Project Bali X
Independent GKN-10809 (www.girikedaton.com)
First of all, Projet Bali is defiantly not your chill-out ambient gamelan album. It is however a genre bending, skillfully composed, performed and recorded compilation by the crack Montreal Balinese gamelan group Giri Kedaton. Never academic, it incorporates with élan Western popular and classical musical elements with straight-up and twisted Balinese gong kebyar instrumentation and musical textures.
Glancing at the album’s titles is a dead giveaway to the cheeky culture-mashing intentions herein. Bali Hillbillies layers gong kebyar with the rock trinity: electric guitar, bass and drum set, with blood-pumping results. Ritual du Citadin continues the rock trope mirroring drum set breaks with kendang (drum) and ceng-ceng (Balinese multiple cymbals) features, underscored by spacey synth textures and rippling kotekan (interlocking patterns) provided by the rest of the gamelan.
The musical and material ‘metal’ metaphor is brought to the surface in Jembatan Metal. I find that the tempestuous Balinese kebyar (“burst in flame”) music & heavy metal rock energies and gestures suit each other so well that it made me wonder what took so long to marry them?
The album also embraces a Radiohead cover, surf rock vibes, synth soundscapes, Cuban bata drumming, Ennio Morricone references and techno beats, all quite comfortably and unapologetically cohabiting with gong kebyar music.
Thanks to Giri Kedaton’s twenty-six dedicated and skilled Quebec musicians and composers “Projet Bali” is one thrilling cross-cultural voyage worth taking repeatedly with little fear of culture shock.
Project Bali X
Independent SACANA 001
I’ve discovered that there are two types of Brazilian musicians in our midst - those that are born in Brazil and adopt Canada as their home and those that are from here and become utterly smitten with this incredibly rich musical culture. And when the two groups of people come together the results can be marvellous, as traditional Brazilian styles are flavoured with North American sounds. Sambacana is just one of a number of examples of these hybrids in Toronto and the driving force behind the band is Alan “Canadense” Hetherington.
Hetherington is an in-demand percussionist, drummer, educator and leader of a number of groups including Escola de Samba de Toronto, a large percussion ensemble modelled after the massive bands that are prolific throughout Brazil and hit the streets at Carnaval time. The other core members of Sambacana - John Yelland, bass, Wagner Petrilli, guitars, Luis Guerra, piano and keys, Aline Morales, vocals - and a dozen guests bring a range of styles and skills to “Nos”. So we get what amounts to a sampler of Brazilian musical styles, mainly from the north east regions. Amor Transcendental is a gorgeous, meditative bossa nova written by Cibelle Iglesias; Dança de Vida, an instrumental featuring Bob Deangelis on clarinet, has touches of choro and jazz; Neve is a fun pagode lament about snow, and Molho de H.P. (HP Sauce) is a complex tribute to the genius Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal. This beautiful disc and information about several Brazilian groups can be found on the website noted above.
Briga & Bahtalo Records
A product of Montreal’s multicultural music scene, and formerly with Les Gitans de Sarajevo and Rembetika Hipsters, Briga (Brigitte Dajczer), launched her debut solo project “Diaspora” in 2009, with recent performances in Toronto and Kingston. This accomplished violinist presents a lively and varied mix of Balkan pop/jazz, gypsy style violin, and song, on two CD’s with a back-up band of equally polished musicians on keyboards, accordion, drums, various traditional percussion, and bass. The first disc is completely instrumental, and here Briga shines as either composer or arranger of most of the tracks, as well as exuberant violin virtuoso, displaying extraordinary technique and passion. By contrast, the second disc is a collection of songs, all but one (Les Paul’s Johnny, Tu n’es pas un Ange) with lyrics and music by Briga, in English and French. While her singing is not as developed yet as her violin playing (her intonation is not always spot on), there is obvious talent here, both as singer and songwriter. And she still plays violin on the vocal tracks, though it’s not clear whether this is simultaneous or overdubbed.
One fault of this CD set is the lack of detailed liner notes; though the musicians and their instruments are named, and song lyrics are provided, there are no bios, nor any background information on the music itself, nor translations of the lyrics. Nevertheless, this is a praiseworthy first release by an artist worth following. Notable also is the stellar darbuka playing by Tacfarinas Kichou throughout.
DaCapo Chamber Choir
Independent DC 002-09 (www.dacapochamberchoir.ca)
The essence of this recording weaves an ever-changing metamorphosis of darkness to light, highlighting the thought that neither of these polarities can possibly exist without the other. Night and day, life and death, earthly time and eternity are each a shadow of the other and which is real? The compositions chosen for this brilliantly focused choir provide exquisitely mystical and powerful music as meditations for a variety of texts highlighting this theme. The most dramatic is Whitacre's When David Heard based on the biblical passage telling of David's grief over the death of his son Absalom. Contrasting with the quietly poignant settings of Absalom fili mi we are used to, Whitacre's fourteen and a half minute setting moves through several different musical characterizations, evoking movement from sobbing to screaming, pain to ritual acceptance, through a processional passage. Other pieces such as Moonset by Jeff Enns and Nocturne by Leonard Enns which celebrate the beauty of night and the harmony of the spheres make effective use of overtones to inspire awe. In The searching sings by R. Murray Schafer, and Leonard Enn's The Amazing Day the choir celebrates the magic and lightness of nature. The recording begins and ends with two meditations on the sacred, Enn's I saw eternity and Imant Raminsh's O ignus spiritus.
A Ring of Bronze
Quintessence Handbell Ensemble
Independent QHE200901 (www.quintessencebells.ca)
“Drats! If only I had listened to this CD before Christmas!” was my first reaction – it would have made a perfect gift for many of my friends. Handbell ringing is a dying art – usually ridiculed on par with the kazoo and ukulele. There is nothing to ridicule here however, as the Quintessence members are very talented musicians and arrangers. The selections range from classical (Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring) to spirituals (Swing Low, Sweet Chariot) to seasonal and original tunes – all superbly and precisely rendered by the five member ensemble. The amateur musicians, whose spiritual and musical home is the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Scarborough, are joined by a talented trio of professional musicians, Svetla Dybenko on cello, Kevin McChesney on guitar and Joanne McLennan on piano. Almost regardless of the tune, the sound is all Christmas – shimmering lights and joy, invoking the magic that captivates us so about the season. Do yourself (and your friends) a favour and start you Christmas 2010 shopping early at www.quintessencebells.ca.
The Melody of Rhythm - Triple Concerto and Music for Trio
Bela Fleck; Zakir Hussain; Edgar Meyer; Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Leonard Slatkin
E1 Music KOC-CD-2024
A trio of stars creates a musical galaxy of sound, ideas, patterns and rhythm, that gives a new meaning to the words “classical crossover” – the Grammy nomination in this category pretty well sums up the high quality of “The Melody of Rhythm”
Bela Fleck (banjo), Zakir Hussain (tabla) and Edgar Meyer (double bass) are each stars in performance and composition. Their ensemble work as a trio is brilliant. Theirs is a trustworthy conversation in the six trios presented here. The music is a quilt of styles – the short rhythmic and tonal melodic ideas create amazing counterpoint.
Add the symphony orchestra in the Triple Concerto The Melody of Rhythm and a fascinating mix of the Western classical, world music and American jazz/folk is created. The best part of the three movement concerto is that not a single musician is asked to be something they are not. No uncomfortable stylistic boundaries are crossed. The symphonic musicians’ parts, though indicative of the banjo, tabla and double bass parts, provide more of a different viewpoint than an accompaniment to the soloists. It is clever writing with respect for the different genres from everyone involved.
Fleck, Hussain and Meyer are phenomenal as always. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin rises to the musical challenge. The production is clear, with the concise liner notes a dream to read. This is entertainment and musical genius to be applauded!