Bishkek sure loves its neon.

Rock Bar Zeppelin in Bishkek

Published: February 17, 2014

Рок-Бар Цеппелин/ Rock Bar Zeppelin
43 пр. Чуй
doors open usually 2-3 hours before set starts,
in my case 8:30, and go on until set is finished
entrance fee less than $5

I will start  by saying that if I had to guess places on earth that I would most likely see a Bob Marley cover band, giving one of the greatest live music performances that I have ever seen in my entire life, that Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan would probably not be high on the list. Let me just say, though, that I would be very wrong to assume that such an event wouldn’t take place in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan, because that is how I spent last Thursday night.

Bishkek definitely has that "Cyberpunk" feel, a la a Philip K. Dick novel sometimes
Bishkek has that “Cyberpunk” feel, a la Philip K. Dick.

I always considered myself a rock and roller, and I can honestly say the stuff runs in my veins, so it only made sense that I would come into contact with rock and roll at some point on my journey in Central Asia. As luck would have it, one of my friends from my SRAS study abroad program, who has already spent several months in country, and knows all the good spots, invited me to hang out one night at a rock and roll joint that he frequents called “Рок-Бар Цеппелин” (Rock Bar Zeppelin).

He told me that it was going to be an event honoring Bob Marley’s birthday (February 6th) and that there was going to be a Bob Marley cover band playing. I liked this idea, of a Kyrgyz Bob Marley cover band in a rock and roll bar in Bishkek. We agreed to meet at the bar at 8:30.

I hopped a cab, which came out to about 150 som ($2.97) to get from The London School to the bar. It wasn’t too far, and by the time I got there I saw the large neon lights for the place. On the outside it looked a little desolate and for a second I thought I might have not been in the right place. I approached the entrance and was greeted by a bouncer. After getting the customary pat down to make sure I didn’t have anything I shouldn’t have, I was cleared to enter.

пиво makes the world go 'round
Пиво makes the world go ’round.

The entrance fee tonight was 200 som ($3.96), and that also got you one beer and a bowl of potato chips. I entered a pretty empty bar. I thought maybe it was going to be cancelled, but people started funneling in soon after me. I got myself a Балтика (Baltica) beer (which is the pervasive, omnipresent brand in the post-Soviet space) and my bowl of chips and found a table to sit at and wait for my friend. The interior looked like a generic rock club. There were a lot of pictures and posters on the wall of different bands and artists, both American and Russian alike. I thought it was pretty cool to see Виктор Цой (Victor Tsoi) next to KISS.

My buddy showed up, and we had a few beers and relaxed and shot the breeze. One Балтика goes for 140 som ($2.77). We sat and relaxed for about an hour and a half while more and more people trickled in, but no band yet. We half expected the band to no show. As great of a story as it would have been, being stood up by a Kyrgyz Bob Marley cover band in Bishkek, that wasn’t what was in the cards for us tonight.

I thought they stood me up at first...
I thought they stood me up at first…

The band eventually showed up and announced their name: “Сафари” (Safari). Then they started their set. I admit that I wasn’t expecting much, so I foolishly put these guys in my blind spot, but oh boy… once they started playing. These guys tore it up. Not only were the band members each shredding on their own instruments, but the front man sang beautifully (in Russian, of course) while busting out on the rhythm guitar too. My knowledge of Bob Marley’s work is pretty limited. I only really know a few songs, and they are all the ones that everyone pretty much knows (Jammin’, Buffalo Soldier, Three Little Birds, No Girl No Cry). Yet these guys made me really like Bob Marley… or so I thought. Later that night when I got home I listened to the originals. I was actually a little underwhelmed by Bob Marley in comparison to Сафари. Heck… did Сафари do Bob Marley better than Bob Marley? We stayed for about 45 minutes, then decided we were going to head off to satisfy our hunger. Conveniently the bar was right next to a pizza joint. I like the Bishkek Rock and Roll scene. Awesome Russian covers of great music with good, cheep beer next to pizza joints. What’s not to love??

The guys are killin' it up there.
The guys are killin’ it up there.

About the author

Nick Cappuccino

Nick Cappuccino is currently a junior at CUNY Hunter College in New York City, majoring in Russian language, and double minoring in Geography and German language. Nick has also been studying Persian Farsi for the past two years with instructors from New York City’s ABC language exchange, and Turkish for one year with instructors from New York City’s Ataturk School at the United Nations. He has also studied Russian language at Indiana University’s SWSEEL summer language workshop. Nick is doing his semester abroad with SRAS in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan, where he is studying Russian and Tajik with a Charles Braver Grant.

Program attended: Challenge Grants: Funding for Study Abroad

View all posts by: Nick Cappuccino

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