The adage about there being no such thing as bad publicity was certainly put to the test by the release of the film Borat
. It's not that Sacha Baron Cohen had it in for Kazakhstan -- it's just that most Brits and Americans couldn't find the nation on a map, identify its flag, or name its national pastimes (disco dancing, archery, rape, and table tennis according to Borat
Kazakh apparatchiks initially outraged by the film are now claiming the movie was a blessing in disguise: Now Americans are heading to Kazakhstan in droves to check on the film's "many inaccuracies."
Uh, sure. But here's what we do know: When a PR firm sent us an e-mail announcing a band of young Kazakh musicians would be touring the Bay Area this week
, you damn well bet I made several phone calls to ascertain if this was the real deal. So, unless the Kazakh Embassy's Web site is an elaborate ruse
and the young and earnest-sounding PR agent I called is actually an actor -- it's the real deal.
Josh Heath works for Policy Impact in Washington, D.C. Clients of the PR firm include Arizona State University, the Dance Theater of Harlem, and, yes, the nation of Kazakhstan.
He's not sure how old the players are in the Kazakh National Youth Symphony are -- but they will be in Berkeley tomorrow night. And they must be good, because you can't be mediocre and play Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 (you know this one; all of you who went out and bought Rock III because it was featured in Shine probably found Rock II on the same CD).
There'll also be a traditional Kazakh folk music group called Turan (they're the snappy dressers pictured above who appear to have walked directly out of a Conan film). But no archery or table tennis. Or anything else.