Our annual, semi-tropical season has finally arrived in Southern Ontario. As well as officially launching the BBQ, road construction and vacation seasons, it also signals a mean average increase in world music concerts. The clement weather affords all of us the opportunity to enjoy music from various corners of the world performed alfresco, as well as making it easier to travel to outdoor festivals across the province.

I’ll be taking advantage of both the good weather and travel opportunities to perform out of town. One gig I look forward to is at the Electric Eclectics (EE) festival, now in its sixth year.

page_23_sunda_duo_-_small_file_b_w_iiMy musical partner, guitar and kacapi (zither) player Bill Parsons, and I (on suling) are collectively known as Sunda Duo. We will be performing at the EE’s DJ Tent on Saturday, July 30, 2pm. EE is easily among Ontario’s most unusual summer festivals. In addition to having an eclectic programme, its site — a farm overlooking the scenic Beaver Valley, just outside of Meaford, Ontario — is a major draw. While EE focuses on avant-garde and crossover musicians, art installations, DJs and films, this year it is embracing Sunda Duo’s world music-meets-Toronto-eclectic fusion. Expect to hear West Javanese (Indonesia) songs combined with our compositions, creating a special Asian-inflected blend of contemporary Canadian music. Given that the majority of the audience camps out on the EE farm, I’m preparing to enjoy that age-old Ontario summer custom too.

The TD Sunfest in London, Ontario, is among our longest running world music-friendly festivals. Running from July 7–July 10 at the relaxed and verdant Victoria Park in the centre of the city, the concert lineup on the evening of July 7 looks particularly international: Tram des Balkans (France); Mamaku Project (New Zealand); Etran Finatawa (Niger); Novalima (Peru); and Dizu Plaatjies and Ibuyambo (South Africa).

On July 10 at 4pm, Hindustani classical music reigns at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga. Headlining are the vocalist Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, and the emerging young master sarod-ist Alam Khan. He is the son of the late, great sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan.

The Huntsville Festival of the Arts is also venturing into world musical territory. Arvel Bird performs on Native American flute and fiddle on July 2; Luis Mario Ochoa Cuban Quintet appears on July 28; and the Jesse Cook group plays guitar-centric music with global influences on August 18.

page_23_moana_world_moanaOf course there’s no need to get out of town to hear world music this summer. There is plenty of it right in Toronto. Among the granddaddies of summer programming is the Harbourfront Centre’s series, this year tilted “Hot Spot Summer.” Each weekend’s festivities are keyed to a different concept or national theme. During the first weekend, on July 2 at 9:30pm, Systema Solar performs their hot Afro-Caribbean and Colombian music on the Redpath Stage. The next day, on the same stage, at 5pm, Moana & the Tribe redefines inter-island music with an idiosyncratic mix of reggae, funk and Maori music. The cultures of Mexico, Colombia and Iran are featured July 8–10, July 15–17 and July 21–24, respectively. “Island Soul Festival” showcases carnival, pan (steel drums ensemble), poetry and dance July 29–August 1. One of the more intriguingly named three-day festivals is “What is Classical?” running August 5–7. I’m curious how the curators will explore the diverse forms of ‘classical’ music from the Americas, the Middle East and East Asia. August 19–21, South Asia’s turn comes with “Masala! Mendi! Masti!” Harbourfront audiences can explore Taiwan’s emergence as a source for both new and old artistic expressions August 26–28.

The annual summer series at the lakeshore Toronto Music Garden is celebrating 12 years of free concerts in its lush urban-themed garden setting. All this time it has been serving up a high level of performances of classical and traditional music from around the world. I’ve performed there several times. Despite the noisy proximity of the island airport, Front Street traffic and the Gardner, is there a better free, open-air-blanket-on-grass concert experience downtown? All that’s missing is the B&B: barbeque and beverages.

This summer I look forward to the visit of several outstanding groups to the Music Garden. Vancouver’s Juno-nominated Orchid Ensemble plays repertoire inspired by mountains and rivers on Thursday, August 18, at 7pm. The Shiraz Ensemble on Sunday, August 21 at 4pm, makes an eloquent and elegant case for Persian classical music, exploring the roots of melodic modes and rhythms in its music and sophisticated poetry. Toronto’s own muscular taiko (Japanese drum) ensemble Nagata Shachu will undoubtedly raise summer temperatures even higher with its appearance on Thursday, August 25, at 7pm.

Elsewhere in Toronto, Megobrebi: World Vocal Ensemble sings at Music Mondays’ 12:15, July 4 concert at the Church of the Holy Trinity. On July 9, the controversial Iranian musician, singer-songwriter Moshen Namjoo and his group, perform Persian music fused with western styles at the George Weston Recital Hall, presented by the Parya Trillium Foundation. Also at the Weston Recital Hall, Toronto lovers of Cantonese opera can get their all too rare fix on July 10 at 2pm, when the Starlight Cantonese Opera performs.

There are other festivals this summer, both grand and intimate, with world music programmes. Intrepid musical explorers may wish to check offerings at the Mill-Race Folk Festival, Collingwood Music Festival, Elora Festival, Savannah Festival of Rhythms, Ottawa Chamberfest and others.

I wish you pleasant musical trails and discoveries.

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

June appears to be another month chock-ablock with performances of both seasoned world music headliners and fresh experimenters.

p18_subramaniamOn June 3 the Carnatic violin virtuoso L. Subramaniam performs with his son Ambi Subramaniam at the Isabel Bader Theatre. No stranger to international audiences, L. Subramaniam comes from a leading south Indian violin playing family. In his long and well-recorded career he has garnered glowing testimonials from Indian and Western notables. Fellow fiddler Yehudi Menuhin once pronounced, “I find nothing more inspiring than the music making of my colleague Subramaniam.” Dubbed “The Paganini of Indian Classical music,” L. Subramaniam draws his musical language from both Karnatak and Western classical sources in his concerts and in his over 150 recordings and feature film soundtracks. Several percussionists and a morsing (mouth harp) player will accompany the Subramaniams’ brilliant flights of melody.

At the other end of the spectrum of world music, the experimental quartet Global Cities Ensemble performs at the Music Gallery on June 5. This recently formed Toronto quartet’s intercultural experimental mission infuses hip-hop with West Asian & South East Asian instruments and music, thereby exploring a new world music language. Four respected musicians on the Toronto music scene, each from a different musical background, comprise the GCE collective. Members include the award-winning Toronto rapper and songwriter Abdominal; the leading experimental turntablist and electronics musician Professor Fingers; the Toronto virtuoso of the tar (long-necked Persian lute) Araz Salek, and yours truly on suling (Indonesian bamboo ring flute) and kacapi (Sundanese zither). With such a mix, expect an adventurous exploration of a new global sonic landscape.

Luminato 2011 is billed as “Toronto’s 10 day festival of arts and creativity.” This year it boasts a veritable world music festival featuring a large number of impressive world music acts at its new downtown festival hub at David Pecaut Square, and elsewhere.

Commissioned by Luminato, Sampradaya Dance Creations premieres its production TAJ on Friday, June 10 at the Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre. Under the artistic direction of the award-winning company choreographer and dancer Lata Pada, this 90-minute dance drama has a music score by Praveen Rao. Bollywood stars Kabir Bedi and Lisa Ray headline the production that chronicles the human drama behind the Taj Mahal, the Indian architectural wonder. This is among the most ambitious productions of the Mississauga based Sampradaya Dance Creations which boasts a 20 year history marked with innovative dance creations, many featuring music commissions as an essential performance element.

The Luminato world music series launches at the David Pecaut Square on the evening of June 11 with the Italian group Bandabardò. Formed in 1993, this Florentine folk revival band is renowned both for its live performances and for its popular albums. Bandabardò is joined by the singer/songwriter Peppe Voltarell whose Calabrian roots lends authority to his signature blend of rock with the folk music of Southern Italy. Toronto’s Dominic Mancuso, the winner of the 2010 Juno for World Music Album opens the evening. Mancuso who has been called the “premier Sicilian griot of these times” sings an emotionally fuelled blend of Italian folk, influenced by blues, soul, and jazz.

On Sunday June 12 at 2pm Homayun Sakhi, widely considered the finest Afghani rubâb player of his generation performs at Luminato. The remarkable Alim Qasimov Ensemble from Azerbaijan who follows Sakhi has been acclaimed by the Guardian as “one of the most thrilling, unashamedly emotional performers on the planet.” Alim Qasimov is the world’s leading exponent of mugham, a sophisticated Azerbaijani performing art form combining music with classical poetry. Musician friends who play Arabic and Persian music have already made plans to attend this extraordinary double bill concert.

That same evening (June 12) the renowned Kronos Quartet headlines an evening of string music – with an idiosyncratic world music twist. The Grammy-winning American Kronos has been active for decades developing a unique repertoire mixing classical string quartet works and global musical languages in one adventurous combination after another. The resulting thousands of concerts and dozens of albums are an eloquent testament to the success of their approach, attempting no less than a redefinition of the string quartet’s role in music today. Their guest is Toronto’s Annex Quartet. They will jointly perform a typically eclectic all-contemporary programme including Terry Riley’s Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector, David Balakrishnan’s Skylife, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh’s Mugam Sayagi, and Osvaldo Golijov’s Se Me Hizo Facil.

Toronto’s Sultans of String perform at Luminato with Yemen Blues on June 14. The local group garnered a 2010 Juno nomination for their infectious dance music mixing French Manouche Gypsy Jazz, Spanish Flamenco, Middle Eastern Folk, and throwing in Cuban Rhythms for good measure. Yemen Blues (USA/Israel) on the other hand draws on founder Ravid Kahalani’s roots to define his original compositions. His nine-member group blends Yemenite songs with blues, jazz, and funk in a dance friendly fusion of complex grooves.
June 16 brings an evening of contemporary bhangra to Luminato. Bhangra is the popular dance music genre originally from rural Punjab. The Vancouver group Delhi 2 Dublin includes Celtic fiddle players, two bhangra percussionists and a female Bollywood-style vocalist, presenting them in an exhilarating mash-up of Punjabi bhangra, Celtic, dub reggae, and electronica. Bhangra superstar Malkit Singh and his band Golden Star follow. They have toured the world and won international acclaim for such hits as “Jind Mahi” from the Bend It Like Beckham film soundtrack.
Contemporary Arabic music is showcased at Luminato with a special focus on artists from Egypt on June 18. Toronto’s Minor Empire ensemble opens the afternoon with a mix of traditional Middle Eastern and Western music. The guitarist and composer Ozan Boz leads Michael Occhipinti, Chris Gartner, Debashis Sinha and other sought-after Canadian musicians. Headliner Natacha Atlas is one of the leading female voices in contemporary Arabic culture. This Anglo-Egyptian singer has collaborated with divas such as Sarah Brightman and Sinead O’Connor in music that fuses electronic beats with Arabic music. I saw Atlas perform years ago at Harbourfront and her powerful singing that afternoon still resonates in some sonic recess of my mind. The Qanun (a zither-like instrument) master George Sawa and his ensemble continues the Arabic festival at 8:00pm. Sawa has spread his expertise from medieval to modern Arabic music to several generations of Toronto musicians and has performed around the world. The Egyptian singer Hakim follows on stage. Called the “Lion of Egypt” by fans, Hakim is a star of the electronica-influenced sha’abi, a popular urban music genre rooted in traditional Egyptian folk music capturing “the tumultuous essence of life on the street.”
p19_natacha_atlasJune 19 marks the closing day Luminato festival concert. At 2pm Toronto’s Tasa performs original compositions as well as arrangements of songs from the Indian diaspora. Founded in 1999 by tabla player and composer Ravi Naimpally, Tasa is one of our town’s leading world music ensembles, winning an Urban Music Award for Best World Music Album for their debut release “Bhakti.” The Indo-British musician, producer and composer Nitin Sawhney is the festival’s closing act. His critically acclaimed music combines Asian and other world influences with elements of jazz and electronica. Sawhney has just released the album “Last Days of Meaning,” an unusual theatrical project with deep themes: reflection on the past, shared memory, empathy and ultimately hope.

Saturday June 25 the group Wenge Musica Maison Mere directed by Werrason plays at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre. At the beginning of the 1980s, the Congolese singer and musician Werrason was an essential member of the innovative band “Wenge Musica 4X4 Tout Terrain d’Intervention Rapide,” touring throughout Europe, Africa, and North America. Werrason’s 1999 album “Solola Bien” was accorded the Golden Record in France. The following year he performed in Paris in front of 17,000 fans and in years since has released a number of world music albums. Be prepared to dance deep into the night: the show is advertised to last from 9pm to 2am.

In closing, a word about music performances at the Toronto Public Libraries. With 99 branches, the Toronto Public Library is the world’s busiest urban public library system. 18 million visitors borrow more than 32 million items each year. While the branches have long been information and education hubs for citizens of all ages, recently it seems that performing arts events including music have been rising to the top of the stacks. During the month of May a spate of performances celebrated Asian Heritage Month with eight Asian Homelands Festival programs around town. On June 8 at 2:00pm at the Elizabeth Beeton Auditorium, Toronto Reference Library, the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto presents Native Songs and Dance: The Importance of First Nations Culture, a programme of singing, dancing and drumming to be followed by discussion. Free programs celebrating Portuguese and Newfoundland musical connections are scheduled at 2pm at the Northern District Public Library at 40 Orchard View Blvd. On June 2 John Christopher and John Showman play Newfoundland, Latin and bluegrass music on guitar and violin. Mark and Ken Sparling perform on banjo and guitar on June 16. Finally, local Portuguese guitar masters Nuno Cristo and Alvaro Oyarce play the music of their homeland on June 23.

 

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

During the month of May, Toronto’s Latin music mecca, Lula Lounge on Dundas St. W., is the destination for world music aficionados. This year its ambitious festival LULAWORLD 2011: The New Canadian Songbook, runs from May 12 to May 22 and encompasses 15 concerts. While Lula’s focus does not abandon its Latin American musical roots, programmers make a case for showcasing the diversity all around us. Judging from the line-up, what they call “The New Canadian Songbook” is sung in Spanish, Portuguese, Yiddish, French as well as English. The festival highlights the contribution of Canada’s newcomer musicians, whose compositions, performances, and recordings constantly serve to refresh and redefine the Canadian musical landscape, enriching our cultural fabric by incorporating traditions from across the globe. And isn’t that what world music should be about?

The concert series kicks off May 12 with the celebrated Latin jazz vocalist Amanda Martinez, joined by her guest, the Colombian-born Grammy nominated guitarist/singer-songwriter Fernando Osorio. With her 2009 release Amor reaching #1 on iTunes, recent performances at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa and at New York’s prestigious Blue Note, Canada’s Martinez is riding high.

The festival continues later that evening with the Columbian group Bomba Estéreo, no doubt living up to their explosive moniker with an eminently danceable sound that often expands into trippy electronica territory. Bomba Estéreo was formed in 2005 by Simon Mejia, building on an already active underground electronic dance music scene in Bogotá, Colombia. The group expanded its sound and enhanced its live show by recruiting the fierce singer Liliana Saumet. Bomba Estéreo plays an explosive fusion of electronic dub and hip-hop styles which commentators have likened to M.I.A. and Santigold, but underscored with Colombian dance rhythms of cumbia and champeta. Afro-Colombian rhythms and the folk music of the coastal city Santa Marta, where the group leader Saumet grew up are especially important to Bomba Estéreo’s music.

22_patriciacanoSinger Patricia Cano was raised in Sudbury, Ontario, but is of Peruvian heritage. She headlines LULAWORLD on May 13. Moving early in life into the international spotlight, this young singer worked and studied in Paris and Brazil. In 2009, Cano recorded her debut album, showcasing traditional South American folk songs, including samba and Afro-Peruvian forms driven by jazz grooves and the soulful sound of the blues. Blessed with a mellifluous and oft intense voice, the album has a strong Brazilian lilt thanks to Brazilian guitarist Carlos Bernardo and percussionist/producer Luisito Orbegoso. Cano is emerging as one of Canada’s leading vocal talents.

In the second set on May 13, one of Canada’s leading salsa bands releases its third album Looking from the Top. Caché’s signature vibraphone-inflected sound that the group has been developing for nearly a decade features the irresistible vocals of frontman Juan Carlos Cardenas. Under the leadership of percussionist Wilson Acevedo and bassist Richard Morales, vibraphonist Randy Stirtzinger and conguero Daniel Stone contribute compositions that have become standards for Toronto salsa dancers. A favourite of CBC and campus radio stations, Caché may be the most in-demand salsa outfit in the country. I may be there trying out my floor moves too.

Speaking of dance, on May 14 at 1pm, Café Con Pan will be holding a free Mexican fandango workshop for families. Accompanied by the son jarocho music of Southern Veracruz, you too can learn the basics of zapateado dancing. At 3pm, the all-ages theme continues with Family French World Café hosted by Quebecois singer-songwriter Joanna Moon, with Donné Roberts. Both are LULAWORLD events.

Continuing with the LULAWORLD New Canadian Songbook theme, at 10pm on Saturday, May 14, an all-star band performs salsa works by noted Canadian composers including Luis Mario Ochoa, Hilario Durán, Jesus El Nino and Mario Allende. The musical direction is co-chaired by Luisito Orbegoso and Sean Bellaviti. The following day, join guitarist Luis Mario Ochoa, one of Canada’s best known Cuban voices, in “Lula’s Sunday Family Salsa Brunch,” hosted by CBC Radio’s Mary Ito; seatings at 11am and 1:30pm. The brunch includes a beginner salsa lesson and Ochoa’s Cuban Quartet. What better way to dance off your eggs benedict?

Sunday evening, May 15, LULAWORLD showcases David Buchbinder’s Odessa Havana featuring Hilario Durán and Maryem Tollar. Yes, you guessed it, this Jewish-Cuban mash-up was predated but not predicted by the Jewish-fuelled American mambo craze of the 1950s. This band is comprised of award-winning trumpeter and composer David Buchbinder, JUNO award-winning pianist/composer Hilario Durán and topped up with Canada’s top jazz and world musicians.

The young BC fiddler Jaron Freeman-Fox’s music dances the line between the soulful and the ridiculous. With his recent album Manic Almanac: Slow Möbius, and a new fiery band, The Opposite of Everything, he displays his own fusion of folk and experimental instrumental music on Tuesday, May 17, at LULAWORLD.

On May 19, singer-songwriter and 2010 Juno award winner, Dominic Mancuso, performs both originals and contemporary treatments of Italian songs and folk melodies joined by celebrated Toronto bassist Roberto Occhipinti. On the second set, Socalled (presented in association with Small World Music) performs his genre-bending collaborations melding funk, Klezmer, hip hop, lounge and classical music. Described as a “klezmer hip-hop maestro,” Socalled (aka Josh Dolgin) is a Montreal-based musician, producer, composer, arranger, magician, filmmaker and photographer.

Book-ending the LULAWORLD festival are several local acts. On May 20, Samba Squad makes a welcome appearance with guest vocalist Luanda Jones. Directed by Rick Lazar, Samba Squad gathers diverse global influences and produces raw, drum-heavy original compositions that are certain to rock the Lula! Lazar presents a night of new compositions and Samba Squad originals with a good measure of funked-up covers of traditional Brazilian favourites. Then on May 22, the Brazilian-born singer, percussionist and composer, Aline Morales, launches her solo CD Flores, Tambores e Amores. Accompanied by album producer David Arcus, percussionist Maninho Costa and the Heavyweights Brass Band, Morales provides a contemporary Canadian perspective on those quintessentially Brazilian genres, samba, tropicalia and maracatu.

24_jaronfreemanfoxElsewhere in Toronto, the Toronto Tabla Ensemble performs on May 18 and 19 at the Harbourfront Centre’s Enwave Theatre. Featuring North Indian rhythms combined with original loops, samples and sequencing, Ritesh Das directs from the tabla. Guest musicians include Evan Ritchie on drums and percussion, and Ian de Souza on bass.

Further afield, in London, Ontario, the “Year of India in Canada 2011” touches down at the Delta London Armouries on May 1. This year-long, Canada-wide cultural and trade show features dancers and musicians from across India. Represented is Carnatic music from the south, Hindustani music from the north, Rabindra Sangeet (songs of Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali’s favorite son), as well as folk and Bollywood songs. Nor have Indian dance fans been neglected: Odissi and kathak dance traditions are well represented too.

Back in Toronto, Quebec’s renowned folk trio, Genticorum, plays on May 19 at Hugh’s Room. Featuring songs from their new album Nagez Rameurs, the Juno and Felix nominated Genticorum’s performances are marked by stirring three-part harmonies, a high-level of musicianship, an engaging sense of stage humour and a joie de vivre, all of which have earned the band a growing international fan base. They impressed me a few years ago at the Cambridge Millrace Folk Festival and then again at the Mariposa Festival in Orillia. Their current show has more interplay than before between traditional songs and original compositions. Original reels are fused to traditional songs and traditional songs are performed to original lyrics. In my humble opinion this is what living folk music should be like.

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

It has been said that good things come in threes. On the first day of April, three concerts grace GTA stages – no foolin’. The well-traveled Hindustani slide guitar maestro Debashish Bhattacharya performs his raga-based improvisations at Brock University’s Centre for the Arts, in St. Catharines. Acclaimed as a musician while still a child, Bhattacharya has in recent years built three distinct forms of the slide guitar, the original Indian introduction of which he traces back to the 20th century Hawaiian guitar virtuoso, Tau Moe.

On the other hand, Canadian Harry Manx forged his own distinctive guitar style studying at the feet of the masters closer to home – in the blues clubs of Toronto. Manx followed his passion for slide guitar to India, spending a rigorous five-year internship with Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. The latter is a noted Hindustani musician, the inventor of the 20-stringed mohan veena, an instrument also developed from the guitar. This is no novelty act, however; Manx’s guitar playing is finely tuned and sensitive, influenced by his playing of raga, while his vocals are deeply dipped in the blues. No one else makes music that sounds like this. Manx performs his eclectic repertoire of Indian-infused blues, American roots and Middle Eastern flavoured music on April 1 at Koerner Hall, with Californian multi-instrumentalist David Lindley.

The same day, completing our musical trifecta, the Sarv Ensemble celebrates Persian New Year and the arrival of spring. The concert titled Eidaneh features Iranian classical and folk music at the Beit Zatoun venue in downtown Toronto.

25_worldview_bridges-_roula_said__lenka_lichtenberg_etcIf I were seeking big themes for this month’s column, my choice would be to go no further than the Lula Lounge on Thursday, April 7, at a concert titled “Bridges: Yiddish & Arabic Music in Dialogue.” The two Toronto-based co-leaders Lenka Lichtenberg (voice/composition) and Roula Said (voice/composition/qanun/percussion) present an inspirational evening searching for common ground between Jewish and Arabic music traditions. With tensions between and within nations being what they are, the notion of music acting as a bridge between people is the high-minded leitmotif chosen by these multi-talented co-leaders.

The Czech born singer-songwriter Lenka Lichtenberg embraced Toronto’s world music aesthetic in her exciting fourth solo album Fray (Free, 2010). The Small World Music-presented concert “Bridges” is an extension of that project and includes some of Toronto’s finest world musicians: Alan Hetherington (percussion), Chris Gartner (bass), John Gzowski (guitars), Ernie Tollar (sax/flutes/clarinet), Kinneret Sagee (clarinet) and Ravi Naimpally (tabla).

Roula Said, dedicated to Middle Eastern music and dance, has been consistently active on Toronto’s world music scene going on two decades. Best known as one of Canada’s leading bellydancers, Said is the director of Om Laila Bellydance, and the producer of FunkaBelly and the Bellydance Cabaret. She is also a stylish vocalist, percussionist and quanun player, as evidenced by her performances with the Gypsy/Arabic funk band Nomadica, which she co-leads with trumpeter and composer David Buchbinder.

What will the evening’s music be like? Lichtenberg sings expressive Yiddish and English lyrics with an intimate soprano over well-wrought arrangements bridging many musical styles. Roula Said will undoubtedly bring to the stage her well-honed Arabic music and dance skills to the mix. Ultimately, you and I will have to attend to find out.

Small World Music also presents Ghana’s Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen (drums) on April 15 at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. Allen headlines the concert that includes guests Amp Fiddler (keyboard), Prince Enoki’s Insect Orchestra, and DJ medicineman.

On Sunday April 17, at the Glenn Gould Studio, the University Settlement’s Music and Arts School is celebrating a “Festival of Music and Culture” in honour of 90 years of “music in the making.” Designed as a multicultural event to celebrate diversity, this concert headlines the Indian-Canadian fusion group Autorickshaw Trio. Other noted performances include kathak dance by Joanna deSouza, guzheng performances by the Fan Shang-E Zheng Music Association, the University of Toronto Klezmer Band, Iranian Drumming by Manouchehr Chahardooli, Chinese Erhu by Yuan Wang and a special presentation of University Settlement Music and Arts School students. Proceeds from this event will support the many worthy University Settlement programs and services.

Perhaps we downtown denizens need to be reminded every once in while that there is (world) musical life outside of T.O. The Port Hope Friends of Music is a brave presenter in Port Hope, about 100km east of Toronto, which serves its community by bringing top-notch classical musicians to town. On Saturday April 30, however, world music is on the menu in the form of Toronto’s Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan (ECCG). The ECCG (of which I am a performing member) will perform its mixed program of contemporary Indonesian, Canadian and American works on its glittering bronze, wood and bamboo gamelan degung at the Cameco Capitol Arts Centre.

Closing the month on April 30 at Toronto’s Music Gallery, Amir Amiri on santur (Persian hammered dulcimer)) headlines a concert with Ziya Tabassian (percussion) and Araz Salek on tar (Persian lute). The concert, titledNew Ancient Strings,” explores the past and future of Persian music. Keeping with the Persian/Iranian theme, on May 7, Orchestras Mississauga/Chamber Music Society of Mississauga present “Tales and Tunes for Toonies: Carpet of Dreams.” This performance of Persian fairy tales set to traditional classical Persian chamber music performed by the Toronto-based Shiraz Ensemble is geared to youth audiences. The work will have its long-awaited premiere at the Living Arts Centre, Mississauga.

26_glendaHow better to fête International Workers’ Day, May 1, than to attend the Echo Women’s Choir’s concert Celebrating Women at Work at Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity? Echo is a well-established, vibrant, 80-member choir which regularly sings songs from around the world. In this concert they cover Georgian lullabies, and South African and North American protest songs, all conducted by Becca Whitla and Alan Gasser. Their special guest, Cuban-Canadian pianist Glenda Del Monte Escalante, joins the choir in Cuban numbers that she has arranged, and also leads a jazz set. I’ve consistently found Echo Choir concerts to be uplifting musical and community spirited affairs. (A personal note: I am proud of my past service in Echo’s men’s auxiliary.) n

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

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