Another Year, Another One Caucasus

After covering last year’s One Caucasus Festival for Meydan TV there was no way I was going to miss this year’s. That was just as well as there was definitely more international media interest in the event that brings Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians together in a small, somewhat isolated village located about two hours away from Tbilisi.

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Tbilisi: A Regional Hub for Alternative Music in the South Caucasus?

Having moved from the UK to Armenia in 1998 to work for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) it was only natural that I started to take an interest in an alternative music scene that, while not really existing, was emerging at the time. From 2001 onwards the situation started to change, and bands such as Gyumri’s The Bambir really grabbed my attention. By the mid-2000s other bands started to emerge and those that had been dormant during the electricity shortages of the 1990s began to re-surface.

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DiHaj in Tbilisi, A Week Later in Baku Unveils Azerbaijan’s Eurovision Entry

I won’t pretend to be a Eurovision fan as it’s really not my thing. Until I moved to the South Caucasus from the U.K. I never ever watched it and actually thought it something best avoided. True, standards in the international music competition have increased considerably since Eastern Europe and other former Soviet republics have participated, and the often acerbic commentary on on Twitter can be fun, but in the few years that really hasn’t been enough. Last year did at least interest me a little given that a band from Tbilisi, the Young Georgian Lolitaz, represented Georgia as I’ve known their lead singer, Nika Kocharov, and photographed the band since 2005. This year has also sparked my interest given that another band I’ve been photographing for a year now, Baku-based DiHaj, is representing Azerbaijan, and pretty good they are too.

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Woodstock Without Borders: One Caucasus Festival

I’ve been meaning to attend the annual One Caucasus festival since it started three years ago, but this year’s event, held 25-28 August in the Georgian village of Tserakvi, was the first time that I have. Naturally, I put together two video reports, in Azerbaijani for the BBC’s Azeri Service and in English for Meydan TV.

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DiHaj on BBC Azeri

Last month saw the annual Caucasus Music Awards held in Tbilisi, arguably the cultural centre of the South Caucasus, and featuring bands from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Because of time I couldn't do as much reporting as I'd like, but did get a chance to interview Azerbaijani Experimental Doom Pop band, DiHaj for the BBC's Azerbaijan Service.

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Some Positive News from Pankisi, Georgia

It’s not often there’s some positive news coming out of Pankisi, better known these days as the birth place of Tarkhan Batirashvili, aka ISIS’ Abu Omar al-Shishani, but some does exist. In addition to being a tranquil and scenic part of Georgia, and perhaps contrary to popular opinion, local civil society is clued up to the problems facing the region and there are individuals and organisations trying to make a difference. One of those is Gela Mtivlishvili, a Georgian journalist who I first encountered at a closed round table on radicalisation in Pankisi we both spoke at late last year.

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