Archiv für August 2011

music videos on 2 continents

the 2 groups riding with 2wheels4change performing at about the same time on 2 different continents:


The Circus of the Cycling Spoons in Gdansk, Poland


the moNkey bAnd in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Laos & China : on to Kazakhstan!

June 2011

1 – VIENTIANE : back to the future

The capital of Laos showed us a very good time — meeting a lot of friendly and beautiful people : THANX especially to Ruth, Cecile, and Emilie and Laurent from the french cultural center!!
tyle was caught by the chicken syndrom (unfortunetely more usual than people thought in tropical climate area) . . .

We finally accepted to leave the tree and settled in a bamboo hut nearby. But our revenge was in preparation : we simply put the Patuxay on fire!!

The Patuxay is the central monument of Vientiane, a gift from the french – (Who said that france is the country of art and good taste??) ----fallait pas l‘inviter-----

However our deeply anchored humanism came back : we visited COPE, an organisation which is providing information about cluster bombs. In fact south-east Asia is the most heavily bombed area in the world, and Laos counts around 80 million unexploded bombs hidden under the ground. The US had launched more bombs on this part of the world in 3 months than all the countries during the whole WWII !! In COPE we got a new „ban cluster bombs“ drum set that we used to explain the issue of maimed countryside children.

Don‘t worry, we‘ll see more unexploded ordinance from more recent wars when we get to Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia, not to mention all of the Balkan countries . . . Write to your head of state and demand an international ban on cluster bombs!

We also had a sweet week on the road out of Vientiane : time to meet people in small villages and improvise some music with them during lunch, when it is too hot to do anything else anyway! Some kids tried our trumpet, kids and adults were impressed by the tallbikes, and Ballaque learned to weave in a traditional way.

The Squatters Inc. didn‘t forget their roots : they spent a night on the private parking of an expensive restaurant with a wonderful view over a lake, then camped closed to the dam but got evicted the second evening . . . official reservation, you know! Felt like in Vietnam a bit…. a monkeys‘ reservation?

And we experimented the budhist monks‘ hospitality… which is, by the way, far from being systematic, contrary to the idea widely spread in Europe. Sometimes we were turned away, and other times they let us simply build our mosquito nets and tarps in their garden.

Back in Vientiane, we discovered that Ruth’s coconut tree and hut had both mysteriously disappeared – alien attack? Chinese secret army invading Laos? Vietnamese monkeys trying to enlarge their desperately narrow Lebensraum?
Not knocked out at all, the Monkey Band gently started to squat Cecile’s house, in the middle of the wonderful puppets „escogriffes“ created by Cecile in collaboration with the Akha women living in northen Laos (Phongsaly), and finally got one of Cecile’s children involved in the monkey show!!

VIENTIANE was first of all the opportunity for the Monkey Band to develop its project in a lot of different ways, some pretty new :

a) the Alpha International Montessori School
We had a performance for the kids and their parents, then attempted a 3-day workshop with the very young children (from 1 to 6 years old). Difficult to get their attention for more than a few minutes!

b) A Table!
We played improvised music (cello, accordeon, clarinet) for the physical theater and dance performance from the Anomaliques company.
Then we had a nice night show with Alix, the french woman from the company, dancing and making some acrobatics on the back of Bruno’s tallbike.

c) escogriffes puppet show
a challenging experience for us, improvising musical interludes as the seasons changed, and making noises for things like puppets walking on leaves or making the wind blow. The first show in the french center went so well, that the puppeteers and the monkey band were invited to play at a nearby kindergarten.

-- cut to Thailand
a 12-hour run across the border to renew our Lao visa included a well-paid show at a western bar (yihaw! giddiyup cowboy!) er, no, i mean a bar run by western europeans --

d) Fete de la musique
a full day of music from local artists. We planned a variety of small acts for between the evening bands, but the rain stopped our roof-top fire-staff performance. Nevertheless, tyle still danced around in the rain on the new bamboo stilts that we built, and we had time for a weird „night show“ about plastic
bottle trash. Our short 3-power-song trumpet-accordeon-clarinet-darbuka performance in full clown make-up under a roof in pouring rain welcomed the great sourna-playing main band Merzhin from france.

June/July

2 – Laos, a very contrasted country!!


What is common between
Vientiane, the laid-back and finally not so touristic city capital of Laos,
Vang Vieng, the drug- and stupid-party for young foreigners hub, and
Luang Prabang, the UNESCO world heritage city?!

On our way north from Vientiane to China,

we stopped first in Vang Vieng to help at an organic farm — occasion for us to learn how to feed goats, cutting huge banana tree leaves for them, and milk them to make fresh 24-hour goat cheese. We met some nice travelers from Australia, England and Basque country, and finally helped the farm to fix the huts torn apart by a flood —

Our camp was luckily the highest point of the farm, so when Blake woke up Bruno in the middle of the night, he didn‘t worry too much. First he thought Blake was joking, then he got his serious attitude and realized that Australians have definitevely some experience in getting flooded the last years! (Blake is from Canberra). So tyle and Bruno took their responsabilities and engaged in serious solutions to survive the flood : wear proper equipment, prepare some healthy food . . .

We and other travelers staying at the farm also gave language lessons to the local kids, using music to teach english.

Vang Vieng was an interesting anthropological experience : Laos is well-known to be one of the cheapest countries in South-East Asia, and was a main producer of opium and heroin in the 60s and 70s. Consequence : a bunch of young students from Europe, States and the nearby Australia still gather in Vang Vieng, where the law about narcotics seems to be „forgotten“. They spend their time „tubing“ (jump into the river wrapped in a truck tube; a few die every year due to to the difficulty to deal with the stream, especially when drunk), rolling themselves in the mud (i swear! and i‘m not talking about the pottbellied pigs at the farm anymore…) and partying. That’s what some people call fun, or tourism, or even travel . . .
In these conditions, no surprise when the Green Monkey Bar — named for us, no?! — remained pretty empty during our early evening performance.

Luang Prabang was our second stop on the way north : here no muddy Aussies, no women dressed under the very minimum acceptable level for Lao culture, but a lot of tourists visiting temples („vat“) and waterfalls from the world heritage city.

But tourism and official culture definitively don‘t like the live performances : we were playing our music when the police asked us to stop…. confronted with our obvious lack of motivation to co-operate, an officer simply took tyle’s trumpet and disappeared, so we had to stop. We got it back but tyle’s passport stayed at the office for the night, and we got that back only when tyle signed an official paper saying that we won‘t play again in Luang Prabang!!
Why not??! because it is a UNESCO site, protected you know!! protected from what? The happiness of the audience seeing something different? The JOY created by the shared moment by us and the public?? If the only way a government can think about to preserve its culture and history is THIS one, the tradition is already dead, and all of us with it!! You CANNOT save anything by putting it under a glass bell!
Here is the alternative proposed by our modern societies :
pure DESTRUCTION (like in China), or the „MUSEUMIFICATION“ in areas expected to draw tourists — *brilliant!*

We did our best to take part in the consumerist society :
camp near a budhist temple, meet the locals, help other street musicians to create juggling chaos in the UNESCO streets, and have a nice improvised percussion performance with them while Bruno was trying stilts for the first time! Ooops, forgot to visit the supermarket . . .

Here is our answer to the on-going global disaster : we are little people, possibly with little power, but we are able to give joy to the people with something else than television and widespread entertainments…. who can say the same?

July 2011

3 – To Roof Rack or Not To Roof Rack, that is the question!
Or: how a tallbike could be finally… pretty small!

In Vietnam we put the bicycles and our stuff so many times on so many buses that we didn‘t expect to get in trouble again, especially in China – where everything is anyway overloaded, so 300 kilos more, who cares?!

But it happened. Laos was still no problem – even on the way north to the chinese border, the roads were so terrible that tyle got knocked out several times, the potholes and bumps smashing his head against the roof of the bus – but straight after the chinese border, the problems started : first from Meng La to Jinghong, then from Jinghong to Kunming.

Question :
How to put our bicycles on a night bus, bigger but much less practical for us than the local buses because they don‘t have any roof rack?!

Answers : (multiple choice quiz)
1 – waste an afternoon or two to convince the workers that this is not against the bus company policy to take bicycles inside („this is not a bike, sir, but a hand-made machine to produce joy!“),
2 – at the same time take your favourite spaceships apart and try to make them as small as possible to stuff them UNDER the bus („mama mia!! que pasa?! si senior, alles klar! it fits!),
3 – and finally prepare yourself to pay far too much for the „extra service“ (we did everything ourselves) and enjoy a typical chinese standards bed, i.e. a bit under a meter and half long….
Oh!! I almost forgot :
2bis – when the workers, confronted with the evidence that it fits, still don‘t want to take your bicycles in, and lock the bagage space under you nose, here comes the BUBAMARA STRATEGY : tyle takes out the accordeon and starts to play, until the workers cooperate because they are finally charmed/annoyed/sleepy/hungry/desperate (cross out the un-useful adjectives ; UWAGA! 2 could fit).

July 22

4 – Jumping north: 4 days of trains to Urumqi

Although we took a lot of buses lately, we‘re still accustomed to cycling slowly. People, language and architecture often change drastically at a country’s border, but the landscape and especially the weather always change gradually. Jumping from the wet and humid tropics to the extremely dry northern province in China was a shock. Not only that — stepping out of the 4th day on trains from Kunming, we landed in Little Middle East. The Uyghur culture in our area of the city brings a wonderful mix of breads, spices, single-tone languages, different types of hats and colorful clothing.
It’s not the tropics anymore — fresh fruit instead of unripe fruit with chili sauce! Freshly baked bread with butter instead of sticky rice with fish sauce!
We already met some Uyghur and Kazakh musicians — we‘re looking onward toward Kazakhstan: the land of the accordeons . . .