Friday, July 20

Pori jazz festival

Tuesday night at around eleven o’clock at night and I just cannot resist; believe it or not I’m dancing to …"Staying Alive"!!! Not the original by the Bee Gees but a fantastic jazz version of the known disco song by a Latvian jazz band. The place is the Klubi Garden at the Pori Jazz Festival.

For a long time before I moved to Finland every time I asked anything about Finland the answer was mostly connected with Formula 1 and I hate the damn sport if you could ever call it sport. However, nobody, literally nobody, ever told me anything about Finnish jazz. Not that I didn’t know about Scandinavian jazz, since my record collection already included a couple records from the Norwegian Jan Garbarek and Swedes Jan Johansson and Nils Landgren, but as for Finns… none!

The names Antti Sarpila, Jukka Eskola and Eero Koivistoinen meant nothing to me and most likely they mean nothing to you if you live outside Finland and I’m really sorry because if you like jazz because there is absolutely no excuse for not knowing these names. There is one good chance to live in a small Finnish town for fifteen days beside a fantastic river and feel the beat of the jazz music; ladies and gentlemen, only three days remain of this year's Pori Jazz festival and if you have missed it then you have time to organize next year's trip to jazz Finland - it starts on July 12th 2008.

For this year's festival line-up let me give you a list of names: Ziggy Marley, Steely Dan, Elvis Costello, Sly and the Family Stone, Paul Anka, Natalie Cole, Bianca Morales and Blood, Sweat and Tears. This is only the cream because the real coffee is there waiting. Phil Minton plays the trumpet alongside Roger Turner, Ted Curson and many many others. Imagine a whole jazz street beside the river in a country where, at midnight, you can still see the sun, and then at four in the morning sitting by the river with a glass of chilled white wine with eyes closed you allow Eti Carinae to move you with Latin rhythms.

When I said 'jazz street' I meant it literally because for a fortnight a street becomes the center of jazz music, with the Jazz Café, the Voodoo city café, the Klubi and the Klubi Garden and the Teatteri. The ultra music nightclubs become jazz stages and across the river on an island is the Kirjurinluoto Arena, a big stage with dance and magic! In the middle of all that are small tents with ethnic aromas to satisfy the stomach hunger after the soul with selections from Thai rice to Greek feta.

Naturally for some of these events there is an admission fee but there are so many other happenings going on for free that you feel that whatever you paid it was …too little. One evening – well, in Pori eight o’clock in the evening is not exactly evening with the sun burning your back - in the middle of the Jazz street on a stage sponsored by Nova radio and without ticket I saw one of the best progressive jazz performances I have ever seen in my life by a Swedish musician playing trumpet and playing only his compositions, but unfortunately I cannot remember his name.

Another night in a small pub not listed among the jazz clubs and events was a man from Peru with a guitar playing Tanita Tikaram in jazz style and on another night a trio (guitar/bass/violin) from Finland held another pub’s stage for three hours playing the best country I have ever heard outside the USA. On another night a Finn with an electric guitar and Bob Dylan-style harmonica took us all the way back to the '70s with his performance of artists from The Beatles to Led Zeppelin. With those last few examples, I wanted to show you that jazz street not only hosts jazz music but a great deal of good music and fantastic musicians.

I left Antti Sarpila to last because ever since I came to Finland there is no swing music for me without Antti Sarpila. I have all his records, I have seen him dozens of times in Helsinki and every time I watch a gig of his I have real fun and I mean it - I even find myself dancing and for the ones who know me that comes as a …surprise! The man is jazz all the way.

One last thing, when you get to Pori remember that all these nice people who help, all these young boys and girls who make sure that you have good time and do not feel like a foreigner for a minute, are all volunteers and they do this job just from love and joy.

If you want more information just check online at www.porijazz.fi and make sure that you are going to join me next year for the 43rd Pori Jazz Festival. At the moment I’m packing my bag because another fantastic festival starts in Finland …the Savonlinna Opera Festival!

Tuesday, July 3

Greek - Report

Today is the turn of Greece in our new Ovi magazine Euro Reporter section.

Attica’s worst fire in decades

The worst forest fire in more than a decade ravaged some 3,000 hectares of Mount Parnitha, one of the few oases of green in Attica's concrete jungle, as ash rained down on the capital. Meanwhile fires in other parts of the country, many of which had started last Thursday, continued to burn, some threatening homes.

Troops joined hundreds of firefighters in efforts to contain the blaze on Parnitha, which started on Thursday afternoon at Dervenohoria, some 15 kilometres away. Several water-dropping planes spearheaded fire fighting efforts from the air. Light rainfall yesterday evening made the firefighters' job easier.

One of the first questions I have to deal with every time somebody realizes that you are living far away from your country is, what do you miss most. The usual answer is my family, my friends but then most of us go to more personal details or better things that make us feel home when we are in our country. However odd it might sounds for me has always been mountains. I miss maintains living in Finland. For years I had my morning coffee looking the top of Imitos, one of the three mountains that surround Athens.

Reading that one, the highest, the biggest and the most majestic of the mountains that surround Athens is on fire made my heart beat a bit louder. Greece is not exactly the place you find forests everywhere. There are very few anymore and they are very valuable for the people and the environment. Losing them is the last thing anybody would ever want; however it looks like that for one more time people are responsible for the loss of thousands of meters of forest and the total destruction of the nature. One of the last forests, on the sides of mount Parnitha seems to get lost in the name of populated with luxurious houses and mansions. What the governments do? Make pompous announcements in the beginning and then let them built more and more. Instead of carefully guarding the burned places they always come one day to find that whole communities have been build in the place of the burned forest and in the end they are forced to accept the situation and just start …taxing the new houses. The result? More and more opportunist find the chance to …burn some new forests and replace them with new luxurious mansions and of course instead of growing trees to grow more money!

For Ovi magazine the Euro Reporter

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HIV man jailed

A 26-year-old HIV carrier from the island of Rhodes was jailed for 10 years yesterday after being found guilty of knowingly transmitting the virus that can lead to AIDS. A court on the island of Kos heard that the unnamed man transmitted the virus by having unprotected sex with two women even though he knew they might become infected.

Judges found the 26-year-old, who was arrested last year, guilty of intentionally causing grievous bodily harm. The two victims – a 24-year-old woman who lived with the accused and a younger woman who had a brief relationship with him – testified before the court that the man had not told them he was HIV positive before having unprotected sex with them.

However much understanding you might have for the bitterness the 26-year old might carried and his dispirit need for revenge since he obviously got the virus without knowing it, still you cannot accept that he turned his anger against more like him innocent victims. And how can you punish somebody who knows that he has already been punished the worst possible way, to die young!

For Ovi magazine the Euro Reporter

Monday, July 2

Estonia-Report

Today is the turn of Estonia in our new Ovi magazine Euro Reporter section.

Tunnel vision


The mayors of Tallinn and Helsinki want to launch a feasibility study into building an undersea rail tunnel between the two capitals. Edgar Savisaar met with Helsinki Lord Mayor Jussi Pajunen in Finland on June 19 and agreed to launch the feasibility study. The likelihood of the project is doubtful, since the tunnel would need to stretch over 80km. The longest undersea tunnel in the world is the English Channel Tunnel, which runs for over 50km.
The undertaking of such a task is estimated to cost around €2 billion and would be partly funded by the EU, but is the project economically feasible? In May this year the company that built and funded the Channel Tunnel project, and now runs the shuttle services has been in financial difficulties. Some of the attempts at solving the problems have included cutting the number of trains per hour, reducing staff and streamlining the business.

It does not seem possible that a Baltic Sea tunnel could turn a profit or ever regain its construction costs, especially considering that the ferries crossing the Sea of Helsinki are already facing their own financial difficulties after the lowering of tax on alcohol in Finland and offer particularly cheap tickets.

For Ovi magazine the Euro Reporter

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Streamlining foreign workers

The process of bringing foreign workers to Estonia is to be streamlined under a plan to ease the country’s worker shortage. The quota of foreign workers will be doubled to about 1,300 and the bureaucratic paperwork slashed by November under an Economy Ministry proposal. Economy Minister Juhan Parts said the bureaucratic simplifications were an obvious solution to give companies faster access to skilled labour.

Parts has said that it was “unacceptable” that “good qualified brains” were having difficulty entering the Estonian labour market, but that didn't mean that Estonia would be opening their borders to low-skilled workers, especially while there are 380 million available workers within the European Union. However, employers seeking long-term permits for workers will have to commit to paying a salary of at least 1.24 times the average Estonian salary, which currently sits at 9,600 kroons.

The problems will begin once Estonians realise that foreign workers are earning 1.24 times the local wage and this is hardly going to promote good feelings. Estonia is not the only EU country facing this problem, with its neighbour Finland also in a similar position.

For Ovi magazine the Euro Reporter

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A huge LEGO set

A historic London building has been dismantled, packed in crates and shipped to Tallinn for reassembly. The building is known as The Baltic Exchange, a grandiose marble hall that once served as the main centre for trade between Baltic Sea ports and England. It was badly damaged during the 1992 IRA bombings and was removed piece-by-piece from its central London location.

The €1.1 million purchase of the building was made by Estonian businessmen Heiti Haal and Eerik-Niiles Kross, who are now negotiating to find a suitable location for the building in central Tallinn. However impressive this all sounds, much of the building will actually have to be built from new, as only the expensive stone elements were preserved. It is like being a dozen Duplos bricks and then building the remainder with BIONICLE LEGO… well, sort of!

For Ovi magazine the Euro Reporter