Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Rosedale Winds in Concert November 9 2013 in Toronto

From a media release:

The Rosedale Winds blow into Canadian Music Centre with their first concert of the 2013/2014 Season
Saturday, November 9, 2013
3 pm Canadian Music Centre (20 St. Joseph Street, Toronto)
Tickets: $20 Regular (Includes a drink) - Available at the door

Toronto, ON –
The young, fresh, and vibrant Rosedale Winds specialize in innovative concerts that showcase a wide array of classical music and intrigue audiences of all ages. For this upcoming concert, the Rosedale Winds present exciting music in a convivial atmosphere. Taking place at the Canadian Music Centre’s intimate performance venue in downtown Toronto, the event will engage your mind with the composer’s cultural expressions.

In this program, the Rosedale Winds present music inspired by popular literature such as Gabriel Garcias Marquez’s 100 years of Solitude and Ambrose Bierce's Devil’s Dictionary. The program features Canadian composers, Wolfgang Heinz Otto Bottenberg, Toronto’s own Gary Kulesha, and American composer, Judai Adashi.

In addition, the program will include Judai Adashi’s Songs and Dances of Macondo accompanying excerpts of text from 100 Years of Solitude to give you a unique perspective on the widely acclaimed novel in a special musical setting. The Rosedale Winds are also going to play one of Canada’s most celebrated chamber works, Bagatelles from the Devil’s Dictionary for Woodwind Quintet.  In this piece, Kulesha musically depicts Bierce’s witty definitions from The Devil’s Dictionary, such as dictator, idiot and cynic. Come take a glimpse into the modern composer’s view of the culture around us.

Sarah Yunji Moon - Flute
Marc Gibbons - Oboe
Mara Plotkin - Clarinet
Alicia Bots - Bassoon
Iris Krizmanic – Horn

The Rosedale Winds, Toronto’s new dynamic woodwind quintet comprises five enthusiastic young professionals. The Rosedale Winds formed at the National Academy Orchestra of the Brott Music Festival in 2012. Our mission is to explore and expand contemporary woodwind quintet repertoire by collaborative projects, commissioning new works, and educational outreach. The Rosedale Winds believe in enthusiastic communication between the performers and the audience. We strongly support Canadian composers by actively programming their music in our concert events.

Our goal for the 2013-2014 concert season is to promote the hidden gems of Canadian contemporary wind quintet music that are audience accessible, witty and creative. We present our concert with the generous support of the Toronto Arts Council and SOCAN foundation.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Jazz CD Release: Richard Bennett's New York City Swara & Free Performance November 7 2013 in Brooklyn

With material from a media release:

Jazz CD Release: Richard Bennett's New York City Swara
(Times Music - October 11, 2013)

November 7, 2013 - Tea Lounge, 837 Union St - Brooklyn
Tix: $FREE, Show: 8pm
CD release show as part of Brooklyn Raga Massive!

Buy the music here

Even without reading the PR material to know what a swara is or speaking to New York City based jazz pianest Richard Bennett, the influence of classical Indian music on his latest release is obvious. It appears as an organic thread of the music and in varying degrees, from the driving straight up jazz of How Brooklyn Sounds to the Indian steeped Savage Garden. "How Brooklyn Sounds is the freeest adaptation. It's taking it to the limit of the raga and still staying inside the raga," says Richard.

He's known for incorporating many influences into his compositions, including his work as part of a Greek traditional band, New Orleans second-line pianist, and leader of his own eclectic trio at Japanese jazz club, among other experiences. "It can be a little bit like a set of ingredients for cooking," he says. Indian music in particular has a certain public perception along with the sonic possibilities. "It's been found as very 'New Age' in the West and I was trying to avoid it."

Bennett’s precise, sparkling piano and intriguing melodica (featured on several tracks) contrast beautifully with the equally prominent, sinuous lines of young NYC-based South Indian violinist Arun Ramamurthy, over the shifting support of upright bassist Gaku Takanashi, the simmering tabla of Naren Budhkar, and the crack jazz drumming of Michael Wimberly. Budhkar is an integral part of the album's sound and has played with Bennett in India and throughout the U.S.

A swara is an individual note. In Indian classical music, the emphasis is on playing each note until you are done with it rather than focusing on the progression of notes as in Western music. It's a minimalist approach that Richard explores throughout the albums tracks. Raga actually means odour or hue, indicating the emphasis on how the notes are played rather than the pitch alone. He uses classical Indian ragas like the Call of the Swan Raga as a starting point. "It's a raga known for melodic development and you can hear it on the first two tracks."

Despite his history of cross cultural experimentation, Richard didn't necessarily have his own music on his mind when he initially went to India. Richard first landed in Mumbai when his jazz vocalist wife Paula Jeanine went to India to study with renowned singer Dhanashree Pandit-Rai - an artist who later ended up a collaborator. "I went to concerts every night. The concerts are free in India," he says. "I was immediately meeting other musicians and playing with them."

He joined his wife as a student of Indian classical music. "I studied in India - on the voice," he says. "(My teacher) really didn't speak any English, so we didn't waste any time talking. They sing and you sing back. You don't stick at one space; you are constantly going on to the next level. In Indian music, if you're a great singer, you know pretty much everything there is to know." He points out that this comes in contrast to Western music, where a composer needs to know piano or guitar - not just voice - to fully comprehend musical structures. When it comes to composition, he immerses himself in the sound. "It's not just like listening to a tape here and there. When I'm learning a raga, it's playing all day. This is my world and I'm inside of it."

His collaborations with local musicians ended up as playing gigs - with one issue unique to the area. "I played keyboards at first," he remembers. "They don't have a lot of piano culture. When I got bigger and was playing concerts, no matter where it was, they always rented the same piano." This latest release, recorded last year, is his first on a major label in India.

Images by Paula Jeannine Bennett

Alanis Obomsawin's NFB documentary opens November 1, 2013 at TIFF Bell Lightbox Director in attendance Nov. 1 and 2

From a media release:


Alanis Obomsawin's NFB documentary opens November 1, 2013 at TIFF Bell Lightbox
Director in attendance Nov. 1 and 2

Tickets here

 Toronto - Though young Shannen Koostachin died tragically in 2010, her dream did not.

In 2008, Shannen was a 14-year-old student in the Northern Ontario Cree village of Attawapiskat, leading a campaign for a proper school in her community - a community that was stunned when she was killed in a car accident.

But children were determined to continue her fight; and so "Shannen's Dream" would grow into a remarkable national movement that called for fairness in education for all.

Legendary filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin's latest National Film Board of Canada (NFB) documentary Hi-Ho Mistahey!, which opens theatrically at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Friday, November 1, follows Shannen's Dream as it brings together the voices of those calling for better First Nations schools across Canada - taking their campaign all the way to the United Nations. Obomsawin will attend on November 1 and 2 for introductions and post-screening Q&As.

With Hi-Ho Mistahey!, Canada's pre-eminent Aboriginal filmmaker has once again turned her lens on the Attawapiskat First Nation, whose housing crisis was the focus of her 2012 NFB documentary The People of the Kattawapiskak River. Hi-Ho Mistahey! was produced by Alanis Obomsawin and executive produced by Ravida Din.

At its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this fall, Hi-Ho Mistahey! was runner-up for the People's Choice Documentary Award. It also played to a packed house at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, with Torontoist film critic Angelo Muredda calling the film "intelligent and moving ­ - capturing the emotional highs and lows along the way as ordinary children become active agents in the fight for their rights and educational futures."

From Nacional Records: New Video from Ritmo Machine featuring Sen Dog - Senny Sosa

Ritmo Machine feat. Sen Dog - Senny Sosa 
Video by Piero Medone

Wanted to share this great new video by Ritmo Machine ft. Sen Dog of Cypress Hill - the video premiered this week at Okayplayer. This has been one of my favourite groups and releases since Welcome to the Ritmo Machine was released about two years ago.

Ritmo Machine's 'Welcome to the Ritmo Machine' available on
Amazon CD

Friday, October 25, 2013

Art Toronto International Art Fair - October 25 to 28 2013

With material from a media release:

Art Toronto International Art Fair
Friday October 25th to Monday October 28th, 2013
Friday & Saturday - Noon to 8pm
Sunday & Monday - Noon to 6pm

Loch Gallery - Record Sales at Opening Night of Art Toronto
Gallery sells more than $3-million during first night of the annual art fair

TORONTO - Art Toronto got off to a strong start Thursday evening as Loch Gallery sold more than $3 million in paintings.

A rare masterpiece by Edwin Holgate executed in 1939 was one of the first paintings to sell shortly after the doors opened to the public.  Great Bug Pond, Cache River, a 26" x 30"oil on canvas, is a magnificent landscape painted at the peak of the artist's career.

The auction record for a Holgate was set five years ago when Near Amiens sold at Heffel for $575,000. Loch Gallery can confirm the sale of Great Bug Pond, Cache River surpassed the 2008 record.

Additional sale highlights included Winter Sunset, Algonquin Park by Tom Thomson, Northern Sketch XXVII by Lawren Harris and The Young Botanist by Paul Peel. (pictured below)

I had an opportunity to check out the show myself during a preview and it's become an annual ritual for me that I look forward to each October with lots to discover.

Thom Sokoloski's work will greet you as you mount the escalator. His installation (completed with the help of immigrant kids from at risk neighbourhoods) features portraits of all the artists presented (nearly 1,000).

The 15 short list winners of the RBC painting competition are displayed in the VIP lounge, with the three finalists out front. This year's winner, Colleen Heslin, has produced a piece that incorporates textile arts, photographic references and a fusion of past and present in terms of theme and style.

Colleen will be attending the fair and it's a real endorsement to the quality of the emerging artists who apply for the award (600+ this year) that many former entrants and finalists are represented among the exhibiting artists year after year; (you'l find those works labeled as such if you're interested). Colleen's gotten some buzz from several dealers already.

The red exhibitor signs indicate an "emerging gallery" and it's another sign of a developing art world that many galleries have transitioned over the years from the emerging to the mainstream gallery category, like galerie antoine ertaskran, who opened only 18 months ago but who's come to be a force in the Montreal art world.

That's what's cool about the Toronto International Art Fair - it gives you a great snapshot view of the contemporary art world across the globe.

Some notables:

The Corkin Gallery (Toronto) is featuring a new David Urban painting along with other striking work like Cuban artist Ramón Serrano's haunting paintings and Barbara Astman's often amusing photographic studies of our media obsession.

Zemack Contemporary Art (Tel Aviv, Israel) features some very nifty scuoptures by Eran Shakine and other very contemporary pieces. (pictured)

UCCA (Beijing, China) - I love the hip, entertaining sensibility of this gallery and apparently they love the art collectors of Toronto enough to make this return visit. (pictured below right)

The Toronto Life Instant Coffee space for relaxation looks fab. C Magazine will be holding some conversations and other events there.

Stephen Bulger Gallery (Toronto) is featuring some interesting work by Allison Rossiter. She's collected some old, unopened film that she develops to work with the found results. Sometimes there's the ghost of an image and sometimes it's just the patina of the paper. The pieces are stark and quite dramatic.

Being a fine art model myself, I appreciated the wonderful figurative pieces of Alison Lambert at the Jill George Gallery (London, UK). They represent a really nice combination of technical skill and expressiveness.

Atena Estudio (Mexico City, Mexico) is showing some very cool pieces including a dazzling series of ornamental skulls by various artists.

Miriam Shiell Fine Art (Toronto) is featuring a nice collection of Modernist pieces by the likes of Jack Bush, Sam Francis (pictured below left)) and Paterson Ewen.

Christopher Cutts Gallery (Toronto) is showing some large paintings by Xiao Guo Hui. His work blends obvious influences of the Italian Renaissance masters, mixed with Chinese influences and done in egg tempera.

Messem's Fine Art (London, UK) is featuring the "discovered" works of Michael Forster, a Canadian who retired to Cornwall to paint and is virtually unknown in this country.  Messem's, which is handling his estate, aims to change all that.

AXA is an art insurer and their interesting exhibit this year features a series of prints of artist Ai Weiwei (cleverly, just in time for the end of his show at the AGO) which were damaged by Hurricane Sandy last year. An AXA rep mentioned their payout was over $40 million, most of it to households in Chelsea, as these were - the prints rolled up in a flooded basement.

The MOCCA fundraiser this year is a work by Sarah Anne Johnson, a print in the Gold Box series that features hand applied gold leaf (they run for $2,200).

There's lots more of course and the show continues to Monday.

• Thanks to Art Sy, you can also explore the show online at

More pics:


From last year's show:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

CD Release: Rebeca Vallejo's Azúcar, Canela - Release Party October 27 2013 in New York City

From a media release:

CD Release: Rebeca Vallejo Mixes Up an Unexpected Sangria of Sound on Azúcar, Canela
(World Music Boutique - October 1, 2013)
Album Release Party October 27, 2013 at dRom - New York City

Buy the CD here

Sangria. It’s the Spanish national drink, a refreshing mix of wine, fruit, sugar, and brandy that’s been copied, around the world. But no one makes it like a native. Singer Rebeca Vallejo, born and raised in Madrid, understands that very well.

“My friends say they know my sangria as soon as they taste it,” she says. “It’s the kind of drink where anything goes, but as well as sugar, I use cinnamon as an ingredient. That’s my personal touch to sangria.”

But the music on her new album, Azúcar, Canela (which translates to “sugar, cinnamon”), is like her sangria, always Spanish but open to possibilities. Vallejo begins a U.S. tour October 13 with a New York City release party on October 27, 2013 with the support of SPAIN arts & culture ( The songs include a unique mix, immediately identifiable, drawing on her deep immersion in jazz, Brazilian music and the flamenco of her ancestors and always with that very personal, and very Spanish, flavor. It’s there not just in the vocals, but bedded deep, in the layers of sharp, inimitable flamenco rhythms that propel the music, the palmas (handclaps) and Vallejo’s own finger-snapping and body percussion.

That signature blend shines in her compositions. “Despertar” fires with the raw street energy of Brazil, powered by accordion, but the cajón and clapping put a swing behind Vallejo’s jazz phrasing. The parade of pain that inhabits “El Ciego Sol” finds an African rhythm and flamenco – inspired by a Spanish Easter procession walking hand in hand with the blues while “Canicas” is a trip back to the simple joys of that Madrid childhood.

“I find a certain pleasure in nostalgia, in the bittersweet and romantic,” Vallejo admits. “But that’s nostalgia used as a trampoline, not as a hammock! If I write about love it’s usually not in a happy way. ‘No Sabes,’ for instance, is an adaptation of ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is.’ That’s the dramatic Spaniard in me.”

But that track is just one of three adventurous interpretations on the album. “Verde Sobre Azul” offers her take on Miles Davis’s classic “Green and Blue,” while “Cravo E Canela” is sung in homage to one of Vallejo’s musical heroes, Milton Nascimento.

“I love Milton,” she explains. “His album, Clube da Esquina, was life-changing. And the song…a woman of clove and cinnamon, spoke to me. It was my grandmother. And it has a flamenco feel that I took full-on by adding a traditional flamenco rhythm called bulería.”

Flamenco. It was always there, even if Vallejo never fully appreciated it then. Both her grandparents and their ancestors had sung it As soon as she was old enough she left Madrid to go to university in Swansea, Wales (“Manic Streets Preachers went there. They were one of my favorite bands at the time”), where she sang professionally for the first time, and an event happened that would change her entire future - after the gig a friend gave her an Ella Fitzgerald compilation. “She was sure I’d like it,” Vallejo remembers. “ I did; it’s what made me become a jazz singer. I knew I needed to study jazz.”

For her there was only one place to be: New York. A city to absorb jazz, to breathe it in where it lived.

Soon her sets in Manhattan clubs were incorporating the bossa novas she’d learned from her professional vocalist mother. They were well-received, so Vallejo added sambas to her repertoire. The more she performed Brazilian music, the more she came to love it. Finally she realized that she had to make a pilgrimage to Brazil. “I needed that, to internalize it, the rhythms, the language, the styles of singing and phrasing, the different genres, the culture, the traditions, the food…” Everything.

With that trip, she had both jazz and Brazilian music under her belt. But Rebeca Vallejo was about to return to her flamenco roots, thanks to an unlikely catalyst.

“I had a Greek bass player,” she recalls. “He was playing a lot of flamenco and started teaching us the rhythms and I felt the call back to flamenco I began listening to the music properly, and someone contacted me to sing for a flamenco dance company. I was so nervous before I went onstage! I worked with them for a couple of years but people said I didn’t sound traditional.” Hearing about a flamenco school in Sevilla, Spain, she contacted them and was offered a scholarship for a one-month intensive course.

“My teacher was in his seventies and very traditional. He kept trying to kick me into the non-Spanish class but I fought him on it. The very last day I did one of the pieces we’d learned, but instead of using the lyrics, I sang the melody of the song trying to imitate a saxophone; he finally got it. But I needed to learn the tradition to be able to do my own thing.”

All the pieces were in place and the woman who’d felt frustrated “because I could never sound like a jazz singer, a Brazilian singer or a flamenco singer” understood that this mix of styles was what made her music unique. Unique not only as a composer but as a singer with her mix of vocal techniques.

But one more factor crept into the mix. She performed a show with a pianist and her long-time percussionist David Silliman, but without a bass player.

“The first gig the three of us did, it sounded good,” she says. “We played more and it worked. It makes an original statement and we’ve created a sound of our own.” After experimenting with different pianists she began working with George Dulin, and, with Silliman, they’re the core band on Azúcar, Canela. But still no bass.“It’s an irony,” she laughs, “because I love bass. Basslines are the first thing I hear when I’m writing!”

It’s her sangria. Anything goes.

“Although I consider myself a jazz musician and jazz places a lot of importance on the concept of harmony, music,” she notes, “is essentially rhythm and melody.” With Azúcar, Canela, Rebeca Vallejo gives us a feast of both. A sangria of music. But with sugar and cinnamon, of course.

Opera Atelier Season 2013/14: Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio Oct. 26 – Nov. 2, 2013 & Lully’s Persée Apr. 26 – May 3, 2014

From a media release:

2013-2014 season features the return of two jewels in Opera Atelier’s crown
- Plus an engagement at the Palace of Versailles, France -
Season Kicks Off with Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio - October 26 to November 2, 2013


(Toronto, ON) –
Opera Atelier’s founding co-artistic directors Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg are about to launch the company’s 2013-2014 season, which will include a return engagement at the Royal Opera House in the Palace of Versailles. The spring 2014 production of Lully’s Persée will travel to Versailles for three performances, following its run at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto (Apr. 26 – May 3, 2014). The 13-14 season will kick off in October with the return of Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio (Oct. 26 – Nov. 2, 2013), the runaway hit from Opera Atelier’s 2008 season.

Persée is a landmark production for Opera Atelier. The company’s 2000 production was the first fully staged incarnation of the opera since it inaugurated the Royal Opera House at Versailles in 1770 during the wedding celebrations of the future King Louis XVI to Marie Antoinette. Opera Atelier’s 2004 remount of Persée was the subject of a documentary which has subsequently become an international calling card for Opera Atelier, both for the public and for presenters around the world.

From Opera Atelier's 2004 production:

Following the astounding success of Armide in 2012, The Royal Opera House has invited Opera Atelier back to Versailles with Persée, which will mark the first time the opera has appeared on that stage since 1770. Persée will be performed three times at The Royal Opera House, Versailles on May 23, 24, and 25, 2014. This prestigious engagement has allowed Opera Atelier to enhance Persée’s visual elements, making it the company’s most lavish production to date. The moving story of a man’s ascension from his questionable beginnings to his rightful place as a god, Persée is a retelling of the classical Greek Perseus myth.

“Persée was recognized in its day as the crowning achievement ofFrench lyric theatre,” say Pynkoski and Zingg. “We are honoured that Opera Atelier has been chosen as the company to bring Persée back to the Royal Opera House, which it officially opened almost 250 years ago.”

The role of Persée will be performed by Chris Enns making his Opera Atelier debut with his first haute-contre role. Mireille Asselin will take on the role of Andromède, whose rival Mérope will be played by Peggy Kriha Dye, who returns to Versailles after her star turn as Armide. They are joined by Olivier Laquerre (Céphée/Méduse) Carla Huhtanen (Cassiope), João Fernandes (Phinée), Lawrence Wiliford, Curtis Sullivan, Aaron Ferguson, Meghan Lindsay and Vasil Garvanliev. Persée runs April 26, 27, 29, 30 and May 2 and 3, 2014 and is sung in French with English surtitles.

Opera Atelier’s 2013-2014 season begins with Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio, a colourful comedy that tells of the charming antics of Belmonte and Pedrillo, a master and servant who must rescue their beloveds from the harem of the Pasha Selim. A revival of Opera Atelier’s highly successful production, this opera features some of Mozart’s most demanding arias and is grounded in the commedia dell’arte tradition, making it the perfect showcase for our artists’ vocal prowess and comedic acting chops. Appealing to children, youth and families, Abduction from the Seraglio is part of Opera Atelier’s ongoing commitment to cultivate the opera-lovers of tomorrow.

Abduction from the Seraglio will feature Lawrence Wiliford as Belmonte, Ambur Braid as Konstanze, Carla Huhtanen as Blondie, and Adam Fischer as Pedrillo. They will be joined by Gustav Andreassen (Osmin) and Curtis Sullivan (Pasha Selim), reprising their roles. Abduction from the Seraglio runs October 26, 27, 29, 30, November 1 and 2 and is sung in German with English dialogue and English surtitles.

Abduction from the Seraglio and Persée will be directed by Marshall Pynkoski and choreographed by Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, with set design by GerardGauci and lighting design by Bonnie Beecher. Both productions will feature the Artists of Atelier Ballet and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir under the baton of David Fallis.

• Performances for Opera Atelier’s 2013-2014 Season will take place at the Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge Street) in Toronto with evening performances at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinee performances at 3:00 p.m. 
• Subscriptions start at $95 and are on sale now by calling 416-703-3767 x222. Single tickets go on sale on August 6, 2013.
• For more information visit Opera Atelier’s newly re-launched website:

CD Release & Live Dates: Salaam's Train to Basra

From a media release:

The Train to Basra: Salaam Plays Music from the Middle East of the Heart
Train to Basra and Other Stories
Tour dates: October 25, 2013 in Washington, October 26 in New York City, October 28 in Boston

A locomotive whistle sounds out across the desert, long and lonesome, and the engine gathers steam. Men ride on the roof of the carriage, their laughter spilling out into the night. Curled up on the luggage rack, a young boy on his first train trip alone is too excited to sleep, listening to all the voices and watching the faces, the stunning bride returning from a trip to gather her dowry, a striking and friendly family of African-Iraqis. He knows he’ll remember every moment of this journey from Baghdad to Basra. He did, and many years and miles away it became the bedtime story he told his daughter, and the inspiration for Salaam’s new album, Train to Basra and Other Stories (release: October 29, 2013).

“It’s my childhood,” explains Dena El Saffar, the daughter who grew up hearing this and similar tales and became the founder of Salaam with percussionist Tim Moore. “It’s the story my father would always tell me. It made me interested in Iraq,” El Saffar remembers.

His tales have become hers. Every track is a story she weaves, from the hopeful strains of “Awakening” and the grand sweep of “Kashaniya” to the personal connection that inspired “Iraqi-American Blues,” a track that builds on the innovative Iraqi-Blues fusion that emerged on their previous album.

“It came completely spontaneously,” El Saffar laughs. “Growing up in Chicago, my parents would take us to Blues clubs like the Checkerboard Lounge on the South Side. We were under 21, but somehow we were allowed in. We were thrilled to be there, taking in the music. My brother Amir was obsessed with it. My dad felt a connection to African-Americans, so this is me expressing how it fits together.” Her brother Amir ElSaffar is a frequent collaborator with Salaam and is also known for his solo work on jazz trumpet and santoor and as programmer for New York City’s Alwan for the Arts, which presents performing arts from around the Middle East.

Train to Basra and Other Stories is the album where Salaam really spreads its wings and takes flight, one that celebrates the band’s 20th anniversary—a remarkable achievement for any band—and how deeply they’ve assimilated Middle Eastern music to the point where it’s become second nature. On “Kashaniya,” an ode to an idealized Middle East, El Saffar, classically trained on viola and violin, brings in sweeping strings to power the rich melody.

“It was like writing for an orchestra, big sounds,” she says. “It would be great to perform this live with a full orchestra one day.” Other songs on the album are more intimate.

That intimacy and understanding shimmers on “Joza Tears,” which features El Saffar on joza, the Iraqi spiked fiddle.

“The name joza means little coconut; a coconut shell is the resonator. To the west of Iraq it’s called the rebab, to the east the kamancheh. My brother brought me one back from Iraq. Sometimes it sounds like a person weeping. Iraqi history is full of weeping. Hearing Iraqis sing their songs, it’s like the Blues; there is a lot of heartbreak.” On “Joza Tears” she encapsulates that sorrow in the music.

The track began with just El Saffar and Moore. “If our other compositions are nods to Ethiopian music, the Blues, and Mariachi, this is our nod to electronic production as we layered and looped live drums and electric bass.,” Moore explains. El Saffar composed the rhythm and the bassline and then brought Moore into the studio on her dad's birthday. “Those special days have extra magic,” El Saffar explains, “so I try to compose and record on them when I can.” The rhythm line became a bed for her to improvise on the joza and add her melodic stamp, flowing from one Iraqi maqam (traditional music scale) to another.

Salaam has put their own fingerprint on the music they’ve played from their earliest days, when they were still exploring Middle Eastern music. It’s been part of a process of discovery that started in 1990, when El Saffar went to visit family in Iraq.

“I brought my viola and played Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, based on the Arabic collection One Thousand and One Nights. It was the closest thing I knew to Middle Eastern music. Then they played a tape of Iraqi music and asked me to play the melody. When I did their response was so enthusiastic, some of them getting up to dance…That was all the encouragement I needed. I was going to go back but then after the invasion of Kuwait it became impossible. I was so stimulated; it set me on this path. It changed my life. Back home, though, Iraqi music was hard to come by, so I listened to and played other Middle Eastern music. My brother eventually acquired thousands of Iraqi recordings and shared them.”

Now the music has become ingrained in her, and she’s telling her own stories. Perhaps none is stranger than “The Mariachi Stole My Heart,” where Mexico and the Middle East unite in the glorious declaration of the melody by the trumpet. “Not all my songs have protagonists, but that one does and it’s Amir’s trumpet.” At its core, the foundation of the tale is the connection the music makes in El Saffar’s heart.

“I love finding connections,” says El Safaar. “In Mexico, I felt like I could be in Morocco. I lived in Mexico for a semester in college and I feel close to the country in a lot of ways. The music there affects me. On my last trip there, I hired a Mariachi band and when they found out I played violin, they put an instrument in my hands and we played together. They just gathered around me and played and it overwhelmed me.”

But El Saffar’s most personal story lies in the final cut, “Mesopotamia,” which chronicles the way her understanding of her father’s homeland has grown.

“In the liner notes, I talk about what we learned in history class when I was at school. No one ever said Mesopotamia was Iraq. Going there, I fell in love with the history and I realized they could have made the subject more exciting.”

That’s exactly what Salaam does when they get invited to present Middle Eastern music and culture to thousands of school children. “I’ll never forget when we went to a school in Kentucky right around the time the U.S. was going to war with Iraq,” El Saffar remembers. “The children spontaneously began clapping along with our music. It was a visceral reaction that went far beyond the conflict that was going on between governments. I’ve connected to so many people across cultures through music and story and, whether through our compositions and recordings or through educational programs, that’s our contribution to the world.”

Stories have magic. They both transport us and show the common ground we all share. And with the tales on Train to Basra and Other Stories, Salaam takes the listener to the Middle East of the heart and soul.

U.S. East Coast Dates:
October 24, 2013

Washington, DC - Busboys and Poets - 2021 14th St NW
Ph: (202) 387-7638

October 26, 2013
New York, NY - Alwan For The Arts - 16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
Tix: $15/$20, Show: 8:00 pm
Ph: (646) 732 3261

October 28, 2013
Boston, MA - The Lily Pad - 1353 Cambridge St.

Images by Mike Lee

MOonhORsE Dance Theatre Presents Escape Artist October 25 to November 2 2013 in Toronto

From a media release:

MOonhORsE Dance Theatre presents the world premiere of
Escape Artist
An evening of solos performed by Claudia Moore
choreographed by Paul-André Fortier, Susanna Hood, Christopher House and Gadfly

October 25 to November 2, 2013

• Tickets - PWYC on Hallowe'en

Toronto -
MOonhORsE Dance Theatre proudly presents the world premiere of Escape Artist, an exquisite evening of solos performed by Artistic Director Claudia Moore that she commissioned from acclaimed choreographers Paul-André Fortier, Susanna Hood, Christopher House and GADFLY (Apolonia Velasquez and Ofilio Portillo) in celebration of her 60th birthday.  Escape Artist runs October 25-November 2 at Dancemakers Centre for Creation.

"The title, Escape Artist," says Moore, "refers to my delight at 'escaping' into the worlds of the dances I perform. My father called me 'fantasy girl' as a child and my vivid imagination continues to be a great ally to me as an interpreter. Each of these new solos by my astonishing creators takes me on a wild ride. I aim to expose the treasures I find in each moment of the dance and dare to share these moments with the audience."

The artists Moore selected to work with are truly outstanding in every sense. 

Montreal's Paul-André Fortier has been appointed to the Order of Canada, named Chevalier in France's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and been awarded the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.

Toronto/Montreal-based Susanna Hood has received the K.M. Hunter Emerging Artist Award in Dance, a Dora Award for Outstanding Performance in Dance and the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance.

Christopher House has been Artistic Director of Toronto Dance Theatre for nearly two decades, and has received the Muriel Sherrin Award for International Achievement in Dance and the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts' Silver Ticket Award for Lifetime Achievement.

GADFLY has taken the Ontario arts community by storm. Their recent production of Klorofyl was awarded a Dora Award for Outstanding Performance and has toured across Ontario. Their unique ability to fuse modern sensibilities with urban dance forms led to their being named Breakout Performance of 2011 (for Klorofyl) by Paula Citron in the Globe and Mail.

Claudia Moore herself was nominated this year for a Dora Award for 'Outstanding Performance - Ensemble' as part of Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie's From the House of Mirth.

Sparked by the connection between Moore and each of her esteemed choreographers in the studio, the solos have no pre-determined theme or restrictions, but are a result of the distinctive relationships she has with each of these celebrated artists.  With the passion and commitment of a lifelong dancer, Moore revels in the challenges these solos present to her at this stage of her career as she looks to courageously expose both the dark and light of her life experiences. "What comes up is unpredictable. I just hope I can stay on my feet," she says light-heartedly.

The award-winning production team includes lighting designer Ron Snippe; costume designer Cheryl Lalonde; and rehearsal director/artistic consultant Jo Leslie.

Claudia Moore has been creating and performing movement for theatre, film, multi-disciplinary collaboration and her own dance theatre productions since the late 1970s. As Artistic Director of Moonhorse Dance Theatre, she curates the company's Older and Reckless series featuring dance artists over 45, as well as emerging dancers in Old & Young and Reckless Together. One of Canada's most celebrated contemporary dancers, Claudia has been performing since the early 1970's with the National Ballet of Canada, Toronto Dance Theatre and the Desrosiers Dance Theatre before establishing her own company. In 2009, the Young Centre for the Performing Arts presented her and Dan Wild in an evening of new work choreographed by James Kudelka and Tedd Robinson called Dances in a Small Room. Moore recently appeared in Kudelka's acclaimed From the House of Mirth presented by Coleman Lemieux (for which she was nominated as part of the ensemble for a Dora Award for Outstanding Performance-Ensemble), and in June 2013 launched Cloud 9 along with Sylvie Bouchard and Karen Kaeja.

- Claudia Moore for Escape Artist. Photo by Tamara Romanchuk
- Claudia Moore in rehearsal for Escape Artist. Photo by Omer Yukseker
- Claudia Moore for Escape Artist. Photo by Tamara Romanchuk
- Claudia Moore for Escape Artist. Photos (last 2) by Omer Yukseker

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Contest: Make a Video for Bombay Dub Orchestra (Deadline December 4 2013)

From a media release:

Six Degrees Records and Talent House have joined forces to offer this Cool Video Contest for Bombay Dub Orchestra

• Deadline December 4, 2013
• For guideliness and to submit click here

New Bombay Dub Orchestra Album ‘Tales From The Grand Bazaar (Six Degrees Records - October 8, 2013)

The story behind Bombay Dub Orchestra’s new album, Tales From the Grand Bazaar (Six Degrees Records), was created over many years throughout five countries. Wherever Andrew T. Mackay and Garry Hughes might have started, they ended up somewhere completely unexpected. “The vision is the end product,” says Mackay. “But how you get there is the journey, and music can take you many places.”

Now it's time embark on a journey of your own. In celebration of their new album, Bombay Dub Orchestra is inviting aspiring filmmakers to create a music video inspired by their new track, Bohemia Junction, for the opportunity to be chosen as the song's official music video. In addition, the grand prize winner will receive an incentive package that includes $1000 and further exposure throughout Bombay Dub Orchestra's social media properties.


Bombay Dub Orchestra's Choice
• One grand prize winner will receive:
• A Bombay Dub Orchestra merchandise pack
• Exposure for their submission across Bombay Dub's social media channels

People's Choice
The highest voted winner will receive:
• $500
• A Bombay Dub Orchestra merchandise pack
• Exposure for their submission across Bombay Dub Orchestra's social media channels

Submit by: December 4, 2013
Vote: December 5, 2013  - December 13, 2013
Winner(s) Announced: December 19, 2013
All phases close at 10 am PST

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Canadian Stage presents DESH choreographed and performed by Akram Khan October 31 to November 2 2013 in Toronto

From a media release:

Canadian Stage presents DESH choreographed and performed by Akram Khan
Three performances only; on stage at the Bluma Appel Theatre from October 31 to November 2, 2013

Toronto, ON –
Canadian Stage presents the North American premiere of the Olivier Award-winning dance production DESH with a limited three performance run. Featuring masterful choreographer and performer Akram Khan in a full-length solo performance, the production is on stage at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front St. E) from October 31 to November 2. Collaborating with Oscar-winning visual artist Tim Yip, lighting designer Michael Hulls, writer and poet Karthika Naïr and composer Jocelyn Pook, Khan has created a theatrical dance experience that is at once intimate and epic.

“DESH shares a haunting and beautiful look at the fragility of one man’s relationship with himself and the world at large,” said Matthew Jocelyn, artistic & general director, Canadian Stage. “We continue to celebrate storytelling through dance by sharing this very personal work of Akram Khan with a brave, insightful and powerful performance that will capture the imagination and hearts of our audience. On stage for only three performances, this is a show you don’t want to miss.”

Meaning ‘homeland’ in Bengali, DESH follows a single performer moving between Britain and Bangladesh as he explores the fragile fluctuations of life in an unstable world. Khan weaves threads of memory, experience and myth into a surreal world of surprising connections, drawing on multiple tales of land, nation, resistance and convergence into the body and voice of one man trying to find his balance. The artful interaction with pre-designed visuals and melodic composition is complemented by spoken word and creates an experience which, taken as a whole, is deeply personal and universally touching.

“I am fascinated by water inside the earth; it is the core principle of the way I think and move, fluidity within form,” said Khan. “DESH is the product of this fascination and my search for and exploration of a story that addresses the tragedy and comedy of lives in Bangladesh.”

Visual designer Tim Yip, who won an Oscar for his work on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, worked with Khan to create a space for a solo performer to engage the set as another multifaceted character. The visual design forces the character to fall upon objects representing resistance and malleability, offering challenges and opportunities. Lighting designer Michael Hulls manipulates the light to reflect the myriad of elemental and emotional shifts throughout the performance. The combined audio components of Olivier Award-winning composer Jocelyn Pook and writer and poet Karthika Naïr add complexity to the narrative and bring Khan’s choreography to life.

Canadian Stage will offer a complimentary workshop for professional dancers and choreographers taught by Khan on Tuesday, October 29. Spaces are limited to nominated participants from select dance organizations with two additional dancers selected via an application process. The master class, open for invited guests to observe will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs. From 5 to 6 p.m. on October 29, Khan will participate in a moderated chat (facilitated by Matthew Jocelyn) followed by a question and answer period with the audience.

Following the November 2 performance there will be a panel conversation moderated by Ravi Jain (Why Not Theatre) highlighting local artists working in the South Asian dance tradition and the continuing evolution of a classical art form as seen in the work of Akram Khan and the panelist’s own creations. The panel will feature pioneers of Indian Classical dance in Canada Menaka Thakkar (Menaka Thakkar Dance Company) and Lata Pada (Sampradaya Dance Creations), with two leading dancers, Nova Bhattacharya (Nova Dance Company) and Neena Jayarajan (Menaka Thakkar Dance Company). For more details or tickets, visit

DESH will be on stage at the Bluma Appel Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts (27 Front St. E.) for three performances at 8 p.m. from Thursday, October 31 to Saturday, November 2. The performance is approximately 80 minutes with no intermission. Tickets from $69 to $99 are available online, by phone at 416.368.3110 or in person at the box office. For details visit   

About DESH
October 31 to November 2, 2013

An Akram Khan Company production presented by Canadian Stage. North American premiere.
Akram Khan Company is sponsored by COLAS.

Canadian Stage Dance Programming Supporter: Hal Jackman Foundation.

Dancer Akram Khan                                        
Creative Team

Choreography and artistic direction - Akram Khan
Visual Design - Tim Yip
Music Composition - Jocelyn Pook
Stories by - Karthika Naïr and Akram Khan
Written by - Karthika Naïr, PolarBear and Akram Khan
Dramaturge - Ruth Little

Shows and Tickets:
Single tickets and subscription packages for the 2013.2014 season are now available with 4-show packages starting at $98 and 10-show packages starting at $272. Single tickets start at $22, with C-Stage Under 30 tickets available for $15 (taxes and fees included). Discount tickets are available thanks to Sun Life Financial, Discount Ticket Programs Sponsor. Subscriptions and tickets may be purchased by phone at 416.368.3110, in person at Canadian Stage’s Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front St. E.) or Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley St.) or online at

Free Concert: Baritone Sidney Outlaw at the Riverside Church Harlem October 27 2013

From a media release:

October 27, 2013 in New York City
Baritone Sidney Outlaw to Perform Selections from Wagner, Brahms, Strauss, Rossini and More


Kicking off the start of its acclaimed Christ Chapel Chamber Series for the 2013-2014 music calendar, The Riverside Church will showcase the talents of Sidney Outlaw (baritone) for a concert of music on Sunday, October 27, at 3:00 p.m. in the Church’s Christ Chapel, 490 Riverside Drive (bet. 120 & 122nd Sts.), Morningside Heights.

A native of North Carolina and regular soloist with The Riverside Choir, during the concert Sidney Outlaw will perform selections by Wagner, Brahms, Strauss, Rossini and more.

Lauded by The New York Times as a “terrific singer” and The San Francisco Chronicle as “an opera powerhouse”, Sidney Outlaw was the Grand Prize winner of the Concurso Internacional de Canto Montserrat Caballe in 2010 and continues to delight audiences in the U.S. and abroad with his rich and versatile baritone and engaging stage presence.

A recent graduate of the Merola Opera Program and former member of the Gerdine Young Artist Program at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, this rising American baritone from Brevard, North Carolina recently finished his first Operatic recording for Naxos Records recording in its entirety Darius Milhaud’s Oresteia of Aeschylus singing the role of Apollo. Mr. Outlaw was a featured recitalist with Warren Jones at Carnegie Hall this season performed Elijah with the New York Choral Society. He holds a master’s degree in vocal performance from The Juilliard School and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The concert is free to attend, however, an offering for the artist will be taken at the door.  For more information contact the music department at 212-870-6722 or email

3:00 P.M.

Directions: To get to The Riverside Church by subway take the 1 to 116th St. and walk to 490 Riverside Drive (bet. 120th & 122nd Sts.) two blocks west of Broadway.

The National Black Theatre Presents: The Last Saint On Sugar Hill October 29 - November 24, 2013

From a media release:

The National Black Theatre Presents:
The Last Saint On Sugar Hill
October 29 - November 24, 2013
Opening Night Gala - Nov. 1st

NEW YORK PREMIERE The Last Saint On Sugar Hill written by Keith Josef Adkins directed by Seret Scott
Starring: Danny Johnson, Jaime Lincoln Smith, Yaegel T. Welch, Terrell Wheeler and Chinaza Uche


Harlem - a mecca for black culture is now home to fancy eateries and a myriad of new residents. Napolean Pettigrew and his sons are die-hard Harlemites and feared property owners who hope to make a profit from this NEW Harlem. However, when they discover one of their properties is a real money-maker, everything they hold sacred—family, loyalty & community—falls apart. Sitting on a gold mine, the Pettigrew men are faced with the biggest decision in their lives—save or destroy the last untouched neighborhood in Harlem.

Dr. Barbara Ann Teers’s National Black Theatre (NBT) will open its 45th Season with the New York Premiere of The Last Saint On Sugar Hill, written by Keith Josef Adkins and directed by Seret Scott announced NBT’s Director of Theatre Arts Program, Jonathan McCrory. Preview performances begin Tuesday, October 29th at NBT, 2031 Fifth Avenue starting at 7:30pm. The opening night is set for Friday, November 1st at 7pm. The production will run through Sunday, November 24th. Tickets are on sale now by calling 212-722-3800 or visiting

Cast photo - Danny Johnson, Jaime Lincoln Smith, Yaegel T. Welch, Terrell Wheeler and Chinaza Uche

The Last Saint On Sugar Hill is part of NBT’s Main-stage Series Harlem Now, which celebrates the voices and issues impacting Harlem today. In conjunction with the production, there will be a photography exhibit in NBT’s lobby curated by photographer Paul Rocheleau whose photographs appeared in the historical architecture book Harlem Lost and Found. With a 2012 Jeff-nominated Best Script by playwright Keith Josef Adkins and direction by award-winning director Seret Scott, the cast of The Last Saint On Sugar Hill includes Danny Johnson, Jaime Lincoln Smith (Hip Hop Theater Festival/CTH’s Seed), Yaegel T. Welch, Terrell Wheeler and Chinaza Uche.

The creative team includes Harlan Penn (scenic design), Gail Cooper-Hecht (costume design), Marika Kent (lighting design), and Samuel Nacach (sound design). B’jai Pierce-Astwood is the production stage manager. Art-work by Byron McCray.

Performance Schedule
The Last Saint On Sugar Hill’s regular performance schedule is Thursday – Saturday at 7:30pm; and Saturday and Saturday matinees at 2pm. Performances run October 29 through November 24. Tickets are $35 general admission. Opening Night Gala tickets are $50. For groups of 10+ please contact group sales leader Debbie McIntyre at 212 802 8200 or call the theatre at 212-722-3800. For students, active military and Seniors (65+) with ID the tickets are $25. Post-performance discussions will be announced on a later date

Tickets are available by calling 212-722-3800 or visiting, or going to the NBT Box Office at 2031 Fifth Avenue between 125th & 126th Streets in Harlem, New York . Box Office hours are 1:00pm to 6:00pm, Tuesday through Saturday.