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Volume 17 Issue 6 - March 2012

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • April
  • Arts
  • Musical
  • Orchestra
  • Choir
  • Symphony
  • Violin

JUNOS and Bridgesandrew

JUNOS and Bridgesandrew timarBefore we get to this month’s concerts, I’d like to wade in onthe world music component of Canada’s music industry awards,the JUNOs. Held from March 26 to April 1 in Ottawa, thisyear’s JUNOs have 41 award categories encompassing nominationsof the top-selling singers and musicians you would expect such asArcade Fire, Avril Lavigne, Drake, Justin Bieber, Michael Bubléand Nickelback.The “World Music Album” category nominationsreflect more modest album sales,Kiran Ahluwalia.but no less artistic ambition and achievement.Among the distinguished performersrepresented is previous JUNO award-winnerKiran Ahluwalia. Her latest album AamZameen: Common Ground fuses her ownghazal and Punjabi folk-song approachwith the music of the African masters ofMalian “desert blues.” Montreal based artistSocalled has had a shorter career, yet hislatest music, impossible to pigeon-hole, isno less ambitious in its transnationality. Hismusical mission appears to cross all sorts ofmusical and media boundaries, all the whileembracing a kibitzing attitude toward soundcollage inspired by pop, funk, klezmer andrap. Another nominee is the Brazilian-bornsinger, percussionist and composer AlineMorales, represented by her debut solo albumFlores, Tambores e Amores. Her musicassays Brazilian song styles such as samba,forró and 1960s tropicalia, and forges them into her own voicewith traces of Italian film soundtracks, avant-garde poetry, Africanpercussion and vintage synths.Now to the month’s live offerings: examining world music ina living historical context on March 1, the Royal Conservatory’sString and World Series at Koerner Hall presents the multi-GrammyAward-nominated viola da gambist, Jordi Savall, directing twogroups, Hespérion XXI and the Tembembe Ensamble Continuo. TheCatalan virtuoso of the viola da gamba, “an instrument so refinedthat it takes us to the very brink of silence,” Savall has been amongthe world’s major figures in early music since the 1970s. He ispartly responsible for bringing the viola da gamba back onto theworld stage. While his typical repertory ranges from the mediaevalto the baroque period, Savall’s approach to interpreting this “dead”historical repertoire has always been informed by the performancepractices of living oral music traditions of Europe, the Arab worldand now the “New” world.Appointed European Union ambassador for intercultural dialoguein 2008, Savall is passionate about asserting the common rootsof human expression. The Koerner Hall concert is titled “FoliasAntiguas & Criollas: From the Ancient to the New World.” It featuresSpanish and Mexican baroque music as well as performancesfrom the living Mexican Huasteca and Jarocho music traditions:Savall explores the creole music created from their confluence. Youcan catch the programme March 2 at the Perimeter Institute inWaterloo if you miss it at Toronto’s Koerner Hall.No less challenging to the music landscape status quo is theMarch 5 CD launch concert, “Bridges: Jewish and Arabic Music inDialogue” at the Al Green Theatre, Miles Nadal jcc. Headlining areLenka Lichtenberg, the Jewish singer with an international career,and Middle Eastern-Canadian singer, dancer, actor and qanunplayer Roula Said. For over 20 years the inspiring Said has beenone of Toronto’s leading lights in the belly dance, Arabic and fusionmusic scenes. While Lichtenberg was born and raised in Prague,she completed her university music education in Canada. Her currentmusic reflects her Yiddish roots and her ongoing study of theJewish cantorial tradition; in her extensive touring, she pursues acareer as a singer-songwriter. Together, their aim with “Bridges”is to establish an inspiring dialogue between Jewish and Arabiccultures grounded on musical commonalities. They are supported intheir quest by an outstanding backup band composed of a Torontoworld musician “A-team,” including John Gzowski on oud, guitarsand bouzouki, Kinneret Sagee on clarinet and Ernie Tollar on sax,flutes and clarinet. The rhythm section consists of bassist ChrisGartner, percussionist Alan Hetherington and Ravi Naimpally ontabla and dumbek, all of whom performed with convincing élan onLichtenberg’s sparkling last album Fray, markedly influenced byToronto’s interactive world music scene.On March 2 the Toronto-born chanteuseAlejandra Ribera performs at the GlennGould Studio. Her dramatic singing andgenre-hopping eclectic repertoire draws onboth her Argentinean and British heritage,and particularly mirrors the grit and magicof Ribera’s everyday urban Canadian realitywith its darkly lyrical themes.The Amadeus Choir, directed by LydiaAdams, presents “A Celtic Celebration,”March 3, at Toronto’s Jubilee UnitedChurch. The 115-voice veteran choir isjoined by Stratford’s five-piece, pan-Celticfusion band Rant Maggie Rant, led bymulti-instrumentalist Mark Fletcher. TheHighland dancers also on the bill willundoubtedly further animate the concert.The Royal Conservatory’s World Seriespresents two outstanding singers early inMarch. On March 7, in a multi-mediapresentation, the Latin Grammy awardwinning Lila Downs will perform herdramatic and highly unique reinvention of traditional Mexican musicand original compositions fused with blues, jazz, soul, African rootand even klezmer music.And on March 10, it’s another Grammy Award winner’s turn: thepowerful-voiced Angélique Kidjo performing her brand of Afro-funkfusion with an infectious joie de vivre. Dubbed “Africa’s premierdiva” by TIME magazine, the West African born Kidjo has been anactive member of the international world music scene for over 20years. Her list of illustrious collaborators including Bono, CarlosSantana, Peter Gabriel, Alicia Keys and Branford Marsalis, gives anidea of the force of her personality and the significant impact of hervocal accomplishments.On Thursday March 15, at 7:30pm, Nagata Shachu, Toronto’sprofessional Japanese taiko drumming and music group, presentsthe premiere of Tatsujin Gei (Master Artists) at the JapaneseCanadian Cultural Centre in Toronto. Three master performers fromJapan — Kodo Drummers’ Yoshikazu and Yoko Fujimoto, and theOkinawan dance master Mitsue Kinjo — will join forces with NagataShachu directed by Kyoshi Nagata. (This rare chance to see someof Japan’s top exponents of taiko, song and dance in Toronto missedour listings deadline so you won’t find further details here in themagazine. Call the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre at 416-441-2345 for details.)This month, two of our universities showcase the wide-rangingworld music activities of their music students and faculty. I’ve foundthese concerts are a particularly good way to sample a musicaltradition new to me: they’re relaxed, the youthful participants arecharged with the enthusiasm of new converts — plus they’re free.On March 15, from noon to 8pm, York University’s Department ofMusic presents day one of its “World Music Festival.” Performancesby the World Music Chorus, Celtic, Ghanaian, Cuban, Klezmerensembles and the Escola de Samba will fill the halls and roomsof the Accolade East Building with global sounds. The festivalcontinues all next day with Caribbean, Chinese, Korean Drum,George Whiteside24 thewholenote.com March 1 – April 7, 2012

Balkan Music, Flamenco and Middle Eastern ensembles. Then onMarch 19, York’s World@Noon series presents the triple platinum,Israeli singer-songwriter Idan Raichel at the Tribute CommunitiesRecital Hall, Accolade East Building. His “Idan Raichel Project” isdistinguished by its fusion of Hebrew lyrics, Middle Eastern andEthiopian music and electronica.The University of Toronto Faculty of Music presents its own WorldMusic ensembles in concert March 16 and 21 at the MacMillanTheatre, Edward Johnson Building. On March 28, at Walter Hall,the exemplary Vocal Jazz Ensemble is directed in concert by theinspired extended vocalist, conductor and teacher Christine Duncan.They will perform with their guest, Darbazi, our region’s first andmost accomplished Georgian polyphonic choir.There was atime in the early1990s whenthe guitar duoStrunz & Farahvirtually definedthe emergingworld musicmarket. Theirvery successfulalbums wonBillboard’sWorld MusicAlbum of the Year and a Grammy nomination. With an eclecticsound that has been described as world fusion, their music is amediated reflection of their cultural roots, including Afro-Caribbean,Latin American folk, flamenco and Middle Eastern music, wrappingit all up in jazz-based improvisation. They’re back on the roadappearing in venues across Southern Ontario this month. Starting atHugh’s Room in Toronto, March 14, they then appear at the CapitolTheatre in Port Hope, the Molsen Canadian Studio at HamiltonPlace, London’s Aeolian Hall and at Market Hall in Peterborough,on March 15, 16, 17 and 18, respectively.Finally, rounding out the month, on March 31 the RoyalConservatory presents “Intercultural Journeys,” echoing the interculturaland peace-bridging function of music proposed by some ofthe other concerts noted this month. Israeli cellist Udi Bar-Davidleads a group consisting of Lebanese violinist Hanna Khoury andPalestinian percussionist Hafez Ali, digging into repertoire mergingEuropean and Arabic classical musics. Their guests, Syriansinger Youssef Kassab, cantor Beny Maissner and Toronto qanunmaster George Sawa, will add yet more inclusive notes to this crossculturalconcert.Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer.He can be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.Strunz and Farah.March Ado ...jim gALLOWAySome years ago Petula Clark had a hit called Downtown. Partof the lyric is “The lights are so much brighter there. You canforget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go Downtown.”But for jazz fans, is downtown losing some of its appeal?When I arrived in Toronto, anywhere north of Bloor St. you wereheading for the suburbs. All the major jazz clubs in Toronto were inthe downtown core and, as I’ve said before in this column, going outto hear jazz meant going to The Colonial and the Town Tavern (whowere bringing in “name” American players), George’s SpaghettiHouse, Castle George above the spaghetti house, Friars Tavern, TheGolden Nugget, The Rex and later Bourbon Street, Basin Street,Cafe des Copains. And that is only a partial list of the south ofBloor venues.But with the demise of the club scene The Rex is the only clubfrom the above list still presenting jazz all week long.The Reservoir Lounge does have a six-nights-a-week scheduleof mostly jazz and blues and there are a number of clubs programmingjazz part-time, to which this magazine’s club listings, startingon page 52, well attest. With its Friday evening sessions, Quotesimmediately comes to mind. And for fans of New Orleans jazz,Grossman’s Tavern still has Saturday afternoon sessions which beganover 40 years ago!But, why so few full-time jazz clubs left?Economics played a large part. Travel costs soared, accommodationwas more expensive and fees went up. Some of the artists whoused to play clubs moved to the concert stage. Dizzy Gillespie, GaryBurton, George Shearing, Thelonious Monk, to name only a fewwho played in Toronto clubs, all became concert artists. The audiencefor straight-ahead jazz was aging and very often there was onlya handful of people for the last set: no more hanging and drinkinglate — there was work next morning.Another factor, I believe, is that people who don’t live in thedowntown core go home after work and the thought of driving backto the city is a deterrent. Perhaps starting the music earlier wouldhave helped. In Tokyo I went to a jazz club where the music startedat 5pm and people went there straight from work. In New York manyclubs have jazz from 7:30pm and it seems to work. For example, ifyou get to Dizzy’s Club at 11pm you will have missed the headliner.(To be a little less serious it reminds me of the joke: “Hey buddy,how late does the band play?” “Oh, about a half a beat behindthe drummer.”)March 1 – April 7, 2012thewholenote.com 25

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