Friday, April 29, 2011

The NFB at HotDocs: Charles Officer's Mighty Jerome

The NFB at HotDocs: Mighty Jerome
a film by Charles Officer

I have to confess that I had never heard of Harry Jerome before watching this documentary, even though he'd held world records in sprinting in the early 1960's. This film uses a blend of interviews with friends and fellow runners, old sports journalists and family members, including Harry's mother, along with the odd reenactment and of course the newsreels of Harry himself, lightning fast and determined on the track.

Some stock footage rounds out the portrait of his time period, when the Civil Rights Movement upheaved the status quo in the United States - and Canadians tut-tutted the American excesses even as they politely perpetuated the status quo here. That was the environment Harry grew up in during a childhood in Saskatchewan - one of only three black kids at the high school, (his sister Val being one of the others).

He left the province to train in North Vancouver, as now a posh neighbourhood where his family found resistance. There were petitions circulated in an effort to try and force "the undesirables" to leave.

In person, Harry was quite reserved, but on the track he shone. At the time, the Vancouver International Track Meet drew crowds of 15,000 to 23,000 people, and elite athletes of any kind or race were very few and far between in Canada. He quickly became a media sensation, but as one of his old friends put it, "The world wasn't ready for Harry, and Harry wasn't ready for the world."

After breaking the world record for 100 yards (and he was actually the only person to hold both the 100 yard and 100 metre records) he was touted as this country's gold medal hopeful for the games in Rome in 1960. When he pulled a leg muscle and couldn't finish the final heat, the media wasn't kind. They labeled him rude, a complainer and quitter.

Reel to reel tapes and black and white TV interviews let us see the careful and reserved Harry walking the tightrope, ever conscious of his inflated role as a lightning rod for opinion. It was easy for white runner and friend Bruce Kidd - as he acknowledges now - to talk about and support the Civil Rights Movement and its more aggressive strategies on camera, not so easy for a black man who wanted to remain an Olympian.

After another injury at the Commonwealth Games in 1962, they were even more vicious in their criticism, even though the injury (a ruptured quadriceps tendon) was later verified and operated on. Everyone assumed that his career was over at that point, with his leg, once healed, a thin ghost of its running form, but with an iron will he proved them wrong and went on to win bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, and then a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica in 1966.

Despite his rocky relationship with the media, his career ended on a high note, and an Order of Canada award in 1970, among other honours. Today his name graces track events and the Harry Jerome Awards given by the Black Business and Professional Association. Sadly Harry died of a seizure at the age of 42. This film represents a wider exposure and recognition that's long overdue.

Mighty Jerome
• Fri, Apr 29 9:30 PM - TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
• Sat, Apr 30 11:00 AM - Isabel Bader Theatre
• Sun, May 8 4:30 PM - The Revue

Review: Wajdi Mouawad's Forests at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre

Review: Tarragon Theatre Presents Wajdi Mouawad's Forests
Continues to May 29, 2011.

Whether you enjoy Wajdi Mouawad's Forests will likely depend on your taste for wordy, symbol and idea heavy plays - the words nearly always trump the actions of the cast in this labyrinthine drama.

I do enjoy letting myself be seduced by the evocative magic of words, so it didn't bother me in particular that 16 year old Loup (Vivien Endicott-Douglas in a convincing performance) was one minute every inch the snarly, foul-mouthed teenager one moment and then earnestly and poetically venting her anguish the next. Every characters - and there were many - had such moments of poetry and vulgarity, just as the play itself veers from mythology to gritty realism and back again. It's nearly three hours of twists and turns sprinkled with odd and horrific details that saves its biggest punch for the very end.

At the heart of the story is a promise Loup made to her dying mother and the mysterious circumstances of her fatal illness, a pledge that leads her to look for answers back through a fractured family tree. What she finds doesn't reassure - a string of familial abuse and dysfunction, each generation left to fend for itself and then passing on the legacy of abandonment to the next generation.

That story is fleshed out over several characters, six generations and two continents, punctuated by real events in the form of the Second World War and Québec not so ancient history (I won't spoil the revelation). Every actor has a chance to shine as the spotlight moves around and the story unfolds. While the talented cast does manage to breathe soul and life into the characters, it is the words themselves that shape the story in the end as the mystery of Loup's origins are finally revealed.

Vivien Endicott-Douglas is solid as the heart of a piece where ideas tend to dominate even as it looks at the nature of emotional ties, right up to Loup's powerful and touching speech at the very end.

by Wajdi Mouawad
translated by Linda Gaboriau
Director: Richard Rose
Starring: Dmitry Chepovetsky, Matthew Edison, Vivien Endicott-Douglas, David Fox, Sophie Goulet, Brandon McGibbon, Alon Nashman, Liisa Repo-Martell, Jan Alexandra Smith, RH Thomson, Terry Tweed

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mama Africa: Screening as Part of Hot Docs in Toronto

From a media release:

Mama Africa
Screening as part of the Hot Docs Film Festival
- April 30 premiere

Music Africa is delighted to team with HotDocs in co-presenting the Canadian premiere of a documentary about one of the most remarkable vocalists in the history of Afropop.

“Mama Africa” is an affectionate biography of the legendary South African singer-activist Miriam Makeba. The documentary shows her poverty-ridden childhood, her early success as a vocalist in an all-woman’s group, and her early flowering of international success in Europe and the United States. On television she wore no makeup and refused to curl her hair, a style that would come to be known internationally as the ‘Afro look’.

In 1963 she testified against apartheid before the United Nations, it resulted in South African authorities refusing to allow her to return to her native country. Makeba lived as an exile for the next 27 years, in the United States, Guinea and Europe. (Her 1968 marriage to black power activist Stokely Carmichael resulted in the cancellation of her American record deals and tours.) “Mama Africa” shows Makeba’s undaunted dedication throughout those years to both her political activism and her music, the costs and tragedies they entailed, and, in later life, the rewards for her efforts – she returned to liberated South Africa in 1990, where her work received renewed acclaim and a great many international honours.

Rich in details, anecdotes and archival footage (on Makeba’s political commitments, her marriages, and her musical collaborations – with Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie and Paul Simon, to name just a few superstars she performed with), “Mama Africa” honours a legendary voice, a natural beauty, a passionate activist for justice, and a woman whose moral conviction never wavered.

Mama Africa
Director: Mika Kaurismäki
Producer: Rainer Kölmel
Written by Mika Kaurismäki & Don Edkins

There are three screenings of “Mama Africa”:

Sat, April 30, 6:15 pm (Bloor Theatre, 506 Bloor Street West)
• Sun, May 1, 6:30 pm (Tiff Bell Lightbox, 350 King Street West)
• Sun, May 8, 1:30 pm (Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles Street West)

• Tickets $14 each; Daytime screenings free, subject to availability, to students and seniors
• HotDocs box office at 131 Bloor Street West, Toronto
• Telephone orders 416-637-5150

HotDocs is an annual 10-day festival, held each spring in Toronto, showcasing 190+ international documentaries.

Global Electronica: Watcha Clan Release Radio Babel

From a media release

Babel On: The Global Electronica of Watcha Clan Makes the World Speak One Dance-Inducing Language on Radio Babel
Available Now

The biblical city of Babel and its infamous tower have received bad press over the centuries. Imagined as a looming structure built by children in which all residents spoke the same language, the omnipresent God decided to trick humans in order to make them scatter - the word Babel is derived from the Hebrew balal, to "jumble."

Yet if we consider the tower as a prototype radio transmitter, as Marseille, France-based Watcha Clan does on its latest album, Radio Babel (Piranha), the sound of one world singing and dancing together makes perfect sense.

"We want to be understood by everyone," says the charismatic vocalist Sista K. "Singing in different languages is the first step in cultural integration, especially expressing the message in English, the international language. Maybe that's not what people expect from 'world music,' but what is essential is to understand each other. With Radio Babel the message goes with the music, and also with the words. Music has the power to pass through any border."

Joined by a multi-cultural cast featuring producer/keyboardist Suprem Clem, bassist Matt Labesse and vocalist/guitarist Nassim Kouti from Oran in Algeria, connecting the European and Middle Eastern worlds has the band's calling card for a decade. Radio Babel is this band's clarion call to watching the walls tumble down.

  Viens, Viens Feat Maurice El Medioni by Watcha Clan

" While the band's powerful live instrumentation touched with electronic textures includes the indigenous music of Morocco, Algeria, Israel, Spain, the Balkans, Turkey and France, Radio Babel is predominantly concerned with destroying boundaries everywhere. The first video, a mini-documentary focused on Mexican-American border issues, is set to the hit song "We Are One," and features interviews with migrant workers and farmers.

Finding an international fanbase with 2008's Diaspora Hi-Fi, the following year's Diaspora Remixed included remixes by newfound friends across the planet, creating an even broader sound which is found in the new recording. Watcha Clan has always exhibited a visionary spiritual eclecticism in its sound, stretching from Gnawa trance and drum 'n bass to hiphop, Balkan brass and Sephardic folk, with thriving bass-heavy pulsations countered by Sista K's show-stopping vocals.

Unlike many other electronic-fueled projects, every member of Watcha Clan can play their instruments well. They employ samplers and drum pads not as crutches but accentuations of the trance inducing, rhythmically astute rhythms they reproduce on stage. No album to date has highlighted this as beautifully as Radio Babel. Previously the band felt like two: a studio project that pumped out itinerant folklore in a digital age, and a wonderful live band that triggered kick drums as quickly as clanked karkabous.

This new record is the perfect fusion of these two entities. On Radio Babel, the electronics have taken a slight backseat to more mature and fuller songwriting. Kouti and K's harmonizing on the Tuareg-drenched "Hasnaduro" is yet another example of cultural convergence. Pulling from the great surge in Malian desert music via Tinariwen and Toumast, Watcha Clan injects a hearty dose of electric guitars, ululations and North African percussion, including the low register of the bass-like gumbri, into this throbbing dance song.

Perhaps the most inventive song, however, is the band's take on the 17th century Hebrew poem by Rabbi Shalom Shabazi, "Im Nin'alu," most famously covered by Israeli great Ofra Haza.

Whatever sound these nomadic souls travel through, you can be certain that Watcha Clan will accomplish what great artists do: highlight the similarities between cultures through music, instead of complaining about the differences. To hear the sound of one world united by music, join the movement on Radio Babel.

Watcha Clan presents "Live on Radio Babel" HD from WATCHA CLAN on Vimeo.

Stand Up Dance Opens April 29 in Toronto

From a media release:

Stand Up Dance presents
The Atomic Weight of Happiness
a new solo by performance powerhouse Meagan O’Shea
April 29 to May 29 at Hub 14

Toronto, Ontario… Hailed as “one of the city’s most engaging independent artists” (The Toronto Star), Meagan O’Shea returns to the Toronto stage with The Atomic Weight of Happiness. Stand Up Dance is thrilled to premiere this new solo show, directed by Dora Award nominee Andrea Donaldson. The Atomic Weight of Happiness opens Friday, April 29th, 2011 for a limited run at HUB 14.

As a dancer born with 12 toes, Meagan O’Shea has always had to acknowledge her inner outcast. In The Atomic Weight of Happiness, she locks herself (and an audience) in an hour-long experiment to arrest global warming; dissect, identify and measure the ingredients of each human emotion; and determine whether her anatomical deviations are drug induced oddities or random genetic mutations. Join O’Shea and Stand Up Dance in this bicycle-powered theatre/dance mash-up based on many (un)true stories.

Meagan O’Shea is loved for her innovative solo work and the city-spanning dance like no one is watching (Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2009). She jumps from dance, storytelling, clown, and comedy, through improvisation in her “whacky, whimsical, and wonderful” (The Toronto Star) solo performances. Her most recent solo, based on actual unrelated events, was named “Best Dance Piece” of 2010 by the Ottawa XPress and has been presented in Toronto, Ottawa and Nanaimo BC. O’Shea has studied created and performed across Canada, in the United States, Europe and U.K. She also works as a director, creative facilitator and teacher of movement, improvisation and creative process.

Andrea Donaldson is a director, theatre creator and performer. She is a Dora Award nominated director whose credits include the SummerWorks production of Montparnasse, the Dora nominated Offensive Fouls and many others, including her own play Garden at Rhubarb. Andrea is currently directing Montparnasse at Theatre Passe Muraille.
The Atomic Weight of Happiness:
HUB 14, 14 Markham Street, main floor
Opens: April 29th, 2011
Closes: May 29th, 2011
Performances: Friday to Sunday at 8 PM
Tickets: $25/$20 plus limited number of $10/$15 tickets available

Each weekend features a different opening act:
April 29 – May 1 - Amelie Lefebvre
May 6 – 8 - Dance Like No One is Watching    
May 13 – 15 - Claudia Moore
May 20 – 22 - Adam Lazarus    
May 27 – 29 - Lindsay Zier-Vogel

For tickets or 416.504.6429 x18

• HUB 14 is a small performance space. Reservations required.
• 416-504-6429 x 18.
• For more information please visit

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mixed Repertoire Dance: Yvonne Ng & Robert Glumbek in Toronto April 28 to 30

From a media release:

DanceWorks presents tiger princess dance projects' MIXED REPERTOIRE
Harbourfront Centre Toronto - April 28 to 30 2011

Toronto - DanceWorks, Toronto's longest running contemporary dance series, presents Yvonne Ng's tiger princess dance projects of Toronto in a Mixed Repertoire program featuring four exquisite stand-alone works - three of which are world premieres. Performed by stunning dancesmiths Robert Glumbek and Yvonne Ng, this mixed program runs April 28-30, 2011 at Harbourfront Centre's Enwave Theatre.

"Robert Glumbek and Yvonne Ng are the John Lennon and Yoko Ono of dance. Physically mismatched, they become the marriage of true minds on a stage." - Susan Walker, Toronto Star

Mixed Repertoire marks tiger princess dance projects' third duet program featuring Ng and Glumbek, who NOW Magazine's Glenn Sumi called, "The yin and yang of the dance stage," claiming that they "were born to dance together." In a review for Classical 96.3 FM, dance critic Paula Citron called Ng and Glumbek's 2004 show, Fading Shadows/Returning Echoes, "a heady mix of themes and movement that beautifully shows off these classy and talented dancers."

• Originally performed in 2004, Robert Glumbek's A Tale Begun is an extraordinary piece created specifically for himself and the petite Ng, strapped to his back, that examines the desire to be nurturing and the need to maintain independence. Glumbek has re-conceived the piece for this presentation.
• Yvonne Ng performs STICKS, a new solo choreographed for her by Tedd Robinson set in an otherworldly forest. STICKS is a series of portraits that move. A woman; a turmeric-coloured dress; a length of canvas; some sticks; a journey.  We do not know where she has come from, or where she is going - it is this moment in the journey that is the crux.
• Ng and Glumbek perform level on my Level, a lively athletic duet choreographed by Kevin O'Day that capitalizes on the performers' extreme physical differences and captures their distinct connection.
• Robert Glumbek premieres an, as yet, untitled semi-autobiographical solo, created by himself in collaboration with Roberto Campanella, Kevin O'Day, Luches Huddleston Jr. and Yvonne Ng.

In 1987, Robert Glumbek left Poland for Canada where he danced for 10 years with Desrosiers Dance Theatre in Toronto. Glumbek is currently Associate Artistic Director of ProArteDanza founded by Artistic Director Roberto Campanella. Glumbek's recent works include commissions for Ryerson University, the Mannheim Ballet, princess productions and ProArteDanza. In the 8th International Solo-Dance Festival in Stuttgart, he was entered as a finalist for his solo, Subsistence. He and Campanella were finalists at the 17th Internationaler Wettbewerb für Choreographen in Hannover for their quartet, Nothing Twice. They again collaborated in the creation of Nine Sentiments, titled after, and inspired by, Michael Ondaatje's poem. In the fall of 2011, Glumbek will create a new work for Ballet B.C.

Yvonne Ng is a dancer, choreographer, arts educator, producer, and artistic director of tiger princess dance projects, founded by Ng in 1995 under the umbrella of princess productions. tiger princess dance projects creates works that reflect Ng's uniquely Canadian experience as an immigrant and visible minority person, presenting them in Canada and abroad (Australia, Ireland and Singapore). Ng received a Dora Mavor Moore Award in 2000 and has been nominated eight times. Ng is also the Artistic Director of Series 8:08 (since 1994) and the curator and presenter of dance: made in canada/fait au canada, both of which produce the work of choreographers from across Canada.

Kevin O'Day received his early dance training at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York, and joined the main company soon after. In 1984, O'Day began his long association with choreographer Twyla Tharp. From 1988 to 1991, he danced with American Ballet Theatre and William Forsythe's Frankfurt Ballet; from 1992 until 1995, he was a member of Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project where he made his choreographic debut while guesting frequently with the New York City Ballet. He formed his own company, O'Day Dances, in 1998 with composer John King. He is currently artistic director of Kevin O'Day-Ballet Mannheim in Germany. In 2009, he choreographed his 50th ballet and first full-length narrative ballet, Hamlet, for the Stuttgart Ballet.

Tedd Robinson rose to prominence as Artistic Director of Contemporary Dancers in Winnipeg, Canada (1984 to 1990). He is now firmly established as a choreographer, educator and solo artist whose critically acclaimed works have won him a multitude of commissions and an international schedule of touring and teaching, as well as a Chalmers National Dance Award in 1998. His work is influenced by his six years of study as a monk in the Hakukaze soto zen monastery in Ottawa.

All images by Dean Buscher

DanceWorks presents tiger princess dance projects' MIXED REPERTOIRE
Thursday April 28 - Saturday April 30, 2011; 8PM
Choreography by Robert Glumbek, Kevin O'Day, Tedd Robinson
Performed by Yvonne Ng and Robert Glumbek
Part of Harbourfront Centre's NextSteps
at Harbourfront Centre's Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay West, Toronto
Regular Tickets: Adults $33.50, (Students/Seniors $22.50)
Box Office: 416-973-4000 OR online at

Mozart Unlaced Benefit for the Royal Conservatory School April 27

From a media release:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
A Benefit for The Glenn Gould School and its Young Artists Performance Academy

MasterCard presents Mozart Unlaced, the seventh annual celebration of The Royal Conservatory's Glenn Gould School (The School) and Young Artists Performance Academy (The Academy). This elegant evening of unexpected encounters with enchanting music takes place on Wednesday, April 27, at 8:00 p.m., at The Conservatory’s home, the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning. Leaders in philanthropy and the arts will mix and mingle with talented young musicians as they perform throughout The Conservatory’s spectacular spaces, including the stunning Koerner Hall, and historic Ihnatowycz Hall.

“Mozart Unlaced is a remarkably inspiring and unconventional experience, with students and attendees roaming the building, interacting with one another and participating in student performances,” says James Anagnoson, Dean, The Glenn Gould School. “It is first and foremost a celebration of our students, and we are privileged to present them in our gorgeous facilities.”

Launched in 2005 as a fundraising event supporting the performance training programs of The Glenn Gould School, Mozart Unlaced has established itself as a highlight of Toronto’s social season. With no sit-down dinner and no speeches, students float through the building performing planned pieces and unexpected interludes. Guests interact with students while enjoying an array of savoury and sweet foods among all The Conservatory’s breathtaking spaces. With its colourful Victorian brickwork, sleek modern lines, superb acoustics, and gorgeous city views, the facility is a fantastic showcase for these talented young musicians.

In an interesting twist to this year’s event, Tom Logan, a long-time patron of The School and The Academy, has challenged Mozart Unlaced to raise $75,000 in patron packages, contributing an additional $50,000 donation himself if successful. This year’s event also features a Historic Violin Workshop presented by Heinl’s, where guests learn the old-fashioned art of creating and stringing violins, and an Instrument Petting Zoo, encouraging attendees to test their talents on various instruments.

Founded in 1886, The Royal Conservatory is the largest and oldest independent arts educator in Canada, providing opportunities for personal development through music and arts education in over 300 communities across Canada and a dozen countries around the world. The Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School and Young Artists Performance Academy is an internationally recognized centre for professional training in music performance at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The School provides an intimate training environment, with a curriculum designed to prepare gifted young musicians for all aspects of a professional career. Founded in 1987, The Glenn Gould School was renamed in 1997 to honour Canada's legendary pianist, himself a Conservatory alumnus.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 8:00pm–11:00pm
273 Bloor Street West, TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning
Tickets: $250 per person (with a $175 tax receipt)
Young Patrons (30 and under): $100 per person
Patron Packages: $1,000
• Purchase tickets by contacting Nevine Sedki at 416.408.2824 x311 or

• For more information or to purchase tickets online:

Indian Drum & Dance: Talavya at Symphony Space NYC April 29

From a media release. Formerly known as Tabla Ecstacy, newly named Talavya is touring the US this spring, including a date in NYC:

Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Peter Norton Symphony Space
April 29, 2011 - New York, NY

The tabla evokes and invokes. It can playfully mimic a cricket bowler's moves or capture the sensual arc of deer's leap. Now a familiar sound in the West thanks to lightning-fast masters like Zakir Hussain and innovators like Talvin Singh, the essential Indian classical instrument was traditionally on the sidelines, its emotional power harnessed to support other performers.

No longer. Tabla comes center stage in the hands of the young, highly trained players of Talavya , a quartet that revels in the tabla's hidden potency as a rhythmic and melodic instrument capable of expressing just about anything. Touring North America in spring 2011, the ensemble, formerly known as Tabla Ecstasy, distills the age-old spirit and practice of tabla into a high-energy, highly accessible evening that reveals the instrument's true joys.

The ensemble will be joined by accomplished Kathak (North Indian classical) dancer Jin (JoungJin) Won, who is also a tabla player, storyteller, and teacher, for several performances, reflecting the deep unity of music and movement in Indian tradition.

"Our only goal is to present Indian classical arts in a contemporary language that can be enjoyed by more people," explains Rushi Vakil, performer and group leader. "The language of tabla is really graceful, full of different tempos, energies, and emotions. All the shades of music can be found in it."

Talavya is the brainchild of Pandit Divyang Vakil, a tabla maestro and master teacher who gave up a successful performance career to dedicate himself to guiding students and composing music. The son of a philosopher and a Montessori-influenced teacher, Vakil, affectionately and respectfully known as "Guruji," began playing tabla at age three and takes an unorthodox approach to his tradition and his teaching. In an unusual move, he studied with masters from gharana, or lineages, drawing on each in shaping his own direction.

This direction focuses on the demanding technical aspects of Indian classical performance-the precision required to evoke nuanced moods and ideas. To get to the requisite level, the group rehearses constantly, learning to feel each other's phrasing within the precise rhythmic cycle of the classical tradition. In the world of Indian classical music, there's no such thing as practicing too much.

As Guruji's compositions blossomed, he and his students realized they needed to bring their tabla performance approaches under one name, Talavya. The ancient Sanskrit word embraces both the rhythmic cycle ( taal) and pulse or tempo (laya) vital to Indian classical music and dance.

Though tabla ensembles are a relatively new development, Talavya applies the same rigor to their performance as they would to a classical piece, insisting on split-second perfection and pitch-perfect tuning of their drums. Though they can play with the spark and passion of a rock drum solo, the accompanying harmonium and their honed rhythmic sense keeps their playing grounded in the cycle of beats their forbearers played in for millennia.

Yet within this technical excellence, Guruji also encourages each student to find a distinctive voice. This touch means the performers of Talavya let their personalities shine in concert. Mop-topped Sahil Patel rarely stops smiling and looks for the lighter side of the music, while the young Rahul Shrimali takes things more seriously. Rushi Vakil, Guruji's son as well as his student, loves jazz, is a keyboardist and world music composer, while Kaumil Shah teaches djembe (and loves transferring Indian classical rhythms to the African drum). These broader horizons and varied influences keep the group's perspective fresh and open to other musical possibilities.

Dancer Jin exemplifies this diversity. Korean-born, she came to India 15 years ago from a career in the theater, intrigued by the rigor of the Indian approach to expressive movement. After studying English for several months, she traveled the country. Jin fell in love with Kathak, the highly percussive classical form that emerged as dance-based storytelling which moved from Hindu temples to the Persian-influenced Muslim courts of the Moghuls.

Kathak is not only based on storytelling, but also rhythm as the dancer complements and competes with the rhythm created by the accompanying tabla player.  Not content with the basic understanding of rhythm and tabla imparted to dancers, Jin instead devoted herself to intensive engagement with the instrument, under Guruji's guidance, making her a rare performer (few women play tabla, and few tabla players dance Kathak). Her dedication and skill have won her the admiration of classical choreographers and Indian audiences. (Jin eventually wrote a textbook on tabla).

The intensity and generosity of Talavya and Jin keep to the spirit of Indian classical art, which is about devotion and not entertainment, while expanding its palette and its audience. Each performance moves between rousing peaks and slower, smooth meditative passages not usually associated with percussion. It engages the pure sonic energy of Indian traditions, the narrative possibilities of drums and dance, and the wide-open spaces for improvisation, creativity, and personal expression Indian arts offer.

It's not uncommon to catch audience members-from teenage hipsters to cosmopolitan professionals-bopping along to the pulse, or in tears or in awe after the hour-and-a-half-long journey through different tempos and timbres.

"People don't expect the feelings involved, perhaps because they don't think rhythm can do the same things emotionally as melody," explains accompanying artist Heena Patel. "As Guruji tells us, you smooth out the edges and perfect the contours, otherwise it's just drumming. You have to make music out of the instruments."

".. an impressive ensemble comprising highly gifted and vibrant artistes...They make Indian classical arts accessible to all audiences."
Magan Ambasna, Founder, Raagmala Music Society of Toronto

"Jin is a true ambassador for Indian arts. She has finesse, grace and a thorough understanding of her art. It's incredible to see a Korean woman truly make Indian culture her own."
Dr. Subhash Bhrambhatt
President, All India College Principles Association

Image credits:
• C. Gohil

• Joseph Hammond
• Heena Patel

April 29, 2011 - Friday
New York, NY
Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Peter Norton Symphony Space
2537 Broadway at 95th Street
Tix: $15-$25, Doors Open: 7:00 pm, Show: 7:30 pm
Ph: 212.864.5400

Sunday, April 24, 2011

CD Release: Pianist Jenny Lin at (le) poisson rouge NYC April 26

From a release:

Jenny Lin, piano: Federico Mompou's "Música Callada"
CD Release Concert
Tue., April 26, 2011 / 6:30 PM

Jenny Lin is one of the most respected young pianists today, admired for her adventurous programming and charismatic stage presence. Her ability to combine classical and contemporary literature has brought her to the attention of international critics and audiences.

She has been  acclaimed for her "remarkable technical command" and "a gift for  melodic flow" by The New York Times. The Washington Post praises "Lin's confident fingers... spectacular technique..." and Gramophone Magazine has hailed her as "an exceptionally sensitive pianist".

She has appeared with orchestras worldwide and her concerts have taken her to Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Kennedy Center, Miller Theatre, MoMA, Whitney Museum, (Le) Poisson Rouge, National Gallery of Art, Corcoran Gallery, Spivey Hall, University of Chicago Presents, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and Paris' Salle Cortot, and Fetivals such as at Chopin Festival, Flanders Festival, Shanghai New Music, Potsdam Festival, Winnipeg New Music, BAM's Next Wave, Spoleto and Portland International Piano Festival.

Upcoming performances include Mostly Mozart at Lincoln Center, San Francisco Performances, Freer Gallery of Art, and Strathmore. As one of the most sought-after players of the music of our time, Jenny has numerous premieres and dedications to her credit, as well as an extensive discography on Hänssler Classic, Koch/E1, BIS Records, and Sunrise Records.

Upcoming releases include Federico Mompou's Musica Callada on the newly launched Steinway & Sons label and Xavier Montsalvatge's Concerto Breve with NDR Radiophilharmonie.

Born in Taiwan and raised in Austria, Jenny studied at the Hochschule fur Musik in Vienna and the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She currently resides in New York City.

Daniel Beaty's Tearing Down the Walls at the Riverside Theatre NYC

Update May 20 - with only 10 performances left to go, you can get a real deal on tickets:

A limited number of $15.00 tickets are now available through the generous donation of an anonymous funder.
Use Code PREEXT15

From a release - see the free preview event April 26, described below:

The Riverside Theatre New York Presents
Cultural Animators Series:
Tearing Down the Walls
A new play by Daniel Beaty
May 11 - 29

Renee, a conservative thirty year-old virgin, rolls the dice for personal liberation and takes a chance in a steamy liaison with handsome Tyson. That night changes her life forever. Her usual unshakeable faith is besieged with doubt. Friends Jessica and Rhonda help her discover a strength she never knew she had. Employing Daniel Beaty's signature blend of rich characters, music and humor, Tearing Down the Walls is about finding courage to transform pain into power.

Tearing Down The Walls, presented by The Riverside Theatre, Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group, and Walk Tall Girl Productions is a new musical featuring direction, book, and lyrics by Obie Award-winner Daniel Beaty (Through the Night, Emergency) and music by Beaty and Oscar and Grammy-nominated songwriting team Jamal Joseph & Charles Mack (August Rush).

This production follows on the heels of the acclaimed, award-winning, and extended run of Beaty's solo show Through the Night, which premiered at the Riverside Theatre last year.

Infused with soulful music, impassioned spoken word and laugh-out-loud humor, Tearing Down The Walls tells the story of the residents of a tight-knit Harlem community upended and pushed to the limit by life's challenges, but who find hope in the most unusual places.

Photo of Daniel Beaty (below) by Nathan Yungerberg:

Tearing Down the Walls 
is a collaboration with New Heritage Theatre and Walk Tall Girl Productions.
May 11 to 29

Featuring book and lyrics by Beaty and music by Beaty and Oscar and Grammy-nominated songwriting team Jamal Joseph & Charles Mack
Cast: Dietrice Bolden, Umi Shakti, Adrienne C. Moore, Rumando Kelley, Jevon McFerrin, and Kelechi Ezie.
Creative team: Wendell Howlett (choreography), Bryan Collier (scenic and projections design), Catherine Fisher (costume design), and Andrew Merkel (lighting design).

Box Office 212 870 6784
The Riverside Theatre
91 Claremont Avenue
Above 120th Street
Take the 1 to 116th or 125th

Special Preview Event April 26:

Director Daniel Beaty and the Tearing Down the Walls Ensemble invite you to a sneak peak at Daniel's new musical. Experience excerpts from Daniel's powerful new work, hear about his directing process, and meet the ensemble. This event will be hosted by Esther Armah.

April 26th at 7 PM
Assembly Hall located within the Historic Riverside Church

7 PM to 7:15 PM --- Meet The Tearing Down the Walls Ensemble and Creative Team
7:15 PM to 7:30 PM --- Experience music and scenes from the show
7:30 PM to 8 PM --- Q & A with director Daniel Beaty
8 PM --- Buy tickets with an Early Bird Special

As a special bonus for attending the Community Engagement, patrons will receive a special extension on our Early Bird Ticket Offer - $10 Preview tickets and $20 Performance tickets!

RSVP for this FREE event!

Box Office 212 870 6784
The Riverside Theatre

EnRoute Film Festival Call for Entries - Open to May 31

From a media release - I checked it out last year and was amazed at the talent on display - and so will you this summer if you fly Air Canada:

Call for entries – Air Canada’s enRoute Film Festival 2011

Submissions will be accepted until Tuesday, May 31.

Winners will attend Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival in France
& $5,000 prize for Best Short Film

Toronto, ON – Air Canada’s enRoute Film Festival today announced it is inviting Canadian film students and emerging filmmakers to enter its fifth annual short film festival. Each year, a jury selects the best short films and broadcasts them to a large international audience on Air Canada's inflight entertainment system.

The winner of Best Short Film will receive a $5,000 cash prize courtesy of presenting sponsor Cineplex Entertainment. Other awards include Achievement in Direction, Achievement in Cinematography, and Achievement in Animation. All award winners will receive an exciting new destination prize to Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France. (Pictured: Winner of the 2010 enRoute Film Festival, Adam Shamash for La Khaima: The Tent of Mile-End.)

Past jury members have included Jason Priestly, Denis Villeneuve, Donald Sutherland, Alan Cumming, Dan Aykroyd and Rémy Girard, among many others. This year's jury will be announced this summer.

Selected films will be broadcast on Air Canada’s personal seatback entertainment system on the Canadian Movies channel viewed by millions of Air Canada customers around the world. A free public screening and awards celebration will be held in Toronto at the end of the year to honour the winners.

Submissions will be accepted until Tuesday, May 31.
Twitter: @enRouteOnline and @AirCanada

About Air Canada’s enRoute Magazine:

Air Canada’s enRoute Magazine is published by Spafax, one of the world’s leading custom publishers and providers of in-flight media, with offices in eight cities around the world. Spafax is a part of the specialist communications division of WPP.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tuareg Rock: Bombino Début Release Available - Deal to April 26

Update June 22:
Bombino Adds Toronto Date
Lula Lounge - July 12, 2011

Toronto fans can thank Batuki Music for bringing guitar whiz Bombino to town next month! Check the link for details.

From a release:

Agadez has critics raving for the new sound of the Sahara

Omara "Bombino" Moctar, a young Tuareg guitarist and songwriter, was raised during an era of armed struggles for independence and violent suppression by government forces. His electrifying jams capture the spirit of resistance and rebellion. Agadez, his debut album on Cumbancha Discovery, is available worldwide as of April 19, 2011.

Buy the CD here to get a free download of the Exclusive Digital Bonus Album with extra tracks and live cuts.

• To April 26 only! - 10% off purchase for Cumbancha Fans with the code "tamasheq" 

Agadez World Tour starts this June.

"Moctar's playing positively slays" - Pitchfork  

Starting this June, Bombino and his band embark on a four month world tour in support of his new album Agadez. Beginning in Europe at major festivals in the Netherlands, Bombino will bring his scorching brand of desert rock to thousands at hip clubs, such as Le Poisson Rouge in NYC, and huge amphitheaters including Chicago's Millennium Park and Los Angeles' Hollywood Bowl, where he will perform with Stevie Wonder and Janelle Monáe!

The tour will take him all over Western Europe and then to North America with dates including Chicago, NYC, Cali, Montreal & Surrey BC.

Check out Bombino's Tour Dates here

Here's a taste of what you'll experience live:

Canadian Début: Rwanda's ISÔKO Theatre in Toronto April 27 - May 1

From a media release:

The Monument
ISÔKO Theatre (Rwanda)
Directed by Jennifer H. Capraru
April 27 - May 1, 2011 | $45 | York Quay Centre | 70 min.

North American Premiere

A profound excavation into the nature of forgiveness.

In this electrifying drama, a young soldier has been convicted of war crimes committed during a genocide. Just as he is about to be executed, a mysterious woman who is both his saviour and tormentor offers him freedom − at a price.

The Monument, by Canadian playwright Colleen Wagner, has been translated into several languages and has won the Governor General's Award for Drama. The play is a torpedo aimed directly at the nature of evil as it dissects the roles of victim and perpetrator in unflinching detail. Intimately staged with song and African drumming, this highly physical and imagistic production puts its finger on the pulse of humanity as it paints a contemporary portrait of a country whose resilient voice continues to be a beacon of hope and reconciliation.

This World Stage presentation marks the first time Rwanda’s ISÔKO Theatre, founded by Capraru, will perform in Canada. Jennifer Capraru founded ISÔKO Theatre shortly after working on the Canadian feature film Shake Hands with the Devil in Rwanda in 2006. As the artistic director of ISÔKO she continues to work closely with Rwandans to build an ensemble and an audience for modern Rwandan theatre, while stimulating dialogue on reconciliation, creating inter-cultural exchange, and providing training for emerging Rwandan playwrights, actors, directors and designers. Capraru is also the artistic director of Theatre Asylum in Toronto.

There will be a post-show Q & A following each performance, a remarkable opportunity for ticket holders to speak with the performers on their very first visit to Canada; and learn of their personal histories as artists, creators and survivors of the 1994 genocide.

"I call for not soldiers, but for an army of artists, teachers and caregivers to flood the country."
-General Roméo Dallaire

Performed in Kinyarwanda with English surtitles.
Translated by Emmanuel Munyarukumbuzi and Anselme Nirere.
With Jackeline Umubyeyi, Jean Paul Uwayezu, Ruth Shanel Nirere,
Solange Liza Kamikaze
Mise-en-scène Jennifer Herszman Capraru
Lighting Design Sandra Marcroft

ISÔKO Theatre is an intercultural company founded in 2008 and based in Kigali, which uses contemporary theatre to contribute to civil society, social development and creative economy in Rwanda.

Produced in association with Theatre Asylum Canada which produces thought provoking contemporary theatre by and about women and Jewish identity from the international repertoire.

The Monument
ISÔKO Theatre (Rwanda)
April 27-30 at 8 p.m., matinee performance May 1 at 2 p.m.
Post-show Q & A to follow each performance
Approximate running time: 70 minutes
Post-show Q & A to follow each performance

Friday, April 22, 2011

Electronic Dance: Mixpak Records Signs Producer Andry Petr

From a media release:

Young and Prolific: Mixpak Records Signs Electronic Producer ANDY PETR

** Andy Petr Releases Rapper Turned Singer EP on May 10th + A Trilogy of Free EPs **

New York, NY April 18, 2011 - Electronic dance music is best served cold. Although I can't claim this to be true, Milwaukee-based producer Andy Petr could very well coin the expression. The electronic dance producer brews fierce rhythms and textures from his frigid Midwestern bedroom to conjure up cold sweats for all dance floors.

Recently signed to Mixpak records, Andy Petr will debut his first official release with the Rapper Turned Singer EP on May 10th. The prolific 19-year old producer also plans to deliver an onslaught of free EPs that include original material as well as the heavy reworkings of some of his favorite rap songs.

The first free EP is entitled APD004 and you can download it here.

Make way for the next generation.

Latest tracks by Andy Petr

Well beyond his years, Andy Petr affirms his knowledge of electronic music with his gamut of genre-dipping nods that interlace wallops of IDM, Chicago house, and hip hop. Eloquently displaying his intricate chops, Andy Petr combines current flair and timeless stylings with finesse and precision. Aloofness breeds genius. Far from the core London, Paris, and New York electronic scenes, Petr cranks out innumerable, mind-melting jams poised to smother the dance floors across the globe. A name to look out for in 2011 and beyond, there is no doubt Andy Petr will continue to inspire and surprise.

The Mixpak records approach is innovative and unique, where young unknown talent is given a home to grow alongside song music industry veterans. Andy Petr now joins the ranks of an eclectic and eccentric roster of trailblazers such as Hard Nips, Warrior One, Lil Scrappy, and Vybz Kartel.

Mixpak Website
Mixpak Twitter

Andy Petr - Float Up from Rx Ry on Vimeo.

Yuk Yuk's Great Canadian Laugh Off Competition April 22 - May 1 in Toronto

From a media release:



TORONTO, ON April 21, 2011
– Some of Canada’s funniest people (or those that think they are the funniest) will descend on Toronto tomorrow for the next week to compete for a $25,000 cash prize and a chance at comic stardom. One talented comic could help subsidize his late night lifestyle and laugh all the way to the bank.

Producers from some of the top comedy television shows such as Chelsea Lately, the Conan O’Brien Show and from the Just For Laughs Festival will be judging which comedian is Canada’s funniest at the six annual Yuk Yuk’s Great Canadian Laugh Off.  This year’s event runs from April 22 to May 1, 2011, and it is the first time that the competition is open only to Canadians who have the gift of the guffaw.  Each has a chance for national television exposure at the finals.  The final competition will be taped for a comedy special on Sunday, May 1 for CTV’s Comedy Network.

Starting on Friday, April 22, 64 comedians will come to Toronto to compete on the big stage. 51 performers were selected by random computer draw, while the remaining 13 are winners from local Laugh Off competitions held at Yuk Yuk’s comedy clubs from coast to coast.  Contestants will perform daily, with two winners being selected from each show to compete in the semifinals on Fri April 29 and 30th where the final 8 comics will be selected. These comics will swap fists of funny and lashes of laughter, slugging it out for the CDN $25,000 grand prize.


Judges for this show include high-profile industry luminaries:
Michael Cox – Talent Executive for Chelsea Lately
Ashley Olivia – Talent Coordinator for the Conan O’Brien Show
Bruce Hills - COO of Just for Laughs
Millan Curry- Sharples- Vice President of Comedy, The Comedy Network

Whether a working comic is hoping for a bail out or just wants to bid farewell to the sidewalks of Toronto - anyone has a chance to win from amateurs to professionals.  Stars who got their start at Yuk Yuk’s include:  Jim Carrey, Mike Moranis, Russell Peters and Norm MacDonald just to name a few.

Yuk Yuk’s Great Canadian Laugh Off is Canada’s biggest open comedy  competition, with Canada’s largest comedy prize.  There are two categories for contestants to enter.  Previous winners have received their own Comedy Now specials, thanks in part to the exposure they received from the Laugh Off. (Tom Dustin of Detroit, last year's winner, is pictured left.)

This year’s Great Canadian Laugh Off is sponsored by Via Rail Canada, Metro News, Town Inn and Suites and The Comedy Network.

Follow us on for more updates and the latest news, a list of comedians competing, profiles of the judges, sponsors, winner video clips, show info and special offers.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

When Harry Tries to Marry - April 22 Release (U.S.) & Soundtrack Story

  From a media release:

Indie Meets Filmi: The Austin Roots and Bollywood Flair Behind When Harry Tries to Marry Soundtrack

American film soundtracks are often like arranged marriages: a union of disparate elements that only sometimes spark real passion.

The music of the new cross-cultural romantic comedy, When Harry Tries to Marry (108 Pics; April 22, 2011). is an inspiring evolution of sound and color reminiscent of some of the world's greatest blockbuster films.

“Music and movies go hand in hand when you come from a culture like ours,” notes India-born, U.S.-raised director Nayan Padrai. “A soundtrack is about telling a story, rather than simply licensing some tracks.”

Integral to the making of the movie, the soundtrack matches the film’s distinctly indie American vibe and its intricate, vibrant Indian scenes. It features some of Austin’s boldest, most soulful sounds and some of the subcontinent’s best playback (cinema) singers and composers. The tracks share a catchy intensity perfectly tuned to the film.

Mapping the journey of Harry, an Indian-American hoping to avoid romantic disappointment by choosing an arranged marriage, the soundtrack forms a seamless part of this tale of careful calculation and undeniable spark.

Sounds like: Aimee Mann and Slumdog Millionaire’s A.R. Rahman swapping iPods.

Envisioned as essential to the film’s action and characters, the soundtrack was part of the script’s evolution from its beginnings more than a decade ago. Padrai knew exactly what he wanted to hear and when.

“When people shoot a scene, they think carefully about the color of the wall behind the actors, and their clothing. Why wouldn’t you decide just as early on what people are listening to?” Padrai explains. “In Indian cinema, you usually make the music before you make the movie.”

With a clear notion of what music would capture the characters and the moments, he called Sarah Sharp, an old friend from one of America’s quintessentially musical cities, Austin. Sharp, a singer-songwriter with serious jazz chops and a background in music supervision for film and television, understood that an independent film needed indie music voices.

“Instead of putting commercial tracks together in the editing room, I got to work with Nayan and introduce him to these artists early on,” recalls Sharp. “The result is youthful and indie. It’s not your garden-variety soundtrack. And Indian audiences will hear a whole new side of American music.”

Sharp started to work with mainstays of the Austin scene—from hip-hop artist Ter’ell Shahid to the idiosyncratic electronica of Small*Star, from the extraordinary talent of rock/pop duo the June Junes to Craig Marshall’s catchy, brainy rock. With Marshall, Rachel Loy (an in-demand session player, when not moonlighting with Small*Star), and with singer-songwriter Andrea Perry, Sharp sat down, hung out, and started writing original songs for the film, some based on Padrai’s lyric ideas.

Meanwhile, cut to a Mumbai recording studio, where big names—from the established Udit Narayan to the youth icon Shreya Goshal, along with the soulful Madhushree and up-and-comer Rishikesh Kamerkar—laid down stunning vocals for key songs inspired by Indian wedding ceremonies, the festival of color – Holi, and traditional Gujarati dances. Composed and produced by Siddharth Kasyap, the tracks have all the sparkle of Indian film hits, while remaining grounded in acoustic sounds. (Pictured: Siddharth Kasyap & Shreya Goshal)

“Siddharth actually created temp tracks for even the rough cut, and throughout the editing process we composed new tracks to go with scenes instead of using temp score, which is usually done. Siddharth is the type of composer who takes the time to let the music marinate with the film instead of throwing the whole mixer at you and making a square peg fit a round hole,” says Padrai. “We needed something more folk-oriented, more earthy and more real… and he knew exactly what to do.”

“I wanted to have a really powerful soundtrack for the movie. Maybe being Indian, I felt the film had to have great music—or what kind of movie is it, anyway?” laughs Padrai.

Soundtrack available via at Two videos from the soundtrack will be available for free download (in return for a Tweet or Facebook shout out) via