Thursday, February 24, 2011

Asian Electronica: Vancouver's Tarun Nayar New CD Release & Download

From a media release:

10 Years in the Making; Delhi 2 Dublin's Tarun Nayar's New Take On Asian Electronica

You may know Tarun 'Tspoon' Nayar from his much in demand band Delhi 2 Dublin, but what you may not know is that Tarun is also a Vancouver based DJ/producer who is about to turn Asian-fused electronica on its ear. After travelling the four corners of the globe, Tarun has compiled 10 years of material for his latest solo effort, 22º of Beatitude (Chaiwalla's Boombox; March 01, 2011) which he describes as his most personal work to date.

Recording sessions with artists worldwide, 22º of Beatitude brings us to temples in Bhutan, to street corners in Tokyo and even to an intimate conversation between the artist and his grandmother. Breaking out of the dancefloor-driven format, Tarun’s aim was to record as many of the sounds as possible, live, without the use of sample libraries. Each of these songs tells a story, and each story is a chapter in the artist’s life. They are a decade-long evolution of sounds that blend culture, beats and bass. With influences ranging from Talvin Singh to Bassnectar, Tarun’s music aims to break boundaries and bring people together.

As a part of Delhi 2 Dublin, Tarun has toured the globe and played some of North America’s biggest festivals. He produced their two full length albums that went to the Top 3 on the Canadian world music charts and settled into the top 10 on iTunes Canada world music charts. Tarun is also a founding member of Vancouver's Beats Without Borders collective and has shared the stage with everyone from De La Soul to Cheb i Sabbah. His tracks and mashups get play on the CBC, BBC and college stations worldwide. In May 2010 he blended Akon's 'Beautiful' with UK producer Swami's 'Sugarless' in a mashup that received heavy airplay in the UK. He also recently scored 'BAS! Beyond The Red Light', a documentary on the lives of women in one of Mumbai's red light districts. Together with partner Umar Akbar he also runs the cutting edge global electronica label and blog Chaiwalla's Boombox.

Here's a look at his work with Delhi 2 Dublin:



22º of Beatitude will be released March 1, 2011 and will be complete with archival photos and videos that will accompany each track on the album and enhance the music into a dynamic visual experience. These visuals will be projected as part of the live show, set to hit Canada this spring.

Stay tuned for dates...

Here's a listen to some of the new CD, and a free download to boot:

22º of Beatitude by TarunTspoon

Irish Rockers The Saw Doctors - US Tour in March 2011

From a media release:

New York to Las Vegas - Irish Rockers The Saw Doctors on US Tour in March 2011

The Saw Doctors are known in Ireland for ridiculously catchy songs and for rocking the road week after week from Galway to Melbourne-and, come March 2011, from New York to Las Vegas. They've hopped up countless crowds, including at two inaugurations of Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, with upbeat anthems to everyday people.

A fun-loving reputation precedes the band thanks to their zany hit "I Useta Lover" or the recent sneak Irish radio chart-topper, "Red Cortina A Cappella." But it belies a more reflective side with deep roots, a side sometimes forgotten even by the group's biggest fans.

"That one-sided perception of the band haunts us, even in our hometown here in Western Ireland," chuckles Saw Doctors singer and guitarist Leo Moran. "A few months ago, in a pub here, I sang one of my favorite songs, 'Same Oul Town', the title track of our third album.  It's about a small town in winter, where everyone knows everyone else's business. Another local singer, who has known us forever, came up and told me, 'That's a lovely song; you should record that!'"

Bittersweet portraits of everyday people and the landscape that surrounds them are what the band does best. The Saw Doctors have a Springsteen-like ability to get at the poignant perspectives of ordinary folks: the lovesick pub regular, the guys on the corner, the wise old woman who greeted all comers with a slice of bread and butter.

This ability flows from the roving group's strong ties to Tuam-and to the lives and stories of the people in it. It's a town of wits and eccentrics, folks like cartoon artist Squigley McHugh, who humorously sketched the Saw Doctors as superheroes for their stage backdrop. Tuam is known for its gregarious, sometimes overly curious conversationalists. It's a place where people still pop down to the pub in the afternoon, looking for a pint and a good gossip.

But don't be surprised if you can't make out a word: Tuam, explains Moran, has its own secret code, a slang and a love of peculiar turns of phrase incomprehensible to outsiders. "In Tuam, there's a great interest in language and words. A lot of the Travellers, itinerant Irish traders and tin-smiths, settled around Tuam and had their own language they used while trading. We've adopted it as core citizens of the town."

Tuam's citizens relish slang and constantly invent new words. Expressions like "Well-Byes," the greeting of choice among young guys in jogging suits, speak volumes: "you know where you are and you're from Tuam," Moran says. Soccer players use local slang when playing against other towns to keep their next moves under wraps (as the band recounts in "All the Way from Tuam").

Yet words, like the band itself, have a far more winsome side, connecting people with their history and the land. In "Friday Town," the Anglicized place-names in the chorus hint at a lost Irish past, as Moran sings of people long gone, either overseas to America or to their graves. "When you study the names in Irish, they carry meanings, some feature in the landscape or the memory of something that happened there," Moran notes. "But all these lovely meanings have been lost. We're trying to celebrate them, as well as the people who left forever for the States, on an epic, courageous journey."

More introspective moments still ring with bright guitars, catchy melodies, and upbeat energy, which make The Saw Doctors shows fun, even at their deepest. Sometimes when playing live around Ireland, the exuberant singing from the audience has nearly drowned out the band. The group loves to drop their vocals out altogether, providing only instrumental accompaniment for the chorus of enthusiastic fans, who seem to know every song by heart.

The down-to-earth feel-and the Tuam wit-have universal appeal. "People sometimes say that a song about Tuam or Galway or Ireland won't matter to people abroad. That's like telling Bruce Springsteen that he is wasting his time writing about the Jersey Shore," Moran reflects. "Songs are about sharing feelings and emotions and ideas. If you have ideas and emotions that people can relate to, then it works no matter where you play."

Photos of the band by Steve Gullick




The Saw Doctors 2011 US Tour details:
March 03, Thu Uncastville, CT Mohegan Sun Casino Wolf Den
• March 04, Fri Boston, MA House of Blues
• March 05, Sat Jim Thorpe, PA Peen's Peak
• March 06, Sun Northampton, MA Calvin Theatre
• March 08, Tue Poughkeepsie, NY The Chance
• March 10, Thu Asbury Park, NJ The Stone Pony
• March 11, Fri New York, NY Irving Plaza
• March 12, Sat New York, NY Irving Plaza
• March 14, Mon Alexandria, VA Birchmere Bandstand
• March 15, Tue Portland, ME Port City Music Hall
• March 17, Thu Philadelphia, PA Theatre of Living Arts
• March 18, Fri Cleveland, OH House of Blues
• March 19, Sat Chicago, IL Vic Theatre
• March 21, Mon Boulder, CO Boulder Theater
• March 22, Tue Salt Lake City, UT The Complex
• March 24, Thu West Hollywood, CA House of Blues
• March 25, Fri San Francisco, CA Slims
• March 26, Sat Las Vegas, NV Hard Rock Cafe on the Strip

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sara Banleigh Brings Folk Back to its Dark Roots

From a media release:

Stories of Love and Murder: Sara Banleigh Brings Folk Back to its Dark Roots

Piano-based folk singer Sara Banleigh will be releasing her debut album The Folk EP (Self-Release; March 01, 2011), marking a unique and exciting addition to the world’s folk catalogue. Sara's riveting piano-based arrangements of traditional folk tunes from Ireland and the British Isles offer a rare and fascinating take on this beloved, age-old music, which has until now primarily been recorded on guitar and other stringed instruments. With intricate piano orchestration, compelling vocals, and a handful of other acoustic instruments, The Folk EP offers a fresh and spellbinding journey through this ancient genre of music.

The rich and captivating album offers Sara’s interpretation of 5 traditional English, Scottish, and Irish folk songs, each of them several hundred years old. The songs, which have survived through oral tradition in Northern Europe and in the United States, where they came over with English and Irish settlers, are centered around the most powerful and elemental themes of the human experience:  love, despair, beauty, longing, death, and betrayal.

The Folk EP was recorded over two intensive days at Parkwest Studios in Brooklyn, NY, not very far from where the Brooklyn-born singer grew up. Sara’s conception of an album of traditional folk music supported by piano-based arrangements led her to Parkwest, where studio owner and engineer Jim Clouse maintains an excellent 20’ Kawai grand piano. “When I conceived of the idea for the album, I knew that I would have to spend some time really looking into which studios in NYC had the best piano for the project,” says Sara. “I wanted the piano to have as much of a singular voice on the album as I did, so it was important for me to find an instrument that sounded like it had some good stories to tell.”

Regarding her insistence on using a real piano for the project, Sara remarks, “I knew from the beginning that I wanted an all-acoustic album, so digital keyboards with all their fancy plug-ins were out. Many studios I contacted were like, ‘What’s the problem? Our plug-ins sound just like a real grand.’ Well, these are 500-year-old folk songs, and there was just no way I was going to lay down the piano arrangements on a digital controller. Blasphemy!” Sara continues, “When I played the grand at Jim’s studio, I knew this was the one that would help me tell the stories of the songs. It had just the right balance of bright and rich tones, and a nice heavy middle and bass.”

The mesmerizing album begins with the track “Railroad Boy,” an old English tune about unrequited love that is also sung in Ireland and the United States under various titles. Sara’s version beings with a haunting a cappella introduction that lays down the story of a young woman who loses her maidenhood to a young man - a ‘railroad boy’ - who has convincingly courted her. As the song progresses and piano and violin join the storytelling, we learn that her one true love has betrayed her, and her profound heartbreak leads her to take her own life, her parting words a warning to the world of love’s desolating power.

The album’s storytelling continues through themes of true love, murder, and death, with “Mary Hamilton” and “Geordie,” two fascinating semi-historical Scottish and English ballads, respectively, in which each title character gets a public hanging in the town square for committing a capital crime. Both songs have a long history not only in the British Isles, but also in the United States, where they have been sung by the Appalachian descendants of Scottish and English settlers for centuries. The Folk EP honors both the British origin and the American adaption of these songs by keeping the lyrics and melodic forms true to their roots, while infusing the musical delivery with a bit of country grease and swagger.

On her interpretation of the songs, Sara says, “Overall, I was intent on staying away from the extreme ‘prettiness’ that can sometimes characterize professional recordings of traditional British and Irish folk music. Because the melodies and chord progressions themselves are inherently so beautiful, there are many artists who play to the beauty of the tunes, while ignoring the feelings of pain, betrayal, madness, and vengeance that underly the songs. If you really stop and listen to these lyrics that have been passed down through centuries of oral tradition, it's some pretty ghastly stuff. I tried to make both the beauty and the pain of the material evident and accessible for the listener.” Sara encapsulates the result of her efforts: “There is still some sweetness and loveliness in there, but overall, it's a very dark and haunting album, with a little bit of grit.”

Elaborating on the feel of The Folk EP, Sara says: “My musicians knew that I was really going for something that would be a bit dirtier, and, above all, raw, and I think the unique characteristics, and training, of everyone on the album really brought that out. The album was very minimal in instrumentation, and each of us added our own unique style to the songs. Harrison Hollingsworth, a down-home fiddler from Texas with an elegant classical touch brought out both the beauty and the gritty back-wood country tones of his violin, while Greg Remigio, a rock-oriented guitarist, added that bit of strut and boldness to the two pieces he's on; and Patrick Dunn’s viola provided a kind of ghostly, haunting undergirding for ‘Geordie,’ which proved perfect for the piece.

The Folk EP also includes Sara’s arrangement of the folk anthem “All My Trials,” a song of uncertain origin said to have passed between the United States and the British colony of the Bahamas, traveling with the English and Scottish settlers and their slaves. Sara’s use of the introduction of Bach’s Prelude No.1 in C Major in her arrangement of “All My Trials” is an unexpected addition to the song and brings out the main melody’s stirring sadness while also evoking the song’s message of poignant triumph and salvation. The album is rounded out by “Fhear A Bhata” (The Boatman), an Irish tune about lost love, which Sara sings in a bare and riveting a cappella, mirroring the naked introduction to the EP’s first track, and so, bringing the listener full circle.

Although Sara has worked with different artists and styles, from indie pop to electronica, both on stage and in the studio, she has decided to make her debut EP a collection of melodic, highly narrative British and Irish folk tunes because these are the songs that lived most strongly in her heart. Regarding her clean, straightforward name for the album, Sara says the following: “I decided to call the album ‘The Folk EP’ because I know that I will go on to other genres and projects in my career, but I am so proud and so settled in myself to make my debut as an artist with a folk album such as this. I find the traditional music of Ireland and the British Isles to be among the most beautiful, haunting, and magical in the world, and the darkness and light in the material has helped me mature as a singer and artist - it's given me a way to anchor my soul while the world shook around me, and I am thankful to the songs for this. They suffered for me, so I didn't have to as much. No matter what I do, I'll always come back to British folk - and it's American offspring, the American folk tradition and good ol' country music  - because I connect with it so deeply and I view it to be truly complete music. Lyrically, musically, vocally, emotionally, and rhythmically, this music lacks nothing, and has everything to give.”

Nightwood Theatre Presents FemCab for International Women's Day March 1

From a media release - what better way to celebrate than with these talented women?

Nightwood announces FemCab 2011 Line-Up…including Judy Rebick as the keynote speaker

FemCab 2011
Nightwood’s 28th Annual International Women’s Day Celebration
March 1, 2011 at 8:00 p.m.
Harbourfront Centre, Toronto

Toronto, ON…Nightwood Theatre, Canada’s national women’s theatre, is thrilled to announce Judy Rebick as this year’s Keynote Speaker of FemCab, Nightwood’s annual celebration of International Women’s Day. Judy Rebick is a well-known social justice activist, writer, educator and speaker. Her latest book is Transforming Power: From the Personal to the Political.  Her other books include Ten Thousand Roses: The Making of a Feminist Revolution (Penguin 2005). One of Canada’s best-known feminists, Rebick is the former President of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women.

Joining Rebick and Nightwood in will be: comedian-host Sandra Battaglini (Hard Headed Woman); award-winning playwright Judith Thompson; blues singer Shakura S’Aida; guitar queen Donna Grantis with the Electric Band; multi-genre singer Alejandra Ribera; spoken word artist Lara Bozabalian; dancer/choreographer Julia Aplin, 2010 Canadian comedy award-winner Chelsea Manders and the diva of Afro-Brazilian music Guiomar Campbell leading the evening’s House Band.

For over 31 years, Nightwood Theatre has developed, produced and toured landmark, award-winning plays by women. Since 1983, Nightwood has presented FemCab, the only cabaret in town where politics and art come together in an irreverent, humourous and shameless celebration of women’s success!

Artist Bios

Judy Rebick, Keynote Speaker
Judy Rebick is a well-known social justice activist, writer, educator and speaker. Most recently she helped to lead a fight against the intense police repression during the G20 in Toronto. Her latest book is Transforming Power: From the Personal to the Political.  Her other books include Ten Thousand Roses: The Making of a Feminist Revolution (Penguin 2005). One of Canada’s best-known feminists, Judy is the former President of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women and was a spokesperson for the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics during the fight to legalize abortion. Judy recently stepped down after eight years as the CAW Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy at Ryerson University.  She is the founding publisher of rabble.ca and is currently on CBC Radio Q’s media panel. During the 1990’s, Judy was the host of a two national TV shows on CBC Newsworld.

Sandra Battaglini, Host
Sandra Battaglini is a dynamic, high-energy comedic actor, stand-up comedian and cabaret performer. Her mix of song, opera, contemporary pop, originally choreographed dance and theatrical clown has distinguished her as an innovative artist on the Toronto scene. In 2005, Battaglini was nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award for her solo show, A Small Battalion of Soldiers. Battaglini's last tour de force, Hard Headed Woman premiered at the Diesel Playhouse in October 2006 to sold out houses and travelled to the LA Comedy Festival. Sandra won a Canadian Comedy Award for Hard Headed Woman in the category of best solo show. She is part of Toronto's newest sketch troupe, The Specials, and was part of the 2005 Toronto production of the Vagina Monologues with Shirley Douglas and Rachel McAdams.

Shakura S’Aida, Singer
An international artist whose involvement in the Canadian music scene has been ongoing for the past 20 years, enriching the jazz, blues and classic R&B communities with her soulful voice, enthusiastic personality and commitment to music as an art form. In 2010, her new CD, Brown Sugar, was launched internationally to great acclaim. S’Aida won for Female Vocalist of the Year and was nominated for two other 2011 Maple Blues Awards: Best Entertainer of the Year and Best Recording of the Year.

Donna Grantis Band, Music
Donna Grantis will be releasing her debut solo album this year with psychedelic rock trio the Donna Grantis Electric Band.  Rooted in blues with a jazz-fusion influence and classic rock attitude, the Electric Band is a modern day jam band, heavy on improvisation with a passion for all things vintage.  As a session musician, Grantis has performed with multi-platinum recording artist Amanda Marshall, Juno award-winning artists Kardinal Offishall, Divine Brown and Jacksoul, acoustic guitar virtuoso Tony McManus and blues legend Coco Montoya, among others.  She regularly tours, records and writes with Canada’s International Blues Artist Shakura S’Aida (pictured together at the left), as well as soul rock powerhouse Saidah Baba Talibah.

Judith Thompson, Theatre
Judith Thompson playwright, director, actor, screenwriter, professor of theatre, is the author of fifteen plays including The Crackwalker, Lion in the Streets, and Palace of the End. Her plays have been translated into many languages and are performed all over the world. She has written two feature films, Lost and Delirious and Perfect Pie, and numerous radio dramas. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and has won two Governor General’s awards, a Dora, a Toronto Arts Award, the Jean Gascon-Thomas Award, as well as the Susan Smith Blackburn Award for best play by a woman writing in English in the World (for Palace of the End) and the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award. She lives in Toronto with her husband, five children, two dogs and three cats.

Julia Aplin, Dance
Julia Aplin (pictured right) performed with Dancemakers for 15 seasons under the Artistic Direction of Serge Bennathan.  She has also performed independently at such venues as the Sound Symposium, the AGO and the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. As a choreographer, Aplin has received commissions from companies as varied as Company Blonde to the Madawaska String Quartet. She recently premiered her work in a new opera Voice-Box with Urban Vessel at Harbourfront Centre.

Lara Bozabalian, Spoken Word
Lara Bozabalian is the author of The Cartographer’s Skin (Piquant Press). She has featured at literary festivals and universities across Canada, including the Kingston Writers Festival, Vancouver Poetry House, Harbourfront’s Canadian Voices Festival, Queen’s University, Luminato ‘New Waves’ Festival (Young Centre for the Performing Arts), the Eden Mills Writers Festival and the Words Aloud Festival.



In 2008, she was one of two Canadians invited to compete at the Individual World Poetry Slam in Charlotte, NC. As Head of English at a public high school, Lara founded and runs a spoken word festival for high school students across York Region, and is a founding member of Toronto Poetry Project, a collective dedicated to fostering social change and creative writing opportunities.

Alejandra Ribera, Music
Blending jazz, international music and alternative pop Alejandra Ribera has already been compared to Edith Piaf, Tom Waits and Joan Armatrading. Darling of CBC radio, Ribera will take you on roller coaster ride starting with Latin folk tunes to cabaret songs in French or Spanish to the unexpected jazzy moodiness to her own alternative pop songs. As Toronto.com states, she is a “top ten Toronto Artist to watch for.”

Chelsea Manders, Comedy
Chelsea Manders is a BC-born Toronto-based music comedian/writer whose credits include CBC TV/radio/web, CTV/Comedy Network, Hysteria!, Bitch Salad, As It Happens, Canadian Comedy Awards “Best of Fest”, opening for Glen ‘That Canadian Guy’ Foster, Winnipeg Comedy Festival, the occasional YMCA aquafit class, Three Takes (Slice), How To Be Indie (YTV) and the 2010 Canadian Comedy Award: Best Solo Show. 

Guiomar Campbell, House Band
Singer and percussionist Guiomar Campbell, is a native of Minas Gerais, Brazil, and has been performing in Toronto since 1978 in various Brazilian as well as Cuban, South African, and world percussion ensembles.  Guiomar leads the band Parabolica, a Toronto based musical group built on a foundation of Afro-Brazilian folk rhythms, bossa nova, samba, and jazz. Guiomar received an award for her achievement in art and culture from the Ministry of Multiculturalism, Jean Augustine and the National Ethnic Press. Guiomar was also a cast member of Da Kink in My Hair, in 2007 which ran at the Princess of Wales Theatre and recently performed and did the music composition for the play First Hand Woman.



Please join us on March 1st for our raucous salute to the extraordinary achievements of women across the globe!

FemCab Details
• DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 / 8:00 p.m.
• Ticket price: $32.00
• Brigantine Room, Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West
• Tickets are available in advance by calling Nightwood Theatre at 416.944.1740 ext. 5
• Or email hilary@nightwoodtheatre.net

Canadian Opera Co takes Robert Lepage's Nightingale to BAM

Update:
The reviews are in - get your tix as soon as you can: the New York Times describes the effect of The Nightingale’s palace scene as “more splendid than the Imperial Palace scene in the Met’s popular production of Puccini’s ‘Turandot,’ a Zeffirelli extravaganza;” that “the Canadian Opera Company’s orchestra and chorus were vibrantly conducted by its accomplished young music director, Johannes Debus,” and remarks “the first half of the program employs nimble acrobats and the most affecting and intricate puppetry I have ever seen.” The New York Post says that The Nightingale and Other Short Fables “confirms why [Robert Lepage is] one of the most imaginative directors currently active” and has created a show full of moments of “pure magic” and “childlike wonder.” The Associated Press praises the production’s “terrific” cast, singling out for praise soprano Olga Peretyatko (the Nightingale) for a “fresh, silvery sound” that “easily negotiates the tricky coloratura flights Stravinsky has given his heroine. Tenor Lothar Odinius is a warm, sympathetic presence as the Fisherman; bass Ilya Bannik makes a pitiable Emperor; and mezzo-soprano Meredith Arwady is commanding as Death.” Time Out New York proclaims the production “theatrical and operatic bliss.”



From a media release:

The Canadian Opera Company & Robert Lepage US Premiere
The Nightingale and Other Fables
at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) - March 1-6

"...illusionist Lepage has succeeded in the space of an evening in giving back to adults...a capacity for enchantment reserved for children" - Le Figaro

Following a sold-out world premiere engagement in Toronto and standing ovations at Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, Robert Lepage's critically acclaimed The Nightingale and Other Short Fables makes its anticipated US premiere at BAM. This production, called "nothing short of brilliant" by Opera (UK) marks more than 20 years of groundbreaking LePage Productions at BAM as well as the Canadian Opera Company's return following it's 1993 presentation of Lepage's double-bill of Bluebeard's Castle and Erwartung.

Igor Stravinsky‘s The Nightingale is a Russian conte lyrique based on the tale by Hans Christian Andersen. Under the direction of Lepage the opera is transformed into a magical chinoiserie centered around a moonlit lake-created by filling the orchestra pit with nearly 12,000 gallons of water. The musicians and chorus are placed onstage, allowing the audience to see and hear the various musical layers that make this production so entrancing. Traditional pan-Asian water puppets, created by Tony and Emmy award-winning designer Michael Curry, float and are manipulated by the same singers whose roles they represent, telling the tale of the ethereal nightingale who persuades Death to spare the Emperor.

The program opens with Stravinsky's short vocal and instrumental pieces: the jazz-tinged Ragtime, Pribaoutki, Two Poems of Konstantin Balmont, Berceuses du chat, Four Russian Peasant Songs, and Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet. The program continues with the satirical one-act opera-ballet The Fox, brought to life through shadow theater-an expressive and acrobatic art form drawing from Asian and African traditions-and concludes with The Nightingale.

The international Nightingale cast includes soprano Laura Albino (The Cook), contralto Meredith Arwady (Death), tenor Lothar Odinius (Fisherman), soprano Olga Peretyatko (Nightingale), bass Robert Pomakov (Chamberlain), and bass Michael Uloth (Bonze). The ensemble also features bass Neil Craighead, mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta, baritone Adrian Kramer, tenor Adam Luther, and soprano Simone Osborne. The cast of The Fox includes baritone Peter Barrett, Adam Luther, and tenor Lothar Odinius.

Versatile in every form of theater craft, Robert Lepage is a director, scenic artist, playwright, actor, and film director. His creative and original approach has won him international acclaim, numerous awards, and has shaken the dogma of classical stage direction to its foundations, especially through his use of new technologies. Inspired by contemporary history, his modern and unusual work transcends all boundaries. Lepage founded his Production Company, Ex Machina, in 1994. He is currently working on a production of Wagner's Ring cycle for the Metropolitan Opera.

Images:
• Olga Peretyatko as The Nightingale and Ilya Bannik as The Emperor - Photo Credit: © 2009 Michael Cooper
• Michael Uloth as The Bonze, Robert Pomakov as The Chamberlain and Laura Albino as The Cook (in water) and Olga Peretyatko (above, right)  - Photo Credit: © 2009 Michael Cooper

• Ilya Bannik as The Emperor and Maria Radner as Death - Photo Credit: © 2009 Michael Cooper

The Nightingale and Other Short Fables
By Igor Stravinsky
Conducted by Johannes Debus
Directed by Robert Lepage
Set design by Carl Fillion 

Costume design by Mara Gottler 
Lighting design by Etienne Boucher 
Puppet design by Michael Curry
In Russian with English titles
Co-produced with Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, Opéra national de Lyon, and Netherlands Opera in collaboration with Ex Machina (Quebéc)


• BAM Howard Gilman Opera House (30 Lafayette Ave)
• Mar 1, 3 & 4 at 7:30pm Mar 6 at 3pm
Tickets start at $35





American Express is the presenting sponsor of The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. BAM 2011 Spring Season is sponsored by Bloomberg.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Peggy Baker Dance Projects - Are You Okay March 1-13 in Toronto

From a media release:

Peggy Baker Dance Projects' presentation of Are You Okay,
a theatre/dance mutual biography in space
created and performed by
acclaimed dancer and choreographer Peggy Baker and award-winning playwright and actor Michael Healey,
directed by Necessary Angel Artistic Director Daniel Brooks.
March 1 to March 13, 2011 at Factory Studio Theatre.

Toronto, February 9, 2010, 2011 - Peggy Baker Dance Projects, in association with Necessary Angel, presents the world premiere of Are You Okay, a theatre/dance piece created and performed by acclaimed dancer and choreographer Peggy Baker and award-winning playwright and actor Michael Healey, directed by Necessary Angel Artistic Director Daniel Brooks. Are You Okay previews from March 1, opens March 4 and runs to March 13 at Factory Studio Theatre.

These three self-described 'very old artists' navigate a kinetic conversation about creation, physical mastery, body betrayal, the brutal humour of time and the ephemeral nature of professional competence. Baker and Healey create a mutual autobiography in space, a simultaneous one-man, one-woman show, colliding in flashes of blind, glorious accident.

Peggy Baker is one of Canada's most outstanding and influential dance artists. A founding member of Dancemakers (Toronto / 1974), she toured internationally with Lar Lubovitch, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Mark Morris before debuting as a soloist in 1990. Appointed Artist-in-Residence at Canada's National Ballet School in 1992, Baker is the recipient of three Dora Mavor Moore Awards. She is a member of the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada, and is the recipient of the 2009 Governor General's Performing Arts Award for lifetime achievement in dance.  She recently was awarded the 2010 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts.

Michael Healey is an acclaimed television and stage actor and award-winning playwright whose work has toured nationally and internationally as well as being translated into multiple languages. The Drawer Boy, his first full-length play, premiered in Toronto in 1999 and won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Best New Play, a Chalmers Canadian Playwriting Award, and the Governor General's Literary Award. His other plays include Plan B (2002 Dora for Outstanding New Play), Generous (2007 Dora for Outstanding New Play)  and Courageous (2010 Dora for Outstanding New Play), among others.

Daniel Brooks has been a central figure in Canadian theatre for over 20 years.  He is currently the Artistic Director of Necessary Angel, and recently received the first Baillie fellowship at Soulpepper Theatre. He has won many awards, including being the first recipient of the prestigious Elinore and Lou Siminovitch Prize in Theatre for directing. His work has traveled across Canada and around the world.

Images of Michael Healey and Peggy Baker by John Lauener

Peggy Baker Dance Projects,  in association with Necessary Angel,
 presents the World Premiere of
Are You Okay
a mutual autobiography in space
Choreographed by Peggy Baker
Written by Michael Healey
Performed by Peggy Baker and Michael Healey
Directed by Daniel Brooks
Lighting by Rebecca Picherack
Composer and Musician: Debashis Sinha
Stage Manager: Crystal Salverda
Previews from March 1, Opens March 4 and runs to March 13, 2011
Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street
Tuesday - Saturday at 8pm, Sunday matinees at 4pm
Tickets - Previews $15; Regular run $25 ($20 senior/student/CADA);
Sunday March 6 ONLY Pay-What-You-Can.
Factory Theatre Box Office: 416-504-9971 or online at www.peggybakerdance.com

The Diary of Anne Frank Opens March 1 in Toronto

From a media release - I've seen the talented Ms Cole on stage in Bethune Imagined and I think you can expect a really poignant performance:

Shakespeare in Action presents
THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK
Keeping the story of Anne Frank alive

Toronto, February 8, 2011 - Shakespeare in Action, Canada's leading classical company for young audiences, brings a new production of The Diary of Anne Frank to the stage. The Wendy Kesselman adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank opens March 1 and runs to March 13 at Central Commerce Theatre (with school performances beginning February 23). Rising star Sascha Cole (The Apology for The Next Stage Festival, Factory Theatre's Bethune Imagined, and CanStage's Rock'n'Roll) plays the title role.

• February 23 - March 13, 2011
• At Central Commerce Theatre, 570 Shaw Street

Few stories have captured the horror and cruelty of the Holocaust quite like the compelling story of Anne Frank. As her family hides from Nazi tyranny, a young woman's account of courage, love and human resilience transcends the chaos, and continues to inspire young people across the globe.

Shakespeare in Action brings this uplifting and important story to the Toronto stage for a new generation, featuring a first-rate cast of professional actors that includes, along with Cole, Chris Karczmar and Alexis Koetting as Mr. and Mrs. Frank and Bruce Beaton and Catherine McNally as Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan. Cindy Block, Joe Bucci, Shaun Clark, Kaitlin Janisse and Dan Karpenchuk round out the ensemble.

Shakespeare in Action founder and Artistic Director Michael Kelly, who also directs the piece, says, "As artists, we see it as our responsibility to share the stories of the past that help our youth better understand the human condition, and their responsibilities in creating healthy and peaceful communities. The story of Anne Frank continues to inspire young people across the world and we are thrilled to be able to stage it in Toronto in a production for all ages - young people and adults alike."

Kelly sees the play as an opportunity to explore larger issues around genocide, racism and persecution that permeate the world today. "In a time where we, as a society, struggle with conflicts around whether to build a mosque at Ground Zero, or debate the right of Islamic women to wear the Burqa, and where incidents of anti-semitic violence are on the rise,  stories that illustrate cultural violence, bigotry and religious intolerance are more important than ever."

Sascha Cole, one of Toronto's most talented emerging young actors, has earned rave reviews in productions including CanStage's Rock'n'Roll. She says, "The story of Anne Frank has the power to shed light on the darkest and most illuminating aspects of human behaviour. We see a creative soul thriving within the violent oppression of her time, and her story is a testament to the resilience of humanity and youth. I am excited to take on this formidable role."

Set designer Glenn Davidson will transform the theatre into the Frank family attic, and costume designer Lori Hickling will create a series of rich, beautiful costumes to bring the world of the Franks to life. Dora Mavor Moore Award winner Thomas Ryder Payne's poignant sound design will manifest the play's sense of loss and Anne's youthful, transformative hope. Stage management is by Lori Anderson.

Central Commerce Auditorium is a stunning turn-of-the century theatre, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. "It is a beautiful, largely undiscovered space that we are in the process of restoring as a professional venue for the community," Kelly says. "You can imagine a family seeking refuge here - it is intimate and in my opinion, the city's best kept secret. I think it will make the play even more relevant to youth to have it performed within a school."

Shakespeare in Action presents The Diary of Anne Frank
Starring Sascha Cole in the title role
Directed by Michael Kelly
Set and Lighting Design by Glenn Davidson, Costume Design by Lori Hickling,
Sound Design by Thomas Ryder Payne
 February 23 - March 13, 2011
At Central Commerce Theatre, 570 Shaw Street
OPENING NIGHT, March 1 at 7:30 pm; SUNDAY MATINEES, March 6 & 13 at 2pm
WEEKDAY MATINEES: February 23-25 at 10am; February 28-March 4 at 10am; March 7-11 at 10am).
Suitable for ages 10 and up.
Tickets $15 for adults, $12 for students (Discounts for groups)
Box Office: 416-703-4881. Reservations are essential.
For more information: www.shakespeareinaction.org

Monday, February 21, 2011

Polina Semionova to Appear as Guest Artist with American Ballet Theatre

From a media release:

POLINA SEMIONOVA TO APPEAR AS GUEST ARTIST
WITH AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE
FOR 2011 SPRING SEASON AT METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE

New York - Polina Semionova, a principal dancer with Berlin State Opera Ballet, will debut as a Guest Artist with American Ballet Theatre for the 2011 Metropolitan Opera House season, it was announced January 14, 2011 by Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie. With ABT, Semionova will perform Kitri in Don Quixote at the matinee on Saturday, May 21, opposite David Hallberg as Basilio, and the dual role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake on Saturday evening, July 2, opposite Hallberg as Prince Siegfried.

Born in Moscow, Semionova studied at the Bolshoi Ballet School before joining the Berlin State Opera Ballet as the company’s youngest principal dancer. Her repertoire with Berlin State Opera Ballet includes Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Nikiya in La Bayadère, Marie in The Nutcracker, Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Swanilda in Coppélia, Kitri in Don Quixote, the title roles in Giselle and Manon, Tatiana in John Cranko’s Onegin, Sieglinde and Brünhilde in Maurice Bejart’s Ring um den Ring, Juliet in John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet and the title roles in Roland Petit’s Carmen and Sir Frederick Ashton’s Sylvia. She has performed principal roles in Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun, George Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial, Apollo (Terpsichore), Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, and Diamonds pas de deux, William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude and Jirí Kylián’s Return to the Strange Land. She has also appeared in works by Mauro Bigonzetti, Renato Zanella, Uwe Scholz and Christian Spuck.

Semionova created the title role in Vladimir Malakhov’s Cinderella and Creativity in Bigonzetti’s Caravaggio. She has appeared as a guest artist with English National Ballet, Tokyo Ballet, Teatro alla Scala, Vienna State Opera Ballet, Zurich Ballet, the Mariinsky Ballet and Bolshoi Ballet.

Semionova’s awards include a gold medal at the Moscow International Ballet Competition (2001), First Prize at the Vaganova-Prix Ballet Competition in St. Petersburg, the Junior Prize at the Nagoya International Ballet Competition (2002), Daphne Prize (2004), German Critics Choice Award (2005) and the Dance Open Award (2010).

Subscriptions for American Ballet Theatre’s 2011 Spring Season at the Metropolitan Opera House are on sale now now by phone 212-362-6000 or online at ABT’s website www.abt.org.

Planet In Focus Inaugural Green Screen Award

From a media release:

The Planet in Focus
GREEN SCREEN AWARD
Sponsored by Astral’s Harold Greenberg Fund

(Toronto – February 17, 2011) When it comes to the environment, the film and television industry talks the talk with environment-themed movies that inspire and educate audiences. Now comes the Planet In Focus Green Screen Award for filmmakers who have walked the walk.

The inaugural award - sponsored by Astral’s Harold Greenberg Fund - will celebrate compelling stories of green production practices that have taken place on set or on location during the filming of a film or television program. The producer and/or the director of the most inspiring production story will receive a $5,000 CDN cash award and a certificate for the services of Planet in Focus’ Green Screen Program on their next film or television production.

This innovative award – the first of its kind in Canada and the first to offer a cash award – will highlight how film and television industry professionals are putting environmental awareness into action through greener production practices.

The Planet in Focus Green Screen Program is an award-winning non-profit environmental stewardship program for the film and television industry. Designed to reduce the environmental footprint of film and television productions, the program promotes green film and television practices, conducts customized consultations and utilizes proprietary technology to calculate a productions’ environmental savings.

Planet in Focus is Canada’s largest environmental media arts organization and their mandate includes the promotion of social and ecologically sustainable practices in media production, and to forge alliances with organizations and individuals with similar goals.

“Across Canada and around the world, the film and television industry has been instrumental in nurturing a growing awareness of the environmental crisis facing our planet, and inspiring the search for solutions,” states Planet In Focus’ Executive Director Sarah Margolius. “What is less well-known are the behind-the-scenes efforts by the industry to lessen the environmental impacts of their own productions. We are thrilled to have Astral’s Harold Greenberg Fund show their visionary leadership in this realm and support pioneering producers, directors and film and television executives who are reducing the environmental footprints of their productions.”

“We are excited to become more involved with Planet in Focus and the Green Screen Program by introducing this innovative award” says John Galway, President of Astral’s Harold Greenberg Fund’s English-Language Program. “Their enthusiasm and ground-breaking ideas have inspired us to adopt more environmentally friendly policies and practices, and we hope our partners throughout the industry will be inspired to do the same.”

Score: A Hockey Musical, supported by Astral’s Harold Greenberg Fund’s Equity Investment Program, is the first feature in Canada to have estimated its environmental impact and savings with the Green Screen Program, and was the first feature in Canada to do so via a non-profit third party. The tally: an estimated trimming of 20 tonnes of CO2.

Planet in Focus Green Screen Program’s work was recognized with a Green Seal Award from the Environmental Media Association (EMA) on the low-impact production techniques used by NBC Universal on Warehouse 13, Season 1.

Award Rules and Regulations
• A film program or television series that has completed production after January 1, 2010 is eligible. Note: for this award, the production can still be in post-production as of the submission date.
• The Award is open to filmmakers and producers who have spearheaded and adopted green practices in their film and television productions. Submission criteria include qualitative data such as stories, anecdotes or observations relating to green production practices and quantitative data which is outlined on the submission form available at www.planetinfocus.org/greenscreen.

Award Parameters:
• We will be offering one award of $5000 CDN and a certificate for the services of Planet in Focus’ Green Screen Program to a film or television production and the filmmaker/ producer who has the most compelling story about “greening” their film or television production.
• The film or TV series does not have to be about environmental issues and does not have to be submitted to the Planet in Focus Film Festival. This award is for film and television productions of any genre that are employing green methods. Shorts, experimental films, animation, television pilots, music videos, features and documentary films are eligible. Commercials are not eligible at this time.
• The size of the budget is not a consideration for this award.
• The country and language of production is not a consideration for this award. However, the application must be submitted in English.
• A jury of media arts professionals and environmental practitioners will decide on the finalists and winner. In 2011, the jury will be composed of a member from Astral’s Harold Greenberg Fund, Planet in Focus, as well as a special member from within the film industry.

Who is eligible to apply for the Planet in Focus Green Screen Award?
Submit an entry form by August 5, 2011 with information about the production and a story about how the production was made “green” by the director, producer and crew.
• The Planet in Focus Green Screen Award will be given out during the Planet in Focus Film Festival, October 12-16, 2011, at the annual Industry Day, October 14, 2011 in Toronto. The award presentation will be followed by a reception.
• The Planet in Focus Green Screen Program is setting the pace for better environmental stewardship internationally. The program is supported by Astral’s Harold Greenberg Fund, City of Toronto, the Toronto Film Office, Live Green Toronto, Cinespace, Canadian Media Production Association (CMPA) among other industry organizations, businesses, unions, guilds and volunteers.

Find out more or get involved by contacting Planet in Focus at 416-531-1769 or visiting www.planetinfocus.org

Lovett's Heartattack Video/Single Release

From a media release - I'm about a week late for Valentine's, which shows you what kind of crazy seven days I've just had:

Lovett Marks Valentine’s Day With The Release of “Heartattack” on iTunes

New York, NY – Lovett’s latest music video shows us that Valentine’s Day can be a fun-loving rock party without all the mushy-gushy hoopla.  A full-blown foot-stomping dance-athon, Lovett’s “Heartattack” is the follow-up music video to the Spinner-touted “Eye Of The Storm” and round two of Lovett’s thunderous series of 9 cinematic music videos. Check out the “Heartattack” music video below. “Heartattack” is also available on iTunes and Lovers Label.

• Download it here.

The diverse nature and production of Lovett’s two latest music videos display their artistic range and creative momentum. Whereas Lovett’s first music video for “Eye Of The Storm” was epic with a cgi-laden narrative that took approximately one year to produce, “Heartattack” was made in one week with the straightforward theme of party, fun, and action.  For those with a keen eye for random cameos, “Heartattack” features both primo indie film actress Amy Seimetz and multi Grammy award-winning Country star Dierks Bentley, and of course, the abominable snowman from the classic holiday film, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  What do the three have in common?  When asked, Lovett simply responded, “Everybody loves a good party.”

Heartattack” is the second single off this debut album Highway Collection set for release on March 15th.  The album includes contributions from bands as diverse as The Avett Brothers, The Mars Volta, and Cursive to Spiritualized and The Sonos Quartet.  Keep on eye on Lovett and his all-star carnival band this year at SXSW as they are sure to spice up the festival with memorable shows and a parade of surprises.  The circus is coming.

Check it out: 
www.lovettmusic.com
www.myspace.com/lovettmusic
www.facebook.com/lovettpage


Off-Broadway Deal - White People - 25% Off Code to March 13

From a release:

White People
Opening Night - February 21
Closing March 13
The Ensemble Studio Theatre, NYC

Use code "NEAT" for 25% off

On a seemingly idyllic suburban Saturday in 1975 the long repressed tensions of Mag's WASP family finally explode. Her older son is writing a pornographic science fiction epic in his pajamas. Her go-go dancing daughter is followed home from work by a mysterious stranger. Her youngest son is smoking something in the basement. Her husband's started drinking again… and her racist mother shows up for lunch on the wrong day. A long day's journey into white.

By Neil Cuthbert*
Directed by Michael Barakiva
Featuring James DeMarse*, Cecilia DeWolf*, David Gelles*, Delphi Harrington*, Matthew Minor, Mickey Solis and Jennifer Joan Thompson
* denotes EST Member
Set: Maiko Chii • Sound: Matt Sherwin
Costumes: Suzanne Chesney • Props: Sylviane Jacobsen
Lights: Cate Tate Starmer
Production Stage Manager: Samone B. Weissman
Assistant Stage Manager: Beth Stegman
Casting Director: Tom Rowan*

• Dates: February 21 - March 13
• Weds-Sat & Mon at 7pm, Matinees Saturday at 2pm and Sunday at 3pm
• Sunday, March 6 performance is at 5pm
• Tickets: $30 general admission | $15 students/seniors (available at door)

Ensemble Studio Theatre
549 W 52nd St., Second Floor
New York, NY 10019-7799
(212) 247-4982

Use code "NEAT" for 25% off  to March 13

New Work by Artist Travis Shilling at the Gladstone, Toronto to March 26

From a media release:

How to drown a fish
Extraordinary new work by
Travis Shilling
on view until 26 March 2011
The Gladstone Hotel, Toronto

Travis Shilling is a paint chronicler. He captures the hidden in the visible – after-effects and fall-outs from events real and imagined. Travis’ series, How to drown a fish, marks out territories of disaster and survival. Asking how one drowns a fish is asking the impossible because human and animal alike adapt to inner and outer hardship. Still, people try to drown a fish every day, through damaging the environment or self-destruction. Travis' work reflects a rich imagination and exceptional skill. These paintings juxtapose civilization and the animal world in a narrative dreamscape.

Travis was born in Rama, Ontario. He is the second of two artist sons of acclaimed Aboriginal artist Arthur Shilling. Travis has exhibited in Canada, Europe and the U.S. He travels between studios in Rama and Toronto.

Also a filmmaker and playwright, Travis' short film, Bear Tung, featuring Gary Farmer, is a selection in the Alaska Native Heritage Center Indigenous World Film Festival and the 2011 National Museum of American Indian Film and Video Festival. Bear Tung was shown at both the New York Film Festival and the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival in 2010.

How to drown a fish is presented by the Association for Native Development in the Performing and Visual Arts (ANDPVA), Canada's oldest Indigenous arts service organization promoting, supporting, and presenting Indigenous arts.

How to drown a fish – new work by Travis Shilling
• Through 26 March 2011
1214 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON
• Open 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily on 3rd and 4th floors

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Yemen Blues North American Tour February - March 2011

From a media release - this music is haunting and extraordinarily beautiful:

Yemen Blues, Spring 2011 Tour Moments of Deep Desert Soul:
The Invocations of Yemen Blues on North American Debut Tour
February 24 in Vancouver, the 26th in Toronto, then Chicago, NYC, LA & other dates throughout the U.S. from February 27 to March 10, 2011

"Yemen Blues is THE discovery of the year" (WDR Funkhaus Europa, Germany)

If Blind Willie Johnson hung out with North African trance musicians or if Stevie Wonder studied Yemenite chants, it would sound like Yemen Blues. Raw yet refined, the group's nine eclectic musicians bang on olive cans, hit elusive microtones, and sing in invented languages.

North America will get its first real taste of the ensemble, powered by lead singer Ravid Kalahani's distinctive charisma, on tour this February and March, as Yemen Blues makes its debut in cities across the continent. Led by musical director and seasoned jazz bassist Omer Avital, the group conjures a world where Arabic and Jewish, African and Middle Eastern, blues and funk all interweave with a depth of a feeling that has sent Moroccan émigrés in Marseilles into ululations and wowed seasoned music professionals at WOMEX.

Kalahani is all about creating what he calls "moments of soul" for audiences, swooping from clear falsetto into a gravelly baritone, switching from Yemenite Arabic to Hebrew to Haitian Creole. Growing up singing Yemenite chants at synagogue, the young Kalahani would make up songs in invented languages and sing them as he walked down the street (a technique he returns to on the rumbling, grooving "Wamid").

Kalahani left home as a young teen and discovered a world of other sounds: soul, blues, West African pop. He spent hours alone listening to music. He absorbed everything he could, finding a resonance in Delta blues voices that reminded him of his own Yemenite heritage. He considered acting, playing trumpet, studying dance.

But singing called. Kalahani found himself performing one evening as part of a modern dance piece. "I was standing there in front of a thousand people and singing in this very high falsetto," Kalahani recalls. "I was in ecstasy. My body felt like it was burning. I decided then and there that this is what I wanted to do with my life."

This ecstasy and what Kalahani calls "a deep place of singing" was tangible to Avital, who couldn't believe his ears when someone played him a recording of Kalahani: "The singer sounded like a super authentic Arabic African singer," recounts Avital. "It was so strong and surprising to hear someone from my generation and background sound so good and authentic and strong. Ravid has the power of traditional Yemenite Jewish music."

Together, Avital and Kalahani worked to find fitting arrangements for Kalahani's original songs. Avital's appreciation for jazz masters like Ellington and Mingus mingled with his understanding of Arabic maqamat, the complex system of modes and melodies he was learning to explore as he studied the oud (Arabic lute). Avital's own musical journey back to his North African and Yemenite Jewish roots paralleled Kalahani's.

"I didn't want to see this amazing material go to waste," Avital notes. "It would have been so easy to ruin it. But we fit, coming from Yemenite tradition, but both with strong blues and African connections. Our musical searches met." So Avital shied away from typical pop approaches: He arranged pieces in the common Yemenite dance meter of 7/4. He avoided the common rendering Arabic modes as either major or minor.

This presented welcome challenges to the group of friends, all top musicians, Avital and Kalahani began to gather for regular jams. Jazz flute player Hadar Noiberg spent months perfecting her intonation, getting just the right feel for the quartertones. Hilla Epstain (cello) and Galia Hai (viola) leaped into the role of rhythm section, powering the songs forward as Avital jumped on the oud. Along with Middle Eastern percussion specialist Yohai Cohen, percussionist Rony Iwryn brought his sixth sense for percussion, honed during a stint in Yemenite Israeli pop star Ofra Haza's band, rattling keys and thrumming out gorgeous beats on olive tins.

"We didn't want any guitars or keyboards, because this isn't really a pop or a world music thing," explains Avital. "We just keep to African rhythms, Eastern sounds, and jazz in the horn section"-which includes trombonist Avi Lebovich (who's played with everyone from Chick Corea to Bootsy Collins) and trumpet player Itamar Borochov. "We keep it raw and that's what makes it interesting. It's a shifting family of voices, not just a sound."

For Kalahani, it's not just music, either: it's a deep invocation. Kalahani sings about his love for the desert, about the unity of language and experience, about gratitude for life's gifts. Songs like "Baraca" and "Min Kalbi" exclaim, "Your language is my language," Kalahani says. "It doesn't matter to which god you pray, so long as the melody comes from heart. This is exactly what I want to sing all the time, what I want to give people when I sing."

Kalahani's voice, backed by Yemen Blues's musical prowess, can indeed leap boundaries of language and religion. At a recent show in Marseilles, France, "there were Muslims and Christians and people of all kinds dancing. The Muslims loved it, and there was something connecting us and reminding them of home," Kalahani reflects. "I want people to enjoy the groove and melodies and be together, with all their different religious and political opinions, and to know there is a base connecting us all. That can change everything."

Yemen Blues, Spring 2011 Tour:

February 24 in Vancouver
Venue Nightclub
Doors open at 8pm - limited seating

February 26 in Toronto
Presented by: Ashkenaz 
9:00 PM @ The Mod Club
$25 Advance, $30 @ the door

U.S. Tour Schedule:

02/27/2011, Sun - Chicago, IL
Old Town School of Folk Music
Tix: $16-$20, Show: 7:30 pm

03/01/2011, Tue - Philadelphia, PA
Rodeph Shalom Synagogue
Tix: $36-$180, Show: 8:00 pm

03/02/2011, Wed - Seattle, WA
The Triple Door
Tix: $25, Doors Open: 5:00 pm, Show: 7:00 pm

03/05/2011, Sat - Berkeley, CA
Freight & Salvage
Tix: $25.50-$30.50, Doors Open: 7:00 pm, Show: 8:00 pm

03/06/2011, Sun - Los Angeles, CA
Troubadour
Tix: $25, Show: 7:00 pm

03/09/2011, Wed - New York, NY
Le Poisson Rouge
Tix: $20, Doors Open: 7:00 pm, Show: 8:00 pm

03/10/2011, Thu - Needham, MA
Somerville Theatre
Tix: $20-$30, Show: 8:00 pm

Image credits from top to bottom:
• erAno
• Laurent Burst

The Kill Van Kulls Single Release - Fools Wish February 28

From a media release:

The Kill Van Kulls Release First Single “Fools Wish” on Feb 28th

New York, NY – When you think of finely tuned guitar-pop, Stockport, UK is not what necessarily comes to mind as a breeding ground for the next big thing. Indie rockers The Kill Van Kulls - now Manchester-based - have only been together for six months and have already garnered attention from the likes of XFM and BBC. While finding inspiration in a disused mill and working through the night to sharpen their upbeat four to the floor, kick heavy pop songs, The Kill Van Kulls plan to release their first single “Fools Wish” via the band’s own label on February 28th.

In the grand tradition of Echo & The Bunnymen, what started out as a three piece plus a drum machine, has evolved into a more robust and lush sounding quartet that’s reminiscent of The Doves, The Cure, Simple Minds and pretty much any John Hughes film soundtrack. More recent artists with the same flair for indie pop and new wave rock that come to mind include Twin Shadow, Brahms, Amazing Baby, and Neon Indian.

Their lead single “Fools Wish” is a lean chunk from the new wave era with driving electro pop and enough sound and texture to envelop venues of all sizes. To complement the “Fools Wish” single, the band has recently released a new music video for their exclusive track “Wooden Heart” which features 70’s surf footage that rightfully fits their Dick Dale trebly guitar tones and washy surreal reverb drenched vocals by frontman Gareth Bartlett.

To date, the band has kept live appearances to a minimum. Nevertheless, The Kill Van Kulls have already managed to perform at the In The City music conference, and shared the stage with The Naked and Famous at the Borderline in London and with Mona at the Night and Day in Manchester. XFM recently featured the Kill Van Kulls in their 21 Tips for 2011 poll and they were interviewed on Chris Moyles’ show early this year as part of BBC Introducing. Consider this a warning North America. Stay on your toes with ears wide open, as The Kill Van Kulls plan to make a trip across the Pond, poised to spread their infectious tunes to US and Canadian audiences alike.


The Kill Van Kulls from MCR Scenewipe on Vimeo.

Art Auction & Brunch February 27 for Brian Webb Dance Co in Edmonton

From a media release:
Brian Webb Dance Company (BWDC)
27th Annual Art Auction and Brunch
February 27 l The Sutton Place Hotel

Don’t miss the 27th Annual BWDC Art Auction and Brunch at The Sutton Place Hotel Edmonton (10235 - 101 Street) on Sunday, February 27, 2011.

Starting at 11:30am, the event is the hippest art auction in town. Enjoy bidding on a large selection of amazing original art by local artists, a lovely brunch, good wine and a cool crowd. Featured artists include Dean Drever, Karen Cantine, Doug Haynes, Amanda Woodward, Scott Cumberland, Julian Forrest, Allen Ball and more!

All proceeds of the event go to the Brian Webb Dance Company – one of the key presenters and  creators of contemporary dance in Canada for over 30 years.


• Tickets are $75 (including auction and brunch)
• Available at TIX on the Square (780-420-1757)
• Or online at www.tixonthesquare.ca

Brothel #9 World Premiere at Toronto's Factory Theatre Feb 26 - Mar 27

From a media release:

Anusree Roy's Brothel #9 has world premiere February 26 - March 27, 2011 at Factory Theatre

ANUSREE ROY’S BROTHEL #9 IS FEARLESS

Toronto, ON –  “Brothel #9 is Anusree Roy’s most mature and provocative work to date,” says Factory Theatre Artistic Director Ken Gass, “The story of Rekha, a young South Asian woman who travels from her village to Calcutta to take a job making light bulbs only to discover she has been sold to a brothel is powerful and riveting drama. Factory Theatre commissioned Brothel #9 and we are thrilled to work with Roy in encouraging her to expand the scale of her playwriting endeavors.” The TD Bank Financial Group sponsors the world premiere of Brothel #9, previewing February 26 – March 2, opening on March 3, and closing March 27, 2011.

Factory Theatre Associate Artist Nigel Shawn Williams (The Bewitched, York University; Shakespeare’s Dog, Alberta Theatre Projects, Blacks Don’t Bowl, Black Theatre Workshop; The Monument, Obsidian Theatre) directs Brothel #9.  A Dora Mavor Moore Award-winner for acting (1995 &1996) and directing (2006), Williams is known for his emotional strength in both capacities. In Nigel’s own words, “In collaboration with Anusree and the ensemble at Factory, we are unveiling a story about human liberty in the underbelly of contemporary Calcutta, providing snapshots of lives that most Canadians never get to see.”

Anusree Roy (Roshni and Letters to my Grandma, Theatre Passe Muraille; 9 Parts Desire, Seventh Stage) performs in Brothel #9 as Jamuna, Pamela Sinha (Home Free, SummerWorks; Possible Worlds, Neptune Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille) as Rehka, Sanjay Talwar (Peter Pan and Dangerous Liaisons, Stratford Festival; Bombay Black, Cahoots/Arts Club; Helen’s Necklace, Tarragon and Pi Theatre) as Salaudin and Ash Knight (Romeo and Juliet, Old Rep Theatre - Birmingham; Same Time, Next Year, Blue Heron – NYC; ) as Birbal. The set and costume design is by Shawn Kerwin, lighting design is by Bonnie Beecher, and sound design is by John Gzowski. Brothel # 9 is stage managed by Joanna Barrotta with apprentice stage manager Neha Ross.

Due to its subject matter, Brothel #9 is not recommended for audiences under the age of 14 years.
• Shows February 26 to March 27 are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. (except for the Sunday, February 27, 7 p.m. preview).
• Tickets range from $15 - $40.
• Three-play subscription packages are available for $100.
• The box office is open for in-person/phone sales (416 504 9971), Tuesday to Saturday, 1 – 8 p.m., and Sunday at 12 noon – 4 p.m.;
• Online sales are available 24 hours a day at www.factorytheatre.ca

Images:
• Anusree Roy
• Pamela Sinha

For the remainder of Factory’s 2010/2011 season, the Performance Spring Festival runs April 2 – 24, featuring the Human Cargo production of Night as headliner. Adam Pettle’s Zadie’s Shoes runs April 30 to June 5.