Greek maestro Yanni enthrals music lovers in Jeddah

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Greek musician Yanni performs at a concert in the King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia on November 30, 2017. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Greek musician Yanni and English cellist Sarah O’Brien perform at a concert in the King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia on November 30, 2017. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 06 December 2017

Greek maestro Yanni enthrals music lovers in Jeddah

JEDDAH: Renowned Greek composer and pianist Yanni enthralled a sell-out crowd at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) on Thursday in a concert held under the supervision of the Saudi General Authority for Entertainment.
Yanni, 63, enjoyed a great reception from fans as he arrived on stage with his 12-piece orchestra.
The show kicked off with a short introductory performance by the trumpet players, with Yanni assisting them on the piano. At the end of this ephemeral piece, Yanni told the crowd, “I am so happy to be in Saudi Arabia. It feels like home… it’s just perfect.”
After the powerful introductory piece, Yanni calmed things with a performance of his popular 1992 track “Felitsa” — composed for his mother — under a bright spotlight, with dim red and blue spotlights falling on orchestra members, accompanied by a sea of smartphones held aloft by the crowd.
While Yanni’s performance included many new compositions, it was the blockbusters the crowd most wanted to hear and he did not disappoint, airing classics including “Nostalgia,” “Marching Season,” and “Standing In Motion” to rapturous applause.
“The Rain Must Fall” was enlivened by the outstanding skills of bassist Gabriel Vivas, while an exquisite rendition of “Nightingale” revealed the phenomenal vocal range of American soprano Lauren Jelencovich.

Perhaps the wildest reception of the night (aside from those afforded Yanni himself), though, was reserved for drummer Charlie Adams’ extended solo — performed with dazzling speed and dexterity — during which he amused the crowd by sipping from his coffee.
Yanni concluded his show with his upbeat composition “The Storm,” which featured a beautiful performance by Armenian violinist Samvel Yervinyan and Lindsay Deutsch, an American violinist. The crowd was noisily appreciative of the awe-inspiring pace at which the musicians performed this intricate piece.
Speaking to Arab News before the show, Yanni’s daughter Krystall Ann, who is travelling with her father, said: “I’m just so happy and thrilled that we can actually be here. It’s been beautiful. I’m excited that we’ll be here a full two weeks, from coast to coast. It’s been lovely so far."
Yanni performed another show in Jeddah on Friday. He will play at the Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University auditorium in Riyadh on Dec. 3-4, and at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran on Dec. 6-7.
For more photos from the concert, click here.


High-end rebrand makes life sweet for Japan’s ‘ice farmers’

Updated 18 August 2019

High-end rebrand makes life sweet for Japan’s ‘ice farmers’

  • Reinventing natural-made ice as a high-end artisanal product has helped revive the ice-farming trade
  • The blocks are sold to some of Tokyo’s high-end shaved ice shops as well as department stores

NIKKO, Japan: In a mountainous area north of Tokyo, a priest blows a conch shell as Yuichiro Yamamoto bows and thanks the nature gods for this year’s “good harvest”: natural ice.
Yamamoto is one of Japan’s few remaining “ice farmers,” eschewing the ease of refrigeration for open-air pools to create a product that is sold to high-end shaved ice shops in trendy Tokyo districts.
His trade had all but disappeared in recent decades, and the shaved ice or kakigori that is popular throughout Japan in summer had been produced with cheap machine-made ice.
But reinventing natural-made ice as a high-end artisanal product has helped revive the sector and save his firm.
“When I started making natural ice, I wondered how I should market it. I thought I needed to transform kakigori,” Yamamoto says at his ice-making field in the town of Nikko, north of Tokyo.
Yamamoto took over a traditional ice-making business 13 years ago in Nikko, where he also runs a leisure park.
At the time, shaved ice cost just ¥200 ($2) in the local area and Yamamoto, who was fascinated by traditional ice-making, knew he couldn’t make ends meet.
“My predecessor used to sell ice at the same price as the fridge-made one, which can be manufactured easily anytime throughout the year,” the 68-year-old says.
The situation made it “impossible” to compete he explains, as producing natural ice is labor intensive.
Instead he decided to transform cheap kakigori into a luxury dessert, made with his natural ice and high-grade fruit puree rather than artificially flavored syrup.
After months of research, he began producing his own small batches of artisanal kakigori.
“I put the price tag at ¥800 for a bowl of kakigori. I also priced the ice at ¥9,000 per case, which is six times more than my predecessor,” he says.
At first, there were days he threw away tons of ice because he could not find clients.
But one day buyers from the prestigious Mitsukoshi department store discovered his product, and began stocking it, turning around his fortunes.
Kakigori dates back to the Heian Period (794-1185) when aristocratic court culture flourished in the then-capital of Kyoto.
It was a rare delicacy reserved for the rich, with the ice naturally made and stored in mountainside holes covered with silver sheets.
It was only after 1883, when the first ice-making factory was built in Tokyo, that ordinary people could taste the dessert.
With the development of ice-making machines, the number of traditional ice makers dropped to fewer than 10 nationwide.
The story is one familiar to many traditional Japanese crafts and foodstuffs — with expensive and labor-intensive products losing ground as cheaper, machine-driven versions become available.
And making ice naturally is a grueling task.
The season begins in the autumn when workers prepare a swimming-pool-like pit by cultivating the soil and pouring in spring water.
Thin frozen initial layers are scraped away along with dirt and fallen leaves.
The ice-making begins in earnest in the winter, when water is poured in to freeze solid, but it must be carefully protected. Producers regularly scrape off snow that can slow the freezing process.
“I once spent 16 hours non-stop removing snow,” Yamamoto recalls.
And rain too can ruin the product, causing cracks that mean the whole batch has to be discarded.
“I check the weather forecast 10 times a day,” Yamamoto laughs.
Once the ice is 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) thick, which takes at least two weeks, workers begin cutting out rectangular blocks.
Each block, which weighs about 40 kilograms (88 pounds), is glided into an ice room filled with sawdust on a long bamboo slide.
The blocks are sold to some of Tokyo’s high-end shaved ice shops as well as department stores.
In the Yanaka district, more than 1,000 people queue up every day for a taste of kakigori made with natural ice produced by another ice-maker from Nikko.
Owner Koji Morinishi says the naturally made ice has a texture that is different from machine-made products.
“It feels very different when you shave it. It’s harder because it’s frozen over a long period of time,” explains Morinishi.
“It’s easier to shave really thin if the ice is hard. If not hard, it dissolves too quickly.”
Morinishi himself struggled when he first opened the kakigori shop, but has gradually built a cult following for his desserts topped with purees of mango, watermelon, peach or other fruit.
And Yamamoto’s firm has seen demand soar — he now harvests 160 tons a year and knows two new producers who have entered the market.
He says: “This business has become attractive and the ice makers are all busy.”