An English teacher's blog about his travels and his digital art.

Tag: music (Page 1 of 2)

In an Ideal Communist Country . . .

I read the English version of the Vientiane Times about once or twice a week. On one of the inside pages is a section devoted to what is being written in other Laos newspapers, translated into English. One of the papers is the Pathet Lao Daily, which I assume is an organ of the Communist Party here.

About 10 days ago, the Times quoted the Pathet Lao Daily ranting about the music that was played at gatherings during the recent New Year celebrations. I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have the article, but the Daily wrote, more or less, that a large percentage of the music being played at parties was Thai, when the rule is that people must play at least 70% Lao music.

I think I might have laughed out loud when I read this. The article went on to explain that people weren’t being patriotic enough in their choice of music. I don’t think patriotism should be the issue. Perhaps Lao music sucks compared to Thai music. (It does.) The ruling class might be quivering in their boots that choice of music might spell doom for the regime. Kind of hearkens back to when Elvis Presley was reviled for his hip-shakin’ style. Do you oldsters remember? I do. More later.

Heat Wave!

Yeah, it’s been quite hot for a while in East Asia, including in Korea. Not helping matters any is the closure of some of the country’s nuclear power plants. I believe a few were shut down for routine maintenance, but some have been closed because of corruption. In total, it appears that about one-quarter (6) of the plants have been closed. There’s an article about the heat wave here and one about the scandal.

I’m doing my part by not using my air conditioner all that much, usually for only an hour or two if I’m not at work. The dormitory management gives us 250 Kwh free each month, but if I crank up the air con, I usually use much more than that. Not so, this summer. We only pay 80 won per Kwh over that, but it adds up. So, I’m cutting my usage. I have a good fan that fills in admirably.

Needless to say, with the usual high humidity in Yeosu (80-98%), I haven’t been out and about all that much, so I haven’t taken any new photos recently. Just working, reading and playing computer games.

Here are a couple of “heat wave” tunes. Martha and the Vandellas are singing about a different kind of heat wave here, but the Lovin’ Spoonful are right on track. (Check out the cool styles!)

Yeosu Expo 2012-Korean Percussion Group Video

OK, loyal readers, here’s the first video post on this blog! This is a performance by a Korean percussion group that I took, handheld, on July 20th at the Expo Plaza. I think most of these youngsters are university students, but I could be wrong. They’re really quite good. Turn up your sound and enjoy!

P.S. Sorry about all the people moving around in the audience, but there wasn’t much I could do about that. Also, I have a few more videos of this group, so I’ll get them up soon, and I have several others of various cultural performances, which I’ll also post when I can.

EDIT: Since I first posted this entry, I’ve added the other two videos I had of this group. I put them in more or less chronological order. The first vid shows the group working out on the big drums, the second is of the smaller drums, and the third features some dancers with smaller percussion instruments.

Here’s the Big Drums portion of the performance. Watch out for the two large profiles that walk in front of my camera at the one minute mark. I guess I coulda whacked ’em upside the head, but that probably wouldn’t have made any difference. The guy on the center drum was the leader, more or less, of this energetic and talented group of performers. The fellow was quite charismatic and fun to watch.

Here’s a close up shot of the leader of the group.

Young man playing Korean drums

The Group Leader

Here, the group works out on the smaller drums. The day was very humid and hot, but the performers didn’t appear to be affected by the weather. However, I saw them a few days later putting their drums in a storage area after they had done another performance, and they did look worn out. Ah, to be that young and energetic again.

Another shot of the leader and one of the other drummers.

Man and lady playing the drums

Drum Players

Finally, a few other performers join the drummers for a romp. Right after this, many other performers and dancers from a different group, and many onlookers joined in for a free-for-all frolic around the plaza. Many folks in the audience participated also, dancing, clapping, shouting and enjoying themselves in the mayhem.

Here’s a closeup photo of the young lady playing the wind instrument.

Young lady performing in the Korean percussion group

Traditional Korean Wind Instrument

Finally, a view of the general hilarity that followed the performance.

People dancing

Frolicking at the Expo

What to Do With the Expo Grounds

It’s been raining cats and dogs here in Yeosu for several days, including 3 inches yesterday and more than 5 inches since midnight (and a typhoon is heading our way–more on that later), so I haven’t been out to the Expo site to see what kind of de-construction is going on. I’m sure some of the pavilions have been taken down, but the aquarium is open to the public, if you’re willing to pay the 20,000 won admission fee.

There’s been a lot of speculation about how best to use the site. The consensus I’ve gathered from various news articles and websites is that the grounds are to be used as an ocean tourist resort, with shopping malls and international restaurants. We’ll have to wait and see about that.

At least, though, the Expo site is being used right now. Tomorrow night the 14th Korea-China Music Festival will be held at the Expo Digital Gallery and will feature several K-Pop and Chinese pop singers and groups. I hope there’s a good turnout for this, but I wonder how many people will make the trek from the larger cities, like Seoul and Busan. I might go down there tomorrow night not to see the concert, but to check out the crowd.

I’m really hopeful that the site will be put to good use and maintained. It’ll be a great addition to Yeosu, and, hopefully, will draw people to the area, helping the local economy.

Yeosu Expo 2012-Argentina Cultural Performance

A couple of colleagues and I were lucky enough to take in the performance of Argentinian folk-rock legend Mavi Diaz and her female backing band, Las Folkies, several days ago. They performed at the Ocean Plaza to a good-sized audience, which got into the infectious rhythms of the performers. Here are a few images from the 30-minute concert.

Mavi Diaz

Mavi Diaz

Keyboardist Silvana Albano

Las Folkies Keyboardist Silvana Albano

Las Folkies Keyboardist Silvana Albano

Mavi and guitarist Pampi Torre

Mavi Diaz and Las Folkies Guitarist Pampi Torre

Mavi Diaz and Las Folkies Guitarist Pampi Torre

Las Folkies percussionist Martina Ulrich

Las Folkies percussionist Martina Ulrich

Las Folkies percussionist Martina Ulrich

Mavi and Pampi

Mavi Diaz and Pampi Torre

Mavi Diaz and Pampi Torre

I’ll have a bit more on Mavi Diaz later.

Near the End

. . . of the year, that is. Although, with worldwide events lately, one might think something else.

I’ve been under the weather lately, and this is the first day I’ve felt more like my normal self. Christmas day I felt quite ill with a bug of one kind or another, and since then I’ve just felt very lethargic and tired. I took a short walk yesterday and was almost exhausted when I finished. But, I feel back up to par now.

Christmas was pretty raucous around here, compared to the more peaceful traditions of small-town Montana. Fireworks, loudly-played merengue music and laughter from the neighborhood bar across the street punctuated Christmas Eve and the night after until the wee hours of the morning. I didn’t hear too many people stirring in the hotel until late morning.

Of course, there’s no snow to decorate the holiday landscape, but we’ve been getting the usual 2 or 3 daily afternoon rainstorms, usually heavy downpours, but usually brief. When I go walking later, I’ll be sure to take an umbrella. More later.


I returned to Santo Domingo from Nagua this past Saturday after conducting 12 hours of workshops to about 20 teachers. My focus was Communicative Language Teaching (don’t worry, I won’t go into details here–click on the link if you’re interested.), a methodology meant to be yet another tool in a teacher’s instructional toolbox. About 15 teachers and teachers-in-training attended, and everyone thought the time was well spent, including me. I always seem to learn as much from teachers (and students) as they learn from me. It’s pretty much a two-way street.

Nagua is a small beach town on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic situated at the neck of the Samana Peninsula. It’s still untouched by tourism and the concomitant all-inclusive resorts that dominate the beautiful beaches here. The day is fast approaching when the sun-seekers and hotels will arrive, and the small town will be altered, for both good and ill.

Christmas lights and Santas and nativity scenes are up all over Santo Domingo, which is a far cry from other countries I’ve spent this time of year–Thailand, South Korea and Morocco. Korea has a sizeable Christian population, but in smallish Andong there just weren’t that many decorations or other signs of the holiday. Of course, in predominantly Buddhist Thailand and Muslim Morocco, Christmas is barely a blip on Santa’s radar screen, except in tourist areas, where the consumer aspect is emphasized over the religious. Anyway, Santo Domingo is aglow with the spirit of the season; all that’s lacking is a foot or so of snow.

Finally, I’ve learned the difference between merengue and bachata music. Bachata features a guitar, whereas merengue has no stringed instruments–only horns, drums, and accordians. I’m sure there are other more subtle differences, but the difference in instruments helps to distinguish the difference in musical styles. Now, if I can only discriminate the sounds of rumba, salsa, reggaeton, mambo, etc.

Drying Out

Noel has finally left the D.R., but not before flooding the country with heavy rains and causing 73 deaths so far. I haven’t been out of the camp recently, so I can’t say what the surrounding countryside looks like after the storm, but apparently we’ve not been hit hard in this area; it seems most of the damage was west of Santo Domingo. I asked my students about their families, but everyone is ok. The fields have drained off very nicely and were drying out swiftly under yesterday’s sun and stiff breeze. Let’s hope the country doesn’t have to suffer this type of weather again any time soon.

The coaches tell me that the first game will be played on Monday, against Toronto. A week after that, some of the upper echelon of the Yankees will be visiting the campus, including, rumor has it, Brian Cashman, the General Manager of the club.

Here’s a Sept. 12th article in Dominican Today [EDIT: The link is gone] about the baseball camp. Two of the kids mentioned in the article, the guys with the 800,000 and 1.1 million dollar bonuses, are in my classes, and both are about 17 years old. Can you imagine! I hope their families are using the money wisely.

Classes are going along nicely, and it’s hard to believe that after this week, there are only about 3 1/2 weeks remaining in the camp; afterwards, I move into the capital for a couple of months. Since I’ve been trying to focus a bit on culture for this brief period, some of the advanced classes have been exposed to music–folk, jazz, rock ‘n roll, rap, etc.–from an American point of view, while learning English. How? Well, we look at a lot of the history of the music, so correctly forming and using the past tense with all its irregular verbs is appropriate. This kind of stuff is always fun to do, for me and the students, since it takes the focus off the overt, more traditional learning of, for example, grammatical forms. Next up: maybe some baseball history, like who became new managers of the Yankees and the Dodgers at the end of the 2007 season? More later.

Drums Along the Beach

I was sitting at an umbrella-shaded table on the Boca Chica beach this past Saturday, fairly relaxed, writing up lesson plans for the coming week. (The beach on Saturdays is a good place to do this. Who knows why? 😎 )Merengue music was playing on the speakers from the bar next to me. All in all, a pretty cool scene, and the usual hordes of beach-goers seemed a bit less than normal. Suddenly, I heard drums–not traditional-style congas, but marching drums, bass and snare. Walking along the sand came a rag-tag group of 5 or 6 young guys, perhaps 15-18 years old, tapping on their various instruments. I thought “there goes the peace.” But, they continued on their way, so it wouldn’t be long before they were out of hearing. Then, from a table of 7 people about 20 feet in front of me, a man started whistling at the receding drummers, trying to get their attention. They eventually heard him and came to his table and started playing. Wow! Far from being disruptive, they were great–very enthusiastic about what they were doing and having loads of fun. They played staccato, high-energy beats, with one member gyrating and dancing to the sound and onlookers, including the guy who called them over, occasionally joining in. They played for about 15 minutes and attracted quite an audience, also getting quite a few donations. You never know what your going to experience on any given day, some good, some not (like the smoke on Friday), and how expectations can be proven wrong. A very good experience, this one was. More later.

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