TBILISI--The beer was lukewarm as if it had been stuffed in the fridge as an afterthought. The little bottles of coke were the same ones from last week. I know because I drove over a hundred kilometers to Tamarsheni's new cinema to watch the first 30 minutes of Flyboys the week before. The spanking new cinema was empty then and had remained that way until Saturday, thanks to a band purporting to be the legendary disco group Boney M.
With the exception of occasional sniper fire, a newly paved stretch of highway, cinema/entertainment complex, electronics super-store, new children's park and a gas station, hotel and swimming pool still under construction, Tamarasheni is just an ordinary Georgian village that happens to be in the middle of the South Ossetian conflict zone. The renovation is part of a Tbilisi backed plan to boost the local economy and show people in the separatist territories how much nicer things are in Georgia. To validate that claim, Tamarasheni, just a few kilometers from the South Ossetian separatist capital of Tskhinvale, became the first village in the world to host a disco concert as part of a state strategy to topple a breakaway government. In this case, the de facto independent, pro-Russian regime of Eduard Koikoity.
The brainchild of this tactic is Ossetian journalist Vladamir Sanakoev, leader of the Kokoity Fandarast (Farewell) movement, an anti-separatist organization solemnly dedicated to the removal of Eduard Kokoity. As his objective is hindered by road blocks, land mines and trenches, Vlad's arsenal of methods is severely limited. He once sent balloons to Tskhinvale with the subtle message "Kokoity Fandarast!" printed on them. Vlad's latest weapon is music. Georgian rapper Lex-in composed this movement's anthem, "Kokoity Fandarast" and concerts were organized throughout eastern Georgia culminating in the Boney M performance on the front line.
"In a conflict zone, people want to hear music, sing songs and dance. [Music] is a peace process method which promotes stabilization," says Vlad. "I like the repertoire of Boney M and he does too," he adds, pointing a thumb at a smiling teenage volunteer.
While the beer chilled in the cinema icebox, hundreds of people filed into town, mostly from Gori and Georgian controlled villages scattered along the conflict zone. Many had walked more than a dozen kilometers over a mountain pass, skirting Ossetian territory, for a chance to hear the TK of "Rasputin."
With Tskhinvale Ossetians entrenched just a grenade launch away along a ridge above the village, the four piece group, led by original Boney M. singer Marcia Barrett, kicked in with the playback of "Daddy Cool" and continued to woo enemy soldiers into dropping their weapons and dancing the patriotism out of their bodies with "Ma Baker," "Belfast," "By the Rivers of Babylon," and more.
Georgian President Saakashvili was there getting jiggy with Tbilisi mayor Ugulava and the alternative de-facto president of South Ossetia, Dmitri Sanakoev.
"This is a disco approach to conflict resolution..." the president told a BBC correspondent under the dim of the Bony M. hit, "Sunny." "By doing this we hope to lure people out of their trenches to come dance with us..."
Boney M. in the 70s: First platform shoes to ever touch down on Red Square
Earlier in the day I attended the press conference at the Hyatt. The Boney M. at the hotel looked nothing like the ones on the cover of Love For Sale. But Tuti, one of the back-up singers, would have looked hot wrapped up those Love For Sale chains. Just when I was about to ask how many Boney M. bands there are, who has the rights to the name and if they weren't some type of hoax, Tuti looked right through me, licked her lips and gazed into my crotch.