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The 23rd UK Asian Film Festival concludes with the world premiere of The Beatles and India. The 11-day event has showcased full-length features, short films and documentaries, screened nationwide and online. Focusing on emerging talent from South Asia, UKAFF is produced by non-profit organisation Tongues on Fire, and involves a small and dedicated team.

Tributes are paid to actors and artists recently passed, followed by a celebration of one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Satyajit Ray, marking 100 years since his birth. An award ceremony accompanies the honours, in which The Beatles and India wins audience award for best film and musical score. Directed by Ajay Bose and Peter Compton, it is a gem for Beatles fans, with thousands of hours of archive and unseen footage exploring India’s impact on the band that defined a generation. A montage of vintage films with clips of the group travelling, amongst screaming fans, depicts the frenzy that followed the Liverpudlians across the globe.

The country was a major inspiration for guitarist George Harrison, in its classical music, arriving in Delhi for the first time in July 1966, the group’s new musical route inspired thousands of fans to purchase sitars and tablas, which were “selling like hot cakes”. Through mutual friends, Harrison was introduced to eminent musician and sitar virtuoso, Ravi Shankar, eventually becoming his disciple. The British pop star not only loved Indian music, but was captivated by the country’s culture, which heavily influenced The White Album.

They met guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – at a seminar in Wales – who is praised for developing the Transcendental Meditation method. Mahesh’s followers were increasing rapidly at the time, and the musicians were attracted by the spiritual leader’s teachings, later visiting Rishikesh, nicknamed a “gateway to the Himalayas”.

Directors Bose and Compton state in the interview afterwards that their background is in music, not film – though this is what makes the documentary fascinating and adds such a spark. With meetings from artists inspired by The Beatles to an off-screen conversation from Harrison’s ex-wife, Pattie Boyd, these key accounts shape the production.

The UK Asian Film Festival was on from 26th May until 6th June 2021.



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Author Craig Brown will step back in time to discuss his award-winning book marking 50 years of the breakup of The Beatles during an online event hosted by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) for Essex Book Festival.

Brown will talk to the BBC’s Tony Fisher about his work, 1 2 3 4: The Beatles In Time, an odyssey of the band’s days from The Cavern Club to the Port of Harwich where they set sail for Hamburg to play ninety-two days consecutively without a break, to 1o April 1970 – the day Paul McCartney issued a press statement stating he was to go his own way.

“1-2-3-4 The Beatles in Time”, a kaleidoscopic mix of party lists, diaries, autobiography, anecdotes, diaries and fan letters, 1 2 3 4 not only captures the inner world of The Beatles, but also the wider world of the era: The Swinging Sixties, the Women’s Lib Movement, Mary Quant’s mini-skirts and Audrey Hepburn’s iconic beehive, plus the explosion of new writers, artists, musicians, including the likes of Andy Warhol, Alan Sillitoe and The Kinks.

It also provides tantalising insights into others who played a pivotal part in The Beatles story, such as John Lennon’s Aunt Mimi, his father Fred Lennon, The Maharishi, Yoko Ono, Brian Epstein, Phil Spector, and Mohammad Ali.

The book “1-2-3-4 The Beatles in Time” won the Baillie Gifford Award 2020, and was named a book of the year by The Spectator, the Sunday Times and the Telegraph.

Laura Scarle, Public Engagement Officer at ARU, said:
“We’re delighted to be teaming up once again with the Essex Book Festival this year and this event promises to be a real treat for those of us for whom The Beatles represents something special in our lives.”



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Koh Hasebe was unfamiliar with the subject matter of an assignment in 1965 that led to his 40-plus-year career as perhaps Japan’s most prolific photographer of rock ’n’ roll royalty.

“At the time, I didn’t know who the Beatles were,” he recalled.

Through that assignment, Hasebe became the first Japanese photographer to capture the Fab Four. He is also known for taking the most pictures of another legendary British group, Queen.

Hasebe, 91, published the culmination of his life’s work, “Rock the Best,” in April. It features more than 540 photos of 239 musicians and groups handpicked from his pictures taken between 1953 and 1997.

They include Louis Armstrong, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Jon Bon Jovi, Kiss and U2.

In 1965, Shoichi Kusano, president of the predecessor of Shinko Music Entertainment Co., asked Hasebe to take photos of the Beatles. Hasebe had relocated to Paris to avoid the hustle-and-bustle of the Tokyo Olympics the previous year.

He had worked as a photographer mainly for a film magazine to take pictures of famous faces. But he decided to leave Japan when the industry started to decline after television broadcasting began.

Not knowing who the Beatles were, Hasebe watched “A Hard Day’s Night,” the first film starring the band, at a Paris cinema. He couldn’t hear the dialogue because of all the shouting and screeching from the audience. But he realized just how popular the band was.

Hasebe took their photos at a studio in London on June 15 that year.

“I think they had never seen Japanese people before,” he said.

The band members looked curiously at the kimono of a female editor who accompanied Hasebe on the photo shoot.

They asked her what she would put inside the sleeve pouch and whether she was feeling squeezed by such a broad “obi” belt.

When artists were making music, Hasebe ensured he took photos without them noticing him. He stood at a distance and used a telephoto lens so that they wouldn’t even hear the shutter sound.

He approached his subjects only when they were on a break.

Hasebe said the self-made rules he had followed when he took photos of Japanese movie stars helped him in music industry assignments.

After Hasebe returned to Japan, he started working exclusively for Music Life magazine, published by Shinko Music.

He took more photos of the Beatles when they were on a U.S. tour and when they performed in Japan.

One of his photos taken at a Tokyo hotel in 1966 shows John Lennon imitating the well-known pose of a character from a 1960s comedy manga.

When Lennon asked what was popular among children in Japan, Rumiko Hoshika, then editor-in-chief of Music Life, showed him the antic.

“John was still childlike at the time,” Hasebe said.

During the Beatles’ concerts in Japan, Hasebe stayed in a hotel room just one floor below theirs for more than a week, waiting for photo opportunities.
“If your job is to take photos of stars, you must wait,” he said.

He started taking photos of Queen when they toured Japan for the first time in 1975. The cover photo for the band’s “Live Killers” album was shot by Hasebe.

The photographer has never asked his subjects to “smile” or make facial expressions for his photos, although he sometimes requested that they take a step back when they started relaxing after several photos were taken.

“No musician can be free from feeling the presence of the camera,” Hasebe said. “But they will look natural with the slightest of opportunities. You can never take good photos if you miss that chance.”



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March 2021 was a big month for Ringo Starr. On the 14th, the former Beatles drummer turned up at the Grammys to present Billie Eilish with the award for Record of the Year. The following week, Ringo (now 80) released his Zoom In EP containing five new tracks.

During his round of virtual interviews to promote Zoom In, Ringo sounded energized by his new record. And, as usual, he was game to talk about the legacy of the Fab Four. That included weighing in on “Here Comes the Sun,” which stands as the most-streamed Beatles song.

Speaking to Alan Light of Esquire, Ringo said he didn’t know the George Harrison-penned track was No. 1 in the streaming category. But once he thought about it, it didn’t surprise Ringo at all.

Ringo couldn’t say exactly why “Here Comes the Sun” has been the Beatles’ most popular tune on streaming services, but he heartily endorsed the concept. “It well deserves it,” he told. “It’s a beautiful song, it’s a beautiful arrangement, the drums are great (laughs).”

On the subject of his drum part, Ringo revisited a story he’s told before — how he managed to back George on the song. “George said, ‘Hey, Ringo, I’ve got this song, it’s in 7/4 time.’” he recalled in Esquire. “I said, ‘What are you telling me for? I’m 4/4 or 3/4 [time], you know that.’ He had gotten a bit Indian on me.”

In the Martin Scorsese documentary Living in the Material World (2011), Ringo recalled that struggle with the timing on “Here Comes the Sun.” “I had no way of going, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7,” Ringo said. “It’s not my brain.” But he found a way to keep coming in on time.

Over half a century later, that recording is still resonating with listeners. On streaming platforms, “Here Comes the Sun” had logged over 600 million streams at the close of March ’21. No other Beatles track had topped 400 million to that point.

Only 3 Beatles played on ‘Here Comes the Sun’
Not every Beatles song featured participation from every member of the band. Paul McCartney recorded a number of White Album (1968) tracks (including “Wild Honey Pie” and “Mother Nature’s Son”) without his bandmates.

That trend continued — albeit on a less extreme level — on 1969’s Abbey Road, the last album The Beatles recorded. John Lennon arrived late to the sessions after he and Yoko Ono had gotten into a car crash during their summer vacation. And John didn’t play (or even clap) on “Here Comes the Sun.”

But the fab three of George, Paul, and Ringo got down an excellent basic track. George kept going with more guitar lines, a Moog synthesizer part, and orchestration. All these years later, it’s still a spring anthem.



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Chicago Building in Liverpool city centre was where John Lennon bough his first guitar and now architects ArchiPhonic are to start work on a residential conversion.
Architects at ArchiPhonic are to start work on the interior design of Liverpool city centre building that is part of local music folklore and is being converted into apartments.

In February, city planners gave the go-head for the conversion of the Chicago Building in Whitechapel into 24 apartments. From 1934 to 1995 it housed Hessy’s music store where Beatle John Lennon bought his first guitar.

John went to the shop in the 1950s when he was trying to form a band with fellow art student and early Beatles member, Stuart Sutcliffe. He persuaded his Aunt Mimi to buy him a guitar. He would later recall that as they walked out of the store with the instrument, Aunt Mimi turned to him and said: “You might have the guitar, but you’ll never make a living out of it.”

Liverpool-based ArchiPhonic has been instructed to complete the interior design phase of the Chicago Building renovation which will see conversion of the upper floors into five studio, 12 one-bedroom and seven two-bedroom apartments across four floors, all located around an existing atrium.

After working with the Liverpool-based architectural design practice on the 17,000 sq ft scheme’s earlier phase, property owner Sara and Hossein Asset Holdings invited the team back to complete interior design proposals for the building which is close to Matthew Street. Holland & Barrett and Wong’s Jewellers on the ground floor will be unaffected by the project.

Strip-out is set to begin and the team will be working with project managers and cost consultants LXA, who will be managing the project. Architect Harriet Powell-Hall from ArchiPhonic, said: “As the strip-out begins we’ll be able to get to the bones of the building and understand it on a deeper level, which will inform our interior design proposals.
“Our intention is to work with the fabric of the building – the steel beams and exposed brick – and enhance what is there, to create a positive experience for future residents, offering a bigger mix of unit types, better circulation and far more natural light.

“We will also seek to identify ways to maintain and reference its musical heritage and its connections to the wider history of the city.”

Work on the building will be predominantly internal, with the facade being retained to maintain the building’s heritage and preserve the area’s character and appearance.



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THE closing night film of this year’s UK Asian Film Festival is a world premiere of The Beatles And India on June 6.

Drawing on a rich seam of archive and interviews, the fascinating documentary explores the close connection legendary pop super group The Beatles shared with India and the impact it made on their music. The film is inspired by the book Across the Universe: The Beatles in India, which was published by Penguin Random House to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the band’s trip to Rishikesh. The book’s author Ajoy Bose has directed the documentary and is delighted it was selected for this year’s UK Asian Film Festival, describing it as an ideal launch for a movie that celebrates the cultural bridge between the West and the East, more than half a century ago by the most famous rock band.

“The book got widespread critical acclaim because it was perhaps the only attempt to comprehensively examine the role India played in shaping the evolution of The Beatles, from the most famous pop icons into pioneering musical artists with a social message that
swept the world. At the same time, the band brought two vastly different cultures closer and in many ways drew the curtain on the past ugly history of colonial exploitation and prejudice,” explained Ajoy Bose.

The unique audio-visual presentation uses rarely seen and heard footage, recordings and photographs, eye-witness accounts and expert comments, along with location shoots across India. “It has been a joy to work with British Indian music entrepreneur Reynold D’Silva, who some years ago had traced the influences that went into the making of the world’s first concept album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and my codirector, the gifted cultural researcher Pete Compton, and a dedicated production department.”

The biggest challenge of making the movie was finding rare footage, audio recordings and photographs to make the main characters in the film come alive. It was also challenging to find those involved in The Beatles India story more than half a century later. “I am so glad that we managed to find a variety of eye-witness accounts.”

Not surprisingly, the writer-director has many favourite moments in the movie and particularly likes the eyewitness accounts of George Harrison’s wife Pattie’s birthday celebrations in the spring of 1968 at the Maharishi’s ashram in Rishikesh, standing exactly in the same place they did more than 50 years ago. “These evocative reminiscences of Nick Nugent, then a visiting young English teacher, and Ajit Singh, musician and music shop owner who befriended George and John (Lennon), are both unique. They also represent the kind of meticulous research and hard work that has gone into putting the film together.”

With The Beatles connecting with different generations since they became the biggest band in the world in the 1960s and continuing to be popular, he is confident the film will appeal to all ages. He said: “In fact, our interviews with young Indian musicians, most of whom were born after The Beatles broke up as band, show in the film that there is a very emotional appeal for the band of the past century, which is so contemporary.”

why we should watch The Beatles And India at the UK Asian Film Festival?

“The Beatles have a very loyal audience across the world and certainly in the United Kingdom where they belonged. This film also deals with the special India connection of the band, which has been mentioned in passing but never really expounded in a film. That itself should cause considerable interest. And finally, at a time when the world is still being ravaged by a deadly virus, a film about The Beatles does provide romance, hope and joy amidst so much gloom, doom and hysteria.” He said.