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Volume 19 Issue 6 - March 2014

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Beat by Beat | World

Beat by Beat | World ViewA Small WorldAfter AllANDREW TIMARIn this column I’ve often showcased concerts produced or presentedby the Small World Music Society, the feisty Toronto institutiondedicated to showcasing world music in its ever-evolvingflavours. On February 8, 2014 Small World took a decisive new stepin its 15-year evolution. It opened the doors of the Small World MusicCentre (SWMC) to the public with a sold-out concert by GustavoSantaolalla and Quiquie Escamilla. Located in Artscape’s newYoungplace building, Small World’s evolution also resonates in thebuilding’s bricks and mortar too. Artscape’s transformation of theformer school into Youngplace was completed last year just prior tothe building’s centenary. It’s billed as a “community cultural hub”with spaces for individual artists and small organizations, as well asmajor ones like the Luminato Festival.SWMC’s Alan Davis: Seeking insight into SWMC’s design and whatits presence will mean for Toronto’s world music performers and fans,I called Alan Davis, Small World’s founder and executive director.Davis began the interview by describing the new space as “a worldmusic hub, featuring professional quality sound, staging, lighting,flexible seating and recording capability.” A full lighting system withwrap-around draping “helps create the perfect acoustic environmentfor both amplified and acoustic presentations,” Davis adds. It’salso the right size “to host intimate concerts, workshops, incubatorresidencies and multimedia productions to engage a diverse rangeof artists and cultural communities.” SWMC aims to service SmallWorld’s “diverse partners, from performers in all genres to communitygroups as well as our new [Queen West] neighbourhood.”Davis enthusiastically described a key feature of the new facility: the“virtual concert hall.” This consists of a “suite of high-quality videoand audio capture technology, enabling what takes place in the SWMCto be experienced beyond its four walls,” potentially by internationalaudiences. With all the technology in place, “performances, workshops,lectures and more can be fully documented and edited intofinished video content.”Another important aspect of the SWMC’s programming is whathe calls its “incubator function ... an intentional mixing of musicalcultures, a result of perhaps four or five artists [from different traditions]in a residency,” sharing common musical idioms and perhapsdifferences too, and designed to allow for “opportunities to create newfusions and to collaborate.”His hope is that having a permanent presentation space willlend continuity to staging of global musical genres, and will “spellsome relief to the presenter’s constant roller coaster ride.” Someworld music performance genres’ preferred venues are experiencinga geographic shift to the 905, he explains; others are experiencingta general decline in audience; while yet others, emerging or stillattracting large audiences, are now represented by several competitivepresenters.To close, he offers some modestly realistic circumspection: “As tothe future of the Small World Music Centre, we’ll certainly learn as wego,” he says.Nana Mouskouri: you can hear her on a Wednesday: April 2,Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall present “Nana Mouskouri: TheHappy Birthday Tour.” With her trademark black-framed glasses,proud Greek island roots, ringing mezzo-soprano and multinationalpopular song repertoire, the internationally top-selling singer hasracked up impressive numbers. For beginners she’s recorded some1,500 songs and sold several hundred million records over her morethan five-decade long career.From her professional start in the late 1950s Mouskouri chose to addvarioustypes ofsongsto herrepertoireincludingfolk songand otherpopularstyles. Fora timeshe sangjazz standardsinAthensnightclubs,Nana Mouskourileaningtoward Ella Fitzgerald’s repertoire. Then in 1957 she recorded herfirst single, Fascination, in both Greek and English. She quicklybecame identified with performing songs in multiple languages,thereby appealing to several national commercial record and concerthall markets. Her repertoire likewise draws on varied regional andnational sources.These features taken together, it strikes me that an argument couldbe made for Mouskouri as a prototypical world music singer beforethe term became an academic or commercial tag.She sang on German and French film soundtracks. Impressed withwhat he heard on her early albums, Quincy Jones brought her to NYCto record a jazz album The Girl from Greece Sings (1962), while theAmerican singer Harry Belafonte, then best known as the “King ofCalypso,” included her on his 1966 tour and teamed with her for a duoalbum. A perennially prolific recording artist, her MTV entry claimsthat “globally speaking, Nana Mouskouri is the biggest-selling femaleartist of all time. Her fluency in multiple languages (Greek, French,English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, plus nine more in her albums)enabled her to reach audiences all over Europe, the Americas andeven Asia.”Well into a very successful singing career and with a punishingtouring schedule which connected to fans worldwide, Mouskouritranslated her fame into politics, sustained social activism and pacifism.It’s a move few singers have negotiated with grace. She served asa member of the European Parliament (1994 to1999) and is a longtimeUNICEF ambassador. A recipient of many European honours, she wasrecently awarded two in Canada. In 2013 the distinguished NationalOrder of Québec, as well as the Doctor of Letters degree from McGillUniversity were conferred.At an age when most divas have long hung up their flowing concertgowns Mouskouri’s fan power is such that retirement is not in thecards. She tried. From 2005 through 2008 she conducted an extendedintercontinental farewell concert tour. That retirement didn’t last long,however. She kicked off a new world tour in Athens last fall. Torontoaudiences at the Roy Thomson Hall concert, billed “The HappyBirthday Tour,” can expect a selection of Mouskouri’s hits performedin a richly textured voice, distinctively accented with her native Greek.Still ringing with passion, today it’s a voice lacquered with the patinaof some 60 years of experience of life lived, of concert arenas andintimate stages, of life on the international road.Other picks:March 5, at the Lula Lounge, you will find Sierra Maestra, called“guardians of the Cuban son music tradition.” Named after the easternCuban mountain range where son originated, Sierra Maestra hasavidly preserved this ancestor of salsa, playing at clubs and festivalsaround the world. The Guardian observed that the band at its heartis revivalist, yet unafraid of “constantly changing styles, from 50s popto 40s big-band and 30s jazz styles, through to percussive, Africaninfluencedsongs from the last century.” Sierra Maestra has played aprominent role in the recent re-popularity of Cuban music. Juan deMarcos González, its ex-leader, was a key player in the creation of the28 | March 1 – April 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

Buena Vista Social Club. That’s the group, a certified mega-phenomenon,which brought mid-century son and its veteran soneros tointernational fame via its eponymous 1997 album.March 7 the Small World Music scene moves to the Baltic AvenueDance Club, 875 Bloor St. W. with “Electro East: Mahmood Schricker& DOORJA.” Touted as a “party with Electro World Musicians,” thesets commence with the Toronto-based DOORJA producing pulsingelectronica with live percussion and vocals. Also local are MahmoodSchricker and his band, with Reza Moghaddas (keyboard, programming),Oriana Barbato Guerrero (bass) and guest vocalists performing“electronic music influenced by Persian sounds.” In every promotionalphoto I’ve seen Schricker is holding a setar, one of Iran’s iconiclutes, a clear badge of his cultural roots.March 15 Nagata Shachu presents Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos at theBrigantine Room, Harbourfront. BC-based Ramos, the guest soloistin the concert, is a leading North American performer of the shakuhachi,the end-blown Japanese bamboo flute. A multi-instrumentalist,composer and shakuhachi craftsman, Ramos is collaborating withthe group Nagata Shachu and its leader Kiyoshi Nagata. The programincludes new works, improvisations, traditional Japanese folk songsand physically demanding ensemble drumming for which NagataShachu is justly acclaimed.April 5 Amanda Martinez and her band perform at the WinterGarden Theatre. Mexican and South African roots are mashed upwith flamenco soul inZakir HussainToronto-based singer/songwriter Martinez’smusic. Her solo CDs haveresulted in several LatinJazz Performer of the Yearnominations. No longera Canadian secret, she’sappeared internationallytoo, headlining atthe NYC Blue Note jazzclub, the 2010 FIFA WorldCup festivities in SouthAfrica and at the 2011Pan American Gamesin Mexico.Also April 5, SmallWorld Music, in conjunctionwith Roy ThomsonHall, presents “ZakirHussain and The Mastersof Percussion.” A raredrummer-celebrity in his native India, Zakir Hussain has arguablybecome the world’s best-known performer of the Hindustani tabla.I attended a previous concert of his touring group a few years ago. Icame away impressed with the program’s variety and high performancelevel, as well as with the boldness of Hussain’s fusion experimentsand showmanship.This visit Hussain has invited a new cadre of outstanding percussioniststo join him on stage. While the full lineup was not availableat press time, two Hindustani string instrumentalists will providemelodic content on sarangi and sitar. On the other hand two otherdrummers, each representing differing cultures, have been givenbilling. V. Selvaganesh, Hussain’s fellow member of the fusion groupRemember Shakti is one. He’s a virtuoso Indian percussionist basedin the Carnatic tradition playing the ghatam (clay pot drum), kanjira(small frame drum) and the mridangam (barrel drum). Kit drummerSteve Smith, formerly of the top-charting rock group Journey, is arespected member of the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame. Smithrepresents drumming prowess in Western popular music and jazzwithin Zakir Hussain’s spicy Indian rhythm masala.Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. Hecan be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.comBeat by Beat | BandstandBlasts Icy andOtherwise!JACK MACQUARRIEAs I sit down to the keyboard to write this month’s column,there is one matter first and foremost in my mind. When will ITend? Having just come into the house after a liberal applicationof salt to the ice-coated sidewalk which followed several days of snowshovelling, I’m looking for an end to wintry blasts and white mountainsof snow. I have been assured that there is a light at the end of thetunnel and that it is not the light of an oncoming train.International Horn Day: While the weatherman isn’t veryreassuring, there certainly are many signs of spring in the musicalworld. The brightest musical light on the near horizon is the TorontoInternational Horn Day on Sunday, March 30. Founded in 2006 byJoan Watson and Gloria Ratcliffe, this year’s event will be held atHumber College, 3199 Lakeshore Blvd W, Toronto.The inaugural International Horn Day event was held in Toronto inNovember of 2006. Since then, this has grown into a major annualevent bringing together professional, amateur and student hornplayers to share their love and enthusiasm for the majesty of the horn.This year it will be an all-day event starting at 9am and continuinguntil the final concert from 4:30 to 6:30. For horn aficionados of alllevels this is a must-attend event. Artistic director Ron George will beably assisted by artistic advisors Joan Watson, James MacDonald andGeorge Lloyd.The day will begin with a Morning Warm-Up. Ron George, whois horn professor at the University of Western Ontario, will leadeveryone through his daily maintenance routine which explores allaspects of horn playing. Then, from 11am to noon there will be JazzHorn with James MacDonald, for all levels from beginners to seasonedjazz performers to learn the basic 12-bar blues form and the basics ofimprovisation.A Mock Audition will be conducted from 10:30am to noon followedby a Feedback Session from 2pm to 3:30. This will have participantsperforming a mixture of operatic and symphonic excerpts, plus asolo piece. There will also be a masterclass with guest clinician, ChrisGongos, a student horn ensemble with Gary Pattison, principal hornof the National Ballet Orchestra plus several options to perform in theconcert and/or the grand finale.The principal attraction for me would be the “Wagner Tuba PettingZoo.” Scott Wevers and Bardhyl Gjevori from the Canadian OperaCompany will be on hand to demonstrate the instrument and showsome basics of how to play it.There are simply too many opportunities for participants in thisone-day event to detail here. For complete details visit the website athornday.ca.Clarinet Day March 2: Not to be outdone by the brass folks, thewoodwinds are having their special day as well. Sunday March 2 willbe Clarinet Day at Walter Hall in the Edward Johnson Building of theUniversity of Toronto. The day will start at 10am with clarinet workshopsconducted by a number of clarinet clinicians. At 1:45pm therewill be coaching sessions with James Campbell, the U of T ClarinetEnsemble and the Wychwood Clarinet Choir. At 7:30pm there will bea concert by the two combined ensembles. This time almost all of themany members of the clarinet family will be heard in performance. Ifyou’re not familiar with the sounds of a contrabass clarinet or any ofits small relatives, attend the concert for an unusual treat. As an addedplus there is no charge for any event. The Edward Johnson Buildingis at 80 Queens Park Crescent. Visit wychwoodclarinetchoir.com formore details.Bandstand continues on page 50thewholenote.com March 1 – April 7, 2014 | 29

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