Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
I am Changamiré, a Jazz/R&B singer in Washington, DC, USA. This story is about my performance at the 8th Annual Georgian International Festival of the Arts (GIFT), the weekend of June 11, 2004, in the warm and charming city of Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia. I have always wanted to perform abroad, and Tbilisi was the perfect city to first partake of such an endeavor.
Tati was still sleeping when I returned to the room, and I tiptoed around to keep from waking her. She had been so supportive and such a great help that I didn't want to make her feel she had to come to the second performance if she was tired.
About 8:20, Clifton and I went down to the room where we were told to wait before being called to enter the restaurant and perform. Andro came into the waiting room and told us that the show was being delayed because a big shot businessman had not arrived. This performance was for Ambassadors and other V.I.P. types.
Finally, it was show time. Andro motioned us into the large restaurant, filled with applause and an elegant audience. I was wearing a black Elie Tahari gown. We performed a shorter set, starting with "Our Love is Here to Stay" and ending with "The Key" from my CD. We were received well. Then Clifton and Tati, who had awakened and dressed beautifully, surprised me with a bouquet of blue stargazers, and the GIFT committee presented me with a beautiful oil painting titled "Night in Georgia." Afterwards, reporters and fans bombarded Clifton and I. It was thrilling all over again!
While people were surrounding us, I would occasionally glance around the room to marvel at all the activity. Youngsters hovered around the piano getting playing tips from Clifton. We discovered that Keti's husband was an extraordinary classical pianist, and he was among the group surrounding Clifton. Once or twice, I noticed a young man staring at me, and I would smile at him. The exchanges were interrupted by Keti, who would want to introduce me to someone. First, she introduced me to the Armenian Ambassador to Georgia. He was the sweetest man. She also introduced me to a tall, American man. He said he was working on a multi-million dollar project in Georgia. He continued to say that my singing made him realize that life was about more than the money. It was one of the greatest compliments I've ever had. THEN he said, "...and I would like to sponsor you." I couldn't believe it!! After years of looking for sponsorship, here it was approaching me. We parted in agreement to contact each other in the near future.
l. to r. Mrs. Harry Molenaar, wife of the Netherlands Ambassador to Georgia, Changamire, and Keti Dolidze, GIFT Artistic Director
After the crowd had thinned, Keti invited us to her home for tea. Tati had made other plans with her friends, so Clifton and I accepted the invitation. I was leaving the restaurant to go to my room to change when the young man who had been staring asked me shyly for an autograph. He handed me one of my promotional postcards to sign, but I remembered what seemed to be his admiration and decided to autograph an 8 X 10 photo for him instead. His eyes popped open wide when I pulled the picture out of my music folder. It was the only one I had given out in this manner. I asked his name and autographed the picture accordingly. I turned to give it to him and saw his admiring expression turn into one prepared for crying, once he saw it. I immediately left. If he was going to cry over the exchange and/or performance, I didn't want to see it. The idea of it made me sad. I was not unapproachable or some phenomenon. He didn't know me well enough to know that we could have hung out together if I were staying in Tbilisi longer. Looking back, I should have told him this.
One Last Hoorah
After I changed my clothes, I returned to the restaurant to meet Keti and Clifton to go to her house for tea. Her sweet, talented husband was, of course, going with us, as well as two of her friends. This was going to be the first Georgian home we had visited, and even though our flight for Washington was leaving in the morning at 6:50 AM, we wanted to see Keti's home badly.
It was about 10:00 PM. Keti sat in the front passenger seat, and her husband got behind the steering wheel. Clifton and I realized that there was little room in the back seat of the small car for four of us and figured I would sit on his lap. But Keti said, "This is the Georgian way! Everyone squeezes in!" I looked at both of her friends and saw that they were not phased one bit by the situation. It was apparently normal, so we all squeezed in without lapping up.
After driving down several busy streets filled with lively, lit-up restaurants and businesses, we turned down a dimly-lit street, which lead to another, then another. These streets were as quiet as they were dark. Keti's husband finally parked in front of a white building. Its front door opened to a stairwell, and we followed Keti up and up and up. This was some sort of apartment or condo building. I believe we walked up to the fourth floor before entering Keti's home. It was exciting to be in the home of a famous actress. There were huge rooms that were joined together in maze-like fashion. There were boldly-, gold-framed paintings and other works of art on the walls, and there were framed black and white photos of Keti dressed in character, posing glamorously, or with her children when they were all younger. The photos were magical and reminiscent of glamorous American actresses of the 1940's.
We made our way into the dining room where we sat at the table and had tea, jam, and cheese. There was a big soccer tournament going on in Tbilisi, and Keti's twin nephews, who were professional players, were being interviewed on television while we were in her home, of which Keti and her husband were very proud. We talked about their nephews, music, and Clifton and I returning to Tbilisi next year. Then, Keti surprised me with another gift, a beautiful, large silk scarf. She demonstrated how Georgian women wrap their heads with scarves. It looked naturally elegant, once she finished wrapping it on herself. She realized that I may not have gotten the hang of it and said, "...but you Black women are so beautiful, you can wear it any which way."
Clifton and I said our goodbye's to Keti and her husband, while her two friends left with us. We walked past Keti's husband's car and stood on the dark corner to catch a taxi. Amazingly, many taxis passed up and down the quiet connecting streets. Keti's friend said that many people in Tbilisi drive taxis as a means of income. When one finally stopped to pick us up, Keti's friends rode back to the hotel with us. I kissed them both goodbye.
As Clifton and I returned to our rooms, he told me to have Tati call him because they were going salsa dancing again. But when I got to my room, Tati was still out with her friends. She came in around midnight, called Clifton, and told him she would be ready in 15 minutes. I decided to go along. After all, it was our last night in Tbilisi.
We walked across the street from the hotel to the Noa Noa Club, but because of the soccer tournament, there was no one in the place. We asked if there were any other clubs, and he gave us the name of one. We hailed a taxi and asked to be taken there. But we could not find the club and no one had heard of it. We asked the taxi driver for suggestions. He recommended Anjara Hall and a club called The Beatles. I was already familiar with Anjara, because Keti was going to have us perform there. Andro of Shadow Productions convinced Keti to have us perform in a more intimate space, because Anjara was a dance hall.
We asked to be taken to The Beatles. On the way there, the driver said that there are often gay nights at the club, so Tati told him to drive on to Anjara Hall. The driver waited for us in case we didn't like the place. Anjara was a modern, light-colored building and very new looking. It was accentuated with glossy, steel doors and stairs. We paid to get in and walked up the grand staircase into the club. Metal music seemed to be blasting out of the speakers. We sat at a table for 30 seconds, and realized we could not bear the loudness. As we left, Tati asked if we could get our money back, and we did.
Our taxi driver was waiting for us, as promised. We figured we would give The Beatles a shot, so he took us back to the intimate club. I liked the feel of it. There was Beatles memorabilia throughout the place, including individual photos of the fab four. It was not gay night, and our kind of dance music was playing. We stayed and danced until 4:00 AM and caught a taxi home.
Andro was scheduled to pick Clifton and I up at 6:00 AM to take us to the airport. Tati's flight wasn't leaving until 5:00 PM, so she volunteered to stay awake to be able to wake us up at 5:30. She woke me and I showered and dressed. Clifton had stayed awake all morning. I was already packed, and it was a sad time. Tati and I had grown close and our time together was ending. And I was leaving Tbilisi, a lively and thoroughly warm and artistic city. I knew that Bobby McFerrin was arriving the following weekend for Tbilisi's jazz festival and that all kinds of theater, visual art, music, and good food and company would continue after my departure.
I hugged Tati as she vowed to try to get us a performance in Moscow, soon. I left the room and knocked on Clifton's door to go meet Andro in the lobby. Andro was with the driver we had had throughout our visit in Tbilisi. Once we arrived at the airport, I hugged the driver, who had been so unapproachable. He finally smiled.
As Andro walked with Clifton and I through the check-in and security processes, I admitted to him that when I met him in Washington after Keti's Kennedy Center performance, and we talked about me coming to Georgia, I didn't think it was really going to happen. He replied, "And it did."
Changamiré can be reached through her website at www.whensunnygetsblue.com . The multimedia, full-length story about her experience in Tbilisi is also posted there.