Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Space Between: A Panorama of Cinema in Turkey Continues to May 10 in New York City

From a media release:

The Space Between: A Panorama of Cinema in Turkey
at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York City
April 27 to May 10 , 2012

The Film Society together with the Moon and Stars Project of The American Turkish Society will present a 29-film survey of Turkish cinema, the largest such program ever mounted in the U.S. Just like the nation itself, Turkish cinema has always stood between traditions: richly informed about currents in European and American filmmaking while imbibing influences from Egyptian, Indian and--more recently--Iranian cinema, creating a fascinating mixture of styles and approaches. The 1960s saw the emergence of powerful, socially engaged filmmakers, perhaps best represented by Yilmaz Güney (a special focus of this series), as well as a highly commercial, extremely popular cinema, known as Yesilçam, to which a new generation of Turkish film scholars has begun to turn its attention. In recent years, popular Turkish cinema has largely migrated to television, while a strong current of more personal auteurs—Fatih Akin, Zeki Demirkubuz, Yesim Ustaoglu, and especially Nuri Bilge Ceylan—have been widely screened in international film festivals and art cinemas. There’s much to discover in Turkish cinema; it is our hope that this selection will whet your appetites for much more to come. Series programmed by Richard Peña.

The Space Between: A Panorama of Cinema in Turkey is co-presented by Moon and Stars Project of The American Turkish Society.

40 Square Meters of Germany
Tevfik Başer, 1986

Tevfik Başer boldly opened new ground for the Turkish cinema with the deeply moving portrait of one woman’s experience as a guest worker’s wife living in Germany.

Raşit Çelikezer, 2011

A couple’s obsession with having a child runs parallel to a single woman’s neglectful treatment of her only child in Raşit Çelikezer’s award-winning new film.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2006

Brilliantly shot with a digital camera, Ceylan’s trailblazing relationship drama chronicles the journey of a man (played by Ceylan) across Turkey after breaking up with his longtime girlfriend.

Zeki Demirkubuz, 2002

A taut, beautifully acted psychological drama about a husband who suspects his wife of having an affair, but is terrified that confronting her about it might prove she really is.

Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul
Fatih Akın, 2005
Musical performance by oud player Harold Hagopian in the Furman Gallery before the screening, beginning at 9:30pm!

Gliding from Turkish rap to Kurdish laments, and Roma-flavored jazz to the great diva Müzeyyen Senar, Fatih Akın’s documentary brilliantly captures the sights and especially the sounds of Istanbul.

Despite Everything
Orhan Oǧuz, 1988

Just released from prison, Hasan tries to make his way in a rapidly changing Turkish society in this impressive debut feature by cinematographer-turned-director Oǧuz.

Don’t Let Them Shoot the Kite
Tunç Başaran, 1989

Sent to prison along with his mother after her drug conviction, a young boy develops a warm, tender relationship with a political prisoner.

Dry Summer
Metin Erksan, 1963

Winner of the Golden Bear at the 1964 Berlin Film Festival, Metin Erksan’s searing political fable pits brothers against brother in a struggle between family loyalty and communal duty.

Yılmaz Güney, 1971

Güney directed, wrote and starred in this stirring tale of a notorious smuggler coming to terms with the corrupt society in which he’s considered an “outlaw.”

Future Lasts Forever
Özcan Alper, 2011
Closing night! Post-screening Q&A with director Ozcan Alper!

On a research trip to collect elegies from southeastern Turkey, a university student must confront her own story of love and loss in Autumn director Alper’s superb second film.

Ali Özgentürk, 1981
Post-screening Q&A with director Ali Ozgenturk!

Türkan Şoray enjoyed one of her finest roles in Ali Özgentürk’s debut feature, playing a woman forced to marry her 11-year-old brother-in-law after her husband dies.

Yılmaz Güney, 1970

Yılmaz Güney directed, wrote and starred in this searing tale of a wagon-driver desperately trying to support his family as the dawning automotive era renders him obsolete.

Journey to the Sun
Yeşim Ustaoğlu, 1999
Post-screening Q&A with director Yesim Ustaoglu!

The friendship between two migrants to Istanbul, one a Kurd and one a Turk, forms the basis of this controversial drama.

Reha Erdem, 201
This densely layered, magic-realist flavored tale chronicles the consequences of the arrival of a supposed holy man in a forgotten Turkish town.

Motherland Hotel
Ömer Kavur, 1987

The promised yet unfulfilled return of a mysterious hotel guest drives its proprietor to madness in Ömer Kavur’s award-winning adaptation of Yusuf Atilgan’s novel.

My Aunt
Halit Refiǧ, 1987

A giant of Turkish filmmaking, Halit Refiǧ made one of his finest films with this searing tale of a woman destroyed by those closest to her, featuring a remarkable Müjde Ar in the lead role.

My Cinemas
Füruzan Karamustafa, Gülsün Karamustafa, 1990

A young girl finds refuge from her brutal home life in the images and stories from the silver screen, but as she becomes an adult discovers that the cinema can be its own kind of trap.

O Beautiful Istanbul
Atıf Yılmaz, 1966

A world-weary street photographer tries to dispel the optimism of an aspiring actress, only to find himself catching the fever in Atıf Yılmaz ’s much-loved comedy.

On Fertile Lands
Erden Kıral, 1979

Banned by the military and for decades virtually lost, this searing indictment of the harsh treatment of rural workers in southern Turkey remains as topical today as ever.

Revenge of the Snakes
Metin Erksan, 1962

The template for Turkey’s realist cinema, Metin Erksan’s masterpiece dissects the tensions that erupt in a small eastern village after a property dispute between neighbors.

Secret Face
Ömer Kavur, 1991

A photographer’s search for a mysterious woman turns into a metaphysical journey in this gripping tale directed by Ömer Kavur and written by Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk.

Somersault in a Coffin
Derviş Zaim, 1996

A darkly comic fable about those left behind while the economy surges ahead, Derviş Zaim’s impressive debut shows a side of contemporary Turkey rarely seen on screen.

Steam: The Turkish Bath
Ferzan Ozpetek, 1997

Inheriting a steam bath from an aunt he’d never met, Francesco (Alessandro Gassman) travels to Istanbul and confronts the possibility of a new life in director Ozpetek’s stunning feature debut.

Summer Book
Seyfi Teoman, 2008

A languid Mediterranean summer is interrupted by the sudden illness of 10-year old Ali’s father in this perceptive portrait of a family living through crisis.

The Girl With the Red Scarf
Atif Yılmaz, 1977

One of the all-time most popular Turkish films, a tender and touching reflection on love and responsibility brought to the screen with great sensitivity.

The Law of the Border
Lütfi Ö. Akad, 1966

For many, the new Turkish Cinema of the 1960s was born with this epic smuggling drama and social exposé starring Yılmaz Güney, beautifully restored by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation.

The Space Between: The Trajectory of Cinema in Turkey
Free panel discussion!

Join film scholars Fatih Özgüven and Zeynep Dadak and directors Raşit Çelikezer, Ali Ozgenturk, and Yesim Ustaoglu for this provocative panel discussion on the past, present and future of Turkish cinema.

Three Friends
Memduh Ũn, 1958

A warm, Chaplinesque social comedy about three penniless friends who meet a beautiful blind girl and create for her an Istanbul of the imagination.

Yılmaz Erdoğan, Ömer Faruk Sorak, 2001

The introduction of the first television set into a small village sparks social confrontation and a lot of laughs in this popular comedy that spawned a number of sequels.

Şerif Gören, 1982

Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, this most famous of all Turkish films, about five prisoners given a week’s furlough, was directed by Gören from a detailed screenplay by jailed auteur Yılmaz Güney.

CD Release: Jeff Beam's Be Your Own Mirror

With material from a media release:

CD Release: Jeff Beam's Be Your Own Mirror

Psych-rock sounds like too serious a label for this appealing CD by composer and musician Jeff Beam. The songs are piano driven and melodic with a sixties-era kind of innocence to the music that's neither forced nor ironic.

I heard Beatles influences and Electric Light Orchestra too, among others, in his soft vocal style and relatively high range. The tracks are danceable and catchy - dare I say - with a modern sense of irony and a surrealistic flair that shows up in the lyrics of songs like Successful People Who Never Existed. Electronic psychedelica with sixties pop flavour, slow and seductive or insistently swingy. There's a nod to French pop in the song Hospital Patience, and his sound turns jazzy and complex in the instrumental Part Two without abandoning the sense of melody all the tracks share.

Still in his early 20's, Beam already boasts a broad discography. Aside from a handful of self-produced full-length solo albums, he also fronted the Boston-based The Stereo Flys. The year of 2010 was fruitful; aside from the recording of Venus Flying Trapeze, The Stereo Flys released Hello Greetings From A Bunker and subsequently embarked on a three-week summer tour of the United States.

• Be Your Own Mirror, along with all of Jeff Beam’s other albums, is available at

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cheikh Lô at The Great Hall Toronto April 25

Cheikh Lô at The Great Hall
Opening act: Donné Roberts
April 25, 2012

TORONTO - The two acts who played The Great Hall Wednesday night came from Madagascar and Senegal - not exactly neighbours in geography - but what they shared was a sophisticated and thoroughly modern approach to music that begins with their respective African roots and then ventures far beyond.

There was a sizable crowd who came out midweek to hear the music of these two unique artists who both happen to hail from the African continent. Opening act Donné Roberts treated the audience to a set of his own brand of music that features the singing melodic guitar of his native Madagascar and then weaves in a multitude of other influences from the Egyptian vocals of singer Maryem Tollar to Russian and Japanese lyrics, classic guitar blues and an overall veneer of jazzy modern rock sensibility. He’s a hometown artist and scored a hit with the crowd that was growing in anticipation of the main act.

Cheikh Lô is often described as a maverick of African music, with a sound formed from a seamless fusion of West African melodies, Central African rhythms, Latin and Caribbean elements with a dash of funk and modern jazz thrown in for good measure. It’s an eclectic mix that saw the crowd come up close to the stage and dance along for his whole set. His music features heavy and insistent rhythms with jazzy saxophone lines and sweet guitar lines, and his slick band features a drummer and no less than two percussionists, along with Cheikh himself who alternates between percussion, guitar and vocals that easily make the leap from West African to Latin singing styles.

With his long dreadlocks and colourful patchwork clothes, he's often mistaken for a Rastafarian, but Cheikh is a devotee of Baye Fall, a mystical sub-branch of the Islamic Sufi order centred largely in Senegal in West Africa  Many of his lyrics reflect his beliefs. His stage presence was laid back and appreciative - with the audience warm and responsive in turn.

Cheikh Lô was born in Burkina Faso to Senegalese parents and he grew up in Burkina Faso near the border with Mali. He began playing music at an early age, heavily influenced by the Cuban and Congolese music that was popular at the time - and elements you'll still hear in his music. It’s his first appearance with his band in the city in 14 years (he did tour as part of the “Still Black, Still Proud” ensemble which saw him perform in Toronto at Koerner Hall in 2011).

Monday, April 23, 2012

COC Double Bill: A Florentine Tragedy & Gianni Schicchi Apr 26 - May 25

From a media release:

April 26 to May 25, 2012
at the Four Seasons Centre for the Arts, Toronto

Toronto –
The Canadian Opera Company presents a double bill of witty one-act operas as part of its 2012 spring season with the Canadian premiere of Alexander Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy and the return of Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, last seen with the COC in 1996.  The two operas are presented in a new COC production by the legendary soprano-turned-director Catherine Malfitano and world-renowned conductor Sir Andrew Davis.  A Florentine Tragedy is sung in German and Gianni Schicchi is sung in Italian, both with English SURTITLES™. 

The double bill of A Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi runs for eight performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on April 26, May 2, 5, 12, 15, 18, 20 and 25, 2012.

The COC’s double bill is one of the rare times that A Florentine Tragedy and Gianni Schicchi have been paired together.  The two works were written just a year apart, with Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy premiering in Stuttgart in 1917 and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi at the Metropolitan Opera in 1918, and both use Florence as the backdrop for their respective stories of familial turmoil.

Catherine Malfitano makes her company debut directing the COC’s double bill, an opportunity that marks the first time in Malfitano’s illustrious career that she has had the chance to be involved in a production of A Florentine Tragedy.  Malfitano made her debut as stage director in 2005, following a career as America’s leading operatic soprano, having portrayed over 70 roles and given more than 1,400 performances at all the major opera houses of the world.  As a director, she has staged critically acclaimed productions for Central City Opera Festival, Florida Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, English National Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

The COC’s new production uses Florence’s breathtaking cityscape as the canvas on which Malfitano draws out the themes of class values, morality and excess of riches that underline both operas, with set designs by Wilson Chin, costume designs by Terese Wadden and lighting designs by David Martin Jacques.  Inspired by how A Florentine Tragedy and Gianni Schicchi are linked in time and subject but can feel representative of two very different worlds, Malfitano’s concept unites the two operas by having them take place within the same Italian palazzo but physically sets them in different time periods.

Sir Andrew Davis makes a highly anticipated return to the opera company to lead the COC Orchestra, having delighted audiences with his conducting debut with the COC in 2011’s Ariadne auf Naxos.  With the double bill, Davis takes audiences on a musical journey starting with Zemlinsky’s ravishing late-Romantic score that shifts from the dark and sinister to the light and shimmery, and then through Puccini’s quick-fire composition, with harmonies and lyrical passages that echo the hilarity and solemnity of the opera’s twisted plot.

The Canadian premiere of Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy is a chance to discover a rare gem of the operatic repertoire.  Based on an unfinished Oscar Wilde play, the darkly satiric work tells the tale of a merchant who discovers his wife is having an affair and contains one of opera’s most unexpected endings with the murder of the wife’s lover and the married couple’s passionate reconciliation.  Alan Held, recognized internationally as one of the leading singing actors today and called “one of America’s best bass-baritones” (Opera News), makes his COC debut in the lead role of Simone, the cuckolded merchant.  German soprano Gun-Brit Barkmin, who has won great acclaim for her breathtaking voice and dramatically intense stage presence, makes her COC debut as Simone’s wife, Bianca.  German tenor Michael König, a regular artist with the opera houses of Frankfurt, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Vienna, Barcelona, Madrid and Paris, makes his COC debut as Guido Bardi, Bianca’s lover.

In Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, American bass-baritone Alan Held sings the title role.  As the street-smart peasant Gianni Schicchi, Held is at the heart of this fast-paced comedy inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, in which a family frantically schemes to benefit their own greed when excluded from a wealthy relative’s will.  COC Ensemble Studio soprano Simone Osborne, who has dazzled audiences and critics alike with her recent COC performances as Gilda in Rigoletto and Pamina in The Magic Flute, returns to the mainstage as Schicchi’s daughter, Lauretta, singing one of opera’s best-known arias, “O! mio babbino caro.”

A host of new and familiar faces to the COC are cast as the grieving and greedy family members of the deceased relative, Buoso Donati.  American mezzo-soprano Barbara Dever, in demand throughout the world for her dramatic operatic and concert repertoire, and last with the COC for 2010’s The Flying Dutchman, returns as Zita, Buoso’s cousin.  In the role of Rinuccio, Lauretta’s love and Zita’s nephew, is American tenor René Barbera in his COC debut; a young artist on the rise, Barbera was awarded a First Prize for Opera at Operalia 2011, the Plácido Domingo World Opera Competition, and is a 2008 winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  Ensemble Studio graduate tenor Adam Luther, last heard in the COC’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables, both in Toronto and on tour in New York at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, is Gherardo, Buoso’s nephew, and  German soprano Gun-Brit Barkmin follows her performance in A Florentine Tragedy by singing the role of Nella, Gherardo’s wife.  Young American bass-baritone Craig Irvine makes his COC debut as Betto di Signa, Buoso’s brother-in-law.  Italian bass Donato DiStefano (2011’s La Cenerentola) is Simone, Buoso’s cousin, Ensemble Studio graduate baritone Peter McGillivray (2008’s War and Peace and 2006’s Faust) is Marco, Simone’s son, and Ensemble Studio soprano Rihab Chaieb (2011’s La Cenerentola) is La Ciesca, Marco’s wife.

Rounding out the cast is COC favourite, and Ensemble Studio graduate, baritone Doug MacNaughton as Maestro Spinelloccio, Ensemble Studio bass-baritone Philippe Sly as Ser Amantio di Nicolao, Ensemble Studio bass-baritone Neil Craighead as Pinellino and American bass Valerian Ruminski (Luther in 2012’s The Tales of Hoffmann) as Guccio.

• Single tickets for A Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi are $12 – $318 (includes applicable taxes). 
• Tickets are available online at, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office, located at 145 Queen St. W., Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
• Ask about discounts for Standing Room, Young People, Opera Under 30, Student Group & Rush Seats

CD Release: Putomayo's African Blues April 24

From a media release:

African Blues (Putumayo - April 24, 2012) 
Blues Reunion: African, American and European Musicians Connect and Transform America’s Quintessential Music on Putumayo’s African Blues

This release will be available at Whole Foods, Best Buy, Barnes and Noble and on

The blues has long been about storytelling, about raising a voice from the margins and edges of American life. As it spread from the Deep South to Chicago and beyond, the blues incorporated a powerful musical groove which has influenced music around the world. Now, musicians are reaching across the Atlantic and finding that they have a common story to tell in shades of blue.

Putumayo’s African Blues (Putumayo World Music; release: April 24, 2012) chronicles the return of the blues to its African motherland. It also demonstrates the burgeoning connections between West and East African musicians and performers from the blues’ traditional heartland in the U.S., as well as converts in Europe—and shows how these connections are revolutionizing traditions on both continents.

Taj Mahal, together with the Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar, gets down and deep in a slow-burning meditation on the beauties of Dhow Countries. Mali’s Issa Babayogo brings his characteristic, sparkling knack for gritty, melodic grooves. The ever-evolving Playing for Change band—this time featuring hip desert rockers Tinariwen and Keb Mo—reveals how globally malleable a good old 12-bar blues can be. And as always, the collection is filled with engaging new discoveries like hard-hitting Tuareg singer-songwriter Amar Sundy , unfolding and grooving collaborations like the Belgian-Malian project Kalaban Coura and the unexpected blend of Mali Latino.

“It’s like two halves of a circle,” muses Putumayo head Dan Storper, a passionate collector of music from around the world. “The blues’ roots are in Africa but emerged and evolved as a powerful musical style in America. Now they’re reuniting in new and exciting ways.”

“When we worked on Mali to Memphis, we recognized the powerful connection between the bluesy music of West Africa and the Mississippi Delta,” explains Dan “That began my search for American and African blues and blues-influenced music and led to a series of successful CDs including Mississippi Blues, American Blues and Blues Around the World.”

Storper, a blues fan who lives in New Orleans and his staff found a growing number of collaborative projects based on close musical friendships British guitarist Ramon Goose teamed up with kora (West African bridge-harp) whiz Diabel Cissokho (“Totoumo”), while respected Latin keyboard player and producer Alex Wilson found the sweet spot where Afro-Latin beats and roaring organ lines jive with kora, percussion, and other sounds from West Africa (Mali Latino’s “Ni Koh Bedy”).  

As the various currents of blues have flowed back together—the developments in the U.S. and Europe, and African musicians’ responses to the American blues records that arrived midcentury—a new depth and richness have come to this storied musical form.

“It’s natural since the collaborations between Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo,” reflects Storper. “There’s something magical when two musical cultures collide and bring the best of each world to a song.”

Track Listing:

1.  Mali Latino - Ni Koh Bedy 03:34
2.  Adama Yalomba - Djamakoyo 04:26
3.  Diabel Cissokho & Ramon Goose - Totoumo 04:18
4.  Amar Sundy - Camel Shuffle 02:51
5.  Issa Bagayogo - Djigui 03:26
6.  Taj Mahal Meets the Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar - Dhow Countries 07:47
7.  Kalaban Coura - Mali 05:25
8.  Koudede - Alam'i 02:21
9.  Playing for Change featuring Tinariwen - Groove in G 04:27
10.  Muntu Valdo - Timba 03:11

CD Release & Free Downloads: Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars' Radio Salone

From a media release:

CD Release: Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars' Radio Salone
April 24, 2012 - Cumbancha Records
Playing TD Toronto Jazz Festival July 1, 2012

Our third studio album -- RADIO SALONE -- will be released April 24, 2012!  RADIO SALONE --on CD and limited-edition 2LP vinyl via Cumbancha--  reflects the influence radio has long had on the band. In the pre-TV and Internet days, radio served as the musical connection to the rest of Africa and the world. Long before the war, members of the band were exposed to vintage reggae, Congolese soukouss, American soul, and much more. During the war, radio served as an essential escape from the harsh reality of the refugee camps, bringing news and music.

Produced by roots reggae, soul and Afrobeat guru Victor Axelrod, aka Ticklah, (Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, Amy Winehouse, Easy Star All Stars, Antibalas) and recorded in Brooklyn’s Dunham Studios, Radio Salone marks the Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars' most musically sophisticated collection of songs to date. The album is the follow-up to the band’s 2010 album Rise & Shine, which was the #1 album of the year on the World Music Charts Europe.

RADIO SALONE Official Tracklisting:
1. Chant It Down
2. Gbara Case
3. Mother In Law - FREE DOWNLOAD
4. Goombay Interlude - Rain Come Sun Come
5. Reggae Sounds The Message
6. Mampama
7. Kali
8. Goombay Interlude - Papa Franco
9. Man Muyu
10. Toman Teti M'Ba Akala - (How Would They Know That You Have Money?)
11. Big Fat Dog
12. Goombay Interlude - Shake Your Body
13. Yesu Gorbu (At Jesus' Feet)
14. Work It Brighter
15. Remake The World Again
16. Goombay Interlude - A'Salamaleichem

Produced by Victor "Ticklah" Axelrod at Dunham Studios in Brooklyn.

Sat May 19, 2012 - Joshua Tree Music Festival (Joshua Tree CA)
Thu May 31, 2012 - 7:00 pm Levitt Shell at Overton Park (Memphis TN)
Sun July 01, 2012 - 7:00 pm TD Toronto Jazz Festival (Toronto ON, Canada)
Sat August 04, 2012 - 7:00 pm The Gaia Festival(Laytonville CA)
Sat September 08, 2012 - 7:00 pm Black Swamp Arts Festival (Bowling Green OH)

Malian Blues Diva Khaira Arby April/May 2012 Tour

From a media release:

Malian Blues Diva Khaira Arby - 2012 Tour
• May 3 in New York City
• May 8 in Toronto
See the link for other tour dates April 26 to May 19, 2012

Despite a coup d'etat back home, critically-acclaimed Malian diva Khaira Arby prepares to tour North America carrying her message of peace.  While politics threaten to split her country, Arby's Saharan rock/desert blues champions peace and decries the hardships women face from political violence.  With electric guitars and irresistible percussion, Khaira's indie-rock/desert blues songs echo centuries-old musical traditions.

Returning to North America for a whirlwind April-May tour, Khaira Arby promises to mesmerize audiences with an intensity that flows from her home and from her unique spirit. Cities include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, San Diego, SF Bay Area, and Toronto, as well as the Festival International in Lafayette, LA and the Joshua Tree Festival in Joshua Tree, CA.

Born in a village not far from the famed city of Timbuktu, Arby is firmly planted in the desert sand. Her creativity flows in part from the people of her home region of Northern Mali—the young musicians in her band all hail from Timbuktu—and from their past and present struggles. As Arby puts it, “Trab is our land, our home, Timbuktu. Its history, its mystery, everything…”

Shrouded in regal colors, she presides over a small army of brilliant African musicians, who create a hypnotic backdrop for her gloriously swooping vocals. It feels a little silly to think of her as a frontwoman — the mere lead singer of some band — on the live stage, she's all showmanship and command.
–Stephen Thompson, NPR Music

Arby’s most recent album, Timbuktu Tarab (Clermont Music), shifts seamlessly between the edgy and progressive and the traditional and deeply rooted. Inspired by her cousin Ali Farka Toure, Arby turns to her mixed Berber and Sonrhai roots and draws on a sweet mixture of desert blues and recording sophistication, blending ripping electric guitar with the forefather of the banjo and funky drum breaks with the traditional percussion of the scraper and the calabash.

On “Timbuktu Tarab” (Clermont Music), her singing ricochets against eager backup choruses and lead-guitar lines that can hint at both Hendrix and Ali Farka Touré. Her band, mixing Western and African instruments, clearly knows its rock and reggae but keeps its African perspective, while a sinewy production flaunts every contrapuntal cascade. It’s world music that grabs and doesn’t let go.
– Jon Pareles, New York Times

History runs deep through Arby’s music. “Djaba” is a song about a legendary ancestral Tamashek warrior; it is also an authentic dance in Timbuktu. By reframing and reinterpreting the tale, Arby hopes to not only retell this important story, but also keep the dance alive among younger generations. “Sourgou” recounts the Tamasheks’ struggle against colonial domination, while “Youba” recounts struggles of a more contemporary sort, praising the brave return of salt mine workers by moonlight.

Arby has taken up—and updated—one important role of African women in traditional societies: praise singing. This means bluesy homage to the prophet Mohammed (“Salou”) or to good friends. “Dja Cheickna” praises a beautiful friend of Arby’s from a good family: “May Dja Cheickna live a good life.” The song bursts with funky high-hat, sizzling bass and guitar, and Arby’s stunning yodeling, as age-old hand-clapping rhythms entwine with crunchy distorted guitar.

“Arby is one of Mali's most widely respected female singers and has a powerful style influenced by both southern Malian traditions and Arabic melisma.” – Joe Tangari, Pitchfork

Yet despite deep roots, Arby has long gone her own way, turning the bright compliments and veiled metaphors of traditional female praise and critique into hard-edged calls for change and justice. Her own life, discouraged by relatives who did not approve of her public performances, has honed this message. And like Miriam Makeba and other African divas before her, Arby embraces her power through words.

Arby’s composition process maximizes this and begins with the words themselves, drawing on a theme and developing lyrics from there. For her, the melody, rhythm and accompaniment all come later, highlighting the importance of music as social criticism to her fellow Malians. While she draws on the four languages of her heritage, the true impact of words bursts forth in her strong vocal delivery.

Arby addresses issues both painful and controversial, yet with a profound sense of heart and personal connection. In “Wayidou,” she pleads for the better treatment of women in Mali in general, “Happiness for women is gone. In these times we cannot speak of happiness and light. Why in a country of beautiful women do men go to war?”

In “Feryene,” she speaks out against female circumcision, which has hurt or killed many young Malian women, and continues to be a common practice. “Female excision has caused much suffering and much human loss. I am making people aware so that it ends and so that all Mali fights against it. As a mother I am making my contribution to that effort."

Khaira Arby, singing out and speaking out, has still become a darling of the Malian scene, as she captures the modern buzz of Timbuktu and the lilting pace of the desert sands, a world of movement and flow.

Yet her mind is always on the hope and struggle that guides her songs: “I dream of a recording studio and cultural center in Timbuktu for young talent, and I want to struggle against war, sickness, and poverty by recording albums in all the languages I can. I want to teach the daughters of the world, teach them to think, to value themselves, to sing."

• NYC: She's also playing at the Damrosch Park Bandshell (Lincon Center) August 1, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Classical Pianist Georgy Tchaidze Performs in Toronto April 21 & New York City April 27

From a media release:

Following his critically acclaimed Wigmore Hall debut,
2009 Honens Prize Laureate Georgy Tchaidze performs at Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio on April 21, 2012 & New York City's Carnegie Hall April 27, 2012

– Russian pianist Georgy Tchaidze, winner of the 2009 Honens International Piano Competition, makes his Toronto debut at Glenn Gould Studio on Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 8 p.m.  The all-Russian recital features Medtner’s rarely heard four Fairy Tales Op. 34, Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 4 in C minor Op. 29, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.  Tchaidze is also joined by special guest soprano Dina Kuznetsova to perform Rachmaninov’s Six Romances Op. 38.

• Tickets to the April 21 recital, presented by Roy Thomson Hall, are $29.50 and available online or by calling (416) 872-4255
• Tchaidze’s upcoming engagements include debut recitals at Berlin’s Konzerthaus on April 3, and at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall on April 27.

Russian pianist Georgy Tchaidze is 2009 Prize Laureate of Calgary’s Honens International Piano Competition.  The Telegraph commented on the “fine sensibility and perfectly honed technique” displayed at his Wigmore Hall debut in London in March 2012.  His Honens win allowed him to bring his artistry beyond Russia for performances throughout Europe and North America for the first time. Tchaidze has performed at The International Holland Music Sessions, Switzerland’s Verbier Festival Academy, and played for the Governor General of Canada at the special invitation of The Glenn Gould Foundation. In October 2011 he performed Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with conductor Pinchas Zukerman and the National Arts Centre Orchestra about which the Ottawa Citizen wrote “commendable clarity ... unusually powerful for a performance of so little ostentation.” An avid chamber musician, he has performed across Canada and the United States with Clara-Jumi Kang, Gold Medalist of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, and tours this season with the Cecilia String Quartet, 2010 Banff International String Quartet Competition First Prizewinner. Tchaidze’s debut recording of works by Schubert was released in July 2011 on the Honens label.

Guest artist Russian-American soprano Dina Kuznetsova has attracted the attention of the world’s major opera companies for her outstanding musicianship and compelling stage presence. She is known for her passionate portrayals of the heroines of Slavic, Italian and French opera. Kuznetsova created a sensation at the Glydebourne Festival in 2011 in the title role of Dvořák's Rusalka conducted by Sir Andrew Davis in a revival of the celebrated production by Melly Still. This followed her acclaimed debut at Glydebourne as Alice Ford in Falstaff, conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, a performance now available on DVD.

A passionate recitalist and chamber musician, she has performed often with the New York Festival of Song and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. She made her Carnegie Hall debut at Weill Recital Hall under the auspices of the Marilyn Horne Foundation. A graduate of Oberlin Conservatory, Kuznetsova lives in Ohio with her husband and son.

Honens International Piano Competition is a leader in discovering and launching the careers of young concert pianists.  It searches for Complete Artists – 21st century musicians for 21st century audiences – and, starting in 2012, awards its Laureate the competition world’s largest cash prize ($100,000 CAD) and most comprehensive artistic and career development program.  The Quarterfinals of the Seventh Honens International Piano Competition take place this Spring in Berlin, London, Los Angeles and New York. The Competition culminates with Semifinals and Finals from October 17 to 26, 2012 in Calgary.

Wazu: Neon Electro-Glam From the New York City Scene

From a media release:






- If you’ve been paying attention to the NYC music scene (and you should be!), you know that Brooklyn-based Australian transplants WAZU have been generating heaps of buzz as of late. “Murder 1,” the synth-heavy, post apocalyptic first single from their three song WAZU EP (Anti-Language Recordings) is getting rave reviews. The accompanying video premiered exclusively on Contact Music and was recently featured as Video of the Day on SPINNER.

The track is a glorious, vicious little tease of what’s to come from this male-female duo that appear to have swallowed some of the same sexy electronic pills as The xx, but have regurgitated them in a much more elaborate and foreboding fashion. “Happy Endings,” the second track off the EP produced by the legendary Kevin McMahon (Titus Andronicus, Real Estate, Swans, The Walkmen), is a cynical sing-along that resonates with the lyrics, “take a look at me / I’m living proof / Happy endings don’t have room for two.” Never has heartbreak sounded so enticing and danceable. It is now available for free download.

In their first week of playing together as WAZU, the duo performed seven shows in six nights at the Top 10 “Best of the Fest” Festival at Toronto Indie Week 2010. “We showed up planning to play three shows, but [we] kept winning!” Shortly after, the band performed as part of the CMJ Festival at Lower East Side staple The Living Room, the Neon Reverb Music Festival in Las Vegas, and the Dropout Party at Don Hill’s in NYC. In the past few months WAZU made the Top 3 of the Deli Magazine’s Year End Best of NYC poll for emerging artists in 2011 and the EP has earned the band glowing reviews and promising mentions in In-d Scene UK, Some Kind of Awesome, and Alfitude, to name a few.

Catch WAZU at one scheduled shows listed below, and be on the look out for WAZU’s debut LP, also produced by Kevin McMahon, Summer 2012.

April 22, 2012: Magic Rub Cassettes Event in Atlanta, GA
April 29, 2012: Cameo Gallery in Brooklyn, NY
May 3, 2012: Bugjar in Rochester, NY @ 9pm
May 8, 2012: Boardner’s “Kitty Kitty Bang Bang” in Hollywood, CA
May 24, 2012: Deli Magazine Best of 2011 Festival in Brooklyn, NY

Staged Reading: Susanna Fournier's The Philosopher's Wife April 22 in Toronto

From a media release:

Nightwood Theatre presents a Write from the Hip reading
The Philosopher’s Wife
Written by Susanna Fournier
Directed by Kelly Thornton
Featuring Kelli Fox, Gord Rand and Chala Hunter

Sunday April 22, 2012 at 2:00pm - Nightwood Studio, Suite 315, The Cannery, 55 Mill St., PWYC

Nightwood Theatre is excited to present the first staged reading of Susanna Fournier’s new play The Philosopher’s Wife. The reading will take place on April 22, 2012 at the Nightwood Studio as part of our Writefrom the Hip emerging writers program. Nightwood Theatre is thrilled topresent this reading as an expression of our ongoing commitment to the development of artistic excellence among Canadian writers.

A philosopher caught in the bloody battle between Reason and Faith hires a dog trainer in a final attempt to cure hiswife’s aggressive, violent, and animalistic behaviour. The dog trainer turns out to be a woman working illegally to support her opium addicted brother. A power struggle between the dog trainer and the philosopher boils up as eachcharacter desperately tries to cling to their world even as it hurtles towards complete religious, political, and social upheaval.

Meet the Philosopher—a prolific thinker at the forefront of the atheist movement whose personal life has collapsed into chaos. The Philosopher wants a family but his wife has gone violently mad. In a final attempt to curb his wife's aggressive, volatile, and animalistic behaviour the Philosopher hires a dog trainer. Tereza, working illegally under her opium addicted brother’s name, answers the Philosopher’s call hoping to land the biggest job of her life. A power struggle between Tereza and the Philosopher erupts into murderous violence as each characterdesperately tries to cling to their world as it hurtles towards complete religious, political, and social upheaval.

Nightwood’s Write from the Hip program allowsemerging artists to develop a full-length play. The program assists young playwrights with script development through a series of workshops, mentoring sessions, and hands-on seminars in writing skills and professional play development designed specifically for them.

Write from the Hip is run by AnnaChatterton, Director of Youth Initiatives and Erica Kopyto, Literary Manager and Dramaturg.

Jazz CD Release: Tova Kardonne's The Thing Is April 22 in Toronto

From a media release:

TDJ Special Projects Introduces
Tova Kardonne’s The Thing Is Debut CD Release

Toronto – In the second installment of year-round presentations as part of the TDJ Special Projects, The Thing Is marks its debut full-length release with an art exhibit and performance on April 22 at 918 Bathurst Centre for the Arts.

The Thing Is, led by vocalist and composer, Tova Kardonne, is an eight-piece ensemble that fuses jazz, Balkan, funk and Afro-Cuban music. With off-kilter rhythms and heavy basslines, backed by a horn section, their debut release will showcase Kardonne’s 4-octave vocal range and feature guest appearances by Ted Quinlan and electric bassist, Rich Brown. This will be the group’s first full-length recording since they started performing regularly around Toronto in 2006

With roots in both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi musical traditions, Tova Kardonne has a track record of creating world-inspired jazz composition, reaching back to her days studying Jazz at Humber College . Kardonne regularly performs Bossa Nova, bebop, jazz/fusion and improvisation with various ensembles around Toronto . Her choral and Conservatory training in viola and piano fed into a passion for Jazz and classical, as well as South African, South Indian, Cuban, Brazilian, and Eastern European folk music.

The Thing Is CD Release
Sunday, April 22 – 8pm
918 Bathurst Centre for the Arts
Tickets - $20 at the door

Launched in 2010, TDJ Special Projects was designed to help support the local jazz scene and provide marketing and public relations support to interesting projects. This year’s series is generously supported by JAZZ.FM91. The final upcoming project will be Mike Downes’ premiere of In The Current (May 9).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Flamenco: Esmeralda Enrique 30th Anniversary April 19 - 22

From a media release:

30th Anniversary Celebration Performance of Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company
April 19-22, 2012 at Fleck Dance Theatre Toronto
as part of Harbourfront Centre's NextSteps series.

Choreographer/dancer and Artistic Director Esmeralda Enrique of Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company celebrates 30 years in Canada with the world premiere Aguas / Waters featuring Juan Ogalla of Spain who received the 2011 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Performance for his stellar performance in last season's Espejo de Oro / Mirror of Gold. Runs April 19 to April 22 at Fleck Dance Theatre as part of Harbourfront Centre's NextSteps series.

Flamenco is a living, ever-evolving art, inspired and influenced by the world around us. Dance, song and music express the full range of human emotion from sorrow to joy. Through flamenco we share our life experiences which always come from the heart. The company is joined by guest dancer Juan Ogalla and singers from Spain.

About the company:
The award-winning Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company was founded in 1982 in Toronto under the artistic direction of Esmeralda Enrique. Dedicated and driven, the talented musicians, singers and expressive, powerful dancers perform finely wrought pieces that hold in perfect balance tradition and a modern, contemporary aesthetic. Capturing the essence of flamenco, the Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company never fails to mesmerize their audiences while bringing to life the contagious excitement and full breadth of feelings that this passionate art delivers.

About the choreographer:
Esmeralda Enrique is one of the most celebrated flamenco dance artists in Canada and is lauded internationally as a choreographer and teacher. She has received four Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations. Esmeralda grew up in the flamenco tradition. Her career began when she toured North America with the famous company of José Greco. She has appeared throughout Europe, the Middle East and Mexico with the renowned dance companies of Paco Ruíz, Miguel Sandoval, Antonio del Castillo, Sara Lezana and Cristóbal Reyes. In 1982, Ms. Enrique immigrated to Toronto and founded the Academy of Spanish Dance and the Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company. Undoubtedly, Esmeralda’s spirit and energy over the last 30 years have helped make flamenco a vibrant and integral part of dance in Canada.

The performance on Friday, April 20 features an artist talk-back!

• Photo of Esmeralda Enrique by John Lauener
• Photo of Juan Ogalla by Hamid Karimi
• Esmeralda Enrique & Juan Ogalla by Hamid Karimi
• Photo Palmas with Juan Ogalla (in back), Esmeralda Enrique (in front) and the company  by Hamid Karimi

Tickets: $25-$43 (Discounts for students, seniors, CADA and NextSteps subscribers)
Box Office:  416-973-4000 or visit

At Tribeca: Storyline Ent's The World Before Her April 19 to 25


Storyline Entertainment's
The World Before Her
Wins Tribeca Award

(Toronto – April 27, 2012)  The 11th annual Tribeca Film Festival, co-founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff, announced last night, the winners of its competition categories at a ceremony hosted at the Conrad New York in New York City.

For the first time, Tribeca’s documentary competition section designated an opening night film and selected Storyline Entertainment’s The World Before Her with the honour. There were a total of 12 films as part of the Documentary Competition.

Director Nisha Pahuja was in New York City at the ceremony to collect her award which also came with cash amount of $25,000.

Jury Comments: "With unprecedented access, great compassion, and a keen eye for the universal, this year's winner takes a hard and clear-eyed look at the trials of growing up female in today's fast-changing world. Following young women who have taken diametrically opposed decisions on how to tackle the influence of global forces in their communities, the filmmaker takes us on a journey to examine how the pressures of faith, fashion, and family are bringing up a generation of women who are desperately searching for meaning amidst a reality of few real choices."

From a media release:

Storyline Entertainment
The World Before Her
directed by Nisha Pahuja
World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival
Opening the World Documentary Competition

Director: Nisha Pahuja
Producers:  Cornelia Principe, Nisha Pahuja
Editor: David Kazala
DOP: Mrinal Desai, Derek Rogers
Executive Producers: Ed Barreveld, Andy Cohen
Production Company:  Storyline Entertainment

April 19 to 25, 2012 - Check screening dates & times at the link

(Toronto) A vivid portrayal of culture clash between beauty pageantry and Hindu religious extremism, The World Before Her has earned Toronto’s Storyline Entertainment the distinctive opening spot of the World Documentary Competition at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday April 19, 2012, which will be the film’s World Premiere.

Via unprecedented access, The World Before Her contrasts the wide-eyed ambitions of 20 hand-picked contestants determined to win the Miss India pageant, and the behind-the-scenes reality of Hindu fundamentalist camps for young girls that are run by the women’s wing of a militant movement.

“This film has been my life for a couple of years,” says director Nisha Pahuja, “and I’m so proud of showing it to the world. There couldn’t be a better place to kick-start this off in, then at Tribeca, and to have The World Before Her open the World Documentary Competition, is truly an honour.”

“We worked hard to make this film,” adds Storyline Entertainment’s Executive Producer Ed Barreveld, “and premiering at Tribeca will be a feather in the film’s cap.”

The film sees 20 young women from across India arrive in Bombay for a month-long beauty boot camp, where winning the coveted title would mean instant stardom, a lucrative career path, and freedom from the constraints of a patriarchal society. It is the ultimate glamour event in a country that has gone mad for beauty contests.

But as its popularity has exploded, so have the protests rejecting it as decadent. As the pageant unfolds, director Nisha travels to another corner of India to visit an annual camp for young girls run by the Durgha Vahini, a leader of the women’s wing of a militant fundamentalist movement. Through lectures and physical combat training, the girls learn what it means to be “good” Hindu women and how to fight corrupting outside influences by any means necessary. This is the first time that a film crew has been able to enter these camps.

The contrast between the vehement determination of the pageant contestants to obtain a title that could change their lives forever, and the passionate desire of the camp leaders to fight and even die for their beliefs, is at times overpowering.  Nisha has effectively balanced both these perspectives through a provocative portrait of the world’s largest democracy at a critical transitional moment.

Grammy Award Winner Mark S Doss Returns to Opera Tampa April 20 & 22

From a media release:

Grammy Award winner Mark S. Doss returns to Opera Tampa in Aida

Tampa, Florida – April, 2012 – Global opera star and Grammy Award winner Mark S. Doss returns to Opera Tampa as Amonasro in Aida on April 20 and 22, 2012 at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. Mr. Doss most recently performed with Opera Tampa as a guest artist at A Night of Stars, held in February 2011 to honor Placido Domingo, and as Mephistopheles in Faust in April 2009.

Composed by Giuseppe Verdi, the opera tells the tale of Ethiopian Princess Aida, who is captured and brought into slavery in Egypt. Radames, the Egyptian military commander, is torn by his love for Aida and his duty to the Pharaoh, with tragic consequences for both.

“I am delighted to be returning to Opera Tampa,” states Mr. Doss. “I have performed under the baton of Maestro Coppola many times, and I recall with great pleasure that it has been 21 years since we first collaborated together on The Barber of Seville. Next came The Marriage of Figaro, Tosca, Faust, the Domingo Gala, and now Verdi’s Aida.”

Amonasro is one of Mr. Doss’ signature roles, which he began performing some 14 years ago. His interpretation of the Ethiopian King continues to bring him to the stages of leading opera houses around the world, including a commanding debut at the Vienna State Opera and performances at the renowned Teatro alla Scala in Milan and London’s Covent Garden. Over the years, critics have praised Mr. Doss’ work as Amonasro, which is a powerful role that requires a singing actor. Opera News called his portrayal “compelling” and Reviewer Ltd. (UK) applauded his work on the Aida DVD recorded live in Brussels, recognizing “another fine performance” in which Mr. Doss was able to "subtly break free of the 'stand and deliver' directions and create a huge amount of emotion in his face and voice.”

Mr. Doss arrives in Tampa after starring as the bass soloist in Handel’s Do-It-Yourself Messiah in Chicago, as Thoas in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Iphigenia in Tauris (Iphigenie en Tauride), and after a comprehensive run of Master Classes and recitals. Mr. Doss was also recently awarded Planet Africa’s 2011 Entertainment Award, recognizing his many achievements in the performing arts, and for serving as a positive role model for youths. The celebrated bass-baritone has performed over 60 roles with 55 of the world’s most prestigious opera houses.

Following his run with Opera Tampa, Mr. Doss’ upcoming performances include The Cantor in Bloch’s Sacred Service with the United Nations Association Choir in Houston, Texas, Paul Rayment in the World Premiere of Nicolas Lens’ opera Slow Man in Poznan, Poland, the Title Role in Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman with Teatro Regio Torino (Oct. 2012), and The Four Villains in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann with Opera Tokyo (Nov./Dec. 2013).

You can connect with Mark S. Doss through his Facebook fan page or follow him @marksdoss