Beatlemania in Kazakhstan as country hosts first Beatles festival

Aug 31. Daily Telegraph

By Richard Orange in Almaty

Beatlemania in Kazakhstan as country hosts first Beatles festivalMore than 2,000 people gathered in Kazakhstan’s largest city to inaugurate the country’s first Beatles festival.

David Moran, the British Ambassador, took to the stage in Almaty on Monday night for a solo performance of “In My Life” on piano, as both new rock groups and veterans from the 1970s made their way though the Beatles catalogue.

The festival, which took place on the country’s Constitution Day bank holiday on a stage backed by symbols of Kazakh nationhood, reflects a genuine affection for the music in the Central Asian former Soviet republic.

“You have to go back to the significance of the Beatles in Soviet times,” said Mr Moran. “They were huge here. I was studying up in Leningrad at the time and they had a universal appeal: they weren’t considered too risque by the Soviet officials.”

Timur Tezekbayev, the bassist for Ulitsa Gogolya, a Kazakh rock band from the early 1970s which reunited for the event, said: “They didn’t understand what the Beatles were; they thought it was just music, but it turned out to be more than music because it awakened the young people. It changed their minds.”

Rinat Shayakhmetov, who claims to be Kazakhstan’s biggest Beatles fan, three years ago won his seven-year campaign to have a Beatles monument built on Kok Tobe, the city’s hilltop amusement park, an idea he had after visiting Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial in New York’s Central Park.

In November, the festival’s organiser, environmental campaigner Mels Yeleusizov, hopes to succeed in his campaign to name a new tree-lined street in the city after John Lennon.