Writing a love song for Batyr09 december 2013, 17:36
If you're a Batyrkhan Shukenov fan, I've got some great news for you: Batyr is moving toward recording an album in English.
That's what he told me when he made a recent visit to Astana to help open the new Prime Grill restaurant in the Eurasian Mall.
I was at the Prime Grill catching his concert because I've been a Batyr fan since I saw him perform in Almaty seven years ago.
I try not to miss his performances in Astana because he's not only an incredible talent but his songs are upbeat, putting me and everyone else in a good mood. And he's a friend.
I was more excited about his Prime Grill concert than I had been about his other concerts, however, because I had a proposition for him.
I didn't know if I'd get a chance to talk with him after the concert – superstars are unbelievably busy, you know – so I wrote my proposal in a letter that I had a friend translate into Russian.
As he was leaving the stage, I rushed up to give him the letter, and he flashed that captivating smile and said: “Come backstage with me.”
And there I explained my proposal, with my Nazarbayev University student Bauyrzhan Aubakir doing the translating.
“I'd like to write a love song for you in English,” I said. “I'm a good poet, so I'm confident I could write some compelling lyrics for you. You could have Kuat put them to music.”
I was referring to his longtime composer and friend, Kuat Shildebaev, who is as nice as Batyr is.
I added: “I've always felt bad I was unable to reach David Foster when you asked me to contact him three years ago.”
Here's where I need to offer up some background: I did the first fulllength feature story about Batyr in English three years ago, for Edge magazine.
He and I liked each other so much during the interview that we became friends. Before our 90minute chat was over, he told me his dream was to make it big in the North American and European music markets with songs in English.
“The man I'd like to help me do this is David Foster,” Batyr said.
Foster – no relation of mine – is the world's most successful popmusic composer.
The Canadian is known as the Hit Man because he writes songs that become smash hits for dozens of stars such as Celine Dion and Whitney Houston.
I knew it would be a daunting task to get close enough to David Foster to give him the word that a superstar singer in the former Soviet Union wanted to do an album with him. But I told Batyr I'd try.
I used to work at the Los Angeles Times, and I asked a Hollywood actor friend of mine to track down the telephone number of Foster's manager.
My friend was unable to get the phone number, but did get the manager's email address.
I was fired up when I wrote the manager the most heartfelt letter I could muster about how talented Batyr is, how much he wants to work with David, and how he's willing to finance the album himself.
I gave the manager a link to Batyr's music so he could judge the man's talent for himself.
Then I sat back and waited for an answer to my email. A couple of weeks went by. Nothing. I wrote the manager two more emails. Again, nothing.
I'm sure I was one of thousands of people trying to get David Foster to do an album with them.
“I'm sorry, my friend, I was unable to reach David,” I had to admit to Batyr.
“No problem,” he replied.
But I felt like I'd let him down.
I also felt like I'd shortchanged millions of American, Canadian and European music lovers who would adore Batyr's mellow voice and upbeat songs.
|This is Hal Foster's favorite Batyr album cover -- the "white album." Photo courtesy of Batyr&Co|
A few days before Batyr's concert at the Prime Grill, I began wondering if there were something else I could do to help him realize his dream of singing in English.
That's when I came up with the idea of offering to write English-language lyrics for a love song for him.
I put a lot of emotion into my poetry, and I was sure I could write a lyrics that would touch listeners' hearts.
The fact that I would be writing the song about a woman I'm in love with would inspire me even more, I told him.
I could see that Batyr was happy with my offer, but I learned during our backstage chat that he had made considerable progress toward doing an album in English.
He is working these days with Grammy Awardwinning British music producer Greg Walsh, he said. And Greg knows David Foster.
“That's fabulous!” I said. “I'll be praying that that collaboration you've wanted with David finally happens.”
Just in case it dead-ends, however, I'm going to write some lovesong lyrics for him.
In fact, I'm going to go even further. I'm going to present Batyr with an entire package – melody and lyrics.
When I told my daughter Angie about my wanting to do lyrics for Batyr, she wrote back that it was a terrific idea.
In fact, her email was so enthusiastic that I asked her cautiously if she'd like to compose a melody to go with my lyrics. You bet, she said.
I use the word “cautiously” because Angie, a singer and composer in Portland, Oregon, has been unable to write a song since the murder of one of her twin baby boys almost three years ago.
I've prodded her gently a couple of times to try to get her back to the love of her life – music – but until now she's been unable to. There was too much pain, she said.
She loves Batyr's music. I sent her a couple of his albums awhile back, and she gushed: “Dad, he's hip.”
The news that she was willing to write a song for him answered a longtime prayer of mine – that Angie would begin composing again as a way of healing.
So she and I will be working together on a song for Batyr.
Batyr is encouraging us. “I'm waiting for your song,” he emailed me after the concert. “Give my regards to your daughter.”
Many musicproject dreams fail to become reality, so I know our love song may never appear in one of Batyr's albums.
But that isn't the point. It's the doing that's important.
It's all about the love you put in to help a friend, the love you put in to help a daughter recover and the love you put into the message to someone you adore.
I can promise you one thing, Batyrkhan Shukenov: The song will be good.
It will contain a lot of emotion – feelings drawn from friendship, from loving a child and from loving a very special woman.
Conveying those feelings in a way that could touch a lot of hearts would be a great joy.
If you're not familiar with Batyr's music, check it out at www.batyr.net.