Vixen Of The Violin: The Anna Phoebe Column (No. 21)
Been a busy time for our violin heroine. It’s the end of the Roxy Music tour (for now), and she’s back off to Beirut – her fave city. Check out all of Anna’s previous columns.
It’s been a great couple of weeks – Roxy Music finished its run of summer festivals with Bestival down on the Isle of Wight. The festival itself is hilarious – I have never seen so many people in
fancy dress, from the groups of people dressed as Smurfs, to men dressed as He-Man to the countless fairies wearing wings and glitter.
My favourite was the gang of Oompa Lumpahs eating ice cream and dancing to the DJ playing Madonna remixes. Bizarre. Although the show went well, the end was all a bit of an anti-climax as we were carted off back onto the bus to make the last ferry back to the mainland. No
proper farewell drinks or proper goodbyes. The end of a tour is never quite as glamorous as I imagine it should be. You just pack up your stuff, grab your equipment and go – and then section that experience as done and dusted and move onto the next thing. The next gig with them will the UK arena tour starting in January.
In the meantime, I had a lovely lunch with Jon Lord (ex-Deep Purple). What a nice, gentle, intelligent, interesting man! We talked seamlessly for over two hours and decided that we have the same approach to music as each other -albeit his experience and sheer genius far outweighing mine! We’re hopefully going to get together and have a little play with our instruments and see if our Hammond and violin get on as well as we think they might! Watch this space!
It’s Monday morning now and I’m just getting ready to travel to my favourite city in the entire world – Beirut. It’s incredible how ignorant people are about this wonderful place. The most frequently asked questions include: “Do you have to wear a burka when you play?”, and “How on EARTH did you start going there to play music?”.
The answer to the first question is easy – “NO!”. Lebanese women are some of the most sexy and sexual beings on this planet. It is no wonder that Beirut was considered the playboy town of the Middle East - the original Monaco.
The clubs of Beirut are filled with big-boobed and big-lipped women flipping their long brown manes of hair and dancing until dawn in their tight-fitting outfits. In some areas of Beirut you will see women who wear traditional headscarves, and the further south of Lebanon you travel this becomes increasingly more normal, but Beirut itself is one of the biggest westernised party capitals I have EVER been too. The most exotic alcoholic drinks I have ever tasted have been here. It is also the city where I have drunk the most champagne in my life, and also the ONLY city where I’ve managed to miss my flight the next morning because of partying until morning.
The food is delicious: as well as traditional Mezze including grilled fish and meat and my favourite salad in the world – Tabouleh – Beirut has some of the best sushi bars which easily match up to the ones I’ve been to in London and New York.
As for leisure, the possibilities are endless. Of course there are beach resorts all along the coastline just outside of the city, but it is the nightlife which makes Beirut famous. There are rooftop bars in downtown Achrafieh overlooking the big church and big mosque in the centre of the town; there are clubs where you sit in hot tubs overlooking the sea, there are ski resorts where you can ski in the morning and then head down to the beach and sunbathe the same day. At night, you can see the lights of Beirut glittering along the coastline, and then follow your eyes to the top of the mountains where lit up Christian crosses seemingly float in the night sky. It is breathtaking.
Of course, I didn’t know any of this existed before my first visit. Like so many people I speak to about Lebanon (and the Middle East in general), they assume it is constantly at war, that it is dangerous and that it is anti-Western.
Age 22, when a saxophonist saw me play at a jazz jam session and asked if I would be interested in going to Beirut to play alongside DJs in the clubs, I was shocked that a city I assumed was in the middle of a warzone even HAD clubs! She assured me it was safe (even as a young single woman travelling by herself) and that the female agent she used out there to get gigs was absolutely fine. I assumed that because the agent was FEMALE that a) she wouldn’t try and sleep with me, and b) she wouldn’t try and rip me off. Ironically, she did both. Or try, at least. Anyway, I came home unscathed (albeit with less money in my pocket than the agent had made), but with enough business cards and contacts to return without using her again.
I now have a fantastic agent who books me gigs all over the region – Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and the Arab Emirates. I am incredibly lucky to be paid to travel to these places – I have played at some beautiful venues, and to the cream of society. Last week I arrived at Aqaba (in Jordan, on the Red Sea) to be told that I was to perform at Prince Faisal’s wedding (the brother of the King).
Aqaba is a coastal town in the far south of Jordan, founded in 4000 B.C. (No, that is not a misprint!). It is about an hour’s flight from Amman, and as the country’s only seaport it is important for trade and business. As you fly into the airport, all you see around is the red hazy glow of the desert and the dusty red/orange rocks of the mountains. There is no greenery in sight, and no sign of civilisation until suddenly you see the welcome relief of the turquoise sea and the city comes into view. Buildings are either white, or a stone colour which blends perfectly in the sand, broken up by rectangles of blue where all the swimming pools are.
The Royal Family have a palace on the outskirts of Aqaba, which is where the wedding celebrations were held. Security was the tightest I have ever experienced. On arrival, the car was searched with sniffer dogs, our bags were scanned and our passports, mobile phones and cameras were all taken off us until our departure.
The party was held outdoors with stages and platforms built especially onto the private beach. As well as Prince Faisal and his bride, King Abdullah and Queen Rania were in attendance, as were numerous princes and top society from around the world, including Prince of Monaco (who danced non-stop all night). I played tracks from my Rise Of The Warrior and Gypsy CDs and tried not to lose my balance in my new six-inch heels. The guests were all crowding around the dancefloor as I played and I was giggling to myself that I had no idea what the protocol is when playing to Royalty. Am i allowed to make eye contact? Am I allowed to smile? Am I allowed to do a kneeslide across the dancefloor in my short dress? I did all of the above, and hoped I wouldn’t get arrested. The last time I had played for Prince Faisal I caused a minor security alert because I jumped on the table next to him while performing.
Anyway, all went well, and I flew home for the weekend with my passport intact.
Right. An hour to shower and pack before my flight this afternoon. Tomorrow I’ll be performing on the outskirts of Beirut at a Cadillac launch. I’m taking the catsuit with me.
nspiration Track For the Week:
Europe, Girl From Lebanon