The Road to Europa: The Tour of Awesome

plane shot

In our last post, I discussed the true beginnings of Europa, which came out of the desire to record an album with the incarnation of KlezFactor I had formed in Berlin in 2012. I left Europe at the end of November, 2012, with a desire to return, hopefully in the spring or summer of 2013 to return and record Europa with the band. Unfortunately, finishing my PhD left me a little too busy to return and, before long, the need to make a living back in Toronto was getting in the way of a return to Europe.

In the winter of 2014/2015, right around New Year’s of 2015, my partner, Paromita, and I got the news that our papers were accepted to an ethnomusicology conference to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan that summer. Immediately, two things came to our minds. 1: “We can go to the country that Borat is from!” and 2: “How are we going to pay for it?”

We went to work, trying to secure gigs and funding from as many different sources as we could think of. I booked a concert in Amsterdam with a klezmer trio, Paromita booked a dance residency in The Hague at the Cloud Danslab. We both went to the Czech Republic to perform with Lenka Lichtenberg and Yair Dalal’s Lullabies from Exile project, and Paromita landed a Canada Council grant to study dance in Turkey. I went through the agony of trying to book a tour from several thousand kilometres away but managed to book a show in Berlin at the B-flat Jazz Club, where we had performed in 2012. I also found the Blue Note club in Dresden and, with the help of my friend Ondrej Galuska in Prague, booked the amazing venue the Jazz Dock in Prague.

Fortunately, the timing managed to line up for a three-city tour with a day off in between in Prague set aside to record. Then it was a matter of doing the “Tour of Awesome.”

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

The highlights?

  • Exploring The Hague with Paromita
  • Seeing some old friends in Amsterdam and performing at the Portugese Synagogue
  • Finally visiting the Rijksmuseum
  • Briefly seeing Rotterdam while dropping off my saxophone (for safekeeping while we traveled all over the place)
  • Seeing old friends in Prague and performing with Lenka, Yair, Alan Bern, David Doruszka and Tomas Reindl in the Czech Republic
  • Seeing Turkey for the first time!
  • Experiencing Iftar outside the Blue Mosque
  • Taking a boat cruise up the Bosphorus (Bosphorus! Bosphorus! Bosphorus!)
  • Meeting wonderful new friends in Istanbul and Diyarbakir
  • Attending synagogue services in Astana, Kazakhstan
  • Seeing the incredible architecture of Astana
  • Returning to Berlin and seeing old friends for the first time in almost three years
The Kazakh University of Arts

The Kazakh University of Arts

Lowlights?

  • Fighting with KLM (yes, I’m calling you out by name) to let me carry on both my saxophone and clarinet when my carry on luggage was about 4 kilos over the allowable limit
  • The exhaustion of having to schlep all our luggage (for a seven-week trip) from the airport in Amsterdam to the train, to The Hague, to the tram and finally to the apartment we were staying at. Ditto (minus the saxophone) when we went back to Amsterdam for our four-day stay there. Ditto flying to Prague. And getting to Lenka’s place from the airport. You get the picture.
  • Getting sick in Turkey and Kazakhstan
  • Dealing with scammy taxi drivers in Istanbul

But as you can see, there were more ups than downs on the trip and, more than just the memories of the experience, there’s a CD that came out of it! Just one week until Europa is released, folks!

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Europa is released July 5, 2016! Join us at our CD release concert!

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