TJOE & NTBM | Hong Kong, Peel Fresco

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It’s hard to put into words how impressive and special this weekly jazz night is at this tiny live music venue near the party district around Central. Tjoe Man Cheung is a young jazz guitarist of exceptional skill, who, despite his unassuming demeanour, is clearly an excellent bandleader too. Moreover, he seems to know every dynamite musician in Hong Kong, so his “jam session” ends up being of a ridiculously high standard.

NTBM stands for “Not To Be Missed”, and this is apt. The actual “house band” line-up might be slightly different each Sunday evening, but whoever you get, you can be sure of a few pre-rehearsed tunes of outstanding quality, hovering around contemporary jazz-funk, to suit Tjoe’s guitar.

But the star attraction is the jam. Musician after musician, every audience member who joins the action is unique and phenomenal. There doesn’t appear to be any sheet music, even for the niche and complex numbers: just a quick murmur amongst themselves of the title and the key, and away they go, sounding tighter than a lot of pro bands. How is this possible? You may find a Japanese tap-dancer joins in with an improvised solo worthy of its own Broadway show, or an avant-garde vocalist improvises disquietingly around a classic, or a drummer changes tack and rocks out on a melodica (à la Jacob Collier).

Audience participation is very much encouraged. A couple of singers get up who are not first-rate, but relish the opportunity to perform. Little percussion instruments get passed around. It’s a steal at $100 HKD entry; although this entry fee is waived for latecomers who miss the main show. The bar is outrageously expensive (think $75 HKD for a Diet Coke) but still NTBM.

Check out all the live music at Peel Fresco online.

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TORUK: THE FIRST FLIGHT | London, O2 Arena

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Cirque du Soleil’s 2015 arena spectacular, based on James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), is coming to London. Still the highest-grossing film of all time at $2.8 billion, Avatar is about how, on the planet Pandora, a local tribe of Na’vi become endangered by the expansion of a mining colony. This contemporary circus show is a sort of prequel, set thousands of years before the events of the film.

In Avatar, Jake Sully becomes the sixth person to successfully ride a great leonopteryx, also known as a toruk: any rider is then named Toruk Makto. But who was the first Toruk Makto? Set around 837 BC, the show follows the journey of Entu, the first Na’vi to become a Toruk Makto, in order to save the Tree of Souls from being destroyed by a volcano.

Cirque du Soleil are globally renowned as the greatest circus on earth, and audiences can expect plenty of jaw-dropping acrobatic stunts. However, this differs from most Cirque du Soleil shows in that there is a narrative core. The show also has a large focus on puppetry, animating the wild and diverse creatures of Pandora: viperwolves, direhorses, austrapedes and turtapedes. The leonopteryx/toruk flies using reverse-string puppetry, with the puppeteer beneath the creature.

Toruk also features multimedia audience interaction, where audience members use a mobile app to to influence visual effects and interactive content during the performance. It’s Cirque du Soleil pushing their art to the limits: no wonder this has been such a global hit show for the last four years. Book now!

Take flight with the ancient Na’vi in London for seven performances only, 26 — 30 June 2019.

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