Living in Northern Cyprus

Tom Jones @ The Rocks

30 Jun 2012

As ever, the Rocks Hotel is the premier venue for international acts and the hotel leads the pack on such events with its outstanding buffet and overall experience so it was no hard-ship for me to accept the invitation to see the latest star in a long-line who have appeared there.

I last visited the Rocks hotel in Girne to see Kool and the Gang in September 2011 but the nine month wait for another invite was worth it.

Sir Thomas John Woodward OBE (Sir Tom Jones), the valleys’ boy from Pontypridd, South Wales appeared at the Rocks hotel under a cloak of secrecy and most people were unaware of his impending appearance, including yours truly, until it appeared in the Cyprus Today newspaper the previous day.

Tom Jones in North Cyprus

Why all the secrecy is anyone’s guess but that did not stop a totally full house from appreciating the dulcet tones of one of Wales’s best exports (excluding me of course as I also come from Pontypridd!). He has appeared all over the world, won numerous awards, has had mistresses too numerous to count (allegedly) but he is still “The Voice”.

Sir Tom has re-invented himself numerous times by singing many styles of popular music – pop, rock, R&B, show tunes, country, dance, soul and gospel and as a result has sold over 100 million records and he is still going strong.

Tom JonesDespite being 72 years of age and allowing his grey hair to finally see the light, he still exudes charisma and sex appeal; however there was a definite lack of ladies underwear being thrown on the stage at this concert.

With his backing group of eight talented musicians and two female singers he entertained with all the old favourites, including, Green Grass of Home, Keep Your Hat On, It’s Not Unusual and Sex Bomb.

Singing for just an hour, which was a disappointment as I expected longer he enthralled the crowd with his energy and magnetism but he obviously found North Cyprus a little too warm when he said to the audience: “Am I melting or is it hot?”

Leaving the stage with no encore, much to the chagrin of some audience members, myself included.

Words and pics by Sue Steel

Posted in: Bars, Cafes and Clubs|Going out

Each month Rosy Glow shares her news, personal thoughts and intimate letters on her (not so) new life living in Northern Cyprus.

Dear Sis,
Despite my assurances that I would write more often…I have failed…miserably. I am not sure why but time passes so quickly here, or is it just my age, so that I find myself on my way back before I have even left.

Rosy Island Glow

North Cyprus continues to delight and we all look forward to the summer months, which will soon be upon us.
Christmas and New Year, for us, were quiet but we did invite friends over for a buffet lunch on December 28th. It was quite funny as our good friends Mustafa and Semiya got the date wrong and did not turn up….they thought it was the following day! Never mind, these things happen.

Recently, James and I had to renew our residency and whilst they impose more hoops to jump through, it was surprisingly quick and relatively easy this year but I have just heard they have put up the cost of one year’s residency to TL216 per person and to TL433 for two years.

Add that to blood test, mukhtar letter, photocopying of documents and you can add on another TL150 and you will see it is getting ridiculous but we have no say in it so we just have to go with the flow.

Earlier this month Rob and I went to Istanbul for a few days. We had a great time even though it was cold and wet (what can you expect in January?). Our hotel, in Sultanahmet, the old district, was very good (Hotel Sapphire) as all the important sights were easily accessible to us. We had a full day tour, taking in such sights as the Blue Mosque, Dolmabahçe Palace, Grand Bazaar, Spice Market plus a wonderful trip on the Bosphorus.

We met some really lovely people, including a mother and daughter from Norway and a couple from Canada transiting Istanbul on their way to visit friends in Ethiopia. We had such a good time; we will definitely go back again.

Sad news from here is that Mr Rauf Denkta? died after a long, bravely fought, battle after his stroke last year. Mr Denkta? was the founding President of North Cyprus from 1895 to 2005 when he chose to retire. That said, this wonderful man wrote over 50 books in Turkish and English and was a great advocate for the ex-pats. His funeral was attended by thousands and he will be greatly missed indeed.

Finally, a letter to you would not be complete if I did not include a weather update. At the moment, we are basking in sunshine but boy oh boy, is it cold! Compared to our summer temperatures it is positively freezing but at 11° I suppose you would say I was mad but we are experiencing a cold wind blowing from the snow laden hills Turkey. Still, another 6 weeks or so and we should be realizing better temperatures.

I leave you with this thought: If “I am” is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language, could it be that “I do” is the longest?

Rosy xx

Posted in: Out of the loop

Rocks Xmas 2011

Posted in: Going out

Each month Rosy Glow shares her news, personal thoughts and intimate letters on her (not so) new life living in Northern Cyprus.

Dear Sis,
As another year in North Cyprus fast come to a close, I look back on our life here as we have been here three years at the end of November and I can hardly believe it. Where has the time gone?

We have seen three summers, three winters, and as our fourth winter fast approaches, we look back on our life here.
We have seen friends and family visit, some more than once. We have taken on our two dogs and they are as much a part of the family now as any of our two-legged members. They continue to thrive and bring us pleasure in their uncomplicated love towards us.

We continue to get frustrated with a government that has no concept of governance and make up rules usually to try and off-set an ailing economy but everything is just a “patch-up” job and nothing is long-term and no-one seems capable of looking at the big picture in order to put sensible procedures in place. They seem obsessed with a quick return on everything.

We are still enamoured with the Turkish Cypriot people who are unstintingly generous. The weather is conducive to a better outside living life-style and on the whole, we are living the dream but a blot on our landscape is lack of our deeds and in hind-sight we agree it might have been better to rent rather than buy.
But enough of the philosophical sister act, what else has been happening?

North Cyprus BIG news is that we now have a branch of the Royal British Legion which is fantastic news. It was inaugurated on 1 October and has been two years in the planning, permission finally being given by the North Cyprus ministries and HQ RBL in London. We now have our own standard which will be on parade at this year’s Remembrance Sunday parade on November 13. It is a definite “coup” and those involved in bringing the RBL to North Cyprus are to be commended. There are two branches in the South already.

Tango to Buddha Alagadi off-road race

Tango to Buddha Alagadi off-road race

Last week I went to the Tango to Buddha Alagadi off-road raceand it was so much fun. Thirty-two vehicles competed over a 750metre course and more than 400 spectators turned up and had a great day. Can’t wait for next year’s race…. do you think I could participate?
I have also taken part in a 3-day first-aid course run by the Civil Emergency Service Volunteer force. About 20 of us participated and it was great fun and much easier to understand than other first aid courses I have done in the past.

Right dear sister, I promise to write more regularly but always remember, when cannibals eat a missionary, they get a taste for religion.
Your itinerant sister

Rosy xx

Posted in: Out of the loop

Kool & the Gang Sorry for the delay with these, we’ve been working on improvements to Lincguide, more info to come soon.

Over five hundred people packed into the outside pool area of the Rocks hotel to watch Kool and the Gang on Saturday, July 30 and not one of them was disappointed. Preceded by the requisite firework display, followed by Turkish TV star, Mehmet Ali Erbil and a new addition to these open air concerts, singer Ebru Aydin, the band brought their high energy act to the stage about 10.30pm and left at 11.45pm during which, they and the audience went back in musical time.

Kool and the Gang have gone through several musical phases during the course of their recording career. Starting out with a purist jazz sound, then becoming exponents of rhythm and blues and funk. Progressing to a smooth pop-funk ensemble and more recently creating music with a modern, electro-pop sound. They have sold over 70 million albums worldwide.

They have infused young blood with two of the founding fathers which gave the band a polished, yet timeless appeal. Whilst the younger element certainly had the moves, the old timers were able to hold their heads up as they played guitar and saxophone with vocals in seamless transitions.

The band now consists of 12 musicians, with nine on the stage at the Rocks. All are exceptional in their own right but if I had to mention a few it would be Shawn McQuiller lead singer and guitar and Lavel Evans second lead singer who have more energy than KibTek on a good day and moves to rival Michael Jackson. Last, but not least, Broderick Gittens on trumpet. His energy is infection and his smile is as wide as the Grand Canyon.

Young Shawn McQuiller, a definite ladies’ man asked the audience: “Is there a lady in the house who could take my heart because you can have it.” as he broke into the song of the same name. Sadly for him, no volunteer was forthcoming. Other well known songs were Joanna, Emergency, Ladies’ Night and the raunchy Get Down On It.

Before the show I was lucky enough to interview Dennis Thomas, one of the original Gang members. I asked Mr Thomas, if he could explain why some of the group’s older songs like Celebration and Cherish the Love, seemed to be timeless.

He said: “I think it’s because they are love songs, and just the way the songs are constructed, they are easy to listen to. They are pop songs ultimately but they have a lot of heart. If you make good music at the right time, it just lasts and lasts. I feel a lot of our longevity is due to simplicity, the melodies and lyrics are kind of pure, simplistic songs, they say what the song is about, they say what the song means, give it some good music, not complicated, then it’s music for all the people.”

Kool & the Gang

The band has recently played Glastonbury so I asked Mr Thomas his thoughts on this and he said: “Yeah, it was our first time and the reception was great. There was a lot of mud but it was fun. They are probably one of the best audiences in the world because they are very receptive. The sound system is amazing and the energy there is fantastic. It was a lot of fun.”

With all the touring the band does, I then asked, how he felt about being away from his family. He replied: “It works because it’s been that way all my life. I have been doing it so long, I believe that coming and going keeps life fresh..Of all the songs they have made, did he have a favourite?
“I suppose I would say one from my very first instrumental album called Kool and the Gang. It’s called Sea of Tranquillity, about the crater on the moon. It’s a beautiful song.”

I wondered if he got fed up with touring, after almost fifty years in the business. He said, with a chuckle: “I am tired of the travelling, that is the worst part. The security and the customs just make it longer but we came via Istanbul and that is a very nice airport.”

Finally, I asked him what he thought of the Rocks Hotel and he said: “The Rocks hotel is magnificent, I like it here. It’s very unique to any of the other places we have been, its set up is unique and it provides a lot of different things to enjoy. The food is fantastic, the service and staff are fantastic. I am just glad to be here. We have a day off tomorrow and we are being shown around but I don’t know where yet but I am looking forward to seeing some of North Cyprus.”

The band’s biggest hit, their joyous 1980 Number One ‘Celebration’, has impressively become one of the most played songs of the last 30 years, remaining to this day the theme-song of countless sports teams, as well as being as close to a universal wedding-reception-standard as you can get in terms of American music.

Posted in: Live Music

ONCE again, the Rocks hotel has put on a spectacular show and hosted the singer and virtuoso guitar legend that is George Benson.
The hotel has a well-earned reputation for preceding these extravaganzas with a sumptuous buffet, free drinks, followed by a great firework display and Saturday, July 23 was no exception.

Once again, Turkish TV star, Mehmet Ali Erbil was the warm up man and he certainly roused the Turkish speaking element of the audience, telling jokes and interacting with the ladies.

Slightly later than anticipated, but looking extremely composed in loose fitting clothes, Mr Benson came on stage, with his five piece band and stayed there for over one and a half hours, much to the delight of the appreciative audience, most of whom looked young enough to be his grandchildren.

george benson

Benson, a 10-time Grammy award winner, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 22 March 1943. He started his career at the ripe old age of seven, playing ukulele at a drug store (chemist). By age eight, he was playing in unlicensed clubs and by age 10 he had his first single called She Makes Me Mad with RCA-Victor.

He opened the concert by playing over 10 minutes of non-stop guitar which, to the audience, confirmed him as a jazz guitarist of unequalled chops (technical ability). He uses a rest-stroke picking technique similar to that of gypsy jazz players like Django Reinhardt. The applause was loud and long.

Of course, fans go to these concerts in the hope that they will hear their favourite song, evoking a cherished memory, and I don’t think there were many disappointed among the crowd on Saturday. They danced in the aisles but quickly moved to the front of the stage where they stayed for the duration of the concert.

George Benson in Cyprus

Singing such classics as Turn Your Love Around, In Your Eyes and Somewhere Beyond the Sea, he turned to the audience and announced: “This one is for the ladies in the audience,” and sang his 1984 hit from his 20/20 album, “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You.” If there were any ladies unsure of his style at this point, those doubts evaporated as he cradled them all in the palm of his hand and drew them in.

george benson cyprusMr Benson is also in the select few aficionados of scatting, which is the ability to sing improvised melodies and rhythms, to create the equivalent of an instrumental solo using just his voice much the same as Cleo Laine, Al Jarreau and the late Ella Fitzgerald often did. His band, all highly accomplished musicians in their own right, were, musical director and keyboard David Garfield, second keyboard Thom Hall, drums, Oscar Seaton Jnr, bass guitar, Stanley Banks and guitar and vocals, Michael O’Neil.

Announcing that North Cyprus was the last stop of his five-week European The Guitar Man and Summer 2011 tour that began in France on June 23, Mr Benson left the stage to shouts of Encore, encore.

There was never any doubt he would come back because he was obviously having as much fun as his audience. This was the queue for drummer, Oscar “Seatpocket” Seaton Jnr to give his drum solo and the audience reacted with whistles and shouts of appreciation.

Choosing to sing the 1963 hit for The Drifters, and his own hit in 1978, Mr Benson came back on stage for his encore singing On Broadway.
As he ended his performance he shouted, to be heard above the applause, “People of Cyprus, I love you very much and thank you.”

You have to wonder what makes a 68 year man; tour the world, away from his family. You wonder if it’s the financial gain but watching this singer, up on the stage you can see it’s his love of music. It is apparent in every song he sings, every chord he strums. The man is a master of his craft.

Many thanks to the Rocks Hotel. Video – Live at Montreux 1986

Posted in: Going out

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