International Music News Update
At Luciano Pavarotti’s annual charity concert June 6, the opera tenor sang a duet with George Michael. The singers performed Sir Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me” at the seventh charity concert in Pavarotti’s hometown of Modena. Michael rarely performs live and although in recent years there have been many rumours that he will tour, this was a rare opportunity to see the singer in concert. It was his first live performance in Italy.
The Michael-Pavarotti link is not such an unfeasible musical connection to come up with, but few could have anticipated that the opera star would also hook up with Skunk Anansie. The unlikely paring took place for the track “You’ll Follow Me Down.” Other artists performing at the concert included the Eurythmics, Enrique Iglesias, and Aqua. Money raised from the event will go to children’s charities in Tibet and Cambodia. The Dalai Lama delivered a message of peace for the new millennium.
Organisers expect more than 100,000 visitors for Music Without Frontiers, the official musical event celebrating the Euro 2000 football finale in Rotterdam July 1. With performances by Italian tenor Andrea Boccelli, American soprano Rene Fleming with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, The Corrs, and Lionel Richie, and the Rotterdam harbour as background, Music Without Frontiers promises to be a spectacular show. All artists will perform from a pontoon stage floating in the de Maas river in Rotterdam harbour with the audience on the adjoining boulevard.
Organisers claim that for safety reasons, no more than 100,000 people will be allowed. The event is to be televised live by Dutch broadcaster SBS6 and linked to around 22 European satellite stations, bringing the total viewing audience to more than a million.
Music Without Frontiers is organised by ID&Dtv and Rotterdam-based B-produkties, and is supported by Philips and the City of Rotterdam.
For those who thought that Sweden’s musical talent was best suited to producing melodic pop hits like the Cardigans, Abba or the Wannadies, think again. Swedish hip-hop is becoming a serious business proposition and that’s not just the market for international imports. One of the rising stars of the homegrown Swedish hip-hop scene is Petter, who raps in his own language.
The artist has two albums to his name, the first of which went gold and the second has already gone platinum since being released in November. That means more than 100,000 copies sold in Sweden. But the key to Petter’s success is that he is a strong live act. He played his biggest gig yet at the Grona Lund amusement park in Stockholm on May 30 and at the Liseberg amusement park in Gothenburg May 31.
Ola Broquist of Luger, who promotes and books Petter in Sweden, explained that the hip-hop act has a very broad audience and at the time of going to press, he was confident of drawing a crowd of up to 20,000 for the two big shows. “Petter is the first artist to reach both a hip-hop audience and a mainstream audience without losing his credibility.” Petter has been successfully selling out clubs from around 400 up to 2,000 capacity. “When Petter first came to us three years ago,” said Broquist, “I told him we would have to do this in a punk rock way and tour in exactly the same way as we would tour a new rock act.”
It was an approach that has worked. As well as the two big shows this month, Petter is playing several key festival dates in Scandinavia, including Hultsfred in Sweden and Roskilde in Denmark. But on the back of doing so well at home, can Petter expand to bigger horizons?
Broquist said that he does have export potential to the immediately surrounding Scandinavian countries, where the language difference is not a problem, but added that he is getting interest from other countries, too. As Broquist pointed out, French hip-hop artists can tour Scandinavia, so why can’t a Scandinavian hip-hop artist tour more widely, too? As for the domestic hip-hop scene, it is benefitting from Petter’s success. He has started his own record label, Banan Republiken, with the idea of providing a home for the next wave of Swedish hip-hop talent, just bursting for a breakthrough.
Despite statements by Olympic Minister Michael Knight, Neil Finn has announced in no uncertain terms that Crowded House will NOT perform at the Olympics. Meantime, the closing ceremony October 1 will be beamed globally to 3.5 million viewers and have 7,000 performers.
Ceremony chief Ric Birch said that expatriate Australian celebrities would be flown in. Immediately, the rumour mill started to chuck out names like Nicole Kidman, Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe, Paul Hogan, Kylie Minogue (who is confirmed to perform at the Paralympics opening ceremony), and Savage Garden.
The war of words continues over Taiwanese pop diva Chang Hui-mei (A-Mei), whose advertisements – including a high-profile Sprite ad, music videos and CDs — have been banned in China because of her performance at the inauguration of Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian.
Susie Chiang, a Taiwanese official based in Hong Kong, told local daily Ming Pao that the ban was unjustified and unacceptable. “What’s wrong with A-Mei singing her country’s anthem at her country’s presidential inauguration since she is a singer and a ROC national?” Chiang also stressed that the Beijing ban will only worsen cross-strait tensions.
Beijing authorities, however, appeared to be standing firm on the ban. Government-controlled state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) told the local press it will not tolerate A-Mei “backing Taiwan independence on one hand and currying favour with the mainland on the other.”
Speculation that a concert ban is likely hasn’t deterred the singer, who apparently hasn’t canceled her plans for a concert in Shanghai in August.