This month opens with the lively sounds of Klezmer music. April 1, the University of Toronto Klezmer Ensemble presents “Klezmer Trajectories: Old World Jewish Fusion meets New World Surprises!”, as part of the noon-hour free concert series at the Canadian Opera Company’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. These concerts are always well attended, so it’s advisable to arrive early to get a good seat. There will be more Klezmer later in the month – Off Centre Music Salon presents “Klezmer...on the Roof!”, April 11 at the Glenn Gould Studio, featuring mezzo Annamaria Popescu, accordion virtuoso Joseph Macerollo and the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band.

Asha Bhosle 1Roy Thomson Hall presents a concert of Indian vocal music, April 3. Born in 1933, the legendary Asha Bhosle is best known as a singer for numerous Bollywood films, and is said to have recorded over 12,000 songs in her 65-year career. In addition to film music, she sings ghazals (poetic songs), bhajans (Hindu devotional songs) and folk songs, as well as traditional Indian classical music. More vocal music follows on April 6, this time from Senegal. Baaba Maal mixes the tradition of griot songs with rock, reggae and Afro-Cuban music. He’ll be performing with his nine-member band at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall.

Dubbed “Queen of the Toronto Cajun scene,” vocalist and fiddler Soozi Schlanger has been branching out on her own lately. Known primarily as the driving force in the band Swamperella (where, in addition to singing and fiddling, I’ve also witnessed her play a mean washboard!), this Canadian powerhouse of art and music first learned Cajun music at Ashokan, a fiddle camp in upstate New York. Out of that experience Swamperella was born, and the band has performed extensively, their dedication to authenticity garnering comments such as, “Now where all in Looziana y’all from?” Recently, she’s been going solo with “Soozimusic,” developing a repertoire of her own songs. Along with musicians Emilyn Stam and Victor Bateman, she’ll be performing at Slacks (562 Church St.) on April 4, the Tranzac Club on April 25 and the Moonshine Cafe in Oakville on May 2. You can check her out at www.myspace.com/soozischlanger.

Alex Cuba 1Recently back from performing at the Olympic Games, Juno award-winning Cuban musician Alex Cuba has a busy touring schedule this month. In Ontario, he’ll be performing at London’s Aeolian Hall on April 6, the Brock Centre for the Arts in St. Catharines on April 7, Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre on April 9, the Mod Club in Toronto on April 10 and the Neat School Stage in Burnstown (an hour northwest of Ottawa) on the 11th. After several performances in Quebec later in the month, he’ll be heading to Europe in May. His newest CD will be released on June 8.

On April 24, the Music Gallery presents two artists visiting from Berlin: Amelia Cuni and Werner Durand in “Ancient Trends & New Traditions in Indo-European Music.” Cuni is a vocalist trained in the traditions of Indian classical music, while Durand is a multi instrumentalist who also explores digital sound. Together they blend the old and the new, ranging from traditional music to microtonality. The concert is preceded on April 23 by an artist talk featuring Amelia Cuni, who shares experiences of her 30-year journey between European and Indian cultures. Visit www.musicgallery.org for more details.

Also on April 24, Music on the Donway presents “Journey to Andalusia,” a blend of Jewish, jazz, Indian and Arabic music featuring Toronto’s own Jaffa Road, headed by lead vocalist Aviva Chernick. Jaffa Road will also perform at Hugh’s Room on April 25, where they’ll be joined by Iraqi-Israeli oud/violin master Yair Dalal. This is one of Toronto’s most exciting up-and-coming fusion bands – not to be misssed!

Karen Ages can be reached at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.

March opens with two promising Small World Music presentations in as many days. On March 4, a band of Taureg rock musicians from the Sahara Desert region of Mali, Tinariwen, performs at the Phoenix Concert Theatre (410 Sherbourne). The group was formed in 1979, and since the beginning of last decade has gained prominence outside of Africa, appearing in festivals in Europe and the US. Their songs deal with the exile and suffering of their people, the Kel Tamashek of the southern Sahara, and the beauty of their desert homeland.

page 23 Red ChamberOn March 5, the vocal group Huun Huur Tu performs at the Mod Club (722 College). If you’ve never heard this group of Tuvan throat singers, do not miss this concert! I remember standing riveted to the spot when I first heard them on CBC radio around 13 years ago (remember the show “Global Village”?) This group of male singers/instrumentalists chants at the very base of their vocal range, producing celestial-sounding overtones. They’ll be collaborating with electronic musician Carmen Rizzo, presenting music from their new CD “Eternal.” For more information on both of these groups, visit www.smallworldmusic.com.

The next evening, March 6, the Vancouver-based Chinese instrumental ensemble Red Chamber performs a programme titled “Secret of the Chinese, Passion of the World” at the Music Gallery. Constisting of four women on traditional plucked instruments, their repertoire spans music from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to the present, including styles such as Bluegrass and Jazz. Led by internationally renowned musician Mei Han, featured instruments include the zheng (zither), pipa and ruan (lutes). Their website, complete with musical samples, is worth a visit: www.mei-han.com/redchamber.html.

Cuba’s Havana-based dance company “Dance Cuba” is on tour in Canada this month. The 17-member all female troup, choreographed by Lizt Alfonso and accompanied by six musicians, fuses flamenco with classical ballet, Afro-Cuban dance, and jazz. They’ll be at the David S. Howe Theatre (Brock University) in St. Catharines on March 6, the Capitol Arts Centre in Port Hope on March 14, Markham Theatre on March 16, and the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts on the 17th.

If you haven’t yet been to the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall, do pay it a visit! This stunning concert hall right in downtown Toronto has superb acoustics. Not only does it serve the Conservatory’s needs, but it also boasts a concert series in its own right. World music events coming up include Gypsy fiddler Roby Lakatos and ensemble on March 10, and Senegalese vocalist Baaba Maal with band on April 6. Visit http://performance.rcmusic.ca for the Conservatory’s full concert line-up.

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, a number of Celtic-themed events are scheduled for March 20. The Southern Ontario Dulcimer Association presents a festival of traditional Irish culture and folk music from 1:00 to 10:00 pm in Alton Village, Caledon (the music part is in the evening). Featured performers include Steafan and Saskia Hannigan (check them out on YouTube), Les Starkey, Jason Pfeiffer and others. For more info, go to www.town.caledon.on.ca.

The same evening, Echo Women’s Choir presents a Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee), at Church of the Holy Trinity, a “Down-East Kitchen Party,” complete with fiddles, singing, Irish and Scottish dancers, and a “proper jam session to close out the evening!” Guest performers include members of Bold Steps Dance Studio, Bob Davis (piano), Judith Nancekivell (voice/guitar), and Sarah Shepherd (dance demonstration). Still on March 20, the Hamilton Philharmonic presents Celtic Traditions, a ceilidh with champion fiddler Pierre Schryer and his band, performing in styles from Irish to Scottish to Québécois.

March 27, Toronto based Indian-jazz fusion band Autorickshaw performs with the Jubilate Singers at Eastminster United Church. Says Autorickshaw’s lead vocalist, Suba Sankaran, “This is a very special collaboration, featuring the premiere of my Indo-choral composition Kannamma, commissioned by the Jubilate Singers.” The commission is in celebration of Jubilate’s 40th anniversary season.

The universities hold their end-of-term World Music ensembles concerts this month. York’s take place on March 11, 12 and 15; and U of T’s are March 13 and 18. Please see the daily listings for more info on these and other concerts.

Karen Ages can be reached at worldmusic@thewholenote.com

 

February promises to be an eclectic month on the world music scene: collaborations between classical and world-music performers, concerts celebrating Black History Month, Yiddish cabaret, Balkan pop and a winter folk-festival are some of what will light up what is often a dreary time of year.

P21aCo-presented by Small World Music, Masters of Persian Music returns to Roy Thomson Hall on February 5, after an absence of four years. The ensemble is comprised of some of Iran’s top Persian classical musicians, including tar (plucked lute) master Hossein Alizadeh, who is also known for his soundtracks to Iranian films such as A Time for Drunken Horses, and Gabbeh, both of which I fondly recall seeing years ago at the now-defunct Carlton Cinema. He’ll be joined by Kayhan Kalhor on kamanchech (fiddle), who has perfomed and composed for Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, and five other musicians.
In honour of Black History Month, Harbourfront Centre hosts its 14th annual Kuumba Festival, February 6-7 and 13-14. (“Kuumba,” by the way, is the Swahili word for creativity). The festival includes dance workshops, film, music, comedy, family activities and more. Musical offerings include rock/funk/soul vocalist Saidah Baba Talibah in concert on February 6, traditional African drumming workshops February 6 and 7, “Salsa 101 for Dummies,” a live music and dance class February 6 and 7,  and “Urban X-Posure,” a hip-hop and spoken-word event on February 13. For full schedule of events visit www.harbourfrontcentre.com. Also in celebration of Black History Month, Music Africa presents a series of concerts at the Gladstone Hotel, February 5, 12, 19, and 26 – with a final concert, a tribute to Tarig Abubakar and the AfroNubians, at Evangadi Nightclub on February 28. See the daily listings for details.

February 6, singers Miriam Eskin and Stella Walker present a cabaret performance in English, French, Russian and Yiddish, accompanied by pianist Nina Shapilsky, at the Winchevsky Centre (585 Cranbrooke Ave.). The event is a benefit for the Toronto Jewish Folk Choir, and apparently last year’s was packed, so it is advised to get tickets in advance (416-789-5502).

P21bThe 8th Annual Winterfolk Festival runs February 12-15, at six venues downtown. This event, founded by Brian Gladstone as a means of building community, getting people out, and supporting local businesses during the bleakest time of year, features 100 local folk, roots and blues musicians. This year’s festival includes family programming on the last day, which is in fact the “Family Day” holiday. Visit www.winterfolk.com for details.

The Mississauga Symphony has an interesting programme coming up on February 13. Titled “Temples, Tigers and Mountains,” it will include a new work by internationally renowned sitar master Irshad Khan. His
Gypsy in Red features the sitar and tabla as soloists with the orchestra. And up-and-coming Toronto composer Kevin Lau (currently a doctoral student at U of T) also has a newly commissioned world premiere: Voyage to the East is an orchestral work based on sounds and themes from Asian cultures. The programme also features John Williams’ “Sayuri’s Theme” from Memoirs of a Geisha, and Tan Dun’s YouTube Symphony, Eroica.
Toronto’s high-energy all-female Onnanoko Taiko Ensemble will be performing as guest artists with the chamber group Via Salzburg, at the Glenn Gould Studio on February 18. They’ll be premiering two new pieces for taiko/percussion and string orchestra, by composers Alice Ho and the aforementioned Kevin Lau.

On February 21 at Walter Hall, the chamber series Mooredale Concerts presents an afternoon of Spanish music, with classical guitarist Jason Vieaux and 23-year-old mezzo Wallis Giunta – who premiered roles in Dean Burry’s opera
Pandora’s Locker, and Murray Schafer’s Children’s Crusade last season. Together, they’ll perform two Spanish song cycles: Canciones Españolas Antiguas (Ancient Spanish Songs) arranged by poet Federico Garcia Lorca, and Siete Canciones Populares Españolas by Manuel de Falla, among other works.


P21cFinally, “Briga” – formerly with Montreal’s Algerian hip-hop band Syncop, as well as Les Gitans de Sarajevo and Rembetica Hipsters – launches her debut Balkan pop album Diaspora, February 23 at Hugh’s Room. This multi-talented violinist and singer (born Brigitte Dajczer, daughter of a Warsaw Symphony musician) plays virtuoso gypsy violin, and sings French chansons and art songs in her new venture as solo artist, with a number of back-up musicians. She’s also an award-winning independent film maker. Judging by the musical samples I’ve heard, this promises to be a lively evening!


Karen Ages can be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.


p26_barlow

In the last few years, Toronto’s best known Indo-jazz fusion band, Autorickshaw, has been very busy, concertizing locally, nationally and internationally and putting out several CDs. December 3 marks the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster in India, when a toxic gas leak from the Union Carbide plant killed 8,000-10,000 people within a day, and another 15,000 over a longer period, with over 100,000 more suffering chronic illness to this day. Autorickshaw will commemorate this event with a concert at the Lula Lounge, “Bhopal Remembered,” and funds raised from the launch of their new single, City of Lakes, will go to Bhopal’s Sambhavna Clinic, which offers treatment to survivors of the disaster.

“This is a new direction and new initiative for us that I think will resonate deeply within the general public long after our concert is done”, says lead vocalist Suba Sankaran. “I also think it’s a beautiful way to go in terms of giving a socially conscious gift this holiday season. In fact, we’re making the track available by donation. We’ve just been in the recording studio and are working hard to have some mixes of our original composition City of Lakes available for our December 3 deadline and concert date – that’s a promise!”

You can download the single at http://autorickshaw.bandcamp.com. You can also download their other CDs and learn more about Autorichshaw at www.autorickshaw.ca. For this concert, Suba and regular band members Ed Hanley, Rich Brown and Patrick Graham will be joined by guests Ben Grossman (hurdy gurdy), Dylan Bell (keyboard, voice), and a string quartet comprised of Aleksandar Gajic, Parmela Attariwala, Claudio Vena and Amy Laing.

Toronto’s acclaimed Art of Time Ensemble is known for combining classical music with other genres as well as other art forms such as dance, film or theatre. Their December 4 and 5 concerts will present Brazilian music from three different perspectives, at Harbourfront’s Enwave Theatre. Juno-nominated Canadian jazz vocalist Emilie-Claire Barlow (named Female Vocalist of the Year, 2008 National Jazz Awards) will perform songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto and others, accompanied by five of Toronto’s best jazz musicians. The second half of the programme will feature Brazilian composer/guitarist/singer Carlos Althier de Souza Lemos Escobar, better known as Guinga, accompanied by Art of Time musicians. Considered to be Brazil’s most innovative songwriter, and one of the country’s best guitarists, his music draws on many genres including samba, blues and jazz. Incidentally, he also maintained a dentistry practice for about 30 years! The program will also include Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 for eight cellos.

The Canadian Opera Company’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre continues its eclectic free noon-hour programming. The December 10 presentation is a concert of Indonesian Gamelan music, featuring the Balinese gamelan quartet Seka Rat Nadi (James Kippen, Annette Sanger, Albert Wong and John Carnes), as well as the Javanese ensemble Gamelan Gong Sabrang, based at the Indonesian Consulate. It’s unusual to be able to hear both Balinese and Javanese styles of music on the same programme, so this could prove to be an interesting musical experience. Seka Rat Nadi will also perform at Musideum (401 Richmond) on December 12 at 1 pm. Speaking of which, Musideum, which is both “unusual musical instrument store” and performance space, also hosts some interesting “lec-dems”; the first coming up this month is on December 5, featuring Araz Salek on the Persian tar (lute). Stay tuned for more at www.musideum.com.

Now in its 20th year, the Moscow Male Jewish Cappella performs at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, George Weston recital Hall on December 13. The 20-member choir will perform liturgical works and other songs in Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian as well as “classics and international favourites.” Founded by conductor Alexander Tsaliuk, the choir’s repertoire includes many Jewish liturgical works that were banned by the Soviet authorities during most of the 20th century, and only in 1990, at the approval of Mikhail Gorbachev were manuscripts that had been confiscated from synagogues and Jewish ensembles by the KGB turned over to the choir. This concert is part of their North American tour.

Also on tour in North America, the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre presents “HaBanot Nechama,” a spirited trio of Israeli female pop vocalists, January 13. To listen to some of their music, visit them at their Myspace page (www.myspace.com/habanotnechama).

Unfortunately, my crystal ball is not revealing anything beyond this date, but there are still more events in December, and here they are in brief. Please check our daily listings for details on the following: December 2, Yamato Drummers of Japan perform at Massey Hall; December 4, KlezFactor is at the Trane Studio, with klezmer standards and original klezmer-fusion; December 4, Maryem Tollar, Roula Said, Sophia Grigoriadis, George Sawa and others perform at a fundraiser for the Gaza Freedom March, Ryerson U Student Centre, 55 Gould St. (www.gazafreedommarch.ca); December 5, Judith Cohen and Tamar Ilana Cohen Adams perform Sephardic and other Judeo-Spanish repertoire and Balkan dance music with musical friends at Casa do Alentejo, 1130 Dupont; December 16, the Traditional Arabic Music Ensemble (George Sawa and Suzanne Meyers Sawa) play at Mezzetta’s Restaurant, 681 St. Clair W.

Karen Ages can be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.

 

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