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Volume 20 Issue 8 - May 2015

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Beat by Beat | World

Beat by Beat | World ViewSinging DragonsANDREW TIMARHere be dragons is an English translation of the Latin phrase“hic sunt dracones,” a notation gracing a few medieval manuscriptmaps and reflecting the wider period practice of drawingdragons, sea serpents and other mythological creatures to identifyregions of the unknown and fearful, dangerous or unexplored territories.Some researchers suggest the term may be related to the existenceof giant lizards called Komodo dragons indigenous to a few smallremote Indonesian islands – andwhich are still a tourist draw,in the region and beyond, aswhen in 2003 the first CanadianKomodo dragon was hatched atthe Toronto Zoo.Tales of such creatures,morphed by repeated telling intohybrid beasts, were common notonly throughout Asia but alsomuch of the world, acquiringcomplex and conflicting transculturalrap sheets over thecenturies. The great majority –although not all – of dragonsdepicted in European stories andiconography represent chaos andIrineu Nogueiraevil (think St. George and his confrontation with his alter beast). InChinese legend and lore, by contrast, they are generally consideredbeneficial and represent orderly government, potency, auspiciousness,strength and good luck for those worthy of it. The Emperor of Chinaoften used the mythical animal as a symbol of his imperial power;in a more philosophical vein the dragon represents the yang principlecomplementing the phoenix’s yin. In recent decades the term“descendants of the dragon” has become a self-identifying marker ofnational, ethnic identity among some Chinese, both in the Chinesehomelands and throughout the extensive diaspora.A case in point is the Sound of Dragon Music Festival making itsOntario debut in five Southern Ontario venues from May 20 to 24.Its artistic director, Vancouver-based Lan Tung, explained in a recentphone conversation that the first characters calligraphed in the festival’sdescriptive Chinese title refer to dragons singing across the ocean.It’s a potent poetic metaphor for music deeply rooted in Chinese traditionbut expressed with a characteristic Canadian inclusive accent.Tung’s instrument the erhu, as well as others such as the pipa, zheng,sheng and ruan will share the spotlight with the violin, viola, cello,bass, flute and clarinet, enlivened with world percussion instruments.Together they perform scores by composers of several nationalities.Launched last year in Vancouver, the festival, Tung notes, “bringsa unique approach to preserving traditional [Chinese] music, whilepromoting creativity and innovation.” The festival’s core contingentis made up of members of the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra(VICO), along with collaborating musicians from Taiwan and Toronto.VICO, founded in 2001, has been described as “the United Nationsof music” (CBC Radio) and “music that sounds like Vancouverlooks” (Georgia Straight). It’s a significant and I believe particularlyCanadian music development — a professional orchestra devoted tothe performance of newly created intercultural music. It was one ofthe first such ensembles in the world and is the only one of its kind inCanada, a testament to the spirit of cultural cooperation many of uslike to think exemplifies the best in Canadians.VICO’s core roster consists of 24 musicians, trained in many worldmusic traditions. Its mission is to “act as a forum for the creationof a new musical art form, one in which all of Canada’s residentcultures can take part….” It moreover “serves as a voice for Canadiancomposers and musicians of diverse backgrounds, and fosters thecreation of musical works that fuse and transcend cultural traditions.”To date VICO has commissioned and performed over 40 new works byCanadian composers.The Sound of Dragon Festival, Tung explains, aims “to intertwinediverse styles: ancient, folk and classical Chinese repertoire, as well ascontemporary Canadian compositions … and creative improvisation.”By presenting musicians from different ethnicities, nationalities, andmusical genres, it aspires to “re-define Chinese music and reflectCanada’s multicultural environment.”Each concert of the festival has a slightly different focus. It kicksoff May 20 with a free concert at the Blue Barracks of the Fort YorkNational Historic Site where members of VICO, Taiwan’s Little GiantChinese Chamber Orchestra and the Toronto pipa virtuoso WenZhao perform traditional and contemporarymusic written for Chinese instruments,joined in the second set by guestplayers from Toronto’s creative musicscene to collectively explore and improvisewith multiple combinations of Chinese,Western and other instruments.May 21, as part of Small World’s “AsianMusic Series,” the Sound of DragonFestival takes the Small World MusicCentre stage, presenting an intimateevening with musicians from the LittleGiant Chinese Chamber Orchestra andVICO, joined by Wen Zhao, pipa soloist.The concert finale features the Torontopremiere of Vancouver composer JohnOliver’s Eagle Flies to Mountain, a workwhich animates notions of the four elements (earth, air, water, fire)through musical combinations, and which also invokes the essentialcomplementary duality of the ancient concept of yin and yang.The following day, May 22, the festival moves north of Steeles the Flato Markham Theatre. Free Chinese instrument workshopsin the afternoon will be followed by an evening concert featuring a12-member chamber orchestra conducted by the Taiwanese maestroChih-Sheng Chen. The orchestra, consisting of VICO core instrumentalistsaugmented by musicians from Taiwan and Toronto, willperform Lan Tung’s 2014 signature work Sound of Dragon, a livelyblend of the well-known Chinese piece Crazy Snake Dance infusedwith North African rhythms and sprinkled with improvised solos.Saturday May 23, the festival shifts to the Aeolian Hall in Londonpresented in a concert by Sunfest, formally known as the LondonCommittee for Cross-Cultural Arts Inc. Members of VICO and LittleGiant Chinese Chamber Orchestra join forces once again to presenta program of Chinese folk music arrangements and commissionedCanadian works, including “Indian, klezmer, Persian, Chinese andTaiwanese,” and no doubt Euro-North American essential features too.May 24 the Sound of Dragon Festival completes its Southern Ontariotour with a concert at The Jazz Room, Huether Hotel in Waterloo,produced by Neruda Arts, K-W’s world music presenter.Meden Glas: May 2 Toronto’s Meden Glas releases its debut albumBalkan Mixologies at the Music Gallery. The group is directed byethnomusicologist Irene Markoff, a specialist in Balkan and Turkishvocal styles and the bağlama (long-necked lute). Members of itsexpanded group and Bulgaria’s virtuoso kaval (end-blown flute)player Nikola Gaidarov will join the core quintet. Together theypresent a journey into the vocal styles, intricate rhythms and instrumentalmusic of Croatia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey,Sardinia, Russia, as well as that of the Kurds and Roma. They promisean “adventure that will bend your ears and get the evening kickingwith your dancing feet!” I’m in.Footsteps of Babur: May 8 the Aga Khan Museum in conjunctionwith the Aga Khan Trust for Cultural Music Initiative present“Footsteps of Babur,” referring to Babur, the founder of the MughalEmpire, and the legendary lavishness of 16th-century Mughal courtlife in which music of many kinds and from many regions andperformance genres played a prominent role. Musicians Homayun20 | May 1 - June 7, 2015

CAROLINE TABAHSakhi (Afghan rubab), Salar Nader (tabla) and Rahul Sharma (Indiansantoor) evoke the light refined music that filled the palace roomsof Mughal India and Afghanistan in centuries past. Sharma is theson of the important Northern Indian santoor player ShivkumarSharma, often credited as the man who established his instrument inHindustani classical music performance.Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project: Also May 8, “Jayme Stone’s LomaxProject,” also the title of their delightful new album takes theKoerner Hall stage. Two-time JUNO-winning banjoist, composerand band leader Stone has distilled and reinterpreted songs made bythe American ethnomusicologist and folklorist Lomax, along withhis distinguished instrumental and vocal collaborators. Lomax isjustly celebrated for his field recordings conducted over the 50 yearsstraddling the middle of the 20th century. The project revives forour century the voices and spirit of that era’s rural Americana. Wehear stirring renditions of sea chanties, fiddle tunes, work songs,moving Georgia Sea Islands African-American a cappella singing andAppalachian ballads. It’s an important roots revival album, and audiencescan expect Stone at the core of his tight ensemble at KoernerHall adding deft touches of his musically nuanced, never superfluous,banjo playing.Asian Heritage Month at the TPL: May is Asian Heritage Monthin Toronto. As in previous years the Toronto Public Library is celebratingit in various ways, including free music performances givenby select musicians from Toronto’s Asian music diaspora. May 16 at1pm the Richview, Etobicoke branch presents Andrew Timar (yesthat’s me moonlighting as a musician) and dancer Keiko Ninomiyain a program of “Southeast Asian Dance and Music Fusion” setwithin a North American aesthetic. North York Central Library’sAuditorium’s stage will be particularly musically active this month.May 21 “The Music of China” takes to its intimate stage with a programof “regional, contemporary, and Western music.” For “An Afternoonof Persian Music” on May 23 the polished Shiraz Ensemble performsmusic from the Persian Qajar dynasty, plus works by the importantcomposer and santur player Farāmarz Pāyvar (1933—2009), as well asimprovisations.Pedram Khavarzamini and Shawn Mativetsky: May 16 PedramKhavarzamini and Shawn Mativetsky headline at the Music Galleryin a program titled “East Meets Further East.” The concert’s goal isto highlight Iran and India’s deep drumming traditions. MontrealerMativetsky, performing with bassist George Koller, is an accomplishedtabla performer and educator, an exponent of the Benares gharanaand disciple of theShawn Mativetskytabla maestro PanditSharda Sahai (1935—2011). Mativetskyteaches tabla andpercussion at McGillUniversity and is apassionate advocate oftabla in contemporarymusic of many genres.Khavarzamini, whowas among the mostsought-after tombakteachers and playersin Teheran when hewas a resident there,will perform with tarvirtuoso Araz Salek. Hehas co-authored severalbooks on the drum’stechnique and repertoire. In the early 2000s he was invited to jointhe Greek music innovator Ross Daly’s group Labyrinth and movedto Europe to pursue his music career. He has toured the world withmusicians such as Dhruba Ghosh, Dariush Talai, Vassilis Stavrakakis,and others. Last year he relocated to Toronto, a move which is ourcity’s and our country’s gain. These two outstanding Canadian drummerswill explore much of the range of their respective instrumentsand rhythmic vocabularies, culminating in a collective performance.Lulaworld Festival: The Lulaworld Festival is celebrating its tenthanniversary, and this year it’s a whopper. More than two dozenconcerts, family workshops, Brazilian parade and other events at theLula Lounge and environs between May 27 and June 6 work the theme“Celebrating the Music and Dance of the Americas!” Presented by LulaMusic and Arts Centre, it’s billed as the summer’s Toronto 2015 PANAM Games pre-party, guaranteed to “get Toronto dancing to the musicof the Americas.” Even if you don’t dance in public, you can expecta healthy serving of Toronto’s finest world, jazz and Latin musicians,often collaborating with international guest artists on Lula’s intimatestage. With a festival on such a vast scale, I can only hint at the musical– and dance – wealth to be discovered.May 27, the festival’s opening night, Toronto’s leading Braziliandance company Dance Migration is joined by guest Sao Paolo-basedpercussionist Alysson Bruno and Irineu Nogueira.May 30 the Lula All Stars release their new CD. The group of musicianswith roots from across the Americas plays at Lula Lounge’sweekly live salsa series, co-led by Sean Bellaviti and Luis Orbegoso.Saturday, June 6, the Lulaworld stage at the Dundas West Fest willbe chockablock with Latin jazz, salsa, Jamaican ska, Afro-Caribbeanjazz, Spanish rock and pop, Canada’s biggest participatory Braziliandrumming parade and “family-friendly workshops.” Best of all,it’s all free.Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. Hecan be contacted at New TraditionsFiddler on the RoofValérie MilotA Lot of Hot AirsStewart GoodyearLa traviataImprov All-StarsMarie-Josée LordMusic from the Sistine ChapelJazz Fringe FestivalThe Good LoveliesJane BunnettMAZand more…705-653-5508 May 1 - June 7, 2015 | 21

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