1808-worldThe high park sakura trees are finally in full bud — soon to be in glorious bloom–and spring is in the Toronto air. For Orthodox Christians this time marks Easter Sunday celebrated this year on May 5. And there is a springtide connection here with a new folk music scene with a distinctive pan-Slavic flavour that has been emerging among local young adults in the last few years. It’s attracting those of Eastern European, especially Ukrainian, descent but also folks from other ethnicities.

Whether called third wave folk revival, urban folk, or post-folk music, such descriptions are eventually bound to fail, relying as they do on older, shaky, stereotypes. A secure definition eludes even the wiliest ethnomusicologist. One thing is certain though, trained and amateur musicians and OCADU artist grads alike are gathering in private and public spaces in groups such as the Kosa Kolektiv, Lemon Bucket Orkestra and the Fedora Upside-Down, the latter“an urban folk movement, with 11 bands, four art collectives and two performance collectives.” As that self-representation illustrates, this scene includes the plastic movement and the often-neglected communal arts, as well as the purely sonic.

The women’s Kosa Kolektiv, barely three years old, expands that scope even further, aiming to revitalize and reinterpret the entire web of peasant folklore in an urban context. “We do this by singing songs, sewing, cooking, planting, crafting, putting on workshops and sharing ideas over tea and good food. There’s something to be said for the simpler pleasures in life, and Kosa Kolektiv embraces them.” Kosa means braid in Ukrainian. Young women traditionally wore long braids, or kosy, before marriage and this group uses it as an effective central image of cultural fusion, the braiding of old and new. “We seek to re-learn forgotten songs, rituals and stories, and to bring them to life in a relevant way within our urban communities,” they write on their website.

For the past two years the Kosa Kolektiv has hosted a string of choral folk song workshops focused on Slavic village music.The latest one titled “Vesnianky — Songs of Spring” taught Ukrainian spring ritual songs, as well as the hailky, a group activity which includes songs (haivky)performed while dancing and playing traditional games at (Orthodox) Easter.

You can take part along with the Kosa Kolektiv in the St. Nicholas Church community hailky on Easter Sunday May 5 at 4pm in Trinity Bellwoods Park. They will be joined by the members of the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, collectively leading village-style singing and community dancing. Not to worry if your Ukrainian is rusty, the dances will also be called in English. And one more thing: you’re invited to bring a blanket, your Easter baskets and nibbles to liven up the communal picnic. How fitting that the town where Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase is host to an exemplar of the global village.

Musideum around the world: Elsewhere downtown, the cozy venue Musideum continues its multi-genre music programming. This month alone I count at least seven concerts with world and/or folk music credentials. Here are just a few:

May 6 Toronto’s Debbie Danbrook performs on shakuhachi with Ottawa’s sound shaman Mark Daniel on crystal bowls in a program titled “Healing Music Mediation.” This concert reminds us of music’s other side: its calming gifts. Danbrook, the first professional female shakuhachi (Japanese end-blown bamboo flute) player to specialize in the healing- and meditation-aiding abilities of her instrument, has recorded 14 CDs specifically for that purpose. Her music, embraced by healers and spiritual practitioners, aims to bring its audience into a calming, peaceful and meditative state. Many of us could benefit from a deep relaxation of the body and mind allowing us, even for the duration of a concert, to let go.

The sitarist Partha Bose performs twice at Musideum, May 26 and June 2, the second time with Indranil Mallick on tabla, a leading student of the renowned Swapan Chaudhuri. Bose represents the newest generation of concert sitar players of the Maihar gharana (school or lineage) of Hindustani music which was propelled onto the international stage and record market by two musical giants, the late Ravi Shankar and his brother-in-law, Ali Akbar Khan.

May 30 local folk fiddle stalwart Anne Lederman leads a fiddle trio with Emilyn Stam and James Stephens called “Eh?!” Acknowledged at the 2011 Canadian Folk Music Awards, Eh?! mashes established fiddle traditions with composed and improvised music. They perform not only with three five-string violins, but also with piano, mandolins, accordion, guitars, kalimba and their voices. As their name suggests, Canadian fiddle music from Newfoundland, Quebec and Manitoba forms the group’s musical backbone–but with a twist: frequent detours to incorporate European and African models too.

Asian Heritage Month picks: In 2002 the Canadian government designated May as Asian Heritage Month and Small World Music was quick out of the blocks to mark the occasion. Its 11th Annual Asian Music Series continues May 4 with a concert featuring Rajeev Taranath on sarod (also spelled sarode, an Indian fretless lute) at the Maja Prentice Theatre in Mississauga. Taranath displays a brilliant technique, a wide emotional range and a disciplined strategy in developing a series of raags, the melodic types at the core of classical Hindustani music.

May 12 is Mother’s Day and Small World is commemorating it with Ramneek Singh’s vocal performances of Indian classical vocals in various genres, khayal, thumri, shabad-kirtan, sufiana and folk, also at the Maja Prentice Theatre. It’s a rare treat to have a concert with five such genres represented by a single vocalist who is among the GTA’s most accomplished Hindustani classical singers, a representative of the Indore Gharana.

Palmerston Library Community Asian Arts Fusion Festival:
To celebrate Asian Heritage Month, the Toronto Public Library is offering a wealth of live programs at various branches of which the Palmerston Community Asian Arts Fusion Festival on Saturday May 11 at the Palmerston branch just north of Bloor St. is perhaps the largest. It all starts at 11am with a street procession led by SamulNori Canada performing traditional Korean drumming in and in front of the library, animating the Koreatown neighbourhood. Tsugaru shamisen music follows played by Gerry McGoldrick a Canadian expert of this Japanese folk tradition. Choral music from the Republic of Georgia takes the stage at 1:30pm sung by the Darbazi choir representing music from the crossroads of Europe and Asia. They’re directed by the tenor Shalva Makharashvili who passes on a deep understanding and passion for the music of his Georgian motherland.

One of the centerpieces of the festival is the 11:40am performance of the 15-member Toronto group Gamelan Kayonan performing Balinese dance accompanied by live gamelan music co-led by the dancer Keiko Ninomiya and John Carnes. It’s followed by Javanese masked dancer Wiryawan Padmonojati, while his young son Rafifkana Dhafathi Padmonojati reinterprets the ancient art of Central Javanese shadow puppet theatre for Canadians. The Global Trio follows, serving up world music Toronto style, with a fusion of Persian, North Indian and Indonesian instrumental styles. And to cap off this Asian fusion afternoon Isshin Daiko (One Heart) of the Toronto Buddhist Temple sounds its thundering drums at 3pm to dispel all malevolent thoughts. Visit the Toronto Public Library’s website for more details on this and other Asian Heritage Month concerts, activities and reading suggestions.

Other picks: Those wishing to extend their May 11 world music immersion should visit the “World Music Collaborations Concert” at 3pm, presented at SING! The Toronto Vocal Arts Festival at Harbourfront Centre. Suba Sankaran, who among several other roles is the singer with Autorickshaw, is acting as music director for the concert. She’s teaching a selection of South Indian-focused vocal music to be interpreted by an eclectic group of participants including the Georgian trio Zari, Judeo-Spanish soloist Aviva Chernick, Tuvan throat singer Scott Peterson and Lizzy Mahashe, a South African singer and gumboot dancer. For the finale Sankaran is preparing an arrangement that draws on the strengths of each of these diverse singers. An insider informs me the new work’s provisional title is WorldsKaleid.

On a personal note I am excited to be performing in concerts with one of Toronto’s senior world music groups, the Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan (ECCG), at Arraymusic’s bright new studio on Walnut Street. The concerts on May 18 and 19 are titled “In the Cage,” celebrating the group’s 26-year-old connection with American iconoclast composer John Cage secured by the group’s commission of his Haikai (1986). The concerts also feature Cage student James Tenney’s Road to Ubud (1986) for prepared piano and gamelan degung, as well as Gamelan Klavier (2009) for the same instrumentation by this year’s Governor General’s Award recipient Gordon Monahan. Emerging Toronto composer Elisha Denburg’s new work scored for the percussion ensemble TorQ and the ECCG receives its world premiere on May 19. 

Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. He can be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.

World ViewEvery issue, I wade through The WholeNote concert listings, picking out events that highlight aspects of “world music”including its often conflicted identity, performance practice, instrumentation, genrefication, commercialization and reception. Some are easier to identify than others!

A concert self-labelled as flamenco, as is Jorge Miguel’s concert on April 17 at Lula Lounge, seems fairly straightforward, for example. Likewise any concert tagged with a recognizable geographic location outside of the Euro-American mainstream or an established music genre with non-Western or hybrid origins — like samba. But hold on, is the “West” not part of the world? And what about mixed musical marriages, as exemplified by the April 28 concert by the Hungarian group Meszecsinka also at Lula Lounge? They also accurately reflect the real world we travel through and listen to and serve to remind us of the engines of transformation working within every healthy culture to knock down the genres we so lovingly construct.

Instrumentation, once a dead giveaway, can also be problematic as a world music marker. For instance the name of the Burmese instrument called the sandaya says more about the modal performance practices of Burmese music than the instrument, which is in fact a standard Western piano — or even these days perhaps an electronic keyboard. The Carnatic “mandolin” playing South Indian classical music is another case of repurposed terminology. It is actually a small solid body electric guitar adapted in its string tuning and popularized by the virtuoso U. Srinivas (b.1969). Similarly, the Carnatic “violinist” A. Kanyakumari often plays an electric viola which is nevertheless called a violin in programs and albums. On April 19 Toronto audiences can witness one such piece of instrumental rebranding at work at the Trinity-St.Paul’s Centre concert by Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. He plays the mohan veena, an Indianized slide guitar, the manner of playing it some argue being partly introduced to India by Hawaiian musicians.

Another consideration is the context in which music is performed and mediated. Most events I cover here occur in concert halls large and small, in churches, or in clubs like Lula Lounge with a stage. In a feasting society like that of Georgia however food and drink are essential components of some kinds of traditional music performances. Before public concert halls were built the supra, a kind of elaborate well-appointed Georgian feast, was an excellent place to hear indigenous polyphonic singing. Georgian society has elevated feasting and toasting with wine to a consummate art form. You can experience a hint of this custom on April 6 at Toronto’s Heliconian Hall where a tasting of Georgian organic wines accompanies performances of Georgian and Russian songs.

Concerts world wide are often a vehicle for the expression of public grief and tribute. In the case of the concert on Sunday April 7 at Lula Lounge for the recently deceased Uganda-born lukeme (aka “thumb piano”) player Achilla Orru Apaa-Idomo, it will be the occasion of a celebration of a career. The concert features his bandmates African Guitar Summit, as well as Njacko Backo, Ann Lederman, Baana Afrique, Nhapitapi Mbira, Ruth Mathiang and Sani Abu of Ijovudu Dance. His “subway friends” join the party along with Kwame Stephens, Katenen ‘Cheka’ Dioubate, Lizzy Mahashe, and Kobena Aquaa-Harrison.

I, along with thousands of other commuters, heard Apaa-Idomo in passing at the Bloor St. subway station. His virtuoso amplified lukeme playing and textured singing bounced around the station foyer emanating from where he set up beside the concession kiosk. During the precious quiet moments in between trains it echoed down the subway platform. His sweet music inspired me to dream of collaborating with him musically, a possibility sadly now not to be.

That being said, the world’s music will continue to echo through the halls of our city this month, a sweet reminder of the global musical renewal constantly under way all around us.

April 6 is a good place to start, with at least three world music concerts listed. As mentioned last issue, Small World Music/Wine Dine Africa presents the veteran Oliver Mtukudzi and Black Spirits in “The Voice of Zimbabwe” at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. The same day Diana Iremashvili presents an “Evening of World Music” at Yorkville’s Heliconian Hall with Georgian and Russian urban romantic songs and “Russian gypsy” ballads. Featured are the mother and daughter vocal-guitar duet of Diana and Madona Iremashvili, with the added punch of Georgian song specialists Andrea Kuzmich (vocals and guitar), Bachi Makharashvili (vocals and panduri), singers Al Hakimov and Shalva Chxaidze, and Leonid Peisaxov on violin. If unusual repertoire smartly performed is not enough, insiders tell me that a rare multi-flight Georgian organic wine tasting rounds out the evening. It certainly sounds like a worthwhile occasion to revisit this warm-sounding 1875 carpenter’s gothic board-and-batten church once again.

Also on April 6 the Toronto group ten ten performs a concert and album release titled “Odori ni Ten” (odori refers to Japanese dance) at the Robert Gill Theatre. The group features composer Aki Takahashi (shamisen, taiko and voice) and Heidi Chan (fue, taiko and voice). Yoshi Yamano on sitar and the taiko group Nagata Shachu add their booming drums to this cross-cultural collaborative.

April 11 the prize-winning Argentinian quintet 34 Puñaladas, four guitarists and a vocalist, appear at Lula Lounge. Among the youngest generation of tango bands, they aim to reinterpret and untangle the dark roots of urban tango music from the 1920s and 1930s in genre-appropriate guitar arrangements and lyrics often revealing gritty themes of thieves, prostitutes, drugs and the bitter love of the marginalized Portenos, the natives of Buenos Aires.

As mentioned at the outset of the column, April 17 Jorge Miguel Flamenco takes over the Lula Lounge in a program called “Una Vez, Cada Mes.” Torontonian Miguel, a Spanish Canadian guitarist and composer, interprets the flamenco tradition through “the fingers, voice and feet” of an ensemble committed to the spirit of flamenco.

Also as mentioned, on April 19 Toronto’s Small World Music launches its 11th annual Asian Music Series with Vishwa Mohan Bhatt playing Indian slide guitar and Subhen Chatterjee accompanying on tabla at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

The Asian Music Series continues May 4 with award-winning Rajeev Taranath, sarod soloist, at the Maja Prentic Theatre in Mississauga. From the recently introduced slide guitar here we move to the sarod, an instrument which entered the Hindustani instrumentarium perhaps in the 19th century and was modernized in the 20th. Taranath is one of its leading exponents. Master-student lineage is important in this music. Taranath is a distinguished disciple of the late sarod master Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (1922–2009) whom I saw give memorable performances several times in Toronto.

The Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company’s concert premiere of their production of “Portales” on April 25 to 28 at the Fleck Dance Theatre highlights the multiple intimate relationships that often exist between social or theatrical dance and music. The performers include violinist Chris Church, guitarists Nicolás Hernández and Oscar Lago, singers Naike Ponce and Manuel Soto, and five dancers.

April 28, the extraordinary Hungarian group Meszecsinka appears at Lula Lounge. This Budapest band’s lead singer, Annamária Oláh, sings in six languages: Hungarian, Roma, Bulgarian, Finnish, English and Spanish. The band members are natives of Hungary, Bulgaria and Algeria. Together they have forged an exciting, as yet untaggable, musical fusion, rooted in the folk music of the Balkans and Central Europe, to which they have added Latin, funk, drone, psychedelic and 70s experimental jazz musical features.

The May 5 “Mouth Music” concert by the Echo Women’s Choir at the Church of the Holy Trinity, co-conducted by Becca Whitla and Alan Gasser, brings my Toronto picks to a close. Dance songs from Bulgaria, Macedonia and Georgia are featured in addition to other works. The guest vocalist, JUNO-nominated songwriter Maria Dunn who draws on the Anglo-Scottish-Irish folk tradition of storytelling through song, has been compared to Woody Guthrie for incorporating an engaged social awareness into her songs.

As always, taken as a whole, the results of this monthly amble through The WholeNote’s listings, even if described as world music, sound like Canada to me. 

Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. He can be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.

By this time in late winter, I long for signs of lengthening days and gentle warm breezes. Snowy cold snaps alternating with warm thaws, the weather in the GTA has been a tease this season. Hoping for an early spring, I looked to the shadowy results of Groundhog Day, among our more lighthearted commercial calendric customs. The two celebrity rodent prognosticators on both sides of the border, Wiarton Willie in Bruce County, Ontario, and Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania, have forecast an early spring. Given that cold, slate-grey skies and frozen white ground continue to dominate our winter landscape, however, I remain unconvinced.

1806 world viewOne cheery and as yet un-commercialized signal of the promise of longer, warmer days is the striking sight of our resident northern cardinals. Often seen flittering in and out of protected backyard hedgerows and under dense parkland tangles, the imposing 22cm male birds brighten up our urban winter drabness with their crested crimson coats. But it’s the repeated brief whistling late winter call that has caught my attention today. Often transcribed as a high-pitched “whoit ... whoit,” the brief ascending glissando has about an octave range, twice sung per call. Later in the season cardinals add other melodic motifs (slow trills, chuffs, chirps and churrs) to their repertoire of 16 or more sounds. Both the cardinal male and the mixed olive-persimmon feathered female begin to call around Valentine’s Day, a clear signal of the approach of the vernal equinox, this year falling on March 20.

Read more: A World of Chuffs, Chirps and Churrs

February on toronto’s cultural and educational landscape has been for years associated with Black History Month (BHM). I don’t however recall commemorating it during my student years at Clinton St. Public School — which by the way is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year — so what’s the scoop here? I decided to snoop into the history of BHM to score some answers.

worldview  joel rubin  left  and uri caineThe seed for what is now widely known as BHM began in the USA in 1926 through the advocacy of the African-American historian, author and journalist Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950), one of the first scholars to study African-American history. It was initially called “Negro History Week.” Designated for the second week in February, it was meant to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Woodson aimed to increase awareness and understanding of the African experience in school curricula, as well as to foster self-reliance and racial respect. By the 1960s communities, as well as various school boards, in the USA began to formally observe BHM, their primary goal being to present a more balanced and accurate history of Africans throughout history.

Toronto, far from being a place exclusively populated by Europeans, has had an African population from its earliest period as a settlement. One early record shows that in July 1843 Toronto Council refused to let a circus perform “without assurances that it would not sing songs or perform acts that would be insulting to ‘the gentlemen of colour’ of the city.” Toronto native William Hubbard (1842–1935), the city’s first elected official of African descent, cut through the raw prejudice of his day to fashion an admirable career of public service over 20 years. His official portrait hangs in the mayor’s office, a tribute to his personal courage and public achievement.

Through the efforts of many, including the Ontario Black History Society, in 1979 Toronto became the first municipality in Canada to proclaim BHM. The act recognized past and present contributions African Canadians made and make to the life of Toronto in many areas including education, medicine, human rights and business, politics, public service and the arts.

Public and private institutions here participate in observing BHM. The Toronto Public Library for example is programming ten such events this year. These include “Drumming with Muhtadi” on Tuesday February 5 at 10am at the York Woods branch where you can “hear the rhythms and learn the history of traditional Caribbean and African drums” in a live performance by the master drummer Muhtadi. The next day at the same branch you can “dance to the beat of your own drum! Make your ... drum to keep and participate in an interactive story” at 4:30pm. Fittingly, the TPL’s logo for Black History Month is a hand on a drum skin, illustrating just how closely the drum is associated with African culture. Keeping with that theme, on February 9 “the king of kalimba,” Toronto’s Njacko Backo, performs at the TPL’s Morningside Branch (no time posted).

The Gladstone Hotel is also marking Black History Month with four concerts; the last on February 22 featuring a significant milestone, the release of Njacko Backo’s tenth album. It includes Mohamad Diaby’s djembe, two different banjos played by Ken Whiteley, Jane Bunnett’s soprano sax, trumpet by Larry Cramer plus support from Kalimba Kalimba.

Perhaps Toronto’s main BHM course is Harbourfront Centre’s “Kuumba Festival.” Swahili for “creativity,” Kuumba has over the years showcased leading local, national and international artists of African heritage. This year for three days, February 1 to 3, the festival offers a smorgasbord of hair fashion, storytelling, oware games, film, dance, food, exhibitions, children’s activities, drum circles and, of course, music concerts. Here are a few picks.

The “10th Anniversary Celebration of The Trane Studio,” the first African-Canadian-owned jazz venue in Toronto for generations, takes place February 2. Owned and managed by writer and programmer Frank Francis, and named after legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, the Bathurst Street jazz club would have turned ten years in February. Sadly for musicians and live music fans it closed last summer; the Harbourfront lineup of local and international acts showcases performers who have supported The Trane Studio including the powerful spoken word artist Ursula Rucker, trumpet player Alexander Brown, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Waleed Abdulhamid and saxophonist Ernest Dawkins.

February 3 at 4pm one of the treasures of African-American music — gospel — will be featured at the “Kuumba Gospel Lounge.” Billed as “a gospel extravaganza,” the Mount Zion Fellowship Choir, a 30-voice choir with a four-piece band, will share the stage with smaller vocal ensembles and four soloists including singer Karen Jewels and Jermaine Shakespeare, a “recognized worship leader, songwriter and minister of the gospel.” At the same time, unfortunately, Kuumba has scheduled the interesting “Hiplife Showcase.” Kobè from Ghana and Canadian Radio Music Award winner Stevano UGO put faces and voices to hiplife music, the latter a West African fusion of highlife and hip-hop with touches of reggaeton, dancehall and reggae.

One of last year’s Kuumba highlights was Dr. Jay De Soca Prince DJing at Harbourfront’s ice skating rink, a novel Toronto combination of Trini and “skate culture.” Judging from the dense crowd on the rink last year, evidently I was not the only one who thought the idea fun, so Harbourfront is holding it again, on February 2, promising it will be “this winter’s hottest night on ice.” I won’t disagree.

And last on the BHM front, February 15 at the intimate Musideum, Kobe Aquaa-Harrison presents “The Golden Tale of Jungle Bouti,” a program of storytelling and music. Video evidence found on the internet shows Aquaa-Harrison to be a formidable Ghanaian dagaarti gyil (marimba) player; hopefully some of his tasty playing will be on the Musideum menu. All that the slim but enticing online notes say is that the seprewa, a Ghanaian guitar-harp, is featured. Clearly, venturing into the unknown is at the heart of the enterprise, reminding me of the apt subtitle of an 1980s world music cassette: “no risk no fun.”

Elsewhere on the cultural map: The Sony Centre for the Performing Arts re-stakes its claim as the go-to house for national and transnational culturally themed extravaganzas for yet another year. February 9 and 10 “Bharati: The Wonder That Is India” returns for its annual visit filling the hall with spectacle armed with its large cast of acrobats, dancers, musicians and singers, all in glittering costumes. The show has been touring since 2006 doing for the subcontinent what “Riverdance” did for Ireland (and several other shows did for their own nations), managing to reduce a richly varied and perhaps unwieldy cultural landscape down to a manageable masala feast for the ears and eyes. Affirming the mega concept, “Celtic Woman: 2013 North American Tour” graces the Sony Centre stage again on February 23 and 24. This year’s headliners are Chloe Agnew, Lisa Lambe, Susan McFadden and Máiréad Nesbitt. It’s an all-female Irish musical ensemble show conceived and assembled by Sharon Browne and David Downes, a former musical director of the successful Riverdancefranchise. “Celtic Woman”has proven very successful itself since 2004 spinning off 13 themed CDs and seven DVDs as well as continuous international touring. Their PBS HD television special concert taped in 2009 included a 27-member orchestra, the Discovery Gospel choir, 12-member Aontas Choir, ten-member Extreme Rhythm Drummers plus an 11-piece bagpipe ensemble, intimating that sometimes bigger may just be better.

On a much more modest scale Jorge Miguel Flamenco presents “Una Vez, Cada Mes” on February 20 at the Lula Arts Centre. Toronto- based, Spanish Canadian guitarist and composer Jorge Miguel stars in a program of traditional and contemporary flamenco instrumental and vocal music plus dance. Continuing the Latin theme, February 23 the Jubilate Singers choir collaborates with Proyecto Altiplano in a concert called “Vida, Amor y Muerte” at the Grace Church on-the-Hill. The repertoire from Latin America features Violeta Parra’s and Luis Advis’ “Canto Para Una Semilla” made famous via the 1972 album of that name by the renowned Chilean folk band Inti-Illimani, and other songs. Isabel Bernaus and Claudio Saldivia conduct.

February 28 the York University Department of Music presents a Korean program in their World at Noon series, with Jeng Yi, Korean percussion and dance, and Joo Jyumg Kim on kayagum, at theMartin Family Lounge, Accolade East Bldg.

Saturday March 2, the Music Gallery co-presents with the Ashkenaz Foundation a concert by Joel Rubin and Uri Caine dubbed an exploration of “Klezmer’s outer limits and inner space.” American clarinetist Joel Rubin has long been recognized as a leader among North American Jewish klezmorim, his playing hailed by klezmer great Dave Tarras, avant garde composer John Zorn and Nobel Laureate poet Roald Hoffmann. Pianist and composer Uri Caine has played jazz with the older generation masters, as well as gigging with a younger generation (Don Byron, John Zorn, Dave Douglas and Arto Lindsay), recording 22 CDs as a leader along the way. Their joint album “Azoy Tsu Tsveyt” (2011) evokes the sort of exciting fusion spirit that’s found in the best of jazz, as they journey through a repertoire of Old and New World sacred cantorial songs, nigunim and secular klezmer tunes. Combining Jewish musical eclecticism, sheer instrumental virtuosity and elements of improvised music, this concert is sure to appeal to several audiences.

Finally, on February 24, London, Ontario world music producer Sunfest presents Ladysmith Black Mambazo at the Aeolian Hall, London. The group has recorded 40 albums and sold over six million records since being internationally launched on Paul Simon’s Graceland recording in the mid 80s. Mambazo’s album Shaka Zulu (1987) won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album. They continue to inspire international audiences with their core message of peace and reconciliation through the power of song. 

Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. He can be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.

Back to top