My Magic Wand or the nightmare of logistics
by Kathrin Brunnert, Project Organiser

Like other developing regions of the world, Central Asia is synchronised to a different beat than so-called civilised London. The beat is not necessarily slower its just slightly, more erratic. Once you lock into this rhythm though things really can happen.

Gazing at a map of Central Asia the sense of scale is not immediately apparent. Kazakstan alone is the size of Western Europe and it is no surprise that such expansive countries throw up so many challenges when it comes to remotely organising productions. This though was no ordinary production.

Alongside basic fixing such as hotels, land transport, flights, visas, inoculations, money transfers and location set-ups this trip had some extra special requirements – a gruelling 40 day tour on and every day new nomadic musicians. Surely they would all be moving about?. This was fraught with communication nightmares. Nothing can be confirmed on paper, everything’s verbal here. Can this be relied on? Luckily I found a musicologist, Dr Razia Sultanova, whose knowledge and experience of the area was second to none. This was one wave of the magic wand. Sadly the visa situation counter balanced this positive scenario and three days before departure we were still unsure of access into one of the countries.

Central Asia is full of closed doors and they are only made slightly ajar if you have the right connections. For 6 weeks I worked hard to get a complex list of contacts together, many through the BBC Central Asian and Caucasus World Service who of course have fingers in many pies! Each small connection led to another. Faxes would take a whole day to get through and phone calls would have a 1 in 10 chance of getting the person you require. We spent several minutes one day asking an Uzbek taxi driver if he would like to be part of a musical internet project. All parties were most interested up to the point when we discovered he didn’t play anything!

‘It’s easier to hire a helicopter than to find petrol’

Hiring a car is not as in most countries a simple matter of making a phone call and paying by credit card. Here though the cars are shall we say, of the classic variety – ancient ziguli’s are abundant in Kyrgyzstan, the drivers are enthusiastic bordering on the adventurous – the drivers never understand why one wants to look at the scenery instead of getting to the destination as fast as possible. And the fuel is well, scarce. If we could we would bring our own petrol, Lufthansa though strangely refused it as hand luggage!

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