Photo Credit: Small World MusicEstablished in 1997 by Toronto music curator Alan Davis, Small World Music Society has for years maintained its position as one of the city’s premier presenters of culturally diverse music. All in, they reckon they have presented and partnered on close to 800 concerts and related events in venues ranging from top-tier concert halls to their own venue, from outdoor festival stages to clubs across Greater Toronto, making SWMS one of the this country’s most significant global music presenters, reaching audiences of many kinds.

Full disclosure: I first met Davis when he was a programmer at The Music Gallery, probably back in the late 1980s. Later on he joined Gamelan Toronto, a community music group I started in 1995; in fact, one of Small World Music’s first projects, in 1997, was to present the Gamelan Summit Toronto, a ten-day festival of which I was the founder and artistic director. I have also performed as a musician at SWM-produced concerts since. And over the last decade I’ve followed various aspects of Small World Music Society’s programming and evolution here in The WholeNote. One example was when its Small World Centre, a hub for the culturally diverse arts community, opened six years ago; another was my summer 2017 World View column about the 2017 launch of Polyphonic Ground, a multi-organization umbrella group of ten GTA-based music presenters working collaboratively to showcase the voices and sounds of Toronto’s global music scene.

So I was all ears when, early this year, SWM announced not only its annual springtime Asian Music Series, but also an ambitious Global Toronto conference. It was all set to go in May as a showcase for select culturally diverse Canadian musicians, plus a place where Canadian and international buyers could meet, greet, hear and book them. Then the COVID-19 crisis suddenly locked (almost) everything down, and both those events were cancelled. End of story it seemed.

Read more: One More Pivotal Moment For Small World Music

Start by saying who you are and where music fits into that,” were my editor’s instructions for this piece. After which I was to move on to talking about what I was doing when COVID-19 hit: what I’d had to abandon, what I’m hoping to pick up on again, and how I am preparing for that. 
Be careful what you ask for!

Born midcentury as Tímár András in Szombathely, Hungary, as a young child I was an unwitting participant in my family’s Canadian immigration saga. We segued from the trauma and dislocation of the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution to the welcoming though utterly unfamiliar WASP-dominated environs of 1950s Toronto. These days I’m navigating another radical change - the challenging socially distanced landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: When Your Instrument Is a Collective Noun

According to The WholeNote’s “Previous Issues” searchable database, this marks the ninth year I’m writing this column. According to a back-of-the-envelope tally, I’ve written about 80 of these explorations of the seemingly inexhaustible globally conscious music communities in the GTA. Occasionally, I’ve even ventured off-continent following the touring activities of our musicians.

No matter how often I do it, however, writing about the launch of the pre-fall concert season amid our typical Southern Ontario August heat and humidity always feels oddly dyssynchronous.

One way to bridge this musical inter-seasonality is to select some of the musicians whose careers I’ve touched on here in past Septembers over the years, trace their 2019 summers, and see where they land this September. The fact they’re all recent Polaris Music Prize recipients, and all Indigenous artists, provides us with another interesting lens.

Polaris Music Prize

The Polaris Music Prize is arguably a Canadian music industry bellwether. It is annually given to the “best full-length Canadian album based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, or record label.” Founded in 2006 by Steve Jordan, a former Canadian music industry A&R executive, it was endowed with an inclusive-sounding mission statement: “A select panel of [Canadian] music critics judge and award the Prize without regard to musical genre or commercial popularity.” Polaris’ aim differs from other awards which recognize album and digital title sales and/or streaming, radio airplay, touring and social media engagement.

Mission statement notwithstanding, a review of Polaris winners for the first eight years reveals its juries chose artists reflecting commercial album production within relatively mainstream popular music genres. These include indie rock (Final Fantasy/Owen Pallett, Patrick Watson, Arcade Fire, etc), pop (Dan Snaith/Caribou), post-rock (Godspeed You! Black Emperor), electronic/hip-hop (Kaytranada), as well as hardcore punk. Given those genres, until a few years ago Polaris awardees would not have found their way into this column.

In recent years however, Indigenous voices have come to the fore with Polaris juries, bringing their awards and their artistic achievements to the attention of the general public and to this column. While A Tribe Called Red’s album Nation II Nation – their electronic dance music, dubbed powwow-step, imbued with powerful elements of First Nations music – was short-listed in 2013; it didn’t win best album. But Indigenous sounds, however, did finally sweep into the Polaris award nightscape in downtown Toronto the following year.

Tanya Tagaq. Photo by Bob TomlinsonTanya Tagaq’s 2014 Win

On September 22, 2014 avant-garde Inuk vocalist Tanya Tagaq gave a jaw-dropping, dramatic ten-minute Polaris concert performance with drummer Jean Martin and violinist Jesse Zubot, along with, for the first time, the 44-voice improvising Element Choir conducted by Christine Duncan. “…It was as if an intense Arctic wind had blown into downtown Toronto’s The Carlu [venue]…” I wrote, reporting for The WholeNote. To cap off the evening, Tagaq was awarded the Prize for her brilliant, overtly political album Animism.

“Her win marks a significant milestone” I wrote in my WholeNote report. “For the first time it was awarded to an Indigenous musician. … a complex and heady mix of confrontation and reconciliation, of social and political issues [with] musical genres … hinting at the potential transcultural power of the healing force of sound.”

In the Polaris Spotlight in 2015 and Beyond

Tagaq’s 2014 award seemed to have opened some kind of Polaris door for Indigenous Canadian musicians. The following year, the Piapot Cree-born singer-songwriter, composer, educator and social activist Buffy Sainte-Marie won the Prize for her firebrand statement, Power in the Blood; her 15th studio release. This fearless veteran of the music business, 74-years-old at the time, has been writing and singing songs of love, war, religion and Indigenous resistance for over half a century.

Lido Pimienta. Photo by Alejandro SantiagoIn 2017 the Polaris jury awarded the $50,000 Polaris Music Prize to the Colombian Canadian singer-songwriter Lido Pimienta for her album La Papessa. Identifying as Afro-Colombian with Indigenous Wayuu heritage on her mother’s side, her music incorporates musical influences from those sources, as well as synthpop and electronic music genres. I also covered that Polaris gala evening for The WholeNote, and wrote: “In addition to her acrobatic voice, the sound of the tambura (Colombian bass drum), snare drum, electronics and a four-piece horn section dominated the music.” There wasn’t a single guitar or piano on stage; a rarity in the Polaris world.

Also significant that year, four of the ten short-listed albums directly reflected current Indigenous realities. A Tribe Called Red, Tanya Tagaq and Lido Pimienta were joined by Gord Downie’s Secret Path, a moving concept album about Chanie Wenjack, the Anishinaabe boy who tragically died after escaping from a residential school. 

Then in 2018, singer, pianist and composer Jeremy Dutcher captured the Prize with his moving freshman album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa. Dutcher, a Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) member of the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, studied music and anthropology at Dalhousie University. He also trained as an operatic tenor, surely the first Polaris winner to do so. He later expanded his professional repertoire to include the traditional singing style and songs of his Wolastoqiyik community. His unique album reflects all those musical, linguistic and historically informed threads, reclaiming the past with an authenticity and emotional core that resonates with audiences.

Jeremy Dutcher. Photo by Christina CassaroIn his Polaris acceptance speech, Dutcher declared, “Canada, you are in the midst of an Indigenous renaissance,” placing his work within a larger, growing Indigenous presence in the Canadian theatre, music, visual arts, dance and cinema scenes. With an eagle feather in his hand – holding an eagle feather honours the Creator and invites them to take notice – he continued, “What you see on the stage tonight is the future. … Are you ready to hear the truths that need to be told?”

Dutcher concluded his 2018 speech with a mission statement, an insight and a heartfelt invitation. “I do this work to honour those who have gone before and to lay the footprints for those yet to come. This is all part of a continuum of Indigenous excellence – and you are here to witness it. I welcome you.”

The Summer of 2019

The laying of footprints continues apace. Over the 2019 summer, Tagaq, Pimienta and Dutcher kept busy touring. Tagaq, having relocated to Toronto since her win, has been on tour with both her music and her award-winning genre-bending literary debut Split Tooth (2018) which masterfully mashes up fiction, memoir, Inuit myth and poetry. Her coming-of-age story is not unlike her music in the richly layered texture of its narratives. In July, Tagaq appeared several times at the Riddu Riđđu Festival at the Centre for Northern Peoples in Northern Norway, along with Buffy Sainte-Marie, Jeremy Dutcher and other global Indigenous acts.

Pimienta’s self-described “work of theatre, work of performance” We Are in a Non-relationship Relationship premiered earlier this year at Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The cross-disciplinary work illustrated her versatility across a variety of performance genres integrating music, storytelling and visual elements, portrayed on three screens above a living room-like set. She’s ambitiously expanding her career in new theatrical directions, “exploring the politics of gender, race, motherhood, identity and the construct of the Canadian landscape in the Latin American diaspora and vernacular.”

Pimienta also took her music on tour this summer to Montréal’s Suoni per il Popolo, Toronto’s Koerner Hall, Folk on the Rocks in Yellowknife, Pickathon 2019 in Oregon, USA, SummerStage in New York City’s Central Park and headlined the Dawson City Music Festival.

The positive reception of Jeremy Dutcher’s Polaris win has provided a discernible lift to his career in radio plays, print coverage, record sales and live concerts. In The WholeNote‘s summer issue, I wrote about Dutcher’s August concert at the rural Westben in Campbellford ON., an event that also featured an Anishinaabe BBQ for concertgoers. He also appeared at summer festivals in Toronto (Luminato), San Francisco, Montreal, Canso NS, Moncton NB, Woody Point NL, and Rees, Germany.

And in September … and early October

September 24, Tanya Tagaq and her band take the National Arts Centre stage in Ottawa along with Kalaallit (Greenlandic Inuk) Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, in a concert evocatively titled “Voices Rising.” A frequent Tagaq onstage collaborator, Bathory is a performance artist, actor, and storyteller, a specialist in uaajeerneq, a Greenlandic mask dance.

Jeremy Dutcher’s tour dates include the World Music Festival in Chicago on September 18 and 19, the National Arts Centre Ottawa on September 25 and Centre in the Square in Kitchener on September 27 and 28. He continues with dates at First Ontario Performing Arts Centre, St. Catharines on October 3 and Burton Cummings Theatre, Winnipeg on October 9.

October 18 The Music Gallery presents “Lido Pimienta: Road to Miss Colombia, plus OKAN” at its home Toronto hall as part of its annual X avant concerts. Pimienta presents songs from Miss Colombia, her La Papessa follow-up album, exploring Pimienta’s relationship to the culture of her birth. Performing with horns, winds and choir, the performance showcases her new songs arranged by Halifax-based composer Robert Drisdelle.

And the 2019 Polaris Music Award?

For one thing, Indigenous musicians remain contenders. The short list includes the Indigenous West Coast hip-hop duo Snotty Nose Rez Kids, nominated for their strong third album Trapline. Haisla rappers Darren “Young D” Metz and Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce incorporate themes from the Kitimat BC reservation, where they grew up, in their album’s dense lyrics, mixing it with trap (a style of hip-hop music developed in the Southern USA): a style the duo call “Indigenous Trap.”

Inuk singer, filmmaker and activist Elisapie, born in Salluit in Quebec’s far north, is also on the short list. Her The Ballad of the Runaway Girl is by turns moody, melodic, richly layered and skillfully arranged throughout.

Of course there are eight other, non-Indigenous, nominees too. But no matter which one wins on September 16, the 2019 edition of the Polaris Music Prize clearly reflects, as Jeremy Dutcher astutely observed, the “continuum of Indigenous excellence” that the Prize itself, since 2014 at least, has contributed to.


SEP 7: Aga Khan Museum, in partnership with Raag Mala Society of Canada, presents “Stree Shakti: Celebrating Women in Music,” featuring Arati Ankalikar-Tikekar at the Museum. Ankalikar-Tikekar, an award-winning Hindustani music vocalist, accompanied by harmonium and tabla, performs raags associated with female deities and her own compositions.

SEP 28: Aga Khan Museum presents Madagascar’s supergroup Toko Telo in its auditorium. Toko Telo features the soulful vocals of Malagasy diva Monika Njava and guitarists D’Gary (the fingerpicking master) and Joël Rabesolo, inspired by the rich inter-cultural music traditions of the island’s southwest.

SEP 19 TO 29: Small World Music Society (SMWMS) presents its 18th Annual Small World Music Festival in Toronto. Here are just three of the concerts to look forward to:

SEP 19: Hanggai from China and Mongolia takes the stage at the Revival Bar. Beijing-based Hanggai convincingly mashes up rock and Mongolian music; the resulting mix can be heard on some of the world’s biggest festival stages;

SEP 26: Lula Music & Arts Centre in association with SMWMS present “Women in Percussion Festival” opening night at Lula Lounge, headlining Adriana Portela. A leading figure in the samba-reggae movement, Portela was the first woman to lead a samba-reggae ensemble, and has played percussion with many leading Brazilian groups. Also on the bill is Brazilian-Canadian percussionist and vocalist Aline Morales with her new horn and drum project, Aline Morales & Vulvas.

SEP 28: MRG Concerts in association with SMWMS present Tinariwen at the Danforth Music Hall. Formed 40 years ago, this Malian band is closely associated with the electric-guitar-driven desert blues sound and with their powerful songs about issues facing their Tuareg people.

Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. He can be contacted at

“Idecided to noise-cancel life,” begins Olga Khazan in a provocative recent article What Happens When You Always Wear Headphones in The Atlantic’s Health section. “The buck stops at my cochlea. Just like we choose everything else, I choose exactly what to put in my ears.” she concludes.

Early in May of this year, the Global Musics and Musical Communities conference at California’s UCLA posed a question: “How and why [do] specific musical genres travel outside their countries of origin and lead to the formation of new musical communities?” Presenters examined genres such as hip-hop, gamelan and taiko as musics that have “become global in the past century.” Ethnomusicologist Henry Spiller’s talk sported the cheeky yet insightful title The Hereness of the There: Making Sense of Gamelan in the United States.

So what do Khazan’s noise-cancelling earbud manifesto and the Global Musics and Musical Communities conference have to do with my summer column?

The UCLA conference reminded me that the examination of musical nation-hopping performed every day in Canadian locales has been one of my main subjects here over the years, arguing strenuously that cross-cultural musical interaction is the norm rather than the exception. The widespread, speedy transmission of these genres to musical communities around the world, beginning in the second half of 20th century, and their adoption and incorporation, is a significant and remarkable development.

As for living a “noise-cancelling life” – I’m not sure that, even if attainable, it is a healthy goal. I’m all for choice and for protecting the health of one’s ears in an increasingly noise-polluted environment, but for me the joy of music includes the excitement of exploration, the pleasure of surprise, chance, or even surreptitious discovery.

What does that sound like?

It’s the feeling of walking through the lush shrub- and tree-filled lakeside Toronto Music Garden on a hot summer afternoon – the garden that was co-designed by cellist Yo Yo Ma to reflect in landscape Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Major for cello. The music of a small group you’ve only read about slowly emerges out of the city’s din as you come to the brow of a knoll in the garden. They’re playing at the bottom of a modest grassy amphitheatre sheltered by a mature weeping willow.

There’s no front of house, program, no ushers or bar to contend with. You’re in a T-shirt, shorts and sandals, wearing a protective hat. If you’ve ridden your bike down, as I have on occasion, you search for a safe place to park it. Pleasure boats are moored at Marina Quay West to the left, Billy Bishop Airport’s prop planes within earshot. On the right, the Lakeshore Blvd. and Gardiner Expressway traffic sings with an eternal buzz, like the drone of thousands of urban cicadas.

That urban Toronto scene for me is one of the great and unique joys of music in the summer. It can’t be experienced with earbuds on, noise-cancelling or otherwise. So, with transcultural music in mind, and minds and ears open rather than closed, let’s explore just a few of the summer global music treats in store in the urban jungle, the GTA and beyond.

Labyrinth Musical Workshop Ontario: Have Yourself a Modal Summer

Let’s begin by following up on two of the stories from my column last month.

Labyrinth Musical Workshop Ontario (LO) recently announced several concerts in addition to its June modal music workshops (check its website to register) and its June 8 concert, “Modal Music Summit: Ross Daly with This Tale of Ours plus Tzvetanka Varimezova,” at Eastminster United Church. On the July 1 weekend it is programming three separate performances as part of the Aga Khan Museum’s Rhythms of Canada program (more on this further on). Then on consecutive Saturday afternoons – August 3, 10, 17 and 24 – LO offers afternoon concerts in Flemingdon Park (at Don Mills and Eglinton), supported by the Toronto Arts Council’s Arts in the Parks program. The concerts are billed as “family-friendly” and will include a chance to meet the musicians and instruments. Start time is around 3pm. Best confirm both the Aga Khan Museum and Flemingdon Park events in the listings or on the LO website.

Didgori Ensemble: Georgian Polyphony Tours Ontario and Quebec

My other lead story last issue was on the six-member Didgori Ensemble, the award-winning choir from the Republic of Georgia, and its June Canadian tour. As I mentioned, such a rare moment for Canadian Georgian-music lovers only happens once a lifetime.

We pick up the choir’s tour on June 7 when a consortium of Toronto presenters showcase the Didgori Ensemble at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre’s Jeanne Lamon Hall. Audiences can expect brilliant performances of Georgian polyphony, with ensemble members accompanying themselves on traditional Georgian instruments. June 8, Didgori gives a public Georgian choral workshop from 5 to7pm at the St. Vladimir Institute, 620 Spadina Ave., and the next day they hold a five-hour Georgian choral workshop at the MusiCamp Studio, 11 Cobourg Ave., starting at 11am. Check MusiCamp’s website for registration information.

June 10, Didgori travels east to Kingston Ontario’s St. George’s Cathedral where they sing liturgical music at 12:15pm, presented by MusiCamp, the Melos Choir and Period Instruments. They continue east to Quebec, where on Wednesday June 12, Gabrielle Boutillier presents “Didgori en concert à Québec” at the Voûtes de la Maison Chevalier. The next day, they perform and conduct a workshop at the Auberge La Caravane, in North Hatley, QC. The tour then concludes on Saturday June 15 at 8pm in Montreal where the Harira Ensemble and MusiCamp present Didgori: Live in Concert at the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes. For those eager to experience this extraordinary music first-hand, Didgori offers an all-ages Workshop for Singers of All Levels June 15 and 16 at the Centre des Musiciens du Monde, 5043 St Dominique St, Montreal. You can reserve a spot at

Polky Village BandSmall World Music: Free Summer Lunch

Small World Music presents its free Summer Lunch concert series in partnership with Union Station on the latter’s TD Stage, 65 Front St. W. on nine consecutive Wednesdays from 12 noon to 1pm. SWM’s Summer Lunch lineup launches June 5 with Mimi O’Bonsawin who recently won the Best Pop Album at the 2019 Indigenous Music Awards. It continues June 12 with Moskitto Bar, the Toronto quartet musically covering territory from Brittany to Bagdad, through Ukraine and the Balkans. June 19 the Polky Village Band, an energetic Polish-Canadian folk music group takes audiences on a musical journey to Poland, “the melting pot of Eastern and Central Europe with Carpathian, Jewish, Gypsy, Ukrainian, Slovak and Hungarian influences.” June 26 the Tich Maredza Band, fronted by Toronto-based Zimbabwean singer, guitarist, mbira-ist and composer Tichaona Maredza takes the stage.

Of the five additional acts appearing on the Summer Lunch series, Fränder, a Swedish and Estonian folk quartet, is the only non-Ontario group, appearing on July 17. Representing the latest generation of talented musicians to take their rich heritage of indigenous songs to the world stage; it’s worth taking your soup, sandwich or sushi to their set.

SWM’s Summer Lunch series, incidentally, is part of Union Summer: Presented by TD, a sprawling 50 consecutive days of summer programming on the Front St. TD Stage, promising to “showcase …Toronto’s talent, culture and spirit right at the gateway to the city.”

Summer Music at the Museum: Aga Khan Museum

Earlier I mentioned Labyrinth Ontario’s three Canada Day weekend performances at the Aga Khan Museum. The AKM is producing three festivals this summer celebrating “Canada’s contemporary fabric, a dynamic mix of world views, cultures, stories, and rhythms. Our festivities honour the Indigenous people of this land … much of it planned to happen outdoors.”

Some other selections from its “Rhythms of Canada” festival, running Sunday June 30 and Monday July 1:

Sunday opens with the 13-member Asiko Afrobeat Ensemble led by Nigerian-born bandleader Foly Kolade, and includes Toronto-based singer and composer Hussein Janmohamed, plus two-time world-champion hoop dancer Lisa Odjig from the Odawa/Ojibwe/Pottawatomi Nations from Wikwemikong, Manitoulin Island, Ontario. Headlining the event is the Cris Derksen Trio, led by rising star musician and composer Derksen, who describes herself as a “half-Cree, half- Mennonite classically trained cellist.” Also on the bill is the Waleed Kush Ensemble offering percussion-driven African jazz, led by Sudanese multi-instrumentalist Waleed Abdulhamid. The next day on July 1 Toronto’s Maracatu Mar Aberto perform the rhythms, songs and dances derived from the traditions of Northeastern Brazil, while other world music and dance events fill out the Canadian Day afternoon.

The AKM’s “Moon Landing Festival” (July 20 and July 21) plus its “First Five Fest” celebrating five years of programming (August 31 and September 1) both have plenty for global music explorers. Please check the listings and the Museum website for details.

Harbourfront Centre: Summer Music in the Garden

My introduction to this month’s column makes it pretty clear how I feel about Harbourfront Centre’s delightful annual series of al fresco concerts. Summer Music in the Garden ranks among our city’s essential music-in-the-park experiences. Now entering its third decade, artistic director Tamara Bernstein always makes room for top-rank global music in her astutely curated series. The concerts are scheduled for Thursdays at 7pm and Sundays at 4pm, so it pays to check the listings. Pro tip: unless it’s sunny, best call the info desk at 416-973-4000 for the up-to-the-minute rain call.

Mercedes and Alfredo Caxaj, Sunfest co-artistic directorsSunfest: “Canada’s Premier Celebration of World Cultures”

Every summer for a quarter of a century the southwestern Ontario city of London has hosted what has become “one of the best overseas [world] music festivals,” according to the UK’s prestigious Songlines Magazine, transforming London’s central Victoria Park into “a culturally diverse jewel, where 40 top world music and jazz groups from all corners of the planet entertain.” This year from July 4 to 7 the admission-free festival jams the park chock-a-block with five stages and more than 225 exhibitors, including vendors of global cuisine, crafts and visual art.

I spoke directly with co-artistic director Mercedes Caxaj. “This is the 25th edition of Sunfest,” Caxaj explained, “which my father Alfredo Caxaj founded.” Mercedes has literally grown up with the festival. “You could consider it a family operation since my mother and brother are also involved in running Sunfest,” she added.

On the fact that Sunfest’s website the festival’s lineup is divided into International and National performers, so I asked her about that. “It’s one way visitors can get a feel for the world music scene today,” she replied. “Also, by separating Canadian acts from those we’ve invited from abroad, we can highlight homegrown talent. Our main aim is to represent as many cultures as possible, and to ensure that Sunfest 2019 in the centre of London, Ontario, is an inclusive space.”

Indeed, the geographic scope of the festival is vast, covering music from five continents. Caxaj listed groups from Cape Verde, Spain, England, Scotland, Netherlands, Norway, Czech Republic, Russia, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Niger, Cameroon, Uganda, Palestine and Canada. It would be impossible to list them all. I don’t think it would be fair to highlight just a few either, so I invite you to visit the Sunfest 2019 website for details. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

There is one more thing to note: Sunfest’s community-level arts engagement, a key reason why it’s thriving and moving into its second generation. “Sunfest has accomplished in 25 years what has eluded municipal planners, politicians and corporations alone,” states its media release. “From the beginning, the Sunfest Committee recognized the inestimable power of the performing arts to effect cultural and social change in this community and, despite the incredible challenges, organizers, patrons and sponsors were willing to take a chance on what’s arguably one of London’s most inspired utopian projects of the past quarter century. At its heart, TD Sunfest is about vision and hope: along with providing exemplary representation and accessibility … [it] offers inclusiveness to our visitors through the common denominator of their shared humanity.”

Is Sunfest’s inspirational model one that other festivals and presenters could emulate?

Stratford Summer Music

One of Ontario’s most venerable annual summer music festivals takes place in Stratford. Last year the award-winning Canadian violinist Mark Fewer was appointed Stratford Summer Music’s new artistic director, taking over the reins from John Miller who ran the extensive multi-week festival for 18 years.

This year, 100 events featuring more than 350 musicians in both indoor and outdoor venues will be heard throughout downtown Stratford – a great opportunity for what I described earlier as surreptitious musical discovery . As an example, two concerts with global themes, both presented at Factory 163 in Stratford: July 25, the Tehran-born Canadian musician Amir Amiri takes the stage. Amiri, a soloist on the santur (72-string Persian hammer dulcimer), composer and music director, strives to “explore the limits of music, stretching beyond the constraints of classical thought.” July 29, Toronto’s brilliant Payadora Tango performs a selection from their large repertoire of original compositions and arrangements of Argentinean tango and folk music.

Westben Concerts at The Barn

Also located in Southern Ontario, Westben Concerts at The Barn celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer. This rural music festival with a wide range of programs holds most of its concerts at The Barn, 6698 County Road 30 in Campbellford.

July 28, it presents Toronto’s Kuné – Canada’s Global Orchestra. Dubbing itself “a celebration of Canada’s cultural diversity” Kuné’s eclectic ensemble of Canadian musicians “hail from all corners of the globe, play over 20 instruments,” representing the musics of their home cultures. August 2, the 2018 Polaris Prize-winning Jeremy Dutcher, a classically trained tenor and composer plays The Barn. Dutcher’s music creatively blends his Wolastoq First Nation linguistic and music roots with Euro-Canadian classical and vernacular music. Come early for the 5pm feast featuring Anishinaabe BBQ; reservations are required two days in advance.


JUN 7, 8PM: Small World Music Society presents Arnab Chakrabarty Sarod Recital featuring Arnab Chakrabarty (sarod), Zaheer-Abbas Janmohamed (tabla) in a concert of Hindustani classical music at the Small World Music Centre, Artscape Youngplace.

JUN 8, 8PM: Toronto’s most seasoned and celebrated taiko group Nagata Shachu presents Nagata Shachu and American Rogues at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre. Nagata Shachu directed by Kiyoshi Nagata performs with The American Rogues Celtic Band.

JUN 9, 7:30PM: The Toronto Chinese Orchestra presents The Butterfly Lovers, featuring The Butterfly Lovers Concerto at the Markham People’s Community Church, 22 Esna Park Dr., Markham.

JUL 21, 7:30PM: The Elora Festival presents Kuné, Canada’s Global Orchestra at the Gambrel Barn, at the corner of Country Rd. 7 and 21 in Elora, ON.

AUG 2 and 3, 7PM: The Collingwood Summer Music Festival presents Nhapitapi from Zimbabwe at the New Life Church, Collingwood ON August 2, followed by the Payadora Tango Ensemble at the same venue the following evening.

Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. He can be contacted at

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