The Story Behind Abbagirl

As far as to what exactly “abbagirl” indicates, anyway – in case you are unaware, ABBA (with the first “B” written backwards) is the name of a Swedish pop supergroup from the 70’s and early 80’s frequently remembered most for their uber-cheesy disco outfits, platforms and all. My obsession/love for the group is fairly recent; it began maybe around 1993 or 1994 in early high school when I was exposed to them through the Australian film “The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert” and subsequently bought a copy of ‘ABBA Gold’ on CD, their popular greatest hits album. Their music, a captivating melange of disco and pop, had me entranced, and I was incredibly impressed with the vocal talents of vixen lead singers, Agnetha Faltskog & Frida Lyngstad.My status as an abbagirl was affirmed when I purchased more albums, video collections, and saw the hilarious & touching Australian flick “Muriel’s Wedding” in the theatre. I truly identified with lead character Muriel Heslop (played by the fantastic Toni Collette), a geeky outcast addicted to ABBA, and found the film to be brilliant and heartfelt, capturing the friendship between Muriel and the spunky Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths) and their rejection of the snobby girls who snubbed them both in high school. I especially loved that MW was unique in being an “ugly duckling transformed” story that ended up having Muriel realize that she didn’t need the approval of the girls who hadn’t been able to appreciate her until she had found a man and conformed, and that Muriel learns that the storybook wedding she’d been pining after and the gorgeous guy she marries aren’t what she really *wants*, because she didn’t love him. And of course, MW introduced me to such fantastic ABBA tunes as “Fernando” and “Dancing Queen,” my anthem. 🙂 (I now have a page up on MW and my other favorite Australian films!)

So, I figured that “Abbagirl” would be a good nick as not only is it short and easy to remember, but it owns up to my devotion to those 4 wacky Swedes. Some people also figure it’s a reference to the 2 women of ABBA, that I’m emulating them, which is fine, I suppose. I feel a sort of kinship to Agnetha & Frida, I admit, being at least one-fourth Swedish (Dutch, too), a soprano singer who can do a fairly accurate Agnetha vocal imitation, and a tall, assertive gal to boot. (My height – 5’9″ or so – is largely a product of my Scandinavian ancestry; almost everyone in my family is super-tall.) And yes, I have blue eyes and long, blonde hair, although I’m not claiming to be any Agnetha twin or anything.

So, I figured that “Abbagirl” would be a good nick as not only is it short and easy to remember, but it owns up to my devotion to those 4 wacky Swedes. Some people also figure it’s a reference to the 2 women of ABBA, that I’m emulating them, which is fine, I suppose. I feel a sort of kinship to Agnetha & Frida, I admit, being at least one-fourth Swedish (Dutch, too), a soprano singer who can do a fairly accurate Agnetha vocal imitation, and a tall, assertive gal to boot. (My height – 5’9″ or so – is largely a product of my Scandinavian ancestry; almost everyone in my family is super-tall.) And yes, I have blue eyes and long, blonde hair, although I’m not claiming to be any Agnetha twin or anything

Abba Girls travels to Africa !!

Abba as a pop group were not just popular the United States and Europe, but also enjoyed huge popularity in Southern Africa too, particularly In South Africa. It is still common to have yearly concerts celebrating Abba’s most popular songs. I recently decided to travel to Africa and explore Cape Town and the surrounding areas. Cape Town also happens to be one of the worlds finest wine producers…hehehe..The Cape wine lands are one of the most picturesque parts of Cape Town that any and all tourist must visit. And so we set off !!

AbbaGirl’s Winelands tour sets off !!

Stellenbosch

We chose to stay at the popular Ashanti Lodge Cape Town Backpackers, which we used as a base as well as their efficient tours service. You will first visit Stellenbosch which is at the foot of the Hottentot Holland Mountains. It is unique; consisting of streets lined with oak trees and white gabled Cape Dutch farmhouses. Stellenbosch is located at the heart of the Cape Wine Route and boasts 23 private cellars and 5 co-operative wineries. They produce a very large variety of red and white wines including Champagne. All the wines produced at these wineries are award winning wines. At these wineries you will be able to do wine tasting and purchase the wines you really enjoy.

Paarl

The next stop on the tour will be Paarl which is the largest town in the Cape Wine Route. This destination is also referred to as Cape Route 62. Paarl has large international wine companies as well as the smaller winemakers. The main aim of all these win e makers is to produce good quality wines that will appeal to all wine lovers.  They produce a wide range of wines to satisfy your taste buds from the “fresh and fruity” to the Dark and brooding”.  The “signature cultivar” of the Paarl Wine Route is the Shiraz which has won many awards. Many of the wineries also offer extra attractions such as cheese and olive tasting.

Franschhoek

As soon as you arrive in the town you will see that most of the wine farms still carry their original French name.  Here you will discover a variety of cellars from the small wineries that produce unique tasting wines to the larger cellars that can offer organised tours and wine tastings.  The Franschhoek Wine Valley makes a superb range of white wines as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and Chenin Blanc. Then to the full-bodied red wines as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot.  All these wines can be tasted and even enjoyed with wonderful plate of food made available from the restaurants situated on the estates.  All these wine tours include a delicious a la carte lunch. I must really commend Ashanti Travel on their diverse selection of African safari vacation packages which cover almost anything you might want to try.

TOWNSHIP EXPERIENCE

District Six

The first stop of the tour will be The District Six Museum. Here you will learn how the area was established. It was set aside as a mixed community for freed slaves merchants, labourers and immigrants in the late 19TH Century. It was a pulsating centre and was close to the city centre and the harbour. But in the early 20TH Century the migration process began. The black South Africans were the first to be displaced, and then others began to move out to the suburbs till the area became neglected. This area was declared a white only area on the 11 February 1966 and in excess of 60,000 people were forcibly removed and their houses were flattened. Today it is amazing to see how this once desolate place has been restored and rebuilt and can now claim its status as a National Heritage Site.

Langa

The next stop on the tour will be the district of Langa. This township is the oldest in Cape Town. It was established in 1923 and has lately seen much improvement as the government has invested much into its infrastructure.  You will be visiting the local community school and crèche. You will also stop at a local shebeen (pub) and taste some of the traditional beer. During the walk down the main street you will be able to interact with the locals and learn some of their culture and experience their hospitality.

langa township

Gugulethu

You will lastly take a walking tour around Gugulethu which will be for around 40 to 45 minutes.  On this walk you will experience the everyday life of the residents. You will also visit Mzoli’s place which is a local braai spot.  A taxi will transport you around the township and also show you the neighboring township of Nyanga. You will have the opportunity to visit the townships Sangoma (traditional healer). The last stop of the tour will be a visit to the 7 memorial stones.

There is so much to do and see in Cape Town that you will have to come to explore and tour the area again and again.

Honeymoon in Zanzibar at former Abba Holiday Home

The tropical island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania is not the most immediate place a person thinks of when remembering the awesome 70’s  pop group – ABBA. But, it is a little  known fact that the luxury resort, Kilindi was originally built as a holiday home for Benny Anderson (Björn Ulvaeus), one of the band’s male members.

The former home of the ABBA star is now one of the plush hotels in Zanzibar where the rich and famous can go and stay and enjoy the beautiful island in comfort. The location has become extremely popular as a destination for romantic weddings and honeymoons too.

Love conquers all, fights all battles and is victorious against all odds. There is no greater feeling than knowing someone is madly in love with you and the feeling is mutual. The joy that overwhelms your soul is joys unspeakable when you think you know are wedded to the love of your life. Love is a beautiful thing, marriage is greater but a holiday in Zanzibar is the best.
Zanzibar is the perfect place to have your honeymoon. Not only will you enjoy five star treatments to various hotels and restaurants, you will be making memories with your significant other. Zanzibar boosts of various beaches, hotels, restaurants and historical places. The City is filled with awesome activities to do while getting sun kissed in the beautiful city of Tanzania.
Every day is a good day because you get to choose each and every day what activities to get up to. For those that like the spa and being pampered, there are many spas at bay. There are ladies that can’t go a day without being massaged and Zanzibar has many spas’ treatments you can choose from. The muscles ought to be stretched every once in a while so being pampered is a good excuse for being showered with magic hands.
There are also historical places such as museums that might raise a few curiosity eye brows for the history lovers. It is said that when you go visit a historical location of a specific region or race, you get a better idea of the type of people they are. On the flip side, it is never too late to learn something new about the area or the people you visiting.
Taking into consideration how beautiful and full of beaches the city is, it comes as no surprise how many water activities they have. For all the beach lovers, this is the perfect sport to do to get rid of the heat. There are diving sports and first timers are also welcome to try. Experienced professionals are available to assist all the new faces.
A honeymoon is all about getting to know your spouse on a more intimate level. Marriage comes with sacrifice and sacrifice comes with contentment. If you not satisfied with what you have, you will always want more. Zanzibar is a great place to study the mind of your partner and try to figure what kind of person he is in the midst of all the activities. A quick search on Google will give you many places where you can find an assortment of Zanzibar packages to choose form.
There is a misconception that time makes people fall in love as compared to commitment and loyalty. Some couples believe because they have been married for years, they know each other like bread knows butter. This is not always the case and for newlyweds, it is important to always try to keep the spark going. The good times must not only be at Zanzibar and stop when you get home, you must always try your utmost best to make your companion happy.
We are different human beings who have different perspectives. What love means to me may mean something totally different to you. It all rests on how a person perceives emotion and affection. That said, Zanzibar is the place to be if you are looking for a place to go on your honeymoon. It can rekindle lost love, enhance new love and strengthen love that has gone sideways.
Ultimately, it rests on you and your spouse. If you came to enjoy your post wedding festivities, you are assured that a good time is waiting for you when you honeymoon in Zanzibar. We believe in the excellence that Zanzibar carries and we know you will enjoy your honeymoon and probably come back.

Revisiting the past on Abbagirl

I’m usually a big fan of most good female folk singers, and young Jewel Kilcher seems like the type I’d lap up with a spoon. However, I have decidedly mixed feelings about this gap-toothed Alaskan native, unfortunately most of ’em negative, and a lot of it isn’t even Jewel’s fault per se. Well, let me start from the beginning…

Jewel’s (only) debut album, ‘Pieces of You’, was released back in 1994. Yes, 1994, believe it or not! It’s only in the past year or two that she’s suddenly become one of the biggest stars on the pop scene. Back when all people knew of her (1995-96 or so) was her then-one hit single, “Who Will Save Your Soul?”, I thought I really hated her. Her voice on that song was just so unbearably whiny and the song itself didn’t impress me in the least. (The video is even cheesier.) I pegged her as this really vapid girlie-girl, with a voice that seemed like a deliberate attempt to sound cute and little-girlish. (Was I being prejudiced? Sure. I didn’t have her album, that song was all I knew of Jewel.)

Then, in 1996 I believe it was, her second hit single sprung onto the scene, “You Were Meant For Me”. Not only did I love the song, but the beautiful blue-toned video captivated me. I suddenly was converted to Jewel fandom. Sure, she still was kinda whiny, but the song (which was a much better song than “Who Will…”, I thought, with better lyrics as well) did highlight her sultry chest voice as well as her girlie upper range. I would happily sing along (doing my best Jewel impression; my mom agrees that I’ve gotten her trademark vocals down on that song) when “You Were Meant For Me” came on the radio, I’d watch the video multiple times.

Finally, it was in the very early summer of 1997 that I finally bought ‘Pieces of You’. I was spurred on by having seen Jewel perform “Foolish Games,” not yet released as a single, on some VH1 Crossroads special. That passionate performance got me hooked on the song, with its beautiful piano accompaniment, and I was especially impressed with her vocals. So, I bought the CD a little while before leaving for France in the beginning of July. “Foolish Games” was my favorite song; I quickly memorized the lyrics, and when I was alone in my dorm room in France that summer, I’d sit by my window sometimes and sing “Foolish Games” to myself. I thought it was a brilliant song, and more than that it felt like my song, like I’d discovered it or something, ’cause at that time it wasn’t on the charts or anything. I’d sing it from the heart like it was the coolest song I’d ever heard or sung.

Of course, then after I got back, “Foolish Games” became a national phenomenon. They started playing it on the radio a lot, and then the stylish video made its debut. I was happy at first. But then, I started to balk at the way the media was forcing Jewel down everyone’s throats. And not Jewel as a diverse artist, but Jewel as the 3-single wonder (“Who Will Save,” “You Were Meant” and of course, “Foolish Games”.) Suddenly Jewel was on the cover of every damn magazine, when her album had previously gone unrecognized for about 3 years!

You see, Jewel is a perfectly fine artist, and even cute for a while, but she does tend to annoy you after a lot of exposure. And of course, the media suddenly decided to put Jewel on 24-hours a day – on the radio, on VH1, on MTV, etc. After hearing “Foolish Games” 10,000 times, it started to irk me. It’s not like people still hadn’t heard it; practically everyone in the country who wants her album now has it, I’m sure. And, they had to completely overplay *only 3* of her damn songs, and completely ignore the less chartworthy ones, including some of the ones I like better, like the sweet “Angel Standing By,” “Near You Always” or “I’m Sensitive,” which in my opinion are probably her best songs along with “Foolish Games”. She also has some other songs with superior lyrics, like “Daddy,” which of course would be a little too controversial for the likes of VH1, who prefers to ignore anything but her most romantic, easy-listening songs (she’s not bad as a lyricist, and the few poems of hers in the CD liner are even better than most of her songs).

And, there’s also the matter of her voice. Jewel has a distinct vocal style that has a tendency of grating on some people’s nerves. While I feel she has a good voice, definitely some talent, she also has a whiny quality, to her head voice (upper register) especially – which makes her easier for me to imitate, in fact. I think she sounds much better when she uses her chest voice (lower register) and sounds a little more soulful, and certainly less cutesy-girlie, and the irksome thing is that she’s always switching back and forth between the two, and she always slides between notes, something I notice as a singer. (Which is ironic, because Jewel supposedly has some classical training; she once attended Interlochen Arts Academy here in Michigan for a while, majoring in opera, but decided opera was not for her, and relocated to San Diego, CA, to become a trendy little cafe chanteuse and live in her van. She certainly doesn’t seem to use much of the classical training she had as far as good vocal technique.)

Also, the way the media dotes on Jewel as the current trendy darling of pop kinda sickens me. They seem to love Jewel not because of her musicianship or even what she has to say as a woman, but because she’s a) cute (blonde and Caucasian, with long, feminine hair, pouty lips, and those bad teeth that supposedly make her even cuter and more “unique”. And she wears pretty dresses that show off her figure, etc.), b) an interesting story (born in Alaska, lived in Michigan and California, and, as practically everyone now knows, lived in a van with her mom or whatever) and c) is as far from controversial as you can get (her songs come across as more gentle and feminine, especially ’cause of her wispy vocals, even when she’s actually addressing issues like abuse or sexism), unlike more threatening, “angry” women artists. Not that all women singers need to be activists or anything – I mean, Jewel does what she does and it’s her thing and she’s great at it. But it’s so obvious that the media loves sucking her up because of some of these qualities whereas you don’t see the same kind of treatment given less cliche’d women…

Ack. I didn’t mean to get in such a slam of Jewel. I still listen to ‘Pieces of You’ and I don’t hate her or her music by any means, but she’s not one of my very fave artists, and like I said b4, a lot of it isn’t even her fault, but just the way the music biz has overexposed her to the point of annoyance – much like such groups as Hanson or the Spice Girls. I do think she has something to say, and I do admire that she writes her own music, plays guitar, etc., but I’m just kind of sick of her at the moment. And, I think a lot of it is due to the fact that she only has *1*album out, one with songs she mostly wrote years ago when she was a teenager. It’ll be interesting to see what her second release will bring; maybe I’ll come to love Jewel more again. We’ll see. For now, I’m just thankful that the “Foolish Games” video isn’t on MTV every five minutes that much anymore, because when it comes on I want to kick someone, probably a MTV executive (MTV is especially evil in my mind for their lack of sensible veejays, and willingness to succumb to evil trends and ’cause they never play cool obscure singers/groups that I like – and, they never pay much attention to David Bowie, a rock legend even more influential and current, musically, than the Rolling Stones.).

So, I’d like rather not to criticize Jewel so much (after all, she has her own niche), than as to rant against the people who insist on making her out as the biggest thing of 1997 and the best female singer and all that, when there are so many other talented women out there who deserve some time in the limelight. And, I would also like to add that I wish people like Jewel would come out with a second album already! (That means you too, Alanis; we’re all dying for a new album!) And that’s about all I have to say for now…

Even Pop Stars get the blues

Being a world famous musician or pop star comes at a price. Life is not as rosy all the time as most would think. Sure, pop stars make loads of money, are adored by their fans and live luxury lifestyles but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not afflicted by the some day to day pressures and worries like the rest of us. In fact you would be surprised to know just how many famous people suffer from issues like anxiety and low self esteem. ABBA were not exempt from this either and there are numerous reports that Agnetha suffered from depression over the years. Most people suffer from depression in one form or another at some point in their lives. Pop stars are no exception, and they are often subject to far more intense pressure than the ordinary person. Will my next album be a success, or will the critics slam it in the press ? All I want to do is just go for a nice walk in the forest but I cant because I have a pack of paparazzi chasing after me all the time. Depression and anxiety can often lead to the sufferer seeking solace in the form of alcohol or drugs, whether illegal street drugs or prescription medication. Think about how often we read in the newspapers about famous actors and musicians struggling with drinking and drug problems. Most end up in the famous Betty Ford Clinic or some other expensive rehabilitation centre. Cleaning up your act is easier said than done, after a 28 day stint in a rehabilitation facility, the hard work starts.

sober house in Cape Town

A sober house is a facility offered to people on leaving a treatment centre. Obviously the rich and famous don’t require this because they can afford to pay an entourage of experts to follow them around and keep tabs on them. However, for the ordinary person like you and me, having a safe environment that is free of the temptation to drink or use drugs, that ensures that you keep working on your recovery from whatever addictive habit you may have suffered from, a sober living house is essential. Scotswood Sober House Cape Town is this type of sober house establishment situated in Cape Town, South Africa. Scotswood was established to meet the need of those leaving a rehab centre that are serious about progressing in their recovery from addiction. This sober living house in Cape Town offers a safe and nurturing environment for people that want to maintain their recovery momentum. The sober house offers cooked meals, resident counsellors, beautiful gardens and a swimming pool. Most importantly Scotswood provides a sober living house in Cape Town, where people in recovery are insulated from their previous behaviours and are allowed an opportunity to forge new friendships in a healthy and sober community. So, sure, Agnetha or Frida of ABBA would probably not have ever booked themselves into anything like this, because they would have had the finances to afford personal attention. For the ordinary person though, establishments like Scotswood Retreat which provide sober living in Cape Town are an amazing opportunity to strengthen a foundation for a new way of life. Being abstinent from substances doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and listen to ABBA or any of the other great bands out there today. Life is a journey, enjoy the ride 🙂