Beatles Lovers in Almaty sing Band's Songs
By Anar Kuanyshbekova
A first-of-its-kind festival of Beatles songs took place August 31 in front of the Kazakh-British Technical University. Politicians, public figures and entertainers performed 26 songs to honor the band that formed 50 years ago.
The festival organisers also sought to draw attention to the environmental problems afflicting the Aral Sea, Balkhash Lake and the Yertis, Ili, Nuri rivers and to Kazakhstan's encroaching desertification.
"When we were under 15, there were some clever kids who made recordings of Beatles songs on X-ray film," recalled Mels Yeleusizov, 60, director of the Tabigat environmental union and festival founder. "Back then it was difficult to get even unused X-ray film, so we listened to the Beatles on images of bones."
On August 31, fans could perform, not just listen, to the songs.
In the 1960s, albums by the Beatles, Deep Purple and Scorpions commanded up to 100 rubles each on the Almaty black market. At the time, an Almaty engineer earned 120 rubles a month.
Alimzhan Akbarov, lead vocalist for the Ulan rock group, even remembered the name of the radio broadcast from which he taped Western artists' songs on a reel-to-reel recorder. "The quality was hideous," he said, "but we had excellent hearing, so we learned and played Beatles’ songs from the program 'On All Frequencies.' It was broadcast on Sundays by the Mayak radio station."
Some enjoyed great success in cultivating connections in the record-selling business in Almaty.
"One girl from our group started dating a guy whose uncle worked in a record warehouse," remembered Auen Kereibayev, 40, leader of the Dostar band. "At that time, the albums of Western artists didn't reach the stores. We bought for 5 rubles Beatles albums that were priced at 1 ruble 50 kopecks."
To this day, Kereibayev cherishes his LPs of the Beatles' "White Album," "A Hard Day's Night," "A Taste of Honey," "Let It Be" and "Abbey Road."
Fashion designer Kuralai Nurkadilova first heard the Beatles’ songs when the leader of a neighbourhood musical group sang them, but she didn't immediately like the music. She fell in love with the Beatles in 1986 when an English-language teacher taught her to sing "Yesterday."
Members of younger generations tend to know no more than two or three Beatles songs. But 26-year-old Daniyar was infected by his father's love for the Beatles. People his age aren't well acquainted with the band's music, he said. "About 3,000 people have gathered here, but as far as I can see, only 10% of them know the Beatles."
Nonetheless, the festival-goers sang along with the performers, reading the lyrics on a big screen, according to CentralAsiaOnline.com.