Sunday, October 31, 2010

Opera Atelier's Acis and Galatea

Opera Atelier's Acis and Galatea
Elgin Theatre, Toronto (full credits below)
continues to November 7

Love on her breast sits panting and swells with soft desire, no grace or charm is wanting to set the heart afire...

Opera Atelier's co-Artistic Director Marshall Pynkoski mentioned that the show that opens their 25th season is a simple production by Atelier standards - only one costume per singer/performer, and only one stage setting. Other than the dancers, the action on stage was fairly limited, with the lovers Acis and Galatea often simply entwined in each other's arms. Credit then the core strengths of the company - the music and performance - for delighting the audience with Handel's retelling of the Greek legend.

The story (in its abbreviated, simplified version - you know those Greek myths!) goes like this: the shepherds and shepherdesses of Arcadia live an idyllic existence in the woods, along with the water nymph Galatea. Galatea has fallen in love with one of them, Acis, who returns her devotion, despite the warnings of the spirit Damon about the dangers of loving an immortal. They are very happy... but as in all Greek myths, mortal happiness cannot last. Enter Polyphemus the monster, a Cyclops who is also smitten by Galatea's beauty. Acis wants to fight him off, but Galatea persuades him not to. Polyphemus throws a boulder on Acis, killing him in spite. Galatea, who is after all semi-divine, cannot bring him back to life, but transforms him into a stream wherein she can dwell and he can murmur of his love for her forever as he irrigates the Arcadian fields.

Soprano Mireille Asselin brings just the right pureness of tone and sparkling immortal charm to the role of the affectionate water nymph, and she's perfectly matched by a soulful Thomas Macleay in the role of the devoted shepherd. Earnest and sincere, they created a lovely romantic chemistry on stage. While the two lovers played it straight of necessity, they were wonderfully constrasted by the roles of Damon and Polyphemus.

Lawrence Wiliford struck just the right note as the sometimes good, sometimes questionable supernatural being Damon, providing many of the piece's comedic moments in his reactions to the lovestruck mooning of the couple and complications of the Monster Cyclops. He's also a marvelously athletic dancer, with an acrobatic leap here and there to punctuate the words. Baritone João Fernandes attacked the bad guy role with gusto, featuring a nice dramatic sensibility and a powerful voice to match.

I think it's a sign of Opera Atelier's deep familiarity with the work that they were able to play with it, introducing notes of humour both intentional and not in the original early 18th century score - as in the Happy, happy, happy are we! chorus and some of the staging. And though "simple" by Opera Atelier standards, the setting was imaginative, using a pastoral painted backdrop and a layer of curtains that provided depth, along with a nifty cave opening device that revealed the nymph's lair. The costumes were gorgeous, with Galatea's sparkly green gown a stand out (as the dress of an immortal should be).

It's a thoroughly enjoyable evening of Baroque Opera to continue the company's longstanding legacy.

Directed by Marshall Pynkoski
Choreography by Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg
David Fallis, Conducting the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir
Cast: Lawrence Wiliford as Damon the spirit, Thomas Macleay as Acis the lovestruck shepherd, Mireille Asselin as Galatea the nereid, and João Fernandes as Polyphemus, the Monster.

Images by Bruce Zinger:

• Mireille Asselin & Thomas Macleay
• Lawrence Wiliford & Artists of Atelier Ballet  
• Mireille Asselin & João Fernandes

Saturday, October 30, 2010

M. Nahadr & Ntozake Shange Live (and in Film) in NYC

From a media release:

M. Nahadr, "I Found God In Myself" in For Colored Girls

Tour Schedule- New York, NY

Monday, November 8
Featuring Ntozake Shange
Wednesday, November 10
Monday, November 15
Wednesday, November 17

All shows part of the Poetic Heritage Festival @ Nuyorican Poets Café
236 East 3rd Street
Tix: $12, All shows 7:00 pm

Sometimes in life we get lucky.  Our paths cross with someone who inexplicably changes us forever.  You could certainly say that when internationally acclaimed performance artist, M. Nahadr, and award winning playwright and poet, Ntozake Shange met, something just like that happened.

Improvised sound and free spirits.  New York-based performance artist, composer, and stunning vocalist M. Nahadr (also known as Mem Nahadr or just "M") and critically acclaimed poet/playwright Ntozake Shange channel both, with distinct, diverse voices that compound and confound notions of difference and identity.  From a silent meeting sprung a sonically rich friendship, now culminating in collaborative performances on the big screen and the intimate stage.

"Our friend Claude wanted to introduce us and asked me to pick Ntozake up at JFK," M. recalls. "We completely, immediately resonated and it was wordless. Our meeting was completely wordless, and it was wonderful."

Shange and M. have nurtured this silent tie and bring their unique understanding to multimedia fruition. Shange's words inspired M.'s uplifting, swirling anthem, "I Found God In Myself (Ntozake's Song)," featured in Tyler Perry's film For Colored Girls (Lionsgate; November 5 release), featuring Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, and Macy Gray, among others.

M.'s distinctive looks and multi-octave powerhouse of a voice set her apart, yet also led her to a revelation of our shared humanity, our common difference. "I was a little girl that looked like Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap, living in an all African-American neighborhood in America," she recollects. "What I experience on Planet Earth as a person with albinism is the oneness of one story told. Everyone has the experience of being different. Period. That's the lowest common denominator."

This insight, this embrace beyond identity politics blossomed into innovative off-Broadway performance pieces-some with Shange's participation-as well as striking albums ( EclecticIsM, 2009) that rush gracefully between hard-grooving funk and freewheeling, tender ballads.

"When I first hear her, I thought that M. had fallen from the sky; her voice was tying the heavens to the ocean, because of the range of it and the holiness of it," Shange explains. "I don't mean holiness in a religious sense, but the inescapable 'sacredness' of her voice, as if there were a holiness in her voice that could lift you off your feet."

At the heart of M.'s work lies something she found she shared with Shange: the spark kindled by free jazz and its invitation to open improvisation. They will explore this approach further at the Nuyorican, as part of Shange's acclaimed stage work, Lilianne: Resurrection of The Daughter.

"I found it so interesting, our shared interest in free jazz," reflects M. "Ntozake is so highly educated and her work is so respected, but her inspiration was free jazz, creating in the moment."

This improvisational urge, while sparking a creative friendship with the poet, pushed M. into a heartfelt response to Shange's words, to the closing poetry of her complex, polyphonic exploration of women's lives and fates. Shange had invited M. to compose something for that critical moment, something Shange felt truly represented the essence of her poetry. The resulting song was eventually woven into Perry's film version.

The task proved daunting at first. "I meditated on it for a few months. It felt agonizing," M. smiles. "I did take my time, however; I didn't want to create something that was contrived. I waited for the inspiration. One day, at the eleventh hour, I woke up at 8 am, wrote the song, and immediately felt relief. I was so happy: I knew it was honest."

M.'s soulful reaction to Shange's glorious declaration of acceptance and love falls squarely in the r 'n' b realm, while keeping M.'s signature edge. "I Found God In Myself (Ntozake's Song)" moves from Shange's words to M.'s, in a gospel-inflected statement of discovered joy.

This song, dedicated to Shange, will be exclusively available on iTunes November 1.

Beyond her work with Shange, M.'s deep-digging voice and unique beauty will be featured in an upcoming independent French film starring Charlotte Gainsbourg (daughter of the notorious Serge) and produced by Lars von Trier, scheduled for release in January 2011. Hot on the heels of her film appearance is a new album, Mem, due out in April.

Until then, M. is savoring her work with Shange. "I get to sing to and with a healing poet," she sighs. "It was an act of trust on Ntozake's part, because of our shared resonance, and I love honoring that."

Not only will this song, "I Found God In Myself," be featured in the upcoming major motion picture, the adaptation of one of Shange's most revered works, M. and Shange will share the stage at the film premiere, and for a series of spoken word and improvised free music performances at the Nuyorican Poets Café November 8-17, 2010 at 7 PM. (see details above!)

Capri Vision's Marion Woodman: Dancing in the Flames DVD Release

Capri Vision presents
Marion Woodman: Dancing in the Flames
DIRECTED BY Adam Greydon Reid
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Gabriella Martinelli
PRODUCERS: Robin Crumley, Adam Greydon Reid
CAMERA: John M. Tran
FEATURING: Marion Woodman, Andrew Harvey, Ross Woodman

Unfortunately, as of this posting, the New York City Premiere at Rubin Museum October 31 –  3:00 pm is all sold out, unless you're a member there (check at the link if so).
Worldwide DVD Release November 1 – available online at Dancing in the Flames and Amazon.

November 18 – available at selected bookstores across Canada and the U.S.

(Toronto – October 29, 2010)  Powerful, probing, and provocative, Marion Woodman: Dancing in the Flames is an insightful documentary that explores the inspiring life and many ‘deaths’ of one of the western world’s most important thinkers.

A sell-out audience recently at the Vancouver International Film Festival’s Canadian Theatrical Premiere, and this weekend’s upcoming screening in New York City will no doubt attract another full house at the Rubin Museum Theatre, (which will be followed by a conversation between Andrew Harvey and Eve Ensler).

A feminist icon, poet and Jungian analyst, Woodman has performed provocative thought-experiments on the nature of death and consciousness since recovering from cancer in the early ‘90s.

Gabriella Martinelli of Capri Films brings us this feature documentary, produced by Robin Crumley of Capri Vision Productions and directed by Adam Greydon Reid. Marion Woodman: Dancing in the Flames incorporates stunning thematic animation from Academy Award-winning artist Faith Hubley which is seamlessly woven throughout the thought provoking interviews with Woodman.

The film - narrated and “guided” by the brilliant mystic and author Andrew Harvey - also prominently features Marions’s husband  Ross Woodman. Through these interviews, Marion explains the mysteries of her soul’s journey and reveals a series of psychological ‘deaths’ and ‘rebirths’ that have formed the consciousness into which she has evolved. From her battle with anorexia, to her revelatory experiences in India, to her ever-evolving marriage, to her dance with cancer, Marion has ‘died into life’ and, thus, is a perfect teacher and mid-wife for this critical period in our history. Her inner and outer lives combine to communicate a core truth of what it is to be human.

"Our planet is shedding its outworn skin," says renowned Jungian analyst and author Marion Woodman, who believes that without death there is no birth. Perhaps best known for her groundbreaking work on feminine psychology and addiction, via such books as Addiction to Perfection, Bone: Dying into Life, and The Pregnant Virgin, Woodman is one of the West's most important wisdom keepers.

Andrew Harvey is an author and scholar, known primarily for his popular nonfiction books on spiritual or mystical themes. He was born in southern India in 1952 and moved to England at the age of nine. He went on to study at Oxford. In 1977 he returned to India for the first time since his childhood and underwent several mystical experiences that began a series of initiations into different mystical traditions. Harvey has lectured internationally and is the author of more than 25 books.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Eve Plumb Opens in Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating & Marriage

From a variety of sources - I'm checking out this off-Broadway show in my next trip to the city - sounds like fun - and in the meantime, here's the important stuff first:

written by Ken Davenport and Sarah Saltzberg
starring Eve Plumb & Manuel Herrara

Tickets: 877-9-MISS-ABIGAIL (877-964-7722)
Or Visit Sofia's Downstairs Theater, 221 West 46th Street (between Broadway & 8th), NYC.

With the code DATING, any of my readers can get special discounted $45 tickets - for details and to order check here

During the summers that I was 17 and 18, I worked in a summer camp as a counselor. The camp was situated on the grounds of an old farm in the Caledon Hills north of Toronto, and the counsellors used one of the out buildings to hang out in. One day, we found a book, a dating guide from the 1950's, and it provided hours of humour as we'd dig up gems on how to conduct yourself as a lady circa 1950.

So, the very idea of Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage brought an immediate smile to my face. The show, which just opened off-Broadway, stars Eve Plumb - Jan Brady! - in the role of Miss Abigail, a relationship expert to the stars and her sexy young sidekick Paco (Manuel Herrara) as they travel the world teaching Miss Abigail’s wonderfuly dated "how-to's" on dating, mating and marriage.

The 90-minute comedy has gotten good notices, and includes gems of helpful advice like how to have a perfect kiss (it’s all about lip position) . . . what you should and should not talk about on a date (don’t mention your troll doll collection) . . . and how to let a man think he wears the pants.

Miss Abigail takes you back to a simpler time, before booty calls and before speed-dating . . . back when the divorce rate wasn’t 50% and when ‘fidelity’ was more than an investment firm.

MISS ABIGAIL’S GUIDE TO DATING, MATING & MARRIAGE was written by Ken Davenport and Sarah Saltzberg, whose previous credits include the award winning comedies The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Altar Boyz.

Miss Abigal the stage show began with Miss Abigail the Book . The real Miss Abigail is one Abigail Grotke of Takoma Park, MD, who began collecting vintage dating advice in book form around 1985, amassing a collection that now boasts more than 1,000 books. She made a conscious decision to limit her scope to those published before 1970, and began dispensing her classic relationship advice on the web.

From her website, she has this to say about her material:

Good illustrations, good advice for the times, a historical perspective, and especially the humor ~ that is what I search for, and, luckily for you, have been able to find! By the way, although some of this may seem authoritative, please be aware that I don’t take anything I read in these books very seriously. For example, the advice in a chapter titled “Never Go to a Man’s Apartment” from The Unfair Sex (1953) is probably not very realistic for our times. But then again, the next chapter in that same book is titled “What to Do When You Get There,” so maybe we should not dismiss what our mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers were told!

About the Creative:

(Miss Abigail) started her acting career at age six, when a children’s talent agent moved in next door to her family in Los Angeles. Soon afterwards, she went on her first commercial audition, for fabric softener, and got the job. That appearance led to roles on television shows. The then10-year-old Eve went on an audition for a new show entitled The Brady Bunch and didn’t make the cut. Later she was called into the offices of director John Rich and producer Sherwood Schwartz, who liked her previous credits and thought she looked like Florence Henderson, who was cast to play the mother.

The show ran for five years and was to make television history (although no one knew it at the time). The Brady Bunch continued to be popular for many years, giving birth to TV movies and series, along with other work on TV. In addition to her television work, Eve studied improv comedy at The Groundlings School in Los Angeles and has appeared in many smaller theater productions. In 2010, Eve appeared at Lincoln Center with Florence Henderson in Broadway Backwards 5.

An accomplished fine art painter, Eve is currently represented by several galleries across the US and often appearing at opening celebrations.

(Paco) B'way: West Side Story (Bernardo standby), Legally Blonde (Padamadan/Nikos), Sweet Charity (Herman cover), Wicked (Chistery), The Music Man (Tommy Djilas). Off-B'way: The Seven (Eteoclus and First Man). Film: Sex and the City 2 (Sergio). Commercials: Mohegan Sun, Joe Boxer, Winterfresh Gum, Mervyns and Optimum Online.

Ken Davenport (Co-Author):
On Broadway, Davenport recently produced Oleanna starring Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles, Speed-the-Plow starring Raul Esparza, Will Ferrell’s You’re Welcome America (Tony nomination), Blithe Spirit starring Angela Lansbury, and 13.  Ken is the only independent producer to have had three shows running simultaneously Off-Broadway - Altar Boyz (Author/Director), The Awesome 80s Prom (Co-Conceiver) and My First Time(Author/Director). Current projects include producing the Broadway revivals of Godspell and Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men, penning the musical adaptation of Somewhere In Time, and shooting a documentary on one of the top unsigned rock bands in the country – Red Wanting Blue.

Sarah Saltzberg (Co-Author):
On Broadway, Sarah Saltzberg played Logainne Schwartzandgrubenairre for two years in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. She created and developed her character in C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E (upon which Spelling Bee is based), which she co-produced at the Theatorium in NYC, and appeared in both Barrington Stage productions. She most recently appeared in Fat Camp at the NYMF, and has appeared off-Broadway in JUNIE B. JONES (Lucille Lortel), in her one-woman show Dear Diary (Broadway Spotlight Series, Ars Nova), as well as throughout NYC in long-form improv comedy with the Upright Citizen's Brigade.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sultans of String play Hugh's Room Toronto November 5

Sultans of String (2010 JUNO Nominees & CFMA/ISC winners)
ArtsCan Circle Cross-Canada Fundraising & Awareness Tour
Hugh's Room, 2261 Dundas St. W., Toronto
Friday, November 5, 8:30pm
$20 advance/ $ 25

Check them out here

[Toronto ON]  On Friday, November 5, raucous roots, genre bending string supergroup and this year's JUNO Nominees, Sultans of String, are serving up their spicy stew of Spanish Flamenco, French Manouche Gypsy Jazz, Middle Eastern Folk, and Cuban rhythms at Hugh's Room, as part of their cross-country fundraising & awareness tour for ArtsCan Circle!

Since their formation only 3 years ago, Sultans of String have been riding a wave of success, from their debut CD "Luna" and 2nd offering, "Yalla Yalla" both hitting # 1 on world/ international music charts in Canada, to their triple 2009 Canadian Folk Music Award nomination, winning Instrumental Group of the Year.

In the past few months alone, they've acquired a JUNO nomination for "Yalla Yalla",  U.S. representation from acclaimed promoter David Wilkes (Nikki Yanofksy, Emmylou Harris, Jesse Cook, Bela Fleck), and booking representation in Australia.  They also garnered a 2010 CMW Indies nomination and took home 1st place in the International Songwriting Competition (out of 15,000 entries)... exciting times for the band!

Seamlessly traversing diverse themes of heart, place and tradition, fiery violin dances with kinetic guitar while a funk bass lays down unstoppable grooves. Throughout, acoustic strings meet electronic wizardry to create layers and depth of sound.

“Canada’s ambassadors of musical diversity” include 6-string violinist (and ArtsCan board member) Chris McKhool who has guest starred with Jesse Cook and Pavlo, duelling guitar czars Kevin Laliberté (The Chieftains) and Eddie Paton (Robert Michaels), bass master Drew Birston (Chantal Kreviazuk, Amanda Martinez), and the jaw dropping talent of Cuban percussionist Chendy Leon!

This concert is part of the band's cross-Canada fundraising and awareness tour for ArtsCan Circle (information about ArtsCan Circle below).

2010 Career highlights:
•  2010 JUNO Nominees - "Instrumental Album of the Year"
•  2010 International Songwriting Contest 1st Place Winners - Instrumental
•  2010 Performer at JUNOFest
•  2010 Indie Awards Nominees - Favourite World Artist/Group
•  2010 Indie Awards Nominees- Favourite Children's Artist (for bandleader Chris McKhool)


Picture this:  November, 2000 - multi-talented harmonica player, Mike Stevens, was on his way to entertain troops in Bosnia and stopped off in Goose Bay, Labrador for another performance.  In the local paper he read about a crisis at the nearby indigenous community of Sheshatshiu, Labrador, with young people sniffing gas and committing suicide.  He was offered a visit there and ran into some of them.  He engaged them in dialogue by playing his harmonica and listening to them.  The kids connected big time with the music.

Mike knew that music could help make connections.  He started to visit other remote indigenous communities with similar problems, taking his music and donated musical instruments and leaving them for the kids.  In 2002, other artists under the guiding hand of the late Estelle Klein got together to form an organization to support Mike’s efforts.  ArtsCan Circle was founded.

Since then, ArtsCan Circle has visited ten indigenous communities in Northern Ontario, Labrador and Nunavut, and now sends teams of volunteer musicians and visual artists to engage youth in hands-on workshops in all aspects of arts.  Musical instruments, art supplies and recording studio equipment have been brought to the communities to facilitate young people finding their own voices and creating their own art and music.  ArtsCan Circle now provides over 2,000 workshop opportunities for indigenous youth annually.  Countless volunteer hours help raise funds to send the teams north and create connections between communities in southern Ontario and across Canada with our neighbours in the far north.  Can one person make a difference?  Can music build bridges?

blackandblue dance projects at Harbourfront NextSteps Nov 4

From media releases:

blackandblue dance projects
Future Memory Heartbreak Junction Parts 1 & 2
Part of NextSteps 10/11
Thurs. Nov 4 thru Sat. Nov 6, 8pm - Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre (Toronto)

a fearlessly intimate and candid double-portrait of fatal love
choreographed and performed by Sasha Ivanochko, Artistic Director of blackandblue dance projects and one of Canada's most accomplished dancers

The outstanding talents of choreographer/performer Sasha Ivanochko and dancer Brendan Wyatt are featured in this fearlessly intimate and candid double-portrait of fatal love. Ivanochko's solo follows a torch singer living and reliving career triumphs and romantic heartbreak. Her duet with Wyatt explodes the myth, revealing the effects of time on memory and truth.

Sensual and cinematic, The future memory heartbreak junction's features a solo performed by Ivanochko and a new duet she created as a response to the solo, which she dances with Dora Award-winning Brendan Wyatt.

The future memory heartbreak junction exposes the compulsive nature of the heart, the blind-siding effects of love, and the heartbreak of loyalty within loss. This is a dual portrait of Love: as both the Stuff of Life and the Dark Night of the Soul

In the solo for herself, by herself, the piece looks at the inner workings of human dilemma- stuck at the crossroads of seductive past and an uncertain future, what the hell is a girl to do?

Playing extremes of hesitation and bravado, this piece is body centric, and unfolds in song and movement. An exploration of the theatrical implications of repetition, Ivanochko creates a physical language that is sometimes abstract, sometimes graphic, gentle and violent, and boldly candid. A graceful, powerful and dramatic performer, this solo reveals Ivanochko in the full bloom of her career. In the junction, she is The Tart of Hearts, Lady of the Evening, Diva, Tough Cookie, Grand Mess, Plain Jane, Beauty and Beast, and the place where she dwells, the dangerous and mysterious junction, is a surreal/graphic novel of her Heart.

Presented by DanceWorks

• Sasha Ivanochko performing in The future memory heartbreak junction - The Solo (photo credit Sam Baardman)
• The future memory heartbreak junction, Diptych from blackandblue dance projects, choreographed by Sasha Ivanochko (photo credit  Joseph Michael Photography)

DanceWorks presents blackandblue dance projects'
The future memory heartbreak junction, Diptych
Choreographed by Sasha Ivanochko
Featuring Sasha Ivanochko and Brendan Wyatt
Music by Catherine Thompson, lighting design by Geoff Bouckley
Part of Harbourfront Centre's NextSteps
Thursday, November 4 - Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 8PM nightly
Harbourfront Centre's Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay West, Toronto
Regular Tickets: $33.50 (Students/Seniors $22.50)
Box Office: 416-973-4000 OR online at

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Afrocubism CD Release and (too short) North American Tour

With information compiled from a variety of sources:

North American CD Release November 2, 2010

On Tour:
* November 5, 2010 – 08:00 pm - Metropolis, Montreal, QC
* November 7, 2010 – 07:30 pm - Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA
* November 9, 2010 – 08:00 pm - The Town Hall, New York, NY

Tickets for all three locations available here

In 1996, as the story goes, American guitarist Ry Cooder went to Havana to record a session that would include musicians from both Mali and Cuba. But as luck would have it, the Malians didn't receive travel visas in time, and so the session went ahead with an all-Cuban line up of musicians whose careers went back decades. The result was the stuff of legend, and came to be known as the Buena Vista Social Club, credited with sparking a renaissance and renewed interest in Latin music worldwide.

Still, the people at World Circuit Records, who'd arranged the original session, had their hearts set on a Mali-Cuba meeting, and eventually it came about beginning with a few concerts in 2008. When you think about it, the classic styles of both musical traditions involve a reliance on melodic guitar work over layers of polyrhythms, making the collaboration seem a natural one. Add the abundance of musical talent in both countries, and the possibilities are clear.

Their first CD was released in Europe earlier this month, and comes out in North America on November the 2. You can have a listen here

Too bad for me, they're tied up with European dates (which you can check out on their MySpace page) until late this year, and have no other plans to tour North America till 2011.

They have an incredible line up of musicians:

Eliades Ochoa on guitar and vocals
Known for his trademark cowboy hat and black garb, Eliades Ochoa has been dubbed 'Cuba's Johnny Cash'. A proponent of the traditional musical styles of rural Cuba, he was one of the youngest members of the Buena Vista Social Club. Nowadays, he's considered one of its respected elder statesmen.

Toumani Diabaté on kora
He was born into a family of kora masters, and today is widely acknowledged as one of the masters of the 21 string West African instrument. A child prodigy, he made his first recording in London at the age of 21, and has gone on to a career punctuated by fruitful collaborations with musicians across a wide spectrum of musical styles, including Björk and Taj Mahal.

Bassekou Kouyaté on ngoni
I had the good luck to see this master of the ngoni play an outdoor concert with his band - and Bela Fleck - last summer (pictured, at LuminaTO). Born into one of Mali's many musical families, he's revolutionized the way the medieval era instrument is played, including innovations into its actual construction.

Kasse Mady Diabaté on vocals
The veteran West African griot has sung as lead vocalist with the Super Mandé Orchestra and National Badema (Las Maravaillas de Mali) who combined Cuban influences with his traditional Malian style. He also includes solo recordings in a decades long career, and is hugely popular in his native country.

Djelimady Tounkara on guitars
Often called the finest guitarist in Africa, I'd argue he's among the finest in the world, playing with a dazzling virtuosity that combines with a refined sense of rhythm and melody. He found his instrument early in life, and was playing with jazz bands from his late teens. He played with the state sponsored Orchestre National, then moved on to the legendary the Super Rail Band when that folded.

Fode Lassana Diabaté on balafon
Born in Conakry, Guinea to a family of virtuoso balafon players, he studied traditional methods of playing before moving to Mali and experimenting with more innovative modes. He has appeared on albums by Salif Keita, Bassekou Kouyate, and Kasse Mady Diabaté among others, and has been a long-standing member of Toumani Diabaté's Symmetric Orchestra.

Baba Sissoko on talking drum
A multi instrumentalist, Baba played tamani and ngoni with the Instrumental Ensemble of Mali orchestra in the 1980's. His decades long career has seen him form his own group (Baba Sissoko & Taman Kan) and he's perhaps best known for high profile collaborations with a number of musicians, including a critically acclaimed 12 year musical relationship with Habib Koité.

Jose Angel Martinez on double bass
After studying at the Conservatorio Estaban Salas, he's best known for his longtime work with Elias Ochoa.

Jorge Maturell on congas, bongos, cowbell
A graduate of the Escuela de Nivel Medio Superior de Superación Profesional, he's recorded a number of albums, one of which won the EGREM Prize in 1996, the prize of Bienes de Fondos Culturales.

Onsel Odit on chorus vocals, rhythm acoustic guitar
He won first prize in the OTI performance competition in 1998 and represented Cuba in the International event in San José in Costa Rica. Onsel has recorded a number of albums and been a member of Grupo Patria, among others.

Eglis Ochoa on maracas, guiro, chorus vocals
He began his musical career by studying the violin, joining father Eliades Ochoa as a full time member of Grupo Patria as vocalist and percussionist, where he has remained until this day.

Copal CD Release November 4 in NYC

From a media release:

Electronic-Folk group Copal will be having a CD release show at Drom on Nov. 4 for a Neo Middle Eastern Fête. If you like Delhi 2 Dublin, Beats Antique, or even Bassnectar, Copal will be right up your musical alley.

Check them out here.

Ruffled Modernity Meets Old World Elegance: NYC's Copal Paints Vivid Dreamscapes with Into the Shadow Garden
CD Release November 4 - DROM NYC

Copal, Into the Shadow Garden (Self-Release), Where the dreams and memories of an old world elegance meet the rakish flair of a ruffled modernity, Copal invites us in to dream a forgotten land of the imagination. The music is a steam punk melding of styles and taste, inspiring visions of mystery pools and deep forested paths. Into the Shadow Garden is a journey from dusk to dawn, through the shadows and out the other side into the morning light.

Copal's debut album "Into the Shadow Garden," (Nov. 4, 2010), is a rich sonic tapestry of cultural influences and textural palettes. The music draws from Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Nordic melodic inspirations fused with indie rock and ethereal influences. Violin and cello mix with ethnic percussion, drums, bass, and the occasional vocal highlight riding on top of electronic sonic elements of synths and fender rhodes to sustain an illusion of an all-enveloping sound. "This is music to recreate your world by--made today, but enlightened by a deep sensitivity to the ancient past." -Scott Shuster, World Dance New York.

Hannah Thiem, violinist, vocalist, composer and producer of "Into the Shadow Garden" says, "This project is deeply personal--a merging of textures, sounds, ideas, melodies, and the internal landscape of my thoughts and dreams." The music on the album is an amalgam of the musical influences and cultures inspired by Hannah's travels and living abroad in Europe and North Africa. The talented collaborators featured on the album come from a variety of backgrounds, bringing their influences to the drawing board and the studio: Isabel Castellvi (cello), Robin Ryczek (cello), Chris Brown (bass, keys, sound design), Karl Grohmann (drums), and Engin Gunaydin (darbuka, frame drum, riq).

On stage, NYC-based 5-piece band Copal mixes improvisation with compositions creating a very dynamic sonic experience. Built upon earlier foundations of their successful EP release "eso-terra" (2007), every performance is unique. "We could play the exact same set every night for a week and it would sound like a new experience every time. Keeping the music fresh and exciting engages the audience and us," says Hannah. Often joined on stage by dancers of various styles, most often tribal belly dancers, the instrumental ballads and epic journeys are given a visual complement. Even during the more downtempo portion of their set, every live show gets the crowd dancing. Copal has shared the stage with diverse and talented groups such as Delhi 2 Dublin, Vagabond Opera, Sxip Shirey, Haale, and Luminescent Orchestrii.

Diverse is an understatement when examining Hannah's musical background. She's been sighted on stage performing with Kanye West in NYC at Madison Square Garden, in Boston opening for The Rolling Stones, and backstage at Kanye's David Letterman appearance. She also is a core member of Nyxyss, an electronic music project founded with Haj (Sub Swara), and they recently opened for Bassnectar for a sold-out show in Austin, TX. In studio, she has recorded with Grammy-nominated Irma Thomas, Beats Antique, Mark Saunders (multi-platinum producer: Cure, Cyndi Lauper, David Byrne), and Ancient Astronauts (Switchstance Recordings, Germany).

"Into the Shadow Garden" will be released in both CD and digital format on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010, via CD Baby) and Bandcamp. Catch Copal's NYC CD Release Party on Nov. 4 at Drom, East Village, NYC, and their Boston CD Release on Nov. 7 at the Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA; with more tour dates to follow on the east coast and beyond.

Show info:
Thursday, November 4
Drom , 85 Ave A (b/w 5th & 6th)
New York, NY        
Tix: $15/adv, $18/door, Show: 8 pm
Ph: (212) 777-1156
Guests include Raquy & the Cavemen + Zikrayat

Hugo E. Slepoy Opening Oct 28 in Toronto

From a media release - if you're looking for an art fix this Thursday in Toronto:

Hugo E. Slepoy Opening at Queens Gallery
382 Queen Street East, Toronto
Opening reception:
Thursday October 28, 2010, 6:00-9:00 pm

Hugo E. Slepoy graduated from the University of Buenos Aires with a degree in Architecture in 1972 and in Urban and Regional Planning in 1980. Hugo is an accomplished designer, illustrator and imagineer: his work has been recognized by architectural and design firms across Toronto, his home for the past 29 years. From 1991 to 1998, he was a freelance artist for ‘The Globe & Mail’. Hugo has been a Graduate Associate  with the Ontario Association of Architects since 1981, and a member of  Visual Arts Ontario since 1990.

Hugo’s interest in art began at an early age and it developed into an artistic career by 1979. Various themes are the inspiration for Hugo’s artwork. These include unique interpretations of tropical nature scenes, urban and rural landscapes, landmarks, historical buildings and urban architecture. Hugo’s work ranges from detailed pencil drawings to colour ‘naïve’ paintings in a variety of media, including, ink, feltpen and watercolour or their combination. His pencil rendering of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario commemorating the Centennial of its building, hangs in the Ontario Legislature. Over his 30- year artistic career, Hugo has shown in public, private and solo exhibitions. His work is housed in private and public collections in Argentina, Italy, Belgium, the United States and Canada.

Gallery Hours:
October 28- November 9, 2010
Tuesday – Wednesday – Friday 11:30 am–6:30 pm
Thursday 1:30-8:30 pm
Saturday 3:30-6:30 pm
Sunday & Monday by appointment only Please call 416 361 6045

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Windigo Tale - imagineNATIVE Closing Night

A Windigo Tale
Closing night screening at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival 2010
October 24 - Bloor Cinema, Toronto

In Ojibway beliefs, a Windigo is an evil spirit, one who can possess and even inhabit living human beings, spreading their malevolence in the here and now. In A Windigo Tale, the directorial début of poet Armand Garnet Ruffo, that evil spirit exists on two planes; first as the demonic incarnation of an evil man whose funeral we see near the beginning of the film, and second as the dark shadow of the residential school system and its corrosive effects across the generations. Interesting that both the supernatural and all too earthbound versions of evil begin with the acts of man.

The set up of the story is simple. Harold, played by the always lovable Gary Farmer, gets the call from Lily (Andrea Ménard) to come and get Curtis, the family's black sheep (played by Elliot Simon). Living with Lily in the city, he's gotten caught up in gangs and violence. On the long road trip up north through the glorious colour display of autumn in the Ottawa Valley, Harold tells Curtis a story about the family and its secrets.

The story centres around Doris (Jani Lauzon, in another strong performance,) Lily's mother, and their reunion after many years of estrangement. There's a noxious secret at the heart of their separation and pain, and it too exists on two levels. But I don't want to give much of the story away at all in case you get to see it.

The film was shot in HD video, and bears a kind of shallow TV look despite the gorgeous scenery, without the depth and beauty that film can add, but it's not an element that distracts from its strengths, the most significant of which is a great script that shows Armand Garnet Ruffo's writerly roots. The story comes together in bits and pieces, tantalizingly and intriguingly, each scene unfolding a new part of the puzzle. Despite its heavy subject matter, the story is shot through with humour that comes from a very direct point of view. David, (Philip Riccio,) Lily's well meaning Canuck boyfriend, tells Doris he's sorry to hear about her husband's passing. "He was gone lots," she says briskly, to his bewilderment.

The story is held together by solid acting on all fronts, including the supporting cast. Shot in the Six Nations Reserve and the Ottawa Valley, the setting is strikingly beautiful but also serves as a spooky backdrop for the ominous events that begin to come together.

In the end, the secrets come out, and the community comes together to heal, and if it is somewhat predictable that Curtis should shed his gang paraphernalia as grandpa Harold's story draws to a close, it doesn't detract from this engrossing tale. 

Armand Garnet Ruffo (Ojibway) is a poet and professor at Carleton University, specializing in Indigenous literature. He is the author of two volumes of poetry, Opening In the Sky and At Geronimo’s Grave, winner of the 2002 Archibald Lampman Award for Poetry, as well as the acclaimed creative biography, Grey Owl: The Mystery of Archie Belaney. A Windigo Tale is his directorial debut.

Love, Loss and What I Wore Closing October 30

From a media release - all good things must come to an end sometime...


Toronto, October  21, 2010 - Producers Michael Rubinoff and Daryl Roth today announced that their hit Toronto production of the award-winning Love, Loss, and What I Wore will end its hugely successful run on October 30 at the Panasonic Theatre.

The Toronto production began performances on July 16, 2010, winning both popular and critical acclaim and was extended twice.

"We've had a fantastic run of more than 3 months," said Rubinoff in announcing the closing date. "With 105 performances by the time we close, the Toronto run of Love, Loss, and What I Wore will be one of the longest running non-musicals in this city in the last decade," he continued. "I am gratified that it struck a chord with audiences and we look forward to sharing the show with new audiences across the country as we make plans to present it in other Canadian cities in the future."

An intimate collection of stories that cover some of life's most poignant moments and their corresponding wardrobe by sisters Nora Ephorn and Delia Ephron, it features a cast of five that changes every four weeks and is based on the best-selling book of the same name by Ilene Beckerman as well as personal reminiscences from the Ephrons and their friends.

By the time it takes its final bow on October 30, it will have featured four different star-studded casts with each cast bringing their own unique qualities to the piece.

Currently on stage through to October 30 are award-wining writer and actor Trey Anthony ('da Kink in my Hair), Gemini-winning operatic comedienne Mary Lou Fallis (Primadonna shows), rising star Stacey Farber (CBC-TV's "18 to Life," "Degrassi" alum), Dora, Genie and Gemini winner Patricia Hamilton (Anne of Green Gables films and "Road to Avonlea" tv series) and Gemini Award-winning Leah Pinsent (CBC-TV's "Made in Canada," "More Tears"). (Images include, from the top, Trey Anthony, Leah Pinsent & Stacey Farber.)

The first cast ran from July 16 to August 7:  Gemini and Dora Mavor Moore Award nominee Paula Brancati ("Degrassi: The Next Generation," "Being Erica"), Emmy and Tony Award-winning comedy legend Andrea Martin ("SCTV," My Big Fat Greek Wedding,), Toronto cabaret diva Sharron Matthews (Sharron's Party), Tony nominee / Dora Award winner Louise Pitre (Mamma Mia!, Les Misérables, Annie Get Your Gun, The Toxic Avenger), and eighteen-time Gemini winner Mary Walsh ("This Hour Has 22 Minutes", "CODCO").

The second cast ran August 10 - September 4: Gemini nominee Lauren Collins ("Degrassi: The Next Generation"), 5-time Gemini Award winner Wendy Crewson (Away From Her, "24"), Dora Award winner Cynthia Dale (Stratford Festival leading lady for 10 seasons, "Street Legal"), Gemini Award winner Linda Kash ("Robson Arms") and Genie Award winner Margot Kidder (Superman series)

The third cast ran September 10 to October 2: fashionista Jeanne Beker (CTV "FashionTelevision"), Barbara Budd (former long-time co-host of CBC Radio's "As It Happens"), beloved comedian Luba Goy (CBC's acclaimed "Royal Canadian Air Farce), Gemini, Genie and Dora-winning Sheila McCarthy (CBC-TV's "Little Mosque on the Prairie") and rising young star  Jane McLean (The Time Traveler's Wife). (Lisa Horner, star of My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding, stepped in for Beker on selected evenings due to previous commitments).

Trey Anthony, Mary Lou Fallis, Stacey Farber, Patricia Hamilton, Leah Pinsent
Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge Street, Toronto
Tuesday-Saturday 8pm, Matinees Wednesday & Saturday 2pm
Tickets: $25-$65. Premium seats available.
By Phone 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or online at
 For groups of 8+ contact The Group Tix Company 647-438-5559 or 1-866-447-7849

Soulpepper Theatre Fundraiser October 27

From a media release - if you've got the cash, they're a top drawer company:

Soulpepper at Play features a Cabaret of Culinary and Artistic talent
Wednesday October 27, 2010 at 6:00pm at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts

Toronto, ON – October 13, 2010 – Albert Schultz, Founding Artistic Director of Soulpepper Theatre Company, today announced Soulpepper’s annual fundraiser Soulpepper at Play will take place on October 27, 2010 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Soulpepper at Play provides a special sneak peak inside Soulpepper  - complete with a Gala Dinner, Silent and Live Auctions and original Soulpepper performances.

Hosted by Albert Schultz and chaired by Soulpepper Board Member Donna Slaight, Soulpepper at Play is an evening of culinary and theatrical delights beginning with a cocktail reception followed by a Gala Dinner, catered by Canadian Celebrity Chef Mark McEwan’s (Food Network’s The Heat) award-winning culinary team North 44. After the Gala dinner, guests will be entertained with an array of intimate Cabaret performances by Soulpepper artists and a spontaneous, on-the-spot piece created by the Soulpepper Academy. Featured artists include: Soulpepper Founding Members Stuart Hughes, Michael Hanrahan, Diego Matamoros, Nancy Palk, William Webster, and Joseph Ziegler along with Derek Boyes, Kevin Bundy, Oliver Dennis, Abena Malika and Mike Ross to name a few.

Proceeds from Soulpepper at Play will support Soulpepper productions, artist training and youth outreach.

Soulpepper at Play takes place Wednesday October 27, 2010 at 6:00pm at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, located at 55 Mill Street, Building 49, in the Distillery Historic District. Individual tickets are $1,000 or $8,000 for a table of 8. Tickets are available by contacting Shannon Boeckner, Development Events Coordinator at 416.203.6264 x. 140 or by emailing

Soulpepper Theatre Company is an artist-founded, classical repertory theatre company with a three-tiered mandate: to present the world’s greatest stories in vital Canadian interpretations; to train a new generation of theatre artists; and to inspire and enrich youth through mentorship and access programs.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Spotlight on Taiwan - Part of imagineNATIVE 2010

Spotlight on Taiwan
Part of the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival
October 23, 2010

It's kind've ironic that I stopped watching the news, or TV in general, a few years ago, but find I'm much better informed about what really goes on in the world via the arts these days.  If I'd waited to hear about the indigenous people of Taiwan via the mainstream media, for instance, I'd be waiting till doomsday, I think.

As has happened within the indigenous peoples of North America, there's been a renaissance of sorts in the arts of the indigenous people of Taiwan in recent years, with a particular emphasis on film. This interesting programme presented the work of three filmmakers whose work talks about traditional culture  and its modern expressions in documentary form.

Tribal Heartbeats: Tsou Fish Story
Directed by Kao Chichang
Produced by Yang Kuangpyao (2010)
Shot in the Alishan Mountains where the filmmaker is from, the film talks about the lives of the Tsou people and clans who live in the Lijia village on the river called Niyawujhina upstream, and Danayigui downstream. When the Alishan highway came to the area, it brought convenience, but environmental degradation too, and the Chinese who came to poison the eels used in traditional medicines. The poisons also killed the carp that the Tsou relied on, and much of the story is taken up with the successful quest to restore the carp populations and protect the river. Much negotiating took place between clan elders who didn't want to give up their traditional river rights, but eventually cooperation between the people of the Niyawujhina and Danayigui areas prevailed.

The film is really part documentary, part poetry, where the verdant beauty of the land and river really takes centre stage. Sadly, as producer Yang Kuangpyao mentioned before the screening took place, a typhoon in August of last year completely destroyed the river and the area depicted in the film. He said he was glad he'd had a chance to film it before it was gone.

What Men Don't Know
Directed by Xie-Fui-mei
Produced by Chang Chia-wei (2009)
When the men of the Tao people go fishing for flying fish - thought to be a gift to them from the sky god - during the season they call Mirayon (about March to September,) they work from before dawn till after dusk. For a man, fishing skill = social status. The women of this Lanyu Island have a custom they keep in gratitude - digging for land crabs in preparation of Miganagana, a feast held during Mirayon.

The film follows the women and the life of the people in simple documentary fashion. Catching land crabs means they travel uphill, and simply dig in the dirt. Once they've dug down to a crab's lair, however, the fun begins. The crabs naturally use their formidable defences, greeting the giggling women with snapping claws. It's tricky work, but that's the idea - their hard work in exchange for the hard work of the tribe's men. With the crabs, they make a kind of crabcake with taros (a cousin of the yam) and at Miganagana, they visit male relatives with plates full. (Intersestingly, they similary honour midwives.)

A Kuroshio Love Story
Directed by Maraos (2009)
The Kuroshio is an ocean current than runs between Lanyu Island and Batanes, in the Philippines. The area is abundant with sea life, and traditional lifestyles were geared to the rhythm of the ocean, typhoons and resulting torrential rains.

This film follows a couple of different threads. There's the old timer who complains about Westernization, the modern concrete housing that's not as well equipped to withstand the rain as traditional dwellings, climate change that has brought less rain to the area. "These kids don't know how to farm," he laments. Another constant thread is the love story of the title, between a man from Lanyu Island and the wife he found in Batanes.

The traditional way of life and its metamor- phoses into the modern era is examined through their daily lives, and a trip back to Batanes for the couple to visit the woman's daughter that she left behind. The land and the water figure prominently in this film, as in all three, here with gorgeous underwater shots that effectively convey both the beauty of the area and the way the lives of the people are interwoven into it.

Through all three films, and in particular in the context of the imagineNATIVE Festival, it was impossible not to notice the similarities between indigenous cultures. The boats built by the Tao and Tsou are very similar to North American canoes, and even traditional dress features some similarities - not hard to understand when those traditional modes of living were all based on the land.