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  • Singing for his supper in London

    Posted On October 26, 1999

    By Karan Thapar

    As you will shortly discover I am in London. My visit has coincided with that of the Chinese President. His has been more ceremonial but mine has been more enjoyable. Yet there is one area where he has excelled me. He has sung for his supper and, judging by the press, rather effectively to boot.

    At the formal return banquet which JIANG ZEMIN hosted for the British Queen he first sang solo but later, no doubt encouraged by the applause, he sang a duet with the Speaker of the House of Commons.  The first was a traditional Chinese ditty.  The accompanied piece was the 1930s Broadway number `Our hearts were
    young and gay’.

    That wasn’t all.  As the assembled guests cheered him on President Zemin took to the microphones for a third time with a song from the Beijing Opera.   By all accounts it was quite a stand-up performance.

    Yet it wasn’t London or the Queen’s company that brought music to the Chinese President’s lips.  This is the sort of thing he tends to do at formal parties.  Last year in Kazakhastan he both sang and played the piano.  In the Philippines he joined a string quartet at the MALACANANG PALACE.  Later, on board former President Ramos’s yatcht, he belted out a medley of Elvis Presley hits including `Love me Tender’.  No doubt many did.

    I wonder if he sang at Rashtrapati Bhavan in 1996? if he did, do the guests recall what it was?  If he didn’t, will any one now ask why not?  And what about our own Mr. Vajpayee – will he take a song out of the Chinese President’s book the next time he wines and dines a visiting head of State?

    The music of the Ritz

    In fact, music is in the air in London at the moment.  `Mamma Mia’, the Abba Musical, is the biggest hit in the West End whilst the re-opening of the Opera House at Covent Garden has the cognascenti flocking to hear PLACIDO DOMENGO.  However, my taste of music was not just different and less elevated but also quite fortuitous.

    I was lunching with an old friend from Pakistan at The Ritz when I suddenly began to listen to the tune being played out on the piano in the foyer.

    Now the Ritz is...well, its ritzy.  That’s where the word comes from.  People dress their best to visit and it certainly isn’t cheap.  The song I had identified was not one of the usual numbers you would expect to hear.

    It was `yeh dilagi’  from the less than memorable Kajol and Saif Ali Khan film.  On the piano, without the words to distract you, the tune is quite a rollicking number.  Within minutes the other diners had heard it too and then, slowly but quite visibly, their feet or their fingers started to tap out the tune.

    When I asked the Major D’omo who was playing he smiled knowingly and replied:

    “The piannist is Italian Sir but not the tune.  That’s an Indian number.  Its a favourite of the hotel”.

    The BBC, dinosaurs  and your child

    The BBC has scored again.  Once again one of their televison programmes is topping the charts.  This time its an unlikely series of six on dinosaurs.  Made at an incredible cost of a million pounds per half hour its a speculative study of dinosaurs and the world they inhabited tens of thousands of years ago.  The dinosaurs, done with animation, are reputed to be better than Jurassic Park.

    Of course, we won’t get to see it for several more years.  Only after the fee paying channels have exhausted the rights they are presently scrumbling to buy will we, who are dependant on BBC World, catch up with the series. But I am  sure you will be reading about it soon so let me atleast give you the name.  Its called `Walking with Dinosaurs’.

    And if you have little children and are agonising over what to give them for christmas then let me also tell you what your clever British equivalents are

    planning. Following the success of the series the most sought after gift is a baby dinosaur.  Admitedly they are gormless creatures but after FURBIES last year and TELETUBBIES the year before they are a lot cheaper.

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