15 March 2007

You, Me & Spring of Culture

So Spring of Culture is not over yet, but my vacation is, meaning this is it for me! So I'm giving the LuLu midterm review of what I've seen so far.

Of course, MP Mohammed Khalid now calls it spring of sex and silliness, but he is wrong! I mean, for someone like Mr. Happy-feet-on-top-of-the-car-the-day-after-elections, he is the last one to speak. I'm not sure if he was offended that he was not performing, but really I think you should attend at least one show before you speak out against the whole deal.

Anyway, I'm loving the concept, but then I decided to be democratic in my show reviews at least. So the opinions below are based on (totally unscientific) polls I took of random fellow culture-mongers:

The Shows:
1. Marcel Khalifa & Qassim Haddad
The music and poetry were beautiful.. But the stage design shifted the focus on the dance performance.. The dances were very sensual but crafted artistically and tastefully. There was a lot of touching though & a scene where the male performer's lips are all over the female's body then a scene where they were on top of one another. It was a bit daring and definitely not for very small children (One mothers swore to me never to attend another event again!). You could notice traces of shock on the face of the sponsors (Culture/EDB) too. I'm all for the arts & freedom of expression, of course, but if I was an organizer, I would've made it a point to view the show first then make a judgement call on whether to invite it or not. After all, creating this controversy isn't really the wisest thing at this early stage..

2. Caracalla Dance
A disappointment, in short. The dances were unimpressive. There was a small number of dancers to start with. They were lip-synching too (all other shows performed live). There were some long, boring moments (e.g. 1 person on stage lip-cynching for ages). I'm not sure if the band itself has deteriorated or if they just didn't bother to put up a good show for us here or if they thought we're just stupid Gulfies who don't know any better.

3. Youssou N'dour
The opposite of Caracalla! The Sinegalese artists put their heart and soul into the performance and it showed! I want more African art to tell you the truth. Oh and he somehow loves the King and PM (or someone told him to love them and express his love on stage)

4. Osaka Dada
Totally upbeat and entertaining (the family-friendly type). The Japanese were spirited and excited and the crowd enjoyed the action.. Even more entertaining then the show was the Japanese lady who tried to speak Arabic and English and paused for applause after each word (I'd do that too if I learned any Japanese! koneecheewa)

5. Adonis
I shall bow and pay my respects to thee! He's definitely in a league of his own. I don't understand, though, why organizers choose such small venues as if they don't believe enough people will show up! It was too crowded!

General Atmosphere
In all the events the atmosphere was very classy and the audience (mostly Bahrainis) showed real sophistication and appreciation of the arts.. They clapped a lot too! (not like us in general). I guess we are just so deprived that anything will excite us.

Arad fort had the perfect outdoorsy atmosphere for the performances-- I loved the scene of the fort in the background at night! So pretty, even if the seats felt a bit shaky! The indoors venues were just too small, again, and were so crowded and some people had to stand throughout performances!

Ticket sales & promotion
I suffered!! I hate how they handled ticket sales! Only Ritz sold the full seasonal ticket which I didn't really get. Different outlets (e.g. Seef mall and Osra) had no communication with each other and you had to run between sales outlets to find out if there were tickets available for some shows (they don't answer phones).

Also, tickets were only sold in person so people from other Gulf states could not buy tickets in advance before traveling to Bahrain (and tickets were generally sold-out early). It shouldn't be too difficult to sell tickets online or have one connected data base between sales offices to check the availability of tickets..!

Advertising was good in general, though it's still not that visible in the Gulf press outside Bahrain. I saw a cool ad on MBC, but then again, you can't expect people just to show up in Bahrain and get tickets or not depending on luck?

Money matters

Prices were reasonable for the quality (BD 20 max). But I'm surprised that the event got no sponsorship except from Batelco! This means the government paid for most of the costs, which I'm sure is a crazy amount (I don't think ticket sales came near to covering a fraction of it). Imagine how much all those bands, singers, dancers, performers charged + plane tickets + hotels + advertising + the set-up.. So why didn't the Ministry of Information or EDB seek out or try to negotiate w/ more sponsors?!!! It's retarded!

Final thoughts..
It's not perfect, but it's like a breeze of fresh air..! It created more excitement than we had the whole year for sure. Also, people clearly craved it and tickets were sold out way in advance! Maybe in the general scheme of things those people are in the minority, but it's a niche market that is prospering-- and definitely thanks to Shaikha Mai for her passion & courage (it makes a difference when you love what you do!). I hope our Taliban MPs and push-over minister don't kill it.


Abu Khalid said...

.. and you have certainly created a great review and evaluation of these events, the best so far!

Bahrania said...


Well at least they had their clothes on!

lizardo said...

despite that i wouldnt care if its a staight(striptease) .. but i cant handle the name ... how dancing and singing culture !!?

Hisham said...

Super review, LuLu! I certainly enjoy the SoC and is something that I look forward to every year.

As for MP Mohammed Khalid, he can go suck on a lemon. It should be sour enough for him.

SillyBahrainiGirl said...

Interesting insight Lulu.
I am also surprised to learn that Batelco is the only sponsor.

ache in my soul said...

enjoyed ur passionate reviews.

LuLu said...

abu khalid, hisham, SBG, ache: thanx for stopping by :-)

bahrania thanx for the photos!

lizardo I can see your point, but dance and music are intrinsic parts of cultural expression in many parts of the world. Also to be fair, events included poetry, art exhibits & a couple of intellectual discussions-- it's not their fault that singing & dancing got all the attention!

Anonymous said...

1. فكرة ربيع الثقافة وايد حلوة و تستاهل الشيخة مي كل الشكر و التقدير على اللي قاعدة تسويه .... على الاقل الناس شوي تغير جو و تستفيد في نفس الوقت
2. شغلة ثانية هي ان صج هالمشاهد مبالغ فيها وايد .... يعني بصراحة لا تنسون ان احنا للحين فدولة محافظة يعني شوي شوي علينا
3. اتمنى من وزارة الاعلام انها تاخذ بعين الاعتبار اللي صار هالسنة علشان ما يتكرر فالسنين الياية .... و ان يتم تطوير هالفعالية و زيادة الانشطة علشان الكل يستفيد
و بس :)

Anonymous said...

To all those who are disgusted by the SoC, stop looking!
Last thing we need is more control.
Indeed, the position that the ministry should (1) develop SoC further next year and (2) exert more control on the event on show, is incoherent.
Please let there be a Bahrain equivalent of WestEnd/Broadway . Please ... ?


LuLu said...

Anonymous thanx for visiting and for adding 3 valid points :)

Phil. I can understand what you mean but think of it as prioritization: if I was the Cultural Affairs Bureau or EDB and I wanted to establish this festival as a Bahrain trademark, I would at least be careful which show I invite in order not to attract too much negative publicity. Singing and dancing attracted some criticism last year, but this year the nature of the Majnoon Layla show really just gives the religious fanatics the golden opportunity to shoot down the whole SOC festival. I'm not suggesting they bring artists and censor them, but it will not kill them to choose less provocative shows to bring!
On a side note, I agree that whoever is not comfortable should not attend, except no one was aware of the nature of the content. Even in the US you get parental guidance ratings.

Anonymous said...

الحل هو ان يكون في رقابة ذاتية مب تكميم افواه لان الكل عارف ان راح تكون هناك ردة فعل عكسية من البعض على بعض الشغلات مثل المشاهد اللي تكلموا عنها ..... شخصيا اتمنى استمرار ربيع الثقافة مثل ما قلت في الكومنت القبلي على الاقل شي مفيد و يكسر الروتين شوي و فصالح البحرين .... بس بعد مثل ما ذكرت من قبل ان احنا للحين في مجتمع خليجي محافظ يعني لازم يكون في شوية حدود او ضوابط - مب شرط انها تحد من الحرية كثر ما هي تحترم عاداتنا و دينا - اللي المنظمين لازم يلتزمون فيها لتفادي هالنوع من الشوشرة و المشاكل .... و بس :)

SILVER said...

i think it was prety good, althought i had a problem with not letting people in the country to perform. for more details check out

SILVER said...


Total cost was BD800,000 and Batelco paid BD100,000. The rest was paid by the EDB

lebinbah said...

So far it has been an amazing festival only thing left on my schedule is Brazil Brazilliero, from what i've heard it is going to be awesome.

LuLu said...

Silver interesting info! I'll consider u a reliable source :-)

lebinbah oh I wish I was in Bahrain for that! I kind of wonder about the future of S/C after this parliament thing.. it looks like a full-fledged investigation

can we talk said...

but where do you draw the line???? who gets to decide where the line is???? in another country, a guidance rating would have sorted out the problem, would it have done here? or would it have attracted more attention (i.e. they knowingly put on such a show..) ?? if the ministry had just said "oops, sorry, will be more careful next time" after the event, would that have sufficed? if lines are drawn, isn't that the beginning of censorship? doesn't it then encourage the objectors to then move the goalpost and the lines even closer? what if this had been a ballet, where this is a lot of holding and lifting and skimpy clothes, would it have received the same reviews? or were these guys just (howta habeeta) because they are arabs?