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Volume 18 Issue 2 - October 2012

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  • Toronto
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Beat by Beat | World

Beat by Beat | World ViewFall Avant!ANDREW TIMARAfter a warm late summer, the nip is back in the air, just intime to herald the fall concert season. To Torontonians withadventurous musical tastes that signals the advent of anotherX Avant New Music Festival running from October 12 to 21 and organizedby the avant-garde presenter the Music Gallery. A fixture of thedowntown scene for 36 years, its programing is dedicated to presenting“innovation and experimentation in all forms of music” as wellas also encouraging “cross-pollinationbetween genres, disciplines andaudiences.” While this year’s theme,“Expanding Circuits,” focusses onmusic from laptops to home madejunk shop sourced electronics to commercialsynthesizers, incoming artisticdirector David Dacks has still skillfullymanaged to weave world music elementsinto his programming.Suzuki + Dunn: The first worldmusic concert at the Music Gallerythis month, on October 4, is “NewWorld Series: Akio Suzuki + KyleBobby Dunn.” While falling just priorto the X Avant festival, this concertexemplifies the risk taking attitudeat the heart of the Music Gallery programing.Just what is “world music”about this concert? Examining theveteran instrument builder andpsych-drone specialist musicianAkio Suzuki’s ancestry and instrumentationreveals a few clues. Hismusical aesthetic is infused withwabi-sabi, a comprehensive Japaneseworld view of beauty that is imperfect,impermanent and incomplete.Further characterized by asymmetry,asperity, austerity and intimacy,Chief Boima.this aesthetic is permeated by a deep appreciation of the ingenuousintegrity of natural objects and processes. As for the instruments heplays, one of them, the ancient iwabue (stone flute), exemplifies thoseattributes. Having been passed down through his family for generations,this flute, made of naturally-formed large pebbles, is associatedwith Japanese Shinto ritual. The haunting, keening melodies Suzukiperforms on it strike listeners as pure and simple — in the best way;antediluvian and contemporary at the same time. I witnessed a soloperformance by this remarkable sound artist several decades ago andagree with the musician and author David Toop that “Akio Suzuki is akind of magician.” Joining Suzuki is the rural Ontario-based minimalistcomposer Kyle Bobby Dunn, whose music is immersed in ambient,drone and post-classical composition genres.Global bass: Commercial western record and concert productionenterprises, specifically those headquartered in London, England, inthe early 1980s, have often been cited as the origin of “World Music”as a marketing term. Ethnomusicologists such as Robert E. Brownand Peter Manuel, on the other hand, adapted it even earlier as anumbrella academic classification for a wide range of non-Westerntraditional musics. The general category has subsequently beenredefined by both commercial and scholarly camps into numerousdistinct regional subgenres primarily defined by geography, as well ashybrid sub-genres such as worldbeat, and fusion further described asworld-, global- and ethnic-.A concert on Friday October 12 titled “Global Bass Avant: ChiefBoima, DJ Valeo and Daniel Vila” at the Gladstone Ballroom on QueenSt. W. reminds us that world music is an ever-evolving and highlycontested notion. It also alerts us to the growing, energized role ofthe DJ and of the mashup and remix in this music. Part of the MusicGallery’s X Avant festival, this concert features three creative producer-DJs:NYC’s Chief Boima, Toronto-Montreal’s Valeo (aka GuillaumeDecouflet), one of the founders of Montreal’s Masala radio show, andDaniel Vila who is behind the crypto-nightclub/art space, DoubleDouble Land in Kensington Market, Toronto. All three musiciansare active incross-culturalmusicalJohn Kameel Farah.experimentationasmediated bypopular digital music technology. Takingthe example of Chief Boima, his performanceswith the Sierra Leone RefugeeAllstars, Jahdan Blakkamoore and LosRakas, plus his releases including Africanby the Bay (2009) and Techno Rumba(2010) demonstrate the increasingly centralplace of the DJ in world music ofall stripes.Farah: The last X Avant festival concerthighlighted here is “From Carthageto Rome: John Kameel Farah” scheduledfor Sunday October 21. Toronto-basedaward winning keyboardist and composerFarah is no stranger to the pages of TheWholeNote. I’ve reviewed several of hisCD releases including his Unfolding (2009), an ambitious compositionwhich in style and musical language is a veritable musical alchemicalamalgam, drawing from an incredibly varied range of Western andMiddle Eastern contemporary and historical sources. In it, baroquemusical instruments and forms rub musical shoulders with drum andbass dance beats, Arabic maqam-based improvising structures andmetres: all this presented as a ten movement piano concerto! “FromCarthage to Rome” is Farah’s segue, with more emphasis on Arabicsong structures, instrumental samples and characteristic microtonaltunings, yet with his trademark bravura piano playing front and centre.In keeping with X Avant festival’s theme of “Expanding Circuits,” laptopolistMatt Miller reinforces the concert’s North African content byreanimating his Moroccan field recordings through Ableton software,adding Berber, Gnawa and Jilala ethnic source music into the mix.OTHER PICKSOn October 7 Marcel Khalifé and the Al Mayadine Ensemble, presentedby the Toronto Palestine Film Festival, perform musical settingsof the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish in the George Weston RecitalHall at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. The late Palestinian MahmoudDarwish was among the Arab world’s most revered poets. Translatedinto more than 25 languages his poetry touched on themes of exile,family, marginalization and identity. In the 1970s his poetry becamea source of inspiration for the Lebanese composer, oud master and28 thewholenote.com October 1 – November 7, 2012

singer Marcel Khalifé, the recipient of many distinctions includingthe UNESCO Artist for Peace Award (2005). He is joined by the AlMayadine Ensemble, an eight-piece group comprised of vocalists andmusicians playing Middle Eastern and Western instruments. Theirprogram, a fitting conclusion to the Palestine Film Festival, revisitsand re-imagines the ties that bind the two powerful advocates of Arabculture: Darwish and Khalifé.Despite the blustery fall weather outside, we may yet get anotherchance to experience the feel of summer this year at the secondannual “Uma Nota Festival of Tropical Expressions.” RunningOctober 19 to 21, Uma Nota, which primarily programs music concertsthis year, imaginatively partners with the Brazil Film Fest, each supportingthe other’s mandate. Friday, October 19 Uma Nota presentsthe Canadian debut of Stereo Maracanã from Rio de Janeiro, a popularfour-piece band mixing electronic music, hip-hop, funk and capoeirapercussion rhythms. Local Latin alternative and tropical bass expertsDos Mundos DJs and DJ Valeo join Stereo Maracanã at the El Mocambo.The party continues Saturday, October 20 at The Great Hall, with UmaNota’s “World Funk” feast. Emerging Toronto bands including SoundOne reproduce a 1950s Jamaican ska sound, while Mar Aberto SoundSystem merge Brazilian percussion-rich dub reggae, samba groovesand tropical funk. DJs General Eclectic and Jerus Nazdaq spin Afro-Brazilian remixes, ska, reggae, Afrobeat and Latin standards. For otherevents such as the fun World Roots Community Cultural Fair pleasecheck the festival website.October 23 at noon, the Canadian Opera Company’s World MusicSeries stages “Pura Vida” in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, atthe Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The Venezuelanbornvocalist Eliana Cuevas is ably supported by Jeremy Ledbetter,piano, and Luis Orebgoso, percussion. World music producer DerekAndrews once called Cuevas, possessed of a samba and salsa jazzinflectedsexy voice, “a major new voice on the Canadian musiclandscape” and I am inclined to agree.October 25 the York University Department of Music presents“Trichy Sankaran — Music of South India” on the Faculty ConcertSeries at the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, York University, KeeleSt. campus. The mrdangam (classical South Indian drum) virtuosoand York music professor Trichy Sankaran is joined by senior vina(seven-string classical South Indian plucked lute) guru KarakudiSubramanian, a ninth generation vina player, and Desi Narayanan onkanjira. While the remarkable 40-plus year Canadian teaching careerof Sankaran has indelibly influenced several generations of Canadianand international students (including yours truly), he has made anequally important contribution to the art of mrdangam performance.This will be live Carnatic music performance at its most refined.Sunday October 28, the Toronto interpreters of inter-cultural musicJaffa Road release their new CD, Where The Light Gets In at Hugh’sRoom. The new album is Jaffa Road’s follow-up to their Juno Awardnominated, debut CD Sunplace. The group, comprised of leadingToronto music innovators Aviva Chernick (vocalist), Aaron Lightstone(guitars, oud, saz, synthesizers), Sundar Viswanathan (sax), ChrisGartner (bass) and Jeff Wilson (percussion), blends jazz, Jewish,Arabic and South Asian music with electronics.Also at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, on November 6 theWorld Music Series concert “Many Strings Attached: Spotlight onSarangi” showcases Aruna Narayan, among the world’s premier sarangiplayers. The sarangi, a venerable Hindustani (North Indian)bowed string instrument is considered very difficult to master. ArunaNarayan, the daughter and artistic heir of renowned sarangi innovatorand virtuoso Pandit Ram Narayan, is the only woman to play this“classical” instrument professionally. Narayan’s concerts, vehicles forher technical prowess and profound understanding of the performancepractice of Hindustani ragas are all too rare. I for one thereforewill not miss her brief concert of midday ragas.Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer.He can be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.October 1 – November 7, 2012 thewholenote.com 29

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