with the guy, so asked him to put his hands against the wall and smile. We got to have a quick chat afterwards and find out just a little bit more.

Our sources had informed us that the event was at 10pm and we arrived comfortably at 10:10pm, to an emptying venue. My first thought, ‘Was he that bad? The bouncer, still seemingly shocked out of her uniform told us with a surprisingly shaky voice, for a woman her size, that thankfully the show was over. Further investigation gave us only this response. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it’ and that was all the information she was going to offer.

In come two random guys, big smiles on their faces. One, a slick, confident, fresh faced and funny guy, the other, a more reserved, big eyed, sweet guy. The best random meeting I’ve ever had, two friends I will keep for life and the reason I’m even able to tell you about the show.

They offered a lot more info about the show, how the singer (whose music I still have to find) got up on stage, stared into the crowd for the longest five minutes ever, proceeded to play a rock tune on the keyboard for twenty wonderful minutes, then nothing. At this point, he invited the crowd onto the stage to sing the lyrics to his popular songs while he played the instruments. The energy in that room was electric. More people on stage than in the audience. For about an hour or so, it is said to have been the craziest party seen at The Oxford Art factory, people were still buzzing and could not believe the experience they had just had.

Luckily, the singer was available to talk to and take pictures. So, we stood in line, and waited our turn to meet this said musical genius and crazy fun maker. Our turn came, my friend was so excited, he couldn’t speak – which is a phenomenon altogether.

I decided I didn’t want a conventional pic with the guy, so asked him to put his hands against the wall and smile. We got to have a quick chat afterwards and find out just a little bit more.

Andrew is a poetic and spiritual rock musician, his music inspiring, his heart full of love and his life purpose to creatively express his soul. He said the reason he was jamming hard with his fans on stage was to create an experience that was unexpected. Changing the roles and letting everyone join his own mini Woodstock. This Californian completely changed my view on rock artists. Google him, his 1st album cover is of him with a bleeding nose. Hence the T-shirt.

After the chat, Will, Rob, Ben and I decided to go for a drink at a bar that Rob claimed to be his favourite hang out spot and would be a walkable distance – true Sydney style.
All caught up in great conversation, we took a wrong turn or three and found ourselves lost, in Sydney, with two locals. Beats me. Finally, after short cab ride to the right side of town, all of us laughing at how we got lost with locals, we got to Deans.

How do I explain Deans? Start with the fact that it is in a King’s Cross, another central party district filled door to door with bars, clubs and restaurants for all tastes. At first glance, it looks like you’re about to walk into someone’s house, which I believe it once was. A small outdoor terrace area, with small garden chairs and tables. inside, old mismatched furniture, beautiful art on the walls, an old juke box playing whatever golden oldies you want, dim lighting and that comfortable smell of an old home. The food is amazing, the atmosphere very chilled out and the staff carefree and friendly. We had a delicious dinner, stimulating conversation and an introduction to the Sydney we fell in love with.

The final stop for the night was The World Bar, around the corner from Deans, on the main street of King’s Cross.

World Bar was the crème brulee of the amazing night and became an almost regular part of my night out. The cocktails were served in teapots, four floors of Victorian style house each playing different genre’s of music and a fabulous crowd of people with no agenda except to have fun and meet other people. World Bar has changed me. Teapots are a way of life!!

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Original People:

In every city or country we visit, part of our job is to create a short film as well as other creative content reporting back on all the factors that make original nightlife, such as these blogs, photo streams of our travels, Top 10 lists, magazine and TV content.
In each city, someone is responsible in part of an aspect of our objectives.

In South Africa, Ben and I were the directors and producer of the short film about original nightlife in the country. I was very eager to play this role, but also a little scared. I hadn’t had a chance to be in this role before, my forte being the co ordination, research and conceptualizing content, but I was very open to take on this challenge.

The idea around the video was to continue with the premise original nightlife, and take it one little step in a slightly specific by focusing mainly on original places and people.
Defining original, which is open to varied definitions is a challenge all by itself, the trick is to find an angle and find something unique to focus on, ask the questions what makes it different? What makes it interesting? What makes it a cut above the rest? And other such questions in order to get to the holy grail of Original nightlife and unique experiences.

The main people we selected to be a part of the video are involved in the music industry in South Africa and each unique in their own way. So here’s the story

So we started off with an amazing band called Goldfish. They had a 12 week only show an awesome club in Camps Bay called Ignite. A slick and trendy beach bar cum nightclub. In the afternoon, cocktails served to consumers out in the terrace area overlooking the spectacular ocean, glimmering in the sunshine, the sun sets and the party animals come out to play, the lights stay dim, and the fire light feature against one of the walls is ignited and the crowd comes together in the heat of flames. On Sunday nights we got to experience the talented Goldfish at the Sunday Session.
What makes Goldfish original to me is the way they represent Cape Town’s chilled and diverse vibe, I wouldn’t be surprised to find Goldfish in some smoky London bar or a sun drenched Barcelona terrace. The crew has had a residency at the rather grand Mount Nelson Hotel which says a lot about how respectable their music is, though it gets right down funky as well times. Every DJ slipping one of their jazzified beats into a set would get slinky looks from a swaying dance floor, cause Goldfish are just so sexy! Dominic and Dave sound like a whole band (dj’s included) with their live instruments and electronic music making thingys.

Next stop was a club called Miam-Miam, hidden away from the bustling Long Street. Through a narrow concrete passage from the street we discovered one of Long Street’s many secret surprises. Once inside we arrived into a paradise like courtyard lounge area with cool blue light features against the rough concrete walls lined by palm trees and leather couches, the lighting perfectly compliments the star filled night sky, past the lounge area is the indoor club, with a large bar in the centre, above which is the DJ booth. The shiny unpainted concrete floor subtly reflects the tiny ceiling lights that look the stars in the sky. So whether you’re enjoying the pumping music from inside or outside you feel like you’re dancing your heart out under the African sky.
At Miam-Miam the team was meeting and interviewing DJ Coco Loco

The final phase of featuring original people of music in original venues, we were going to my favourite spot, The Zula Sound Bar. Here we were going to listen to music by an artist I’d recently been introduced to and whose sound touched me immediately and deeply; Teba, the Original Social Poet. Teba is a Rasta brother from my other Mother, the Mother City of course. I loved how his rich background is muted by his humble approach, but a conversation with Teba reveals what the term Mo’ Fire! Really means while on stage it’s Mo’ Magic! Music is Teba’s life, having played as well as taught at various times before he turned to being a performer. The brother is a solid cocktail of 2 parts talent, 1 part quiet determination, 1 part clear purpose and a generous dash of that African Spirit we like to call Ubuntu. Garnished with a killer smile. He is down to earth and conscious, plus stylish… but aren’t most Rastafarians just oh so style conscious! So Cape Town different, laidback and soulful.

PS, Tid bits on Teba.
Europe is no stranger to Teba, who has been to Germany where he taught conversational English while waiting on gigs and attending Rastafarian festivals and Reggae music concerts. He tells of the profound effect Italian Rastafarians had on him while he was attending a Reggae Splash in that country. The focus, purity and authenticity of The Nyabigis and Boboshanti (Rastafarian groups) made him realize firstly the power of the belief and also how in Europe people had time to follow beliefs fully, unlike us in Africa where we also have to fight to survive as well as practice our beliefs. He learnt a lot from fellow Rastafarians in the most unlikely of places which makes him a solid artist who believes in himself and what he is about.

Long, never lost, Street of endless possibilities

I love Cape Town. Even before I started this trip I knew that it was and always will be my favourite city. It is a city of endless wonders and possibilities, a genuine mini Europe theme park. It has everything I need, fun loving, friendly and vibrant people of all races, colours and creeds. Germans, French, English, Greek, Italians, Americans, Dutch, Asian alongside the already full cultural pallet South Africa has to offer. It is full of life, full of colour and full of energy. It is as if so much is squeezed out of nature between the sea with its beautiful beaches and Table Mountain, with its one and only views, nature reserves and scenic walkabout routes. A jewel has popped out and landed in the bay which is the ever humbling Robben Island amongst other tourist attractions. The Kaap has its unique little quirks, such as rikkis, a safe and fun mode of transport with super nice drivers and a great way to meet people as they work on a share ride system.

The best place for me and a place to experience most of what Cape Town is about is the city bowl, or the city centre. More specifically within the city bowl that long straight nerve of pleasure, Long Street… which I just luuuurve. There are great picturesque bars, clubs and lounges for exciting nightlife and socializing platforms. Such as Miam Miam, a scene straight out of Miami with palm trees and beautiful people. The access alley is reminiscent of some backstreet with rough walls and an uneven cobbled surface underfoot. Zula Sound Bar, ever a favorite for a more eclectic mix of world sounds brought home by their similarity to the heart music that artists like Teba bring forth almost every night on the small but powerful stage inside. The music scene is varied and intriguing, serious bleeping electro sounds of Berlin right next door to some heavy New York hip hop battling it out with some Caribbean riddims across the street nestled against the more sedate sounds of sophisticated Afro jazz just three doors down. Talk about spoilt for choice and who wouldn’t like to be spoilt ;-)

Shopping is another pastime that can be fully explored on Long Street without necessarily visiting the generic super mall near the harbor. Fresh designers sit in mini boutiques softly offering to make you Paris, Milan, LA and of course Cape Town right there on Long Street. Fantastic little finds like MeMeMe, Misfit, Milk, a real style mmmmm! The rather grand cherry on top is the vintage emporium Never on a Sunday, where a nifty 50’s pencil skirt will be paired with a neon 80’s ruffled blouse wrapped in a slim cut denim jacket. If only they had my African size in mind in the 50’s. Cool little antiques can be found on a small side street branching off called Church Street. Broaches, musty books and real sterling silver teaspoons all lie lazily on crocheted table tops waiting for a keen eyed buyer to pluck them up and give them a second life. The Pan African Market brings all of the African continent’s art works and styles under one roof. Masks, baskets, toys, cloths, recycled materials, music, an art gallery and even a little magazine called Chimurenga, await you in this three storey building epitomizing Africa. Take your time, for Africa cannot be conquered in a day!

Hungry after all that shopping and music and life? Just past Long Street Café with its French Bistro look, Mojito’s with its great… well, mojitos, and right next door to Khaya Nyama a carnivore’s delight you will find the king of burgers Royale Eatery. Royale’s king sized burgers have a queen sized taste and are available for less then a princely sum and are sure to leave you feeling like a well fed Cape princess. The ambiance is relaxed and gives you time to take in some of the local artworks on the clean white walls for the Eatery. I’ll tell you a secret! If you want something more intimate, ask about the Kitchen, and up a flight of stairs you go, to an intimate space with old musical instruments on the walls and soft jazz on the hidden record player, a “mini Royal” with a smaller menu and quieter setting. It gets better, say you want a really super night of good music, great cocktails and superior lounging, up another flight of stairs and voila! The Waiting room, with two bars, a small VIP room and a smallish out doors deck offering a great view along the length of Long Street your night would be complete. But you would be able to see Marvel Street Bar across the way and Fiction Sound Bar on the next corner and the temptation is always too much.

Feeling sleepy by now I am sure, you will find sexy little boutique hotels like Daddy Long Legs, a real gem, none of the rooms are alike all having being designed by local artists. There are also quite a few backpackers if you don’t care for privacy and want to meet the rest of the world also visiting the Cape. One thing all the little nooks and crannies of Long Street have in common are the welcoming smiles and genuine warmth of people living or working there.

A long street filled with almost everything I love; food, drinks, clothing and accessories, a fantastic view of Table Mountain, people and whole lot more sights and sounds. It is really a place of endless possibilities and an experience all round. There is no place like it.

Monday, 18 February 2008

What an experience!

The long awaited day of January 26 was upon us. This was to be the second of four Smirnoff Experience Global events held in Shanghai China.
Having been blown away by the first event, which was held in Moscow, I knew this one would be as amazing. What made it even better was that it was in a country I had never ever thought I’d be in, but once again, because of the around the world Smirnoff Experience, I am once again blessed with another unbelievable stamp on my passport.
Shanghai, a land of intrigue, a land of the unexpected, and a land of new and old, January 26 would be the night that the Smirnoff would bring all this together into one unforgettable experience in nightlife.

Walking into the venue, we were welcomed to the longest cocktail menu in the world, with a record breaking 1320 possible different drinks on offer. Whether or not you are the best cocktail maker this Cocktail Bar made you feel like the very best. You’d get your glass with 35ml Smirnoff Black and ice which was step one, then moved on to select one of ten juice options, followed by one of eleven flavoured syrups and finish off with one of twelve garnishes. I had an apple juice, vanilla syrup with mint leaf mixture– The Akona - and it was delicious.

Whilst sipping on my original cocktail, my tastebuds loving the experience, my eyes and ears had their own little party. Onstage, the Shanghai Hip Hop MC duo called RedStar; a Shanghainese guy rapping in Chinese and an American guy rapping in English, with an explosive drum battle between legendary Tom Middleton and hip hop drummers from The Lab.

Later on the music front, we got to experience an awesome set by British indie group Hard-Fi, who were then joined by the Shanxi drummers to perform their hit single ‘Hard To Beat’. Being from South Africa and having never heard of Hard-Fi, I was very impressed and found myself dancing and singing along to a cover of Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes. The band really got everyone fired up.

DJ Sasha who played a rock orientated set, wound up the evening perfectly by keeping the buzz going right up until the end. During the press conference he’d said how excited he was to do this event, the rock orientated mix, and I could definitely see and feel the excitement. It’s so wonderful to experience artists that put their heart and soul into their craft.

Between the music experiences, the venue had a lot of treats to keep your jaw on the floor and surprise you at every turn. Starting with the Martini lounge; where you got a four choice mini-tasters. Sipping each of the four options, you’d pick your favourite by number, whereby you were led to your martini of choice. Mine was the crushed ginger martini, from a choice of green tea marTEAni, basil martini and a lychee martini.

Next was the chill out forest, specifically the silver birchwod tree forest, where you could enjoy your beverage and make a wish. On the trees were little scrolls that detailed the filtering process that makes Smirnoff Vodka so clear, and in there you could take a break from the entertaining music by wearing the headphones hanging on the special trees with calming birdsong playing. Whilst in your state of relaxation you were invited to make a wish and hang it on a wishing tree. I couldn’t wish for anything more in my life, but I did. Since keeping the wish a secret is pivotal in it coming true, I cannot divulge...

Around the corner was the Smirnoff Ice Moscow snow area. This was a lot fun. Every so often the timer would go off and the cutest little – not cold thankfully – snowballs would fall from the indoor sky. The Smirnoff Ten spent way too much time in this little area, and we loved it. The area was also photo opportunity place, as the snow was falling, you could wear a furry Russian style hat and have a Polaroid taken of you as memorabilia. It was great for the people who weren’t able to experience the Moscow event to get a little glimpse of it.

The best was the water feature. Behind a curtain of big creamy pearls with the message of ‘Remember the experience, please drink responsibly playing across the pearls n lights, beautiful girls would come out, do a little dance and offer you ice cold refreshing H2O. It was quite a surprise seeing them pop out while your eyes were following the drink responsibly message playing on the pearls.

The night was a grand production of originality at its best and I’m definitely looking forward to the next one. Original nights such as the Moscow and Shanghai events remind me once again how life is about searching for an experience and being original in everything you do. Well done to Smirnoff for the experiences of a lifetime.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Smirnoff Experience – Food and Language

Before this world tour began for me, I went through all the possibilities and experiences that the tour might entail. The flights, the places, the weather, the parties, the production, the people, the drinks, the music and the different foods etc.

Something I didn’t really pay much mind to, didn’t especially consider, was the language. I was going to visit all these different countries, dance to music I’d probably never heard before, be exposed to cultures different from my own home country, food I’d never tasted before, and the different nightlife. Language was something I stupidly didn’t really think about. So far I’ve been exposed to Russian in Moscow, Spanish, the Argentinean version, Spanish, the Mexican version and Portuguese in Brazil. Hmmm. And there are so many more to come.

Don’t know about you, but I’ve never experienced these languages for more than an hour in my entire life. Now imagine trying to converse in any a language you’ve never spoken before, not talking about the weather, not just saying hello, asking how are you? Or asking a cab driver to drop you off somewhere, these are somewhat easy enough. The difficulty is simply ordering food, a basic human need. Why didn’t I just get a dictionary or language guide? Well this might be the solution, but do they have menus in there?

A few funny experiences while trying to feed myself:

One night at about 2am Kung, John and I took a walk in search for food on the main busy street in Moscow. At that time of the night/morning, not much is available except for, as we discovered, street food. In that case, street food is sold in these ice-cream van looking structures, branded with the name of the ‘establishment’ (in Russian of course) on the outside with some photoshopped pictures of the available food.
Thank goodness for pictures. Each van, usually about 50 meters or so apart had a selection of about 20 food items (in Russian) on the menu and if you’re lucky about 5 pics.
This is where I learnt the valuable point, smile and nod enthusiastically manoeuvre, which would hopefully get you something delicious. If the retouched pictures weren’t doing it for you, then you move on to the Russian menu phase, a little bit more difficult… pick the friendliest looking words off the menu, don’t try pronunciation and wait and see what the words mean after paying and walking away with your food. Sometime we were lucky, other times, well, that’s a whole other story.

In Buenos Aires I started to learn the language, not exactly actually, I found out that chicken is pollo. You can’t go wrong with chicken; pity I didn’t learn what deep-fried is in Spanish. Another great word is fritas, as in papas fritas, potato chips to go with the not deep fried chicken. The rest of the time was a guessing game of picking the prettiest words on the menu. The same sort of rules applied in Mexico City.

Portuguese is one the sexiest yet most difficult languages I have thus far come across. I hear it and my brain does goes dead. Nothing connects. I hear nothing, I understand almost nothing, yet it all sounds so good. The food in Sao Paulo was so good I didn’t mind picking any words off the menu, and something I learnt late was that sometimes restaurants have English menus.

I feel so ignorant not being able to converse in these languages, but I will learn, for my stomach’s sake.

Sydney, first week, quick update:

I’m finally awake and can actually keep my eyes open for more than three hours at a time. I had my first, and hopefully, last bout of jet lag. I was so excited to be in Australia at first, but soon I was in dreamland. Anyway, I’m back, alive and ready to see it all.

We got our schedule for the next few weeks, events to attend, tasks during our time, and our brief for the content from this country and schedule for media profiling. The first one is a cool music and party scene guide called 3d magazine.

Since I was with the group that arrived a few days later than the others, we missed a photo op to be in a local newspaper. We were mentioned and the story was nice, it would have been nice to have my face in the paper too. No worries though, there will be so much more.

As part of our task, we will be attending some events that Time Out Sydney magazine would like us to write reviews for towards the end of our stay in Australia, and I’ll definitely be telling you all about it.

I’m very keen to see what the biggest island and smallest continent has to offer.

Jet lagged, but must write:

We’ve just arrived in Sydney Australia, from what I could see from our ride from the airport is that this city has more to it than the eye can see, which is probably true for every city. Knowing that, I’m inspired to explore as much as I can and get as much out of it as possible.

I’ve gone forward about nine hours, this is my first jet lag experience. It’s interesting; I can’t really explain. My body feels a bit like it’s floating, probably the floating in the air at incredible speed. I feel sort of numb, my eyes are heavy but I’m refusing to be tired.

I won’t be winning this battle, must sleep, my bed has cordially invited me to visit.
It won’t be for too long, I have things to do out there.
I wonder if I’ll see kangaroos and koalas.

The views expressed by The Smirnoff Ten reflect the individuals opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Smirnoff Co.