by Dave Hucker
Istanbul December 5th and 6th, 1997, were a blast, both the city and the session where I was DJ-ing It was the Third Fuji Film World Music Days. Previous visitors to this fabulous session taking place in a huge warehouse on the outskirts of Istanbul had been Khaled, Incongnito, Pato Banton and Trans Global Underground.
The entrance to the venue was through a large mock up of a camera, and you walked in through the lens. Inside were two huge big rooms creatively decorated in strips of green and white fabric (the Fuji Film colours) and profuse use of leopard skin print fabric. The two rooms were connected by a tunnel. In one, the stage for the groups was set up. The other was the DJ room.
Friday night was Baaba Maal, Saturday would be Africando.
But first, exploring the town, you find it is the point where east and west meet. Literally. It is quite a hilly city, not unlike San Francisco. It even has tall thin wooden buildings in the old parts of town. Some have nicely rounded shaped balconies and others with angular and very highly decorated ones. It is a totally crazy place, and the drivers are crazy. When I say crazy, I mean very crazy. And you are talking here with someone who is totally at home in the madness of London traffic.
We were staying down by the Bosphorus at The Park SA Hilton where you can go down and see these huge great tankers just sailing by seemingly only a few hundred yards away. We (myself and Martin Morales, who was djing with me) had some fun and scrapes as boys out loco on the town. Martin badly wanted to go to see some belly dancing, but the people who were taking us around said all the belly dance places are just tourist rip offs, the real stuff is harder to find. Anyway Friday night after the session, some girls say, do you want to go to a club. Oh yes, we's up for it, after playing a seriously bangingly brilliant set. We were all fired up.
Anyway we go off with these girls, but the club is closed. So we grab a taxi to go back to the hotel (alone). Martin tells the Taxi driver he is hungry and wants to eat. Can he take us somewhere? Always ask a Taxi driver or Taksi as they are called in Turkey. So we agree on a price for him to eat with us and then take us on. He takes us to a littlearestaurant in a basement, totally packed, always a good sign. We have lovely grilled chicken, then back to the hotel. We really over-pay him for his services. The money is ridiculous. I changed some pounds at the airport and got 32 million lira. It's the only time I'm ever going to be a millionare.
Next night, the girls say to us again, do you want to go a club later? This one is open and our names are on the door. So off we go to a horrible place playing techno music, which was something we did not want to hear after playing eight hours of succulent, warm riddims. Techno is a definite no-no. So we leave, and as we stumble out of the club there is a taxi parked up the street. We go over to it, and what do you know, it is our driver from last night. We have a good laugh with him about that. He is sitting in the car with three other blokes. They get out when we say we want to back to the hotel. We sit in the back of the taxi while the driver goes off with the other guys.
Martin was quite pissed and he got in the drivers seat, started the car, and drive it forward, I implored him to return it to it's orginal position. Just as he did, and we were laughing and giggling, the driver came out and got in. Then the other blokes started getting into the car and one of them sneered at us. Danger! Danger! Danger!. When two blokes get in the car as well as the driver! Uh Huh, no! We looked at each other and Martin said "Let's Go." We jumped out of the taxi and legged it up the road as fast as we could.
The first Taxi we see on the street we grab. Just drive Mr Taksi man please... I'm sure they were planning to rob us, it was certainly full on danger signals. I would not get in a Taxi in London with three men I do not know, let alone in such a place where you can just disappear. But that was the only real scrape we got into, getting pulled by the police and being frisked was a minor bit of fun.
Anyway, the session... It was mega. The promoters were very good and efficient.
Friday Night: Baaba Maal.
The band had been assembling from all over the world and causing mayhem in the hotel bar the previous night. I warm up the crowd for him in the stage area, while Martin does the DJ room. Baaba is brilliant, charismatic and mesmerisng as always, a show brimming with visual and musical excitement. The band is really fired up! The dancer is taunting the girls down at the front with his moves. The stage is a constantly changing whirling dervish of sound and movement. The horn section is having fun. All through the tunes there is always some spectacle happening somwhere onstage.
The sub-Saheel/Arabic elements in Baaba's music were very appreciated by the crowd, which quite rightly loved every minute of this wonderful gig. I am looking forward to hearing the new tunes off the next album. Due, I believe, in July on Chris Blackwell's new label. The new songs were great. One that particularily caught my attention started out reggae-ish, but then dropped into a deep, big-beat Senegalese groove. In front of me, a posse of girls were rave dancing to this tune. Baaba Maal certainly has the most exciting stage show in African music at the moment, and definitely makes some of the best music coming out of Africa.
Afterwards, Martin and I played a set of such brilliance it was stupendous, even though I say it myself. We were both up behind the decks, making it up as we went along. He would play a run of tunes then I would feed off that and do some more. Somtimes we just played one record each. I did my famous Martin Luther King mix. Anything by Khaled went down a storm, as did Rachid Tata. We kept the music bubbling, taking it here, taking it there, dropping some heavy beats while Martin did the flashy mixing and cutting on the decks. It was just super dupa, the crowd loved it.
Saturday Night: Africando.
Martin is warming up for them, I'm in the DJ room. It's a bit quiet to start with, but after Africando finish, everybody pours into us. And we get them going real good.
But Africando were very disappointing. They did not seem to try very hard, especially after the visual exuberance of Baaba Maal the previous night. They seemed to come over as a bit tame and lacklustre. Looking at the stage, I could see there were some different musicians compared to the ones who did the London gig in September. Music biz gossip about Africando had tales of musicians not getting paid and virtual financial slavery being imposed by a promoter/manager in France, alledgedly not paying the singers enough to get back to Senegal, which means they have to keep working to pay the bills in Paris.
So a somewhat bickering and sour atmosphere pervaded the back stage area, unlike the previous night when Baaba Maal and band lit up the area with good vibes. Live, Africando ambled along through the hits. Not really whipping up much intensity. They are devaluing the name of Africando by playing badly with inferior musicians. They should only really be called Africando if they have the top quality New York session musicians who played on the original recordings. It almost like those '60s and '70s groups that do the retro circuit with only the name and one orginal roadie. Very sad. What a difference a couple of months makes.
So basically that is the story.
What time did you say the car was coming?
Copyright 1998 Dave Hucker