My new show will be a reality TV show about me becoming a singer/artist in Chechnya. There is a new rule that all singers must perform live on stage. Previously everyone was lip synching – so this will be interesting.

Kristall

Kristall

I’ll be working with Aimani Aidamirova, Tamara Dadasheva and many others. I have to admit, I’m nervous about this show because it’s going to be difficult to learn so many songs, dances, movements and I must take acting classes. The reason for the acting classes are because I have NO facial expressions when I am performing – lol. It is tragic.

Today I will pick up a song from Islam Ahmedov – he has so many hits – I’m excited to work with him.

Ислам Ахмедов (Islam Ahmedov)

He did this for for Tamilla Sagaipova:

He is also in the group “Grozny” ( Гр.Грозный )

Гр.Грозный ("Grozny")

>"Chechnya Through My Eyes"

>Hello everyone, my vacation is officially over.
I have a new program on Grozny TV called, “Chechnya Through My Eyes”. It airs tonight.

There is a new segment called – Road Trip – where I travel throughout the republic. Most of the shows have been shot for the season already.
For the first show I am in the Vedeno region at Lake Kazenoi (Кезеной-Ам)

This photo looks like I was standing in front of a green screen and it is a fake background.

our driver, me and Ruslan

Ibbi

Ruslan the cameraman

CNN interview

>Hi everyone,

I am still on vacation…somewhere in North America….. I started getting emails that I was on CNN.com, so I checked it out.
What a surprise, I forgot I did it – I think it was from 2 months ago. Ivan Watson is a fair reporter – I like the interview and video that goes with it.

Click here to watch : Chrystal Callahan – CNN Interview

Here is the text :

Canadian model finds fame in Chechnya
By Ivan Watson, CNN
June 16, 2010 7:51 a.m. EDT

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

* Canadian former fashion model is perhaps the most famous foreigner in Chechnya

* Her TV shows range from current affairs to religious instruction to hobbies

* She defends Chechen president who was named one of 40 “Predators of Press Freedom”

* But Chrystal Callahan is also a symbol of peace and stability

Grozny, Chechnya (CNN) — The news in Chechnya has an unlikely Canadian face: a former fashion model with a catchy name who anchors the news in English on state-run TV.

“Good evening. This is Chrystal Callahan and these are the highlights of the week,” says the smiling anchor at the start of her program. “The Chechen Republic is steadily becoming a region of example for other parts of Russia!”

Aided by a constant stream of Chechen sub-titles, Grozny TV’s English-speaking anchor from Toronto has arguably become the most famous foreigner in post-war Chechnya.

Callahan first traveled to what was long the most war-torn, dangerous corner of Russia several years ago, while filming a documentary about a Chechen Greco-roman wrestling team.

“When I [first] came to Chechnya I was so happy and grateful that I got to come here,” Callahan said, in an interview in one of the studios of Grozny TV. “It was so awesome. Everyone was so nice. And my first impression was “wow, this place rules.””

Today, Callahan lives in Grozny and hosts a series of current affairs and cultural programs.

The program might show her on any given week learning to manipulate manikins at Grozny’s puppet theater or preparing traditional Chechen recipes in the station’s kitchen studio.

She says she has a responsibility to broadcast to members of the Chechen diaspora who have lost touch with their homeland after being scattered around the world by a decade of war.

Though she is not a Muslim, Callahan also offers viewers weekly lessons in Islam, the main religion of the region.

“This week in Islam, we learn about Doomsday,” Callahan announced, at the beginning of a recent interview segment with a Chechen Islamic scholar.

And the tall, dark-skinned Canadian has even begun singing and dancing traditional Chechen folk songs in music videos.

“Everyone needs entertainment and a lighter side of things. So the show I do is light and it’s entertaining,” said Callahan, during a walk through a park in Grozny that includes a memorial to slain journalists. “It’s such a drag, can you imagine? Everyone talking about the war, the war.”

But her “lighter side” approach to the news also extends to Chechnya’s young leader. Callahan devotes a lot of time to documenting the daily achievements of Chechnya’s 33-year-old rebel-turned-Russian-backed-president.

“Horse-racing season has begun in the Chechen republic. The president of the republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, opened the tournament,” announced Callahan in one recent broadcast. “The horse races were devoted to the counterterrorist operation’s regime cancellation day as well as the birth of a son from a close friend of the president,” Callahan narrated, over video of Kadyrov watching the contest with uniformed officers.

Kadyrov had a race track constructed at the entrance of his presidential mansion. “In the second race the president’s horse Ergies took first place.”

For years human rights groups have accused Kadyrov and his security forces of kidnapping, torture and even extra-judicial killings.

In 2010, the Paris-based watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders added Kadyrov to its list of 40 “Predators of Press Freedom.”

The group pointed out vocal critics of Kadyrov keep getting murdered. Most recently, Austrian police linked one of Kadyrov’s top aides to the fatal shooting of a Chechen dissident named Umar Israilov in Vienna, Austria.

Kadyrov routinely denies these charges. Callahan dismisses them too.

“If there’s no proof and there’s no concrete evidence, who cares?” Callahan asks.

“Do I think he killed him [Israilov]? Absolutely not,” Callahan says. “What would he have to gain by that? You know, he did so much to try to make this a safe place so kids could run around. There’s no war!”

She speaks while strolling through a Grozny park where elderly women sit chatting on benches and music plays from speakers at an outdoor café that serves instant coffee.

In this relaxing place, Kadyrov’s most enthusiastic and visible Western defender is something of a celebrity.

Young Chechens begin drifting up to Callahan, asking to pose along side the Canadian for photos snapped on their cell phones.

“It’s really nice that she’s from Canada and that she traveled here to host the show,” says 18 year old Avsan Veshal after smiling for the camera.

To these star-struck Chechens, Chrystal Callahan is more then just a mouthpiece for the Kadyrov government. The presence of Grozny’s most famous foreigner also symbolizes something everyone here is hoping for after years of conflict: stability and peace.

>I’m on vacation….kind of

>

Last week was my last show until June. I got some photos of Azi and I in the studio.

After I read the news, I went out to lnch with Artur.
On Tuesday I met Josie and some other friends for dinner. Josie brought me a present. It smelled good!
On Wednesday I went looking for fabric in the market ( Berkat ) . I need to make several national costumes for when I perform on stage.
While I was in the market, I met a lady that sells stockings. She gave me a pair as a gift!

>CNN

>

Yesterday I took this photo of Artur from the TV station. He is always so busy and usually is talking on 2 phones at once.

Today I got a call from Said-Sellim ( head of Grozny TV ) telling me that I will do an interview with CNN at some point today.
I ended up meeting them around 3pm for a couple hours.
I am in this photo with the correspondent who interviewed me. His name is Ivan Watson.

>Day of Chechen Language

>

It is almost 2am – so, it’s April 25th already – the Day of Chechen Language. There is a big concert tomorrow but I don’t think I am going.

For this week’s show my cultural theme was the Day of Chechen Language. I went to a puppet theatre that does plays in Chechen.

I took part in working one of the puppets and saying a few lines.
This is Zara – she also works at Grozny TV but also takes part in this theatre. She is a great actress and so funny.
I ended up staying at my friends place on Tuesday night. She told me she was going to pick nettles – I wanted to go as well. She tried to warn me that they irritate the skin and give blisters – but I wanted to go anyway.
I put on some gloves and went into the field.
I picked one nettle plant.
And somehow touched my skin with it. And … that was the end of me picking. I spent the rest of the time looking at my arm while poor Fatima picked an entire bag of nettles alone. I also got a rash on my legs. Such a strange plant – but so tasty.
On the way out of the fields I felt something slimy in my shoe.
I had squished a snail by accident. Many of them live on the nettle plants.
Abuazid was home from Moscow. I haven’t seen him in 3 years. He is HUGE! He just won an all Russian competition in wrestling.

Fatima, Beslan , Gelany and I went over to Abuazid’s home for dinner later.
My new obsession. This toothpaste called Siwak – I forget what it is made of. Ibbi uses it – something to do with Islamic medicine. It tastes good and smells strange. Ibbi gave me this tube on Thursday night because I was just staring at it. I think it is made from a tree of something.
Tonight Beks came to work with the actual twig from this mysterious tree. It serves as a toothbrush! It’s a twig and you cut 1/2 inch of bark off – then chew it until it looks like a brush. People have been using this as a toothbrush snce the 15th century! I had no idea.
Check out the bristles. This is cool! Beks is going to but me one. This twig smells great – and you don’t put any toothpaste on it. Just rub the twig on your teeth – it is already loaded with … something Hahahahah, I need to get more info on this.
Speaking of obsessions…Ibbi was showing Beks and I video that some girl made him. It was a love video – she editited it. I have never seen anything so over the top in my life. It was awesome. I took a photo on one of the last shots of the video with Ibbi in it.
Hahaahha – the writing on the screen says I love you.
Lastly, I was reading the news in the studio today. When I came out I ran into Said Sellim ( head of Grozny TV ) . He looked great!!!!!!!!!!!! He was wearing kind of Chechen traditional clothing.

>Chechen Theatre

>

I did a show about Chechen theatre today. I really have never been that into plays – they always seemed so boring to me. However, this was one of the best times I’ve had filming a show. Everyone on the cast of this play had great attitudes and were really good actors.
The year is 1935 – the revolution is over. I am playing the role of a peasant girl named Kelisat who lives in the highlands of Chechnya. I am from a poor illiterate family and have just received a degree. I can read and write. No one else in my family can. All the guys in the village want to marry me.
Kelisat ( AKA Chrystal ) I am nervous and worried I won’t be able to pronounce my lines in Chechen .
Rehearsing with Khava Akmadova ( director of this theatre group ) and other actors.
In this scene, I am proving to my family that I can write their names – they are so impressed – because none of my family can write their own names.

This is me and Khava Akmadova. She is also a singer and has a TV show on Grozny TV called Daimokh.

My next scene: I am going to the stream to get water. I have called all the guys that are in love with me there. I want to tell them all that I am getting married and that they should stop bugging me.

But..they continue to profess their love, sometimes trying to give me gifts.

And…some offer me a wonderful life. However, I have already made my decision and I leave them all standing there. I pick up my water jug and go home.

The cast of the play.

This is Kameta – she is the girl that plays the part of Kelisat ( I just took her spot for today )

Cool day – acting is fun !

>URUS MARTAN – Dondi Yurt Shoot

>

Yesterday I had a shoot in Urus Martan. This week the weather has been so warm and sunny – except for yesterday. It was freezing like winter. We were holding a sinkeram party for this week’s episode.

And here are all the lovely photos.
The dress I am wearing is over 100 years old.
Here is the first dress I tried on – but it was too small.
Here is the dress I ended up wearing. Dondi Yurt Museum where we did this shoot is awesome. It has the best suuroundings for a film or photo shoot.
This dechig pondar that I am holding is so heavy. It is 3 times as thick as mine – I suppose it’s because it is an antique. I want to get one like this now – it feels so much more solid than mine. I feel I could break my pondar so easily if I dropped it or it fell over.
Yusup was the cameraman. He was freezing and frustrated – as we all were.
I edited the show last night – it looks good. It will be on the air tomorrow.

>Presidential Sinkeram, Tamara Dadasheva and PONDAR (Дечиг пондар )

>

Monday March 8th was Women’s Day. The President threw a cool sinkeram party – and I went. It was my first sinkeram party and everyone had to wear national dress. I was so nervous. They wanted me to sit in the front row – but of course I didn’t. I asked to sit on the back bench – I was so nervous – I thought I would have to dance. I was asked a couple times but I said no. I thought I would make a fool of myself. I don’t know how to dance with a guy – I can dance alone, but when there is a man dancing next to me I get too nervous and forget what I am supposed to do – hence, I am making a cultural program about it because I MUST know how to dance at a party.
I am watching it on Grozny TV . I love the way the mayor of Gudermes was dancing. He has an interesting personality. 

I was completely confused of the process at these types of parties. There is a mediator that will go to a man and he will tell her to ask a girl to dance or he will tell her to tell a girl he likes her and to look at him. Apparently, these parties are where a lot of couples meet and get married. I was confused when one woman kept coming over to me and saying that a guy liked me and wanted me to look at him. I was like…ok…and…..what is your point? Hahahahah. I had no clue what was going on. It felt extremely strange to me – culture shock big time. Only the next day did I find out some of what the process is.

This is my colleauge from the TV station. She was in national dress but she changed to normal clothes when the party was over.
On the right is Amina – she is also a colleauge from the Ministry of Press and Information, External Affairs and Policy – she’s Kazbek’s assistant. 

More friends from Grozny TV.

All of us are from the Ministry of Press and Info….

This party was fabulous! The best part about it was when Sahab Mejiedov was playing the dechig pondar.
The dechig ponder is the national instrument of Chechnya – it is gorgeous. I fell in love with it at this party. I HAD to meet Sahab ( he is the best pondar player here and an “Artist of the Chechen Republic”
Artur from the TV station sent me his number and Madina and I went to meet him today! My cameraman was Ruslan ( I decided to make an episode of my show on the pondar. I am going to learn how to play it. Sahab also ordered me one from Gudermes today and I am going to pick it up tomorrow!!!!!!!!
Sahab is teaching me a song and Ruslan the cameraman is writing it in tablature !
He also told me I needed to cut my nails off – so I did. I am so excited to play this instrument.
Me and Sahab with pondars!!
And… I had to meet Tamara Dadasheva today because she is QUEEN OF LOVZAR / SINKERAM MUSIC!!!
Me and Tamara Dadasheva
Ruslan and Tamara Dadasheva
Tomorrow I will go to the Ministry of Culture and meet Sahab and pick up my very own pondar!! I am also meeting Sahab’s son Ashab who is a famous dancer. He is going to teach me all about dancing !!!!!

>The Chechen Grammy’s

>What a weekend this has been. It all started on Wednesday when Tamilla who is the secretary for the TV station president asked me if I was going to the music awards that weekend. At this point I hadn’t even heard of this event – the Chechen Grammy’s. I was like…no. I told her to get me tickets. She said they are hard to get … just come into the theatre on Saturday. It is an official event that the president will be attending. She already had her evening gown prepared!

On Thursday I went to see Artyr at the TV station regarding work and I asked him if he had tickets to the event. Of course he did because Grozny TV is in charge of this event. He gave me 4 tickets.

At about 6.30 pm on Thursday, I get a call from Artyr and Tamilla speaking very quickly and saying something about my music video…I thought. I thought they were asking me if they could play it at the awards. However, aftr they called Madina and Ibbi – it all became clear. They were requesting that I perform at this event in national costume. At first I said no, and then I said yes…and then the next 2 days of panicking started.
On Friday I needed a national costume. Artur suggested a couple of the high end Chechen designers, but I decided to just call Aimani Aidamirova. She is sure to have the best dresses for stage in all of the republic. She agreed . I went to the srudio where she has them made.
There were tonnes of national costumes here. But I ended up wearing one of her personal ones!
I chose a black and gold outfit. It was too short on the bottom and the arms were not long enough so Aimani and her assistant ended up making alterations on it immediately.
So, since this was not live singing at the show, all I had to do was remember the words and move my mouth. I went to rehearsal at the grand concert hall, and then I went with Aimani to get changed and have make-up done.
Finally, at about 4;45pm we arrived at the concert hall. All the performers had to be in separate cars to get out and walk the red carpet. My car was last. But…. while waiting for the red carpet thing to start, the hosts of the show and Ibbi and I just sat in a big limo and drank ice tea.
and of course I was on the phone with Madina – who was already inside the concert hall.
I admit, my outfit was really over the top – but isn’t that what being on stage is for? Hahhahah.
I did my performance, and now I am relieved. It was my first stage performance singing in Chechen. The president was there, his wife, the mayor of Grozny and Gudermes and every other official person you can imagine. There was also a film crew from France.

Anyway – I am glad it is over. Today is Sunday at 6.28am. I just woke up 20 minutes ago . I better go back to sleep because I have editing at 9.30am and the rest of the week I am slammed with work.

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