Busking at 8,200 ft... (English)
In July 2003 I did a gig in Pennabilli,Italy with a Brazilian circus that highly recommended that I get in touch with the organizer of the Ibero-American Theater Festival of Bogotá, Colombia. After several years of negotiating I was invited to participate in the festival. I didn’t know what to expect at all. I did some research on the internet about Bogotá and the festival itself. All the articles on the internet talked about how dangerous Bogotá is, but I know from experience that if everybody says that a place is dangerous that probably means that you just can’t go around acting like a stupid tourist and you should have a lot of fun. The festival is advertised as the biggest theater festival in the world. Seeing as how I had never heard of it, I didn’t believe it. I was very wrong!
Colombia is considered 3rd world and so I was expecting bad food, bad water, poor sleeping conditions and total confusion among the festival organization. I was wrong on all counts. I was housed in a five star hotel (the best in Bogotá!) and gorged myself on wonderful fresh tropical fruit and Mexican food, (I just happen to have a weakness for Mexican food which can be found everywhere in Bogotá and nowhere here in Italy). The festival was one of the best organized events that I have ever had the pleasure of working with. They weren’t joking about it being the biggest theater festival in the world. There were 2,500 artists and more than 3,000 workers for the 10 day festival which takes place all over the city (which is HUGE!) I had my own interpreter, crew and driver to help me do 3 shows a day in 3 different locations around the city each day. The crowds were absolutely fantastic! I was playing crowds of more than 1,000 people and would sign autographs until they would drag me off to the next gig. My photo made the cover of a magazine called “Plan-B” which functions as the official guide to the festival. This gave me a certain fame even before I arrived.
Bogotá sits at more than 8,200 ft. (2,500 meters) which takes a bit of getting used to for us sea level dwellers. The festival was so well organized that they had oxygen tanks at all the show areas for the artists who were short on breath. I didn’t really notice the altitude until I started playing. I kept on running out of breath and even getting dizzy while I was performing. Rather than stopping my shows to takes a hit off the oxygen tanks, I preferred to just make it part of the act and go on with a light altitude buzz.
Now, about Bogotá being dangerous... well I’m sure it’s a good place to get robbed if you don’t have common sense. There are many desperate people who have lost everything in their villages due to the war that’s been going on for 40 years and have come to the capital city with nothing. Surely anybody in that situation doesn’t have much to loose and might try anything. There were soldiers everywhere and I’m sure that security was extra tight for the festival. But as far as I know, out of the 2,500 artists from all over the world only one got their wallet stolen and I have reason to believe that they were doing something that they shouldn’t have been doing in an area that they shouldn’t have been with people that they had met on the street. That’s not using common sense!
 For anybody traveling to Colombia I highly recommend the Ibro-American Theater Festival! You’ll see many of the best acts in the world all together in one place! Viva la Colombia! Viva the Ibero-American Theater Festival of Bogotá!

Special thanks to Carlos Alberto Carvajal González who was kind enough to send me some of these photos!

©2009 StranieroVision


Tuesday, 26 February 2008