The Magic Highway




WHILE the tiny island of Bali may not be so mysterious these days, its locale remains somewhat of an exotic destination for many in the western world. Some probably only know the the name from the musical South Pacific, from which the song Bali Ha'i has become a standard. But it is no figment of the imagination .. this tropical haven off the coast of Indonesia is very real indeed, and is SE Asia's leading tourist hotspot, with its absolutely wonderful food and magnificent temples, palaces, volcanoes, beaches and wildlife.
    The people are friendly and a joy to get along with, because they know that tourism remains the lifeblood of the island, and that making visitors welcome will of course encourage many of them to return.
    But it's not quite a paradise either. Mixed in with five star hotels and world class resorts are derelict buildings, kerbside beggars, polluted rivers, narrow roads and a traffic systen so chaotic it takes nerves of steel to negotiate a journey. There are no apparent road rules, with the ubiquitous motor scooters darting in and out and up and down, and SUVs passing SUVs which in turn are passing other SUVs even as they turn a blind corner.
    And so it came to pass, in this exotic corner of the world, that Jeff Christie performed in September 2010 ... at the invitation of long-time associate and newly-ensconced Balinese resident Robert Epstone, a one-time housemate of Jeff's back in the UK. As public relations officer for the local chapter of Rotary, Robert knew a concert headlined by Jeff would help raise much needed funds for disabled children in Bali, one of the many humanitarian causes to which the organisation is dedicated.
    Jeff's visit also provided the perfect opportunity for him to catch up with Christie website manager Ray Chan, who, living in the Australian city of Perth barely three hours away by plane, was quick to book a flight to the island. The eventual meeting between the two would the first time they had got together for 40 years.


     Back in 1971, with Christie riding the crest of their popularity, the band embarked on a tour of SE Asia and Australia ... which included a stopover at Bali and a gig in Perth. Young teenager Ray, who had fallen in love with the sounds of Christie's first album, pestered his dad to chaperone him to the Perth nightclub at which Christie were playing .. and ended up meeting his idols and getting an album autographed. The impression has lasted with Ray ever since, and after re-establishing contact with Jeff in 1998, he created this website which keeps growing stronger and attracting fans old and new.
    However, reuniting with Ray was just one of Jeff's priorities on the visit ... the main one was naturally the show itself, for which Jeff had to play with a local backing band. Rehearsals were difficult, with the practice studio an arduous 90-minutes' drive away via congested Balinese thoroughways. The mellow, lax and often inscrutable attitudes of the locals didn't help either, for there were days when some band members would simply decide not to turn up because "they had something else on".
Bali sticker     Meanwhile, billboards and posters for the Christie show were being plastered all over Seminyak, the town where the gig was booked. Ever the professional, Jeff was determined not to disappoint concert-goers and vowed to overcome the obstacles and ensure the show went off successfully.
    A problem with the initial date set down for the event was to be a blessing in disguise: due to a double booking, the Christie performance had to be put back by a week, giving the musos more time to learn the set. The band eventually did manage to come together for several encouraging sessions, so much so that Jeff was finally able to relax a couple of days before the concert was due.
    With the tension eased significantly, Jeff was happy to participate in an impromptu jam when urged by the house band at Mannekepis, Bali's leading jazz and blues venue, where Jeff had been dining with Robert. The result was a three-song set of Rock and Roll Music, Bad Moon Rising and Twist and Shout, which brought the house down and whetted appetites for the big gig on the following day.


    The rooftop SOS (Sunset Over Seminyak) nightclub at the 5-star Anantara resort is without question Seminyak's finest, with patrons able to enjoy magnificent views over the gorgeous beach and ocean .. and it was here that Jeff played to a packed house on the night of the charity gig. With the backing band, Kelimutu, showing their professionalism, and the assistance of harmonica player Eric Bonhomme, Jeff romped through a highly entertaining show that included his hits and some rock classics, leaving guests dancing on the floor throughout. Christie fans at the club would have been delighted to see Jeff bring out the classic peace pendant he used to wear when playing with Christie in their heyday.


The view from the SOS nightclub


Jeff and the backing band rock the SOS

SOS peace

The peace pendant is back!


The local band were on fire too.


Jeff found many new fans.

Auction  High praise and new-found fans came Jeff's way that night. It was a mark of Jeff's generosity that he donated his time to help raise funds for a worthwhile cause, which was boosted by the auction of a few personal items to an appreciative and generous crowd (see right).
    Three weeks in Bali thus proved to be a mixture of frustration and satisfaction, of sweaty shirts and cold cocktails, of meeting old and new friends, and, as the song goes, of pleasure and pain .. but certainly more of the former.
    Perhaps most encouragingly, interest in Jeff's music has been renewed .. so much so there is now talk of him returning for another Australasian tour.
    But there's no rest for the talented .. barely three weeks after Jeff returned from Bali, he and his band were due to play in the colder climes of Germany. And so the Yellow River keeps flowing along ......


Lunch in Bali

Jeff orders lunch at a Balinese food bar

Lunch in Bali

Jeff and friends waiting for their lunch order

Dinner in Bali

Jeff and Robert enjoy a Japanese dinner

Dinner in Bali

Jeff enjoying dinner in Bali