Monday, May 31, 2010

France -- Big Cactus internet country radio

 Johnny Da Piedade at Craponne, 2008. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Here's a link to Big Cactus Radio -- an internet country music radio in France.

The team is headed up by Johnny Da Piedade -- a French country DJ and conoisseur whom I have met at the great Country Rendez-vous festival at Craponne in southern France. Says Johnny:
Mon truc, c'est le mode de vie à " l'Américaine ", tout ce qui touche à la musique et à la radio !! Mon passe temps préféré ? C'est toujours le même depuis des lustres : Faire découvrir de la bonne musique autour de moi et le meilleur moyen pour y parvenir c'est de le faire à la radio ! J'ai d'abord commencé, comme tout le monde. J'adorai faire écouter mes découvertes discographiques et partager mes émotions avec mon entourage. J'ai eu des boulots " normaux ", bien loin de la musique et du spectacle… J'ai longtemps travaillé dans l'industrie agro-alimentaire, chez Pepsi, puis, je suis devenu commercial. Pendant ce temps là, j'accumulais des disques : 5000 Vinyles, 3000 CD, (que j'ai tous achetés) j'ai dépensé énormément d'argent dans la musique. Essentiellement de la musique Anglosaxone. J'ai collectionné presque tout des années 70 aux années 90 : du Rock'n'Roll, Classic-Rock, Hard Rock, Rock Sudiste, Blues, Country, Bluegrass, West-Coast, un peu de Soul et surtout du Country Rock. A partir des années 90, je ne me suis spécialisé "Country". Je suis devenu un mélomane spécialiste en musique US. En fait, c'est ma passion pour la musique qui m'a amené à devenir d'abord, présentateur de festivals, puis DJ Country. Un jour j'ai gagné un concours à la radio et ça été le déclic ! Depuis, J'ai travaillé dur et j'ai ainsi pu présenter de nombreuses émissions de radio, en France, Suisse, Angleterre et en Europe…
Je suis devenu producteur, animateur et réalisateur de programmes radio conçus pour promouvoir la musique Country en Europe et ce depuis 1989. Aujourd'hui, mon "travail", mes vacances, mes loisirs, mon style de vie, tout tourne autour de la musique, la radio ou le spectacle. J'adore mon job. Je fais parti de ceux qui ont la chance de ce dire chaque jour "Je ne vais pas travailler, je vis ma passion à chaque instant". Donc si j'ai un conseil à donner autour de moi, c'est bien celui-là : Croyez-moi !! "Suivez vos passions, vous irez au bout de vos rêves!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Virtual Wild West -- Red Dead Redemption


Rockstar's new wild west video game Red Dead Redemption, which I have posted about before, gets a great review from GameDaily. It gives lots of details about the storyline, graphics and, yes, emotions evoked and also provides sample pictures and video.
Rockstar took the basic go anywhere, do anything foundation and reenergized it with gorgeous scenery, phenomenal attention to detail and a plethora of entertaining missions that combine to form a journey that will not only please gamers searching for their next fix, but also history buffs looking to see the world through hero/outlaw John Marston's eyes. It's a land of fortune, crime and death, and we love it.
I'm not a gamer myself, but this looks good!
This is, without question, the ultimate cowboy experience. You'll break wild horses, work on a ranch, become a bounty hunter, evade the law, skin animals and rob trains while gaining valuable experience that'll make you a champion of the people or one of the government's most wanted fugitives, depending on your actions. Meanwhile, the story never disappoints, as Marston runs into an eclectic mix of memorable characters in the pursuit of a former friend and the goal to provide a better life for his family.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Britain -- Fascinating Web Site on the History of Country Music in the U.K.

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I've just run across a fascinating web site that tells the story of country music in the U.K. -- including the saga of the big country music festivals at Wembley, from 1969-1991. There are great photographs and other memorabilia.

It's the blog of Stan Laundon, who was the host of "Country Time" -- a legendary show on BBC Radio.
The programme "Country Time" was a huge part of my life during the 23 years I spent at BBC Radio Cleveland. Initially, the show ran for just 25 minutes and was first broadcast on New Year's Eve, December 31st, 1970. Six weeks later, due to popular demand, it was increased to 45 minutes, with a 'special' concert featuring recorded music by The Hillsiders from Liverpool
Over the following years, the show was transmitted at various times - Fridays, with a repeat on Sundays for one hour, then on to 90-minutes and, for many years, running for two hours "live" every Sunday afternoon.
The very first edition of "Country Time" was broadcast at 7.05pm. The first record played was "Alabama, Louisiana or Maybe Tennessee" by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. There was recorded music from the Liverpool band, Western Union.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Country Eastern -- More on Kareem Salama Tour

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

ABC News runs an informative piece from Damascus about the current Middle East tour by the Oklahoma-born Egyptian-American country singer Kareem Salama.
On stage he mixes English and Arabic, joking with the audience and introducing his bandmates. Through their guitar solos and his lyrics to songs like "Picnics and Sunshine" he conveys a uniquely American sound and a Southern ease. In another song called "You Are Me," he pulls a common thread through two cultures. "Middle Eastern man, do you know who I am? I'm a God-fearing man, and I love my land," he says, then roughly repeats the line in Arabic. The song ends with a riff mixing "Hallelujah" and "Hamdullilah," the Arabic religious phrase of giving thanks.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

France -- Imaginary Wild West videos from Alsace


Carrying on the French thread..... here's a link to a collection of videos on the virtual Wild West in Alsace, France. Click HERE

Sunday, May 16, 2010

France -- Wild West Theme Park


By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I just found out about this Wild West Theme Park in southern France, the OK Corral -- located between Marseille and Toulouse. It seems to have everything typical for a European Wild West town -- including a new "urban area" called Silver Dollar City.... the map of the park (above) shows  a range of attractions, from a rodeo ring to various rides, a general story and the "Mountains of the Grand Canyon." It all seems geared to "family fun" -- but let's not forget that there is a big country music and linedance scene in France, and that fans look fashionable when dressed up in western duds. Also -- France (at the annual Equiblues Rodeo and Country Music Festival in St. Agreve)  is where I saw my favorite "imaginary wild west" icon -- the "Heritage Authentic" T-shirt that incorporates images of an Indian warrior, a shaman, Monument Valley and a speeding truck....

Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Gotta go there! (Hey, why else to go to the south of France....?)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bluegrass -- EWOB is on

 Czech band All Bells and Whistles, playing in Prague, March 2009. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The annual European World of Bluegrass - EWOB -- festival and trade fair is on in Holland, and once again I was not able to arrange my time (or, let's face it, funding) so that I could attend!

Score of bands are taking part, from France, Germany, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Hungary, Britain, Sweden, and on and on and on.... A fascinating and revealing chart on the EWOB web site demonstrates the Czech dominance of the European bluegrass scene -- the chart gives a country by country breakdown of performers for all EWOB festivals. See the full performance program for this year's event  HERE

See the workshop program HERE

Moreover EWOB's Trade Show showcases bluegrass-related merchants selling bluegrass instruments such as banjos, guitars, mandolins, dobros, and fiddles; acoustic instrument accessories, EWOB CDs and EWOB Festival t-shirts, bluegrass instructional materials and DVDs, bluegrass magazines, and more. Web sites for some of the exhibitors can be found HERE.

Country Indian - Indian Country (Cowboy) -- More on Super Cowboy

Raghava Lawrence: Kollywood's super cowboy

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The new Indian Cowboy movie "Super Cowboy", the first "Kollywood" (Tamil film industry) western in nearly 40 years, continues to get press in the Indian media. In an interview published HERE, the movie's star. Raghava Lawrence, talks about "authenticity" in the film, which was directed by Chimbu (also spelt as Simbu) Devan.

“I was keen to work on this project right from the time Chimbu narrated the story. He was well prepared and had even taken a few photographs of the characters in their complete make up to give me a feel of the film. Kollywood has seen a cowboy film after 38 years and he had gone that extra mile to make it look authentic. Right from the get-up to style to dialogues, I loved them all,” Lawrence said to a leading English daily.

You can check out the movie's sound track HERE -- the Theme Song attempts to capture the flavor of old Hollywood westerns. Sort of

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Country Eastern -- Kareem Salama on Mideast Tour

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The Oklahoma-born, Egyptian-American country singer Kareem Salama is on a tour of the Middle East, as a goodwill ambassador sponsored by the U.S. State Department. I've posted on Salama in the past -- technically, his story should not be part of this blog, as he is an American, and from Ponca City to boot, not a "foreigner" picking up and transforming country music or the Wild West myth.

Still, as I've noted, the interaction of his immigrant parents with the Wild West dream, and how Kareem interacted with that, resonates with the experience that I've witnessed among fans in Europe. And the interest he triggers as a Muslim (albeit an Oklahoman) who sings country music continues to make waves.

Salama speaks with an Oklahoma twang and has been interviewed on Fox, Sky News and many other media outlets. He was invited to the White House by President Obama, and his song "A Land Called Paradise" was used in a video that shows American Muslims as normal Americans -- as does the video of his latest song, "Generous Peace," posted above. (His name means Generous Peace in Arabic, and this has become part of Salama's branding.)

CNN  reports that his Middle East tour will take him from Cairo to Morocco, Kuwait, Bahrain, Syria, Jerusalem and Jordan:
The 32-year-old singer-songwriter has packed up his country-western act for a stint in the Middle East this month as he serves as an ambassador of sorts: an ambassador of Americana, thanks to a U.S. State Department-sponsored tour aimed at raising cultural awareness in the region.
Salama is an ideal messenger.
Born in Ponca City, Oklahoma, to Egyptian immigrants, Salama has invented a genre of music by blending his family's roots with his country of birth. His songs incorporate the Arabic poetry of a medieval Muslim theologian with the iconic twang of American country music.
Country-eastern, some might call it.
"The messages I try to focus on -- and I think it's sort of the focus of country music generally -- is just values: family values, love, kindness, things like that," Salama said after a recent performance in Cairo, one of the first stops on the monthlong seven-country tour.
And while he may resemble his audience in appearance, his Southern-accent-infused Arabic -- admittedly rusty -- draws giggles from the crowd.
"Is that proper? Is that right?" he asked the audience after attempting an Arabic thank-you.
          Read full article

The stories European performers tell me resonate a lot with what Kareem says in the biographical essay on his web site, particularly the way he talks about his immigrant parents and their embrace of their new culture and how they immersed him in it, too.

Oklahoma is a hybrid of Southern, Western and Native American culture and thanks to my mother’s insatiable desire to learn and experience new things she made sure that I and everyone in my family was immersed in all of it.

As a child, I went to Indian Tribal Powwows, heard country music artists at the county fair and watched my favorite cowboys at the rodeo every year. My mother would take us to nearby Western Arkansas just to watch an outdoor play in an amphitheater. My parents would take us to Branson, Missouri in the summertime where we’d watch live shows, listen to bluegrass music and make wax candles like it was done in the old times. They even took us to Opryland and the famous Grand Old Opry in Tennessee.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cowboys in India -- Another Movie Report

Picture from

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Here's another of my sporadic links on Cowboy Movies in India, specifically in the Tamil film industry in southern India. This time it's to an article at the Indiaglitz web site, reviewing a movie called "Super Cowboy," by the director Chimbu Deven (also written Simbudevan) -- which I posted about a few months ago, when it was in production. It is the first Tamil cowboy flic in something like 36 years.
‘Super Cowboy’ is the rebirth of the cowboy films in Tamil cinema, a movie that is a mixed bag of entertainment.
Hollywood is a kingpin in the cowboy genre, with a lot of heroes in fact carving a niche for themselves including Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood and a host of other cowboy heroes. ‘Super Cowboy’ is an inspired movie of one such page from the big book of cowboy history. Firstly, credit and two thumbs up to director Chimbu Deven to make such a movie that needs a lot of effort and specially attention to detail. He has brought out a wholesome entertainment.
Starting the movie with the narration from the director himself about the evolution of cowboy culture in the world, he gives examples of different cowboys in different countries with conclusion of the narration with cowboys in India, in particular south India. Here is introduced Jaishankarpuram, a village that has a lot of cowboys (even cow woman) and horses! Jaishankarpuram is in the clutches of the villain Nasser as Nalla Trachu who lives in the ‘Iron Fort’ in USApuram. Nalla Trachu also dictates terms on five other villages. He is a wicked man, mind you! With only one eye and the other being a dummy!
There's fuller description of the film HERE.


Meanwhile, Simbudevan is quoted as saying
“We chose 18th century subject and bringing out the film as a comedy adventure. We are showing Red Indians in a never before manner. We prepared a fantastic set with the help of 300 workers in Kerala on Hollywood style. It is the biggest set in the entire film industry’s history in India. We also shot the film in Thenkasi, Thada, Madhya Pradesh, Rayachoti, Sathunur, Bengaluru, Pune, Nagpur, Palghat, Amba Samudram and Pondicherry. Ours is the first unit to shoot in Kandi Canal in Kandikota of Vijayanagar dynasty. We took several risky shots in this 30-foot depth canal. We gave training to all the artistes in horse riding.”

And the India Times runs a story about the female lead in the movie, the actress Lakshmi Rai, commenting on her role:
“A cowboy film is being made in Kollywood after a very long time and I’m sure audiences will find it refreshing. Actually, I wasn’t really sure how it would fare at the box office when I first heard the script. But, the research that director Simbudevan had done on the subject assured me that it would turn out to be very interesting and fresh,” says an excited Lakshmi.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Czech Republic -- Banjo Men

Czech banjo player/maker Zdenek Roh, Robert Krestan, and Lubos Malina's hands and foot. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The Czech Republic is (reliably) said to have the highest per capita percentage of banjo players (and bluegrass bands) in the world. Or at least in Europe. It all goes back to the Tramp Movement, which spawned Tramp Music; which was influenced by Country Music and American Folk (during the Communist era via forbidden Armed Forces Radio and Radio Free Europe); and had a Seminal Moment with Pete Seeger's tour of CZ in 1964 when he played the five-string, long-necked guitar and sparked a musical revolution as eager Tramp and Folk musicians built their own instruments based on photos of Seeger's.... and the rest is history....

Last week in Brno I attended a concert of the Traperi, the country band that Druha Trava's Robert Krestan formed when he was a teenager....the band (now grizzled) played a reunion gig to a packed house at a Brno club. American country and folk songs with Czech lyrics that Robert wrote as a teen. Onstage, Robert (who played the banjo in the original Traperi) spoke about how what they had had to do to get their instruments way back then -- like using a tambourine as the basis for making a banjo.

The next day, I joined Robert and DT banjo-player Lubos Malina on an excursion into the Moravian countryside. One of the stops was at the workshop of Zdenek Roh, near the town of Jihlava. Zdenek is a great banjo-player (he plays among others with the group Roll's Boys) and also makes the instruments, and Lubos needed to drop off two banjos to have them repaired.

Lubos Malina and Zdenek Roh. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber