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'Goa jam session can help resolve India-Russia ties'

Posted on Feb 18 2014 | IANS

Panaji, Feb 18 : A few weeks after a conflict between Russian and Goan officials over a music concert, organisers of a new India-Russia musical initiative say they could just help string together a few notes of peace.

The local Russian Information Centre (RIC), organiser of the "Goa.Peace.Jam", believes that a jam session with Indian and Russian musicians every week could be the balm that soothes the recent tensions between tourists and the host community.

"Music and dance are unique and universal languages easy to understand for different people. We believe that in today's world with violence and conflicts, emerging often because of political reasons, it is very important to turn to common people.

"Politicians keep changing, conflicts emerge and cool down, but people stay," said Ekaterina Belyakova, who heads the information centre.

"International jam sessions in Goa aim to strengthen friendly relations between people of different countries, nationalities and cultures," she said.

Conflicts between Russian tourists and locals over the last couple of years and a string of events in the last few weeks have created a sense of hostility between the locals and the tourists.

But the bitterness plunged to a never before depth after a clash between taxi drivers and tour bus operators ferrying Russian tourists.

A day after the clash, the Goa tourism ministry denied permission to an India-Russia music concert, which forced a Russian diplomat to warn that the decision could precipitate a diplomatic crisis between New Delhi and Moscow.

The new musical experiment is expected to end this standoff.

A pilot jam session was held Feb 13 featuring Goa musicians Shayne Ballantyne on electric guitar and Bosco D'Souza on drums. They shared the stage with Russian musicians Janna Fadeeva (vocals) and Philipp Mescheryakov (bass guitar).

But the Feb 20 gig at the Jam Point restaurant in the beach village of Calangute, which is popular with Russian tourists, promises an interesting audience.

The gig is expected to be attended by tourists, taxi drivers, tour operators as well as politicians.

"We would like to preserve this unique atmosphere of freedom, peace and positiveness. This atmosphere is one of the main treasures of Goa for both residents and tourists, for anyone who loves Goa. This is the cultural treasure that we must protect," Belyakova said.

Russian tourists top the list of foreign visitors to Goa. They comprise a bulk of the half a million foreigners who land here annually.

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