Sunday, May 25, 2014

Broadway Premiere: Inspired by the Lyrics & Music of Tupac Shakur, Holler If Ya Hear Me Previews June 2, Opens June 19 2014

From a media release:

Broadway Premiere
Holler If Ya Hear Me
at The Palace Theatre, New York City
Previews begin June 2, 2014
Opening Night: June 19, 2014

Buy Tickets

The world inside Tupac Shakur’s music and lyrics blazes to life in an entertaining new musical opening at the Palace Theatre, located at 1564 Broadway (at 47th Street).

Broadway has always given voice to popular culture and social change. South Pacific, West Side Story, Hair, For Colored Girls…, Sarafina and Rent are among the hits that hit home. Now Broadway gives voice to the lyrics of Tupac Shakur, whose music has sold over 77 million albums.

Written by Todd Kreidler and directed by Kenny Leon, HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME will begin previews on Monday, June 2 and open on Thursday, June 19.

HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME, the world inside Tupac Shakur’s music and lyrics, blazes to life in a non-biographical story about friendship, family, revenge, change and hope. Inner city lives struggle for peace against the daily challenges they face in this entertaining and original musical. Through the poetry of one of the 20th century’s most influential and culturally prominent voices, we are given a window into realities of the streets still relevant today.

HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME stars award-winning slam poet, actor, singer, musician Saul Williams (Slam) as John, Christopher Jackson (After Midnight) as Vertus, Saycon Sengbloh (Motown The Musical, Fela!) as Corinne, Ben Thompson (Matilda) as Griffy, John Earl Jelks (Radio Golf – Tony nomination) as Street Preacher, Joshua Boone (Brownsville Song [b side for Tray] at Actors Theatre of Louisville) as Darius, Dyllon Burnside (“Prison Break”) as Anthony and Tony Award winner Tonya Pinkins (Jelly’s Last Jam, Caroline or Change, Play On!) as Mrs. Weston.

The cast also features Tracee Beazer (Memphis), Afi Bijou (Fela!), Mel Charlot (Three-time World Hip Hop Champion), Carrie Compere (Shrek National Tour), Otis Cotton, Ryan Davis (danced for Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj), Brandon Gill (Neighbors at The Public),  Ariana Groover (Bare Off-Broadway), F. Michael Haynie (Wicked), Jared Joseph (Book of Mormon National Tour), Jahi Kearse (Baby It’s You), Muata Langley (freestyle Krump performer), Candace Maxwell, Valentine Norton (“American Idol”), Christina Sajous (Spider-Man:  Turn off the Dark), Charlene “Chi Chi” Smith, Jaime Lincoln Smith (Ruined Off-Broadway), Donald Webber, Jr. (Motown The Musical) and Joaquina Kalukango (Godspell).

Joining director Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun [2004 and 2014], Fences [2010], The Mountaintop) and author Todd Kreidler (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and direction of How I Learned What I Learned) on the creative team, are Tony Award winning choreographer Wayne Cilento (Wicked, The Who’s Tommy, How to Succeed…[1995], AIDA, Sweet Charity [2004]), and musical supervisor Daryl Waters (Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk, The Color Purple, Memphis).

The creative team also includes scenic design by Edward Pierce (The Other Place, Shatner’s World) based on original concepts by David Gallo, projections by Zachary G. Borovay (No Man’s Land, Waiting for Godot), costumes by Reggie Ray (Stick Fly), lighting by Mike Baldassari (Cabaret [1998/2014], First Date), sound by John Shivers (Kinky Boots) and David Patridge (Soul Doctor) and casting by Caparelliotis Casting (Casa Valentina, The Trip to Bountiful).

HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME is produced on Broadway by Afeni Shakur, Eric L. Gold, Chunsoo Shin, Jessica Green, Marcy Kaplan-Gold and Anita Waxman. General Manager is Richard Martini for KL Management.

Tickets are now on sale through Ticketmaster at or by calling 877-250-2929.  Tickets available in person at the Palace Theatre box office, 1564 Broadway at 47th Street beginning May 12 at 10AM.  Box office hours are Monday through Saturday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.  Ticket prices range from $59 to $139 (all prices include a $2.00 facility fee).  A limited number of student tickets at $35 are available through TIX4STUDENTS at  TIX4STUDENTS is an annual membership program for students 18+ only that provides access to purchase student tickets online in advance (validation of student status required). HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME is participating in this program as part of their commitment to being accessible to college students.

CD Release: Beautiful Nubia and the Roots Renaissance Band with Keere (EniObanke, May 19, 2014)

From a media release:

CD Release: Beautiful Nubia and the Roots Renaissance Band
Bats, Birds, Music - Beautiful Nubia releases 10th album
(Keere - EniObanke, May 19, 2014)

Buy the CD here

“The bat hangs upside down watching the way of birds...", so goes the opening line of the title track of "Keere", the 10th studio album by Nigeria's foremost folk and roots musician, Beautiful Nubia (and the Roots Renaissance Band).

Brimming with sparkling melodies, evocative lyrics and lush arrangements, "Keere" was recorded and mixed in Nigeria and mastered and manufactured in Canada. The 12-track album explores the usual themes championed by its predecessors: social justice, truth, courage, love and communalism.

Not one to bend to commercial pressures, Beautiful Nubia has kept faith with his peculiar "arty", contemporary African folk and roots style, with poetic songs offered in Yoruba and English. There is a lot here to transport the listener into deep reflection, but there is an equal number of dance-floor candidates. Somehow, Beautiful Nubia is able to make his listener think and dance at the same time, and that is no mean feat. Well, at least, so he thinks...

Beautiful Nubia and the Roots Renaissance Band is Nigeria’s foremost contemporary folk and roots music group. Formed and fronted by songwriter and poet Segun Akinlolu (aka Beautiful Nubia), the group’s songs and albums have achieved cult status among their loyal and growing fans spread across the world.

Beautiful Nubia’s songs are built on rich folkloric traditions and native wisdom but his message is universal in thrust and theme: value life, respect nature and learn to live in peace with others. The music speaks for the voiceless and champions the dream of a balanced society where individuals are truly free and equal. It preaches love and tolerance but also urges people to stand and defend their rights when trampled upon anywhere in the world.

Born in Ibadan in 1968, Segun started writing songs at a very young age. He drew his early influence from the traditional culture which was prevalent in the form of oral poetry, theatre, music and folklore. In 1994, with enough resources to produce a demo, his timing coincided with the final departure of major record labels from Nigeria. In response, he established EniObanke, a music production and marketing company under which his first album was released in 1997. All subsequent recordings have been released on this label and the company recently commenced the first ever folk and roots music festival in Nigeria, the EniObanke Music Festival (EMUfest).

In 1998, the artist invited several young musicians in Lagos to form a backing band to which he gave the name ‘The Roots Renaissance Band’. Throughout the years, Beautiful Nubia has remained the songwriter, arranger and bandleader contributing acoustic/rhythm guitar, lead vocals and percussion. The band is still mostly made up of the original members.

Reward came in 2002 with the release of the ground-breaking third album Jangbalajugbu . It is estimated that more than 50 million Nigerians wake up each day to “Owuro L’Ojo (How D’You Do?)”, one of the hit tracks in the album. To date, Jangbalajugbu has sold in excess of a million copies (not including the large numbers sold in the open market by pirates). Since then, the band has released five more albums, all of which, except the most recent, were recorded with vintage analog equipment at the historic Afrodisia (Decca) Studios in Lagos. Awilele (2004) is a no-holds-barred celebration of the artist's political views, Fere (2006) earned BN the sobriquet "Nigeria's King of Melody" and Kilòkilò (2007) and Irinajo (2009) both confirm what can be described as the Beautiful Nubia style and his stubborn refusal to be pigeon-holed. The albums, deeply political, have cemented his reputation in Nigeria and beyond as an advocate for social justice. It is the combination of enjoyable entertainment and provocative thoughtfulness that has come to define BN’s style. Sun No Dey Sleep, the latest album, continues that tradition.

The music has garnered excellent reviews in leading african/world music publications. It has been nominated for music awards and topped international/world charts on community, grassroots and campus radio stations.

Segun Akinlolu graduated from the University of Ibadan with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree in 1992 and worked as a Vet Doctor for about 8 years. He also holds a Post-Graduate Diploma from the Nigeria Institute of Journalism.

Discography: Sun No Dey Sleep (2011);  Irinajo (2009); Kilòkilò (2007); Fere (2006); Awilele (2004);Jangbalajugbu (2002); Fire On The Roof (2001); Voice From Heaven (1999); Seven Lifes (1997)

Publications: Waiting For The Bones (poetry, 1997); Thinking Big (poetry, 2000); On A Cold Evening (poetry cd, 2000); The King's Messenger (2004); Where Rivers Sing A Song (poetry cd, 2004); Citadel Blues (Fiction, 2004); Like A Tale At Night (poetry cd, 2006)

Transglobal Grooves: Karikatura Debut Album (Eyes Wide - Ropeadope Records June 3 2014) & Release Party June 1 in NYC

From a media release:


Check out the party & the CD here

This June, Karikatura will release its debut full-length album, Eyes Wide, recorded to analog tape at Mighty Toad Studios and mixed at Strangeweather Studios by creative luminary Daniel Schlett (Bob Dylan,Yeasayer, Rita Indiana). The music on the album is as diverse as the backgrounds and life-experiences of the band-members; each member contributed songs to the album, expressing his personal vision, and the band shaped the music collectively. They write songs the way a storyteller crafts tales, exploring universal themes through personal experiences. Eyes Wide is also a covert tribute to New York City, where the band spent a year of relative stasis and creative hibernation after three consecutive years of touring.

The album will come out on Ropeadope Records; Karikatura is excited to join the Ropeadope family, which boasts recent Grammy winners Snarky Puppy and a magnificent lineage, including The Philadelphia Experiment, Antibalas, Spanish Harlem Orchestra and many more amazing artists.

Karikatura makes life-affirming, body-shaking music that moves people around the world. While the band has toured everywhere from Japan to Brazil, New York City is home. With bright horns, socially conscious lyrics and booty-bouncing beats, Karikatura delivers real songs that transcend style and genre.  An organic synthesis of all the music heard blasting out of car windows and shops onto the streets of NYC, Karikatura lives where cumbia meets hip-hop, reggae meets klezmer and indie-rock meets afrobeat. Neither purist nor revivalist, this is music of the present, for the future.   The band has released two EPs and has successfully done DIY tours in Europe, Asia and South America. 

Born on the road, Karikatura hasn’t stopped moving since. The band was conceived in South India in 2009 by Ukrainian-born, Brooklyn-bred recovering metal guitarist, Dima Kay, at the end of a life-changing journey across three continents. He returned to his adopted hometown of NYC to make the group a reality, joining forces with like-minded musicians: soulful singer Ryan Acquaotta, bassist Eric Legaspi, woodwinds maestro Joe Wilson, drummer Morgan Greenstreet, and brass-blaster Ric Becker. They hit the road, traveling from Kyoto to Berlin, via Bratislava and New Orleans, to spread the joy of music that brings people together. They are equally at home performing at a packed festival in Belgium, a Manhattan jazz bistro, a Czech punk club or the subways of Sao Paolo.

They were also selected for the Music Under New York Program (MUNY), one of only 18 new acts chosen by the MTA out of 300 applicants for permits to perform in the subways of NYC. After just a few months with MUNY, Karikatura was invited to participate in the Red Bull Sounderground Festival in Sao Paulo, alongside other popular street music performers from around the world. They made a major impact on Brazilian audiences, instantly winning fans and building bonds for the future.

2014 has already brought Karikatura to new places, with a three-week tour down to Austin, Texas for SXSW, including shows throughout the Northeast, Midwest, and the Southeast of the US. The band made new fans, new friends and lots of music along the way.

Wherever Karikatura goes, they move people with honest songs, strong rhythms and creative horns. Karikatura brings the world to New York and New York to the world, capturing the present moment, with eyes and ears wide open.

The Sacrament - A Film by Ti West - Opens in Toronto June 6 2014

From a media release:

The Sacrament
A Film By Ti West
Opens June 6, 2014 in Toronto
Carlton Cinema - 20 Carlton St.

“Horrifying” - Fangoria
“Unique and startling” – Horror Talk
“Bone-chilling” – The Hollywood Reporter
“Slow-burning…frightening in any genre language.” – Variety

(TORONTO, May 22, 2014) From acclaimed writer/director Ti West (The Innkeepers, The House of the Devil) and master of horror Eli Roth (The Last Exorcism, Hostel, Cabin Fever), The Sacrament follows two Vice Media correspondents as they set out to document their friend’s journey to find his missing sister. They travel outside of the United States to an undisclosed location where they are welcomed into the world of “Eden Parish,” a self-sustained rural utopia, comprised of nearly two hundred members. At the center of this small, religious, socialist community is a mysterious leader known only as “Father.” As their friend reunites with his sister, it becomes apparent to the newcomers that this paradise may not be as it seems. What started as just another documentary shoot soon becomes a race to escape with their lives. The film opens theatrically in Toronto on June 6, with more cities to come.

Director Ti West started with the concept of a mini-series inspired by the Jonestown Massacre, but his impatience led him to rework it into a feature film because he thought that had a better chance of getting off the ground.

“My goal was to create an elevated genre film that examines the last days in the life of a religious cult,” explained West. “It is rare to find films like these that are more than just cheap thrills. It was important to me not to portray these characters as mindless, psychotic cult members, but as relatable real people.”

Producer Eli Roth agreed, “I would hope after watching The Sacrament that people would think about the cause they’re committed to, and how fanatical they may be in areas of their own life. But more than that, the next time we hear about a mass suicide, or when people talk about David Koresh or Jim Jones, we want them to have a more emotional connection to the stories like that.”

The film also stars Joe Swanberg (V/H/S, A Horrible Way to Die), A.J. Bowen (You’re Next) and Gene Jones (No Country For Old Men, “Boardwalk Empire”)

The theatrical release of The Sacrament will be followed by a home entertainment release in August.

Theatre at WorldPride 2014 Toronto: Staged Play Readings & Talks June 22 & 25 at Buddies in Bad Times

From a media release:

Part of WorldPride 2014:

Buy Tickets & Check out the rest of Queer Pride 2014

Toronto: May 22, 2014.
WorldPride 2014 Toronto and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre are pleased to announce the staged readings of two exciting new plays: ADONG Lucy Judith’s Just Me, You and The Silence and Sarah Schulman’s The Lady Hamlet. The company’s month-long Queer Pride celebration will be amplified by the unique perspectives of these two international playwrights, both of whom will be in attendance. Audiences can look forward to adding these thought-provoking events to their Pride schedule.

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre’s Artistic Director, Brendan Healy, says, “We are thrilled to be partnering with WorldPride 2014 Toronto to bring these two distinguished writers to Buddies!”

WorldPride 2014 Toronto, Obsidian Theatre, IFT Toronto, and Buddies in Bad Times present a staged reading of
7:00pm | June 22, 2014

Just Me, You and The Silence traces the story of an ambitious politician who introduces a bill that divides his nation and family. A powerful play by Ugandan writer ADONG Lucy Judith that explores the anti-homosexuality laws in her country.

A fictional piece, Just Me,You and The Silence, is directed by ITC Theatre’s Mumbi Tindyebwa and provides a timely look at the legislation instituted in Uganda with the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Nine of Canada’s leading talents, including Karen Robinson, Cara Ricketts, Tawiah Ben-Eben M’Carthy, Araya Mengesha, Sodi Waboso Amajor, and Peter Bailey join Tindyebwa’s creative team.

All proceeds from the reading will be donated to FARUG (Freedom and Roam Uganda), a local LGBT Charity Organization serving the Ugandan community.

Just Me, You and The Silence was first developed by ADONG Lucy Judith at the Royal Court Theatre International Playwrights’ Residency in 2011. In the context of Toronto’s WorldPride Festival, the play’s Canadian premiere invites frank reflection on global LGBTQ rights. This significant occasion is bolstered by the presence of ADONG Lucy Judith, who will be in attendance for the reading.

ADONG Lucy Judith is a brilliant educator and artist whose groundbreaking work spans theatre, film, television, and radio. As a human rights activist, ADONG’s socio-political pieces give voice to marginalized Ugandans. In 2011 she was invited to the prestigious Sundance Theatre Lab where she created Silent Voices, a work based on interviews with victims of the Northern Uganda conflict. ADONG is currently enrolled in the Film and Media Arts Graduate program at Temple University in Philadelphia, where she received a Fulbright Scholarship to study filmmaking.

Just You, Me and The Silence evokes an essential conversation about the ongoing struggle for international gay rights, and panel discussion will follow its staged reading. Moderated by internationally celebrated Jamaican-Canadian, d'bi.young anitafrika, and featuring playwright ADONG Lucy Judith in addition to other distinguished guests, the panel will draw attention to current LGBTQ issues in Uganda, Africa, and the international scene.

(Video from a previous play, Silent Voices)

WorldPride 2014 Toronto and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre present a staged reading of
8:00pm | June 25, 2014

Two artists, both born to play Hamlet, also happened to be born women. With 1920s New York City as their sparring field, they engage in a war of wits that leaves their colleagues and lovers caught in the crossfire.

On June 25th Buddies teams up with WorldPride 2014 Toronto to present a reading of The Lady Hamlet, a work by renowned writer and thinker Sarah Schulman. The reading will be performed by Laura Codlln, Michelle Pollack, Richard Greenblatt, Elley-Ray Hennessy, Dalal Badr, and Jonathan Seinen with direction from Andrea Donaldson.

All proceeds from the reading will go to Wychwood Open Door, a day-time drop-in centre that has serves homeless and socially isolated people in Toronto's midtown St. Clair West community.

WorldPride 2014 Toronto and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre are honoured to welcome Sarah Schulman to Toronto for a reading of her work The Lady Hamlet. Schulman is a multi-talented creator: a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, nonfiction writer, AIDS historian, journalist, and political activist. She is the Co-Founder of MIX: NY LGBT Experimental Film and Video Festival, Co-Director of ACT UP Oral History Project, US Coordinator of the first LGBT Delegation to Palestine and Distinguished Professor of English at CUNY, Staten Island. Her impressive work has been recognized with numerous awards including a Guggenheim in Playwriting, Fullbright for Judaic Studies, the Kessler Prize for Sustained Contribution to LGBT Studies, as well as a finalist nomination for the Prix de Rome.

Based out of New York and best known for her intellectual discourse, this staged reading gives Toronto audiences a rare chance to experience Schulman’s theatrical work. The Lady Hamlet, is a thought provoking exploration of gender and representation, and an exciting showcase of Schulman’s thoughtful outlook and critical eye. Schulman will be available for a Talkback after the reading.

- - - -

These events take place during Buddies in Bad Times’ Queer Pride Festival. Queer Pride is a celebration of love and acceptance, full of theatre, comedy, art, music, and parties that showcases our community’s unstoppable spirit. Events take place from May 31st until June 29th, for more event listings & information go to

WorldPride Toronto 2014, Obsidian Theatre, IFT Theatre, and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre present a staged reading of
by ADONG Lucy Judith
Sunday, June 22, 2014 at 7:00pm

Tickets $10 in advance or PWYC at the door.
All proceeds from the reading will be donated to FARUG (Freedom and Roam Uganda).
Box Office 416-975-8555 or
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street, Toronto ON

WorldPride Toronto 2014 and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre present a staged reading of
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 8:00pm

Tickets PWYC at the door, all proceeds go to Wychwood Open Door.
Box Office 416-975-8555 or
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street, Toronto ON

Sketch Comedy: The Reception with Tony Ho & Jeremy Woodcock May 29 2014 at The Comedy Bar Toronto

From a media release:

with Tony Ho and Jeremy Woodcock
Thursday, May 29, 2014
8pm at Comedy Bar

THE RECEPTION welcomes TONY HO and JEREMY WOODCOCK to their monthly Comedy Bar extravaganza on Thursday, May 29, 8pm.

TONY HO believes being unsettled isn't a bad thing. This darkly hilarious Toronto group has been called the haunted house of sketch with good reason. Equally funny and disturbing, Tony Ho is entirely unexpected and absolutely unforgettable.

JEREMY WOODCOCK is a stand-up/sketch comedian and comedy writer. He has written for several programs including This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Just For Laughs, and hosts a television show, The Urbane Explorer, itself a spin-off of his popular video Finding Bessarion. His comedic writing has appeared in print for The Walrus, CBC Punchline,, and others, and on his Twitter account, @jwPencilAndPad, for which he has been cited in New York Times magazine.

THE RECEPTION is a five-piece post-punk, sketch comedy party on turbo mode. They have performed to rave reviews in Montreal, Chicago and New York sketch comedy festivals. Their monthly show at Comedy Bar has quickly become one of the must-see performance events of the month.

"The Reception is high-paced and polished, making it very clear they are professional and serious about their sketch. An ensemble that moves like a well-oiled machine, The Reception definitely felt like the after-party their name suggests.“ Kelly Opalko (The Sketch Review, Chicago)

"There's something so enjoyable about seeing a group perform who look like they don't want to be anywhere else, and that kind of effort is something this city needs a lot more of.“ Christina Strynatka (


Thursday, May 29, 8pm
Comedy Bar (Main Stage), 945 Bloor Street West
Tickets $5 (suggested)

Prog Rock: moe. No Guts, No Glory CD Release Party May 28 2014 in New York City

From a media release:

Prog Rock CD Release:
No Guts, No Glory Album Release Party
at Stage 48 - 605 West 48th Street, NYC
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Buy the CD

moe., the preeminent progressive rock band on the music scene today and a quintet of world class musicians, whose creative output equals that of their longevity, will perform an intimate show on Wednesday May 28th at Stage 48 in midtown Manhattan. The band will perform a rare acoustic set in the early part of the evening as part of a VIP ticket package that also includes a top shelf open bar, buffet stations, a commemorative show poster, a meet and greet with the band where fans will get their posters signed, and more. The band will perform a full two-set show for both VIP and general admission audiences beginning at 10pm.

Over a journey spanning nearly a quarter-century, moe. has let their knack for dynamic, democratic improvisation influence nearly every facet of the band's existence. In concert, they stretch the boundaries of their source material into intricate, set-long suites where distinct songs seamlessly segue into one another in exhilarating fashion. In the studio, their eclectic, wide-ranging sensibilities manifest in playful, varied albums that spotlight both their fluid musicianship and their incisive, hook-laden songwriting.

Available May 27, 2014 on Sugar Hill Records, moe.'s new album No Guts, No Glory finds moe. at their most inventive and resilient. The album's eleven songs (fourteen on the deluxe CD, digital, and double vinyl editions, featurin artwork by Emek) took a winding path. "These songs were written with an acoustic album in mind," says guitarist and vocalist Chuck Garvey. When that original intention fell victim to logistical hurdles, Garvey says, "we ended up making a whole different thing."

$35 - General Admission Tickets / $150 - VIP Tickets
6:00 PM - VIP Doors /  9:30 PM - GA Doors / 10:00 PM - Show
16+ General Admission - 21+ VIP Admission
Please note that no taping or videotaping is allowed for this performance
Full Bar and Restaurant on Premises

$150 VIP Ticket Party Package Includes:
Early entry into venue
Commemorative Show Poster
Meet and Greet and Memorabilia Signing with moe
Top Shelf Open Bar from 7:30pm-8:30pm
Latin Themed Dinner With Buffet stations
Raffle Entry for very special door prizes
Private Acoustic VIP set by moe.
Special surprises!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ethiopian Reggae by way of Israel: Zvuloon Dub System at SOB's in New York City June 15 2014

From a media release:

Ethiopian Reggae in NYC;
Zvuloon Dub System at SOB's June 15, 2014

• The CD Anbessa Dub will be available June 30, 2014
Pre-release vinyl

When Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, the man known as Ras Tafari, visited Jamaica on April 21, 1966, more than one hundred thousand Rastafarians were waiting at Kingston Airport to see the man they revered as the Messiah. For a brief moment, still celebrated by the faithful as Grounation Day, the two countries came together. 18 years later, in 1984, an Ethiopian Jewish family, members of the lost tribe of Israel, walked across the desert, making the long track to their homeland. And now those three cultures – Jamica, Ethiopia, and Israel - merge on the new album by Tel Aviv-based  Zvuloon Dub System, called Anbessa Dub.

“It’s a natural mix,” explains drummer Asaf Smilan. “We started out in 2006, playing roots reggae, all very ‘70s. I’d also loved that old Ethiopian music since I first heard it, about 10 or 15 years ago, but I didn’t have any Ethiopian friends to discover more about it. Then Gili Yalo joined as the singer in 2009. He’s from Ethiopia. And once he came, everything changed.”

That change didn’t happen overnight, of course. But fooling around at rehearsal, they took an old song in Amharic, the Ethiopian language, and transformed it into something that connected the dots between the classic Ethiopian soul of the early 1970s and roots reggae.

“We liked it,” says singer Yalo, “and the crowd liked it, so we did more and this whole new sound was born.”

Yalo was the catalyst, but his has been long journey, covering many miles and a number of years, to discover exactly where he belonged musically. He’d grown up in a Jewish family, a member of Israel’s lost tribe, in Gondar, in the north of Ethiopia, in a house with no electricity or running wat er.

“The Jews could live there, but not own land,” he recalls. “They used to work with their hands, making tools and knives and plates. We’d have meat to eat once every few months.”

In 1984, as drought started to grip the country, the family made the decision to go to the land of their distant ancestors – Israel. Yalo was just four years old at the time.

“We walked across the desert for two months, all the way to Sudan,” he recounts, “and then we were in a refugee camp for several months after that. Finally, one night, trucks took us out into the desert and we got on an airplane. The next thing I knew, we landed in Israel. After all I’d seen in my life, it was like going 100 years into the future.”

It was on that trek that he first realized he was destined to be a singer.

“My father carried me on his shoulders most of the way, and I drove everyone cr azy singing old songs that I knew. My mother felt that singing was my true calling – and I haven’t stopped ever since.”

And with Zvuloon Dub System he can not only explore the Jamaican music he loves, but also know his roots he’d been forced to denied for so long, due to the difficulties face integrating into Western society. What the band has created is a unique fusion that’s based in Tel Aviv, but looks equally to Kingston and Addis Ababa. And they’ve refined the sound until it feels utterly natural, the mix of the reggae offbeat with horns and chord changes from Ethiopia.

Anbessa Dub, which although not a classic dub album, is filled with the atmosphere of vintage Jamaican roots reggae, mixes old Ethiopian songs arranged in the Zvuloon style, along with some originals, like the opener “Alemitu,” where the arrangement moves smoothly between Lee Perry’s studio and a downtown Addis club in 1 973. It’s completely convincing, in part because of the equipment the band uses in its studio.

“Everything is analogue,” says Smilan. “We take all those old sounds as reference points, we record onto tape. We do it the real way.”

One person who liked what he heard was Mahmoud Ahmed, the voice behind so many legendary tracks in the Golden Age of Ethiopian music.

“I found out he was coming to Israel,” Smilan says. “I got his number and sent him a demo of a song we wanted him to do. He liked it and did a session with us. He was a complete perfectionist in the studio, listening to what he’d done and wanting to do it over until it was right. His friends said that he told them it was the highlight of his trip.”

The result, “Ney Denun Tesesh,” sounds as if it would have been perfectly at home in the classic Ethiopiques series, but it’s just one in a series of standouts on Anbessa Dub, with Yalo’s soulful voice shining throughout. The music flows perfectly, Africa and the Caribbean in perfect sync.

“When we play in front of Ethiopian people here it’s very special,” Yalo observes. “Parents think the culture has been forgotten here, but hearing us, they know it’s not. We even use a krar (an Ethiopian lute) and a maskino (one-string violin) mixed in with the sound.”

This summer they’ll be taking that Anbessa Dub on the road, with a tour of North America and a date at Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

“We want to go into the studio while we’re over there,” Smilan says. “I want to take the riddims from this album and record Jamaican artists singing about Ethiopia, Haile Selassie and the Lion of Judah. To celebrate the triumvarate.”

Legend has it that Menelik, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, traveled from Ethiopia to meet his father. He stayed for a year, and his father showed him great favor. But when Menelik returned home, he took something holy with him – the Ark of the Covenant, containing the tablets handed to Moses by God. Some believe it’s still carefully hidden in Ethiopia, which took as its national symbol the Lion of Judah, the same one that watches over the Jews. The same lion that guards Jamaica’s Rastas. Those three lions come together in the music of Zvuloon Dub System, and together they make the sweetest roar.

The Theatre Centre Toronto presents Promises to a Divided City May 30 & 31 2014

From a media release:

The Theatre Centre presents
Promises to a Divided City,
a data-driven, interactive performance by Mammalian Diving Reflex

11 limited capacity performances at The Theatre Centre
May 30 to 31 (Check the link for times)

Toronto, ON –
In a collaboration with ‘international live-art stars’ (The Globe and Mail), Mammalian Diving Reflex, The Theatre Centre presents Promises to a Divided City. Created by Mammalian, this data-driven, interactive performance takes audiences on a tour through our 'Divided City', examining its social and economic dynamics. For a limited run of 11 performances for two days only on May 30 and 31 (with a capacity of 20 people per show), a cast of more than 30 performers from across the GTA will animate all the spaces at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen St. W.), inviting audiences to help save a divided Toronto.

“It is a huge honour to welcome back Darren O'Donnell and Mammalian Diving Reflex to our new home," said Franco Boni, General & Artistic Director, The Theatre Centre. "When I first asked Darren to consider making a work for our inaugural year of programming, we spoke about celebrating three things that have been critical in The Theatre Centre's recent success: our heritage and that of our new home, a former Carnegie Library; the tenacity, goodwill and vision of our many dedicated volunteers; and the idea of philanthropy and what it means to selflessly give. Mammalian not only explores these three things in the context of The Theatre Centre but, with their usual brilliancy and playfulness, they make us look at the city we live in."

Internationally renowned for creating one-of-a-kind experiences, like Haircuts by Children and All the Sex I’ve Ever Had, Mammalian creates performances designed to encourage discussion and investigate the social sphere. Promises to a Divided City explores their beloved home base, the city of Toronto. Using the latest research and data, including reports from J. David Hulchanski (University of Toronto), the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty, Mammalian looks at one of the biggest challenges facing the city: the growing wealth inequality dividing city’s neighbourhoods, and how it’s changing the current and future state of Toronto.

"Promises to a Divided City speaks openly about the people of Toronto and our differences,” said Darren O’Donnell, Artistic Director, Mammalian Diving Reflex. “It focuses on arguably the most important differences: economic class and, wrapped up in class, ethnicity and race. So we're going to talk about class and race. Hope you're okay with that."

In their tradition of using community collaboration to provide unique and tailored experiences, Mammalian is asking audience members to fill out a survey prior to the performance. The data collected will be used during the show, giving participants a personal perspective on their role as a citizen of the 'Divided City'. Mammalian will use their characteristic playful humour to explore the data, talk trends, goof around, tell some stories, have a meltdown, sing some songs, make some promises and think about the city.

Promises to a Divided City will be presented at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen St. W.) with five performances on May 30 and six performances on May 31. The performance is approximately 80 minutes long with no intermission. Tickets from $10 to $15 are available online at by phone at 416-538-0988.

Twitter: @TheatreCentre; @mammaliandiving; @darrenodonnell
Hashtag: #DividedCity

About Promises to a Divided City:
Venue: The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen St. W.)
Dates: May 30 to 31; Opening and media night: Friday, May 30
Friday May 30: 7 p.m., 7:40 p.m., 8:20 p.m., 9 p.m., and 9:40 p.m.
Saturday May 31: 4 p.m., 4:40 p.m., 5:20 p.m., 6 p.m., 6:40 p.m., and 7:20 p.m.
Tickets on sale: Tickets $15 ($10 for seniors and students), at or 416.538.0988

Produced by The Theatre Centre
Created by: Mammalian Diving Reflex

Toronto Harbourfront: Food, Art & History at Shore Lunch May 18 & 19, June 20 & 29 2014

From a media release:

Shore Lunch
Food, art, and the history of Toronto’s shoreline are explored
in the world premiere of a new multi-site art commission

join us this weekend for form one of Shore Lunch entitled Leaving Marks. Shore Lunch is a three-form Fresh Ground new works commission by Lisa Myers, in collaboration with Kip Jones, John Myers, and media artist and musician Melody McKiver. This multi-site art venue for video, performance and food takes the form of a camp kitchen and explores the historical interaction of waterfront leisure areas and industrial hubs in Canada's Great Lakes.

Harbourfront Centre
Canada Square, on the shore of Lake Ontario.
235 Queens Quay West, Toronto, M5J 2G8

Sunday, May 18, 1:00 PM
Monday, May 19, 1:00 PM

Carved rolling pins will be used to create print blocks with berry pigment.
Prints will be “cooked up” onto postcards with four rolling print blocks, each a different element and metaphor related to shoreline development.
Pureed strawberry drink served to the audience.


Friday, June 20, 9:30 PM

Landing under Water considers the water and land aspects of the shore. During this evening event the artist will present two video works that capture water surfaces at different sites around the Great Lakes.

Sunday, June 29, and July 1, 1 PM
Listen to This will include musical scores for wild rice parching and fish frying by Melody McKiver and Lisa Myers. The audience will enjoy eating wild rice and fish served after the performance in small cornhusk containers.

Since its creation in 2004, Fresh Ground new works has become a catalyst for new Canadian artistic works incorporating more than one discipline or field. Through open national submission calls, Harbourfront Centre has awarded $500,000 in prize money toward 23 new Canadian commissions. These awards add to Harbourfront Centre’s near-40-year history of commissioning new Canadian works in dance, theatre, music, visual arts and craft. For more information visit,

Documentary Film: Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case Opens in Toronto May 16 2014

From a media release:

Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case
Directed by Andreas Johnsen

Opens in Toronto – May 16, 2014 – Bloor Hot Docs Cinema – 506 Bloor St. W.

After its super successful run at Hot Docs, KINOSMITH is proud to present the theatrical premiere of Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case, directed by Andreas Johnsen, opening May 16 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto.

In April 2011, world famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is kidnapped by the Chinese authorities and detained at a secret location. 81 days later he was released, but put under house arrest.

The man we had known as an unstoppable fighter for the freedom of speech is merely a shadow of himself. He suffers from sleeping disorder and memory loss. There are 18 cameras monitoring his studio and home. Police agents follow his every move, and heavy restrictions from the Kafkaesque Chinese authorities weigh him down.

Ai Weiwei says “if I don’t share my voice, if I don’t act as I believe, then I am dead already.”

Journalists, the art world and his family all want a piece of him. On top of it all he is met with a gigantic lawsuit from the Chinese government, soon to be named ‘The Fake Case’ in reference to the obvious false reasons behind the accusations.

“I’ve had no intention of giving a broad, many-voiced view of China or to let a lot of people express their opinions of Ai Weiwei,” says director Andreas Johnsen, “I’ll let the audience judge for itself by seeing the China that Ai Weiwei sees, the China that he experiences: as a privileged artist, but also as a constantly monitored, restricted and oppressed human being. My ambition was to be as ‘pure’ as I could in my point of view, sharing the eyes of Ai Weiwei in the way I looked at China.”

Jazz at Lincoln Center - René Marie’s I WANNA BE EVIL: WITH LOVE TO EARTHA KITT Opens Tonight (May 15) to May 18 2014

From a media release:

René Marie’s
Jazz at Lincoln Center
Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola
3 Columbus Circle (59th and Broadway)

Thursday, May 15 – Sunday, May 18, 2014
7:30 pm & 9:30 pm
Tickets: $25-$45

To purchase tickets: - 212.258.9595
Jazz at Lincoln Center Box Office - 3 Columbus Circle

NEW YORK CITY - René Marie – singer, actress, writer. Eartha Kitt – singer, actress, writer. Never before has there been a vocal performance tipping the hat to the divine Ms. Kitt and her fiery, sensual and clever interpretations of songs. With her incredible range of vocal ability, her powerful emotional resonance and strong independent streak, René is the right artist to conceive of this historic project called I Wanna Be Evil: With Love to Eartha Kitt.

This brilliantly entertaining live performance burnishes René’s reputation as the most provocative risk-taker among today’s jazz divas. Eartha Kitt’s daughter Kitt Shapiro, said: "It's wonderful that such a talented artist like René Marie has recorded the first tribute album to my mother, helping to keep her memory and spirit alive. These classic songs deserve to be heard and loved by all generations."

The live performance of I Wanna Be Evil features classic Eartha Kitt songs like “C’est Si Bon,” “Peel Me a Grape,” and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and lesser-known mischievous gems like “I’d Rather Be Burned As A Witch” and “I Wanna Be Evil.”

Don't miss this exciting to tribute to one of America's most renowned artists. Buy your tickets today!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Over 100 Free Arts Programs, 14 Parks, 5 Boroughs: Central Park SummerStage June 3 - August 24 2014

From a media release:

City Parks Foundation announces
Over 100 FREE music, dance, film,
comedy, family and theater programs
in 14 parks across all 5 boroughs  
Season runs June 3 - August 24, 2014

New York, NY:
City Parks Foundation proudly announces the 2014 season of SummerStage, New York's largest free performing arts festival, bringing over 100 free performances to 14 parks throughout the five boroughs. With performances ranging from American pop, Latin and World music to dance, comedy and theater, SummerStage fills a vital niche in New York City's summer arts festival landscape. Since its inception twenty-nine years ago, more than six million people from New York City and around the world have enjoyed SummerStage. The festival runs from June 3rd to August 24th.

This year, SummerStage and FANIA are teaming up in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the iconic label! Programs across the five boroughs will celebrate and reflect on FANIA, showcasing both the past and present performers in the neighborhoods where this movement was born.  Music lovers will enjoy everyone from legends such as Roberto Roena, Joe Bataan, and Ismael Miranda to more modern decedents of the FANIA sounds,  including Chilean hip-hop fusion artist Ana Tijoux and psychedelic Salsa group La Mecánica Popular. A very special Fania All Stars show will close out the season in Central Park, an outdoor event that is sure to be reminiscent of their 1976 Yankee Stadium concert. The series will be multidisciplinary, and include Dance, Music, Poetry, Film, Panels and Family Programming.

The 2014 Dance programs of SummerStage will open with award-winning tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith, as he takes the stage in Brooklyn with renowned musician/singer/composer Owen "Fiidla" Brown. In July, fans will welcome Ballet Hispanico, recognized as the nation's premier Latino dance organization, who will perform under the stars on two not to be missed evenings. Their Central Park performance on July 16th will include a special piece celebrating the life and music of Celia Cruz on the anniversary of her 2002 performance in Central Park and her 2003 passing. Rounding out the season will be African dance company Urban Bush Women, who will present works in celebration of their 30th anniversary, and a diverse bill specially curated by arts writer Valerie Gladstone.

Theater-goers will welcome Urban Theatre Movement's "Handball," an explosive take on gentrification in New York City set in a public park. SummerStage Theater presented by Time Warner will also welcome The New York Neo-Futurists, who will perform their critically acclaimed, energetic signature show of original short plays, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Also not to be missed is "Ghetto Klown," Emmy Award winner John Leguizamo's wickedly funny one-man show.

"We are so excited to present our 2014 SummerStage season in celebration of FANIA and the 50th anniversary. Our fans will be wowed by new and intriguing talent as well as legends that spearheaded the musical movement right here in New York City five decades ago." says City Parks Foundation President, Alison Tocci. "SummerStage has something for everyone of all ages and all artistic tastes, so we hope to see you out in the park."

For the most up-to-date scheduling and line-up for all SummerStage programming, follow SummerStage via the below links.  For festival information, visit

Twitter: @SummerStage

TDT invites Toronto theatre and visual artists to choreograph ten solos for the company in On Display May 22-31 2014

From a media release:

TDT invites Toronto theatre and visual artists to choreograph ten solos for the company in
On Display May 22-31, 2014


Toronto, ON  – 
Toronto  Dance  Theatre  (TDT)  welcomes some of Toronto’s most dynamic theatre and visual artists to create ten solos for the TDT company in a fresh and playful approach to the body across disciplines. On Display is on stage May 22-25 & 28-31, 2014 at the Winchester Street Theatre.

On Display guest artists include Aleesa Cohene, Chris Curreri with Bridget Moser, Brendan Healy, Oliver Husain, Sook-Yin Lee, Tawiah M’Carthy, Laura Nanni, Paulette Phillips, Jordan Tannahill, and Evan Webber. Each guest will collaborate with a TDT dancer, drawing upon their distinctive artistic sensibilities to create a 5-7 minute solo work.

Developed from the desire to celebrate the melting away of barriers between the art forms, On Display demonstrates the creative fluidity that has emerged in our city. Artistic Director Christopher House says, "I am thrilled to be bringing together such a stellar group of creators for On Display. Each of these important artists, coming from new theatre practices, visual arts and performance, has shown an interest in the body and in expanded definitions of choreography. Their willingness to collaborate with TDT on this project captures the spirit of adventure, and appetite for collaboration across disciplines, that is at the core of performance in Toronto today."

Paired with our guest artists are TDT performers Alana Elmer, Mairi Greig, Syreeta Hector, Christopher House, Yuichiro Inoue, Pulga Muchochoma, Jarrett Siddall, Kaitlin Standeven, Brodie Stevenson, and Naishi Wang.

Winchester Street Theatre, 80 Winchester Street
Thu May 22 – Sat May 24, 8:00PM
Sun May 25, 2:00PM (Pay What You Can)
Wed May 28 – Sat May 31, 8:00PM

Tickets:  $20 Student/Senior/CADA | $26 General
Tickets are on sale now through or call 416.967.1365 |

Experimental Electronic Heaven: NAZORANAI - NYC Premiere with Keiji Haino, Stephen O'Malley & Oren Ambarchi May 21 2014

From a release:

with Keiji Haino, Stephen O'Malley
and Oren Ambarchi
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Presented in Partnership with ISSUE Project Room + desertshore

THE WICK is at 260 Meserole Street
Two Blocks from the Montrose L Train Stop
Doors at 8:00pm, Show at 9:00pm
$20 in Advance / $25 at Door (Cash Only)
21 and Over Only - ID Required - Full Bar Available

Tickets Available Online Now

On Wednesday May 21st, 8pm, THE WICK and ISSUE Project Room are pleased to present Nazoronai in their first New York performance. A recent collaboration of the legendary Keiji Haino (guitar, vocals & synth), Stephen O'Malley (bass) and Oren Ambarchi (percussion), Nazoranai unites three extraordinary experimental operators of doom, noise and power electronics.

One of most widely recognized and celebrated guitarists to come out of Japanese underground rock scene of the 1970s, Keiji Haino is well-known for his harsh blues-inspired solo guitar performances and torrential walls of sound with his band Fushitsusha. Much of his work bears an insular singularity, but his varied output eschews a signature style. For the last 40 years Haino has been prolific in his output and collaborations, working with everyone from Faust, Boris, Derek Bailey, Loren Connors, Stephen O'Malley, Oren Ambarchi, Jim O'Rourke and John Zorn.

Stephen O'Malley is the guitarist and founder of numerous seminal groups including Sunn O))), Khanate and Burning Witch among others. Born in New Hampshire and raised in Seattle, he eventually spent a decade in New York and presently is based in Paris. As a composer and musician he has been involved in hundreds of concerts and performances around the world over since 1993. His collaborators have included Boris, Merzbow, Jim O'Rourke, Keiji Haino and Oren Ambarchi to French theatre specialist Gisèle Vienne, American sculptor Banks Violette, Italian performance artist Nico Vascellari and Belgian filmmaker Alexis Destoop, among many others.  Since 2011 he has curated the label Ideologic Organ.

Oren Ambarchi is a composer and multi-instrumentalist with longstanding interests in transcending conventional instrumental approaches. His works are hesitant and tense extended songforms located in the cracks between several schools: modern electronics and processing; laminal improvisation and minimalism; hushed, pensive songwriting; the deceptive simplicity and temporal suspensions of composers such as Morton Feldman and Alvin Lucier; and the physicality of rock music, slowed down and stripped back to its bare bones, abstracted and replaced with pure signal. Ambarchi has performed and recorded with a diverse array of artists such as Fennesz, Otomo Yoshihide, Pimmon, Keiji Haino, John Zorn, Dave Grohl, z'ev, Toshimaru Nakamura, Peter Rehberg, Merzbow and many more. Since 2004 Ambarchi has worked with American avant metal outfit Sunn 0))) contributing to many of their releases and side-projects including their Black One album from 2005 and the recent Monoliths & Dimensions release.

260 Meserole Street, Bushwick BK
# 347 779 1049  *

Nazoranai - Feel The Ultimate Joy Towards The Resolve Of Pillar Being Shattered Within You II

​Book Signing with Acclaimed Trinidadian Author NATHALIE TAGHABONI (QUEEN MACOOMEH) May 24 2014 in Toronto

From a release:

​Book Signing
Acclaimed Trinidadian Author
at A Different Booklist (Toronto)
May 24, 2014 - 4-6pm

Nathalie Taghaboni was born in Trinidad and Tobago and raised in Toronto, Canada. She currently resides in the United States with her husband and two children.

She is a freelance photojournalist and the author of a collection of dialect short stories called Tales from Icebox Land, written under her pen name, Queen Macoomeh.

Santimanitay is the sequel to Across From Lapeyrouse, her first fiction novel.

A Different Booklist
746 Bathurst Street
Toronto ON  M5S 2R6
Phone: 416.538.0889   
Fax: 416.538.6914

Art News: Canadian Supreme Court Unanimously Decides in Favour of Artists in Pay Dispute

From a media release:

Supreme Court unanimously decides in favour of artists

Ottawa, Wednesday, May 14, 2014 –
Visual artists had a big victory today at the Supreme Court in the fight for minimum artist fees at the National Gallery of Canada. In a unanimous decision from the bench, the court allowed an appeal on behalf of artist restoring an earlier decision that found in their favour.

At issue was a perceived conflict between the Status of the Artist Act and the Copyright Act. The associations that represent artists, CARFAC and RAAV, had been trying to negotiate binding minimum fees for the payment of artists at the gallery, similar to a minimum wage. The gallery essentially argued CARFAC and RAAV, were taking away the right of artists to be paid less if they chose. In allowing the appeal, the court rejected this argument and, in an unusual move, ruled immediately after oral arguments.

Artists from across Canada in attendance were delighted with the results. “It’s a good day for artists,” said Grant McConnell, president of CARFAC. “This is a major victory for all artists in Canada and Quebec.”

“We are looking forward to resuming negotiations as we always wanted to do since 2003,” said Karl Beveridge, co-chair of the negotiation committee.

For the last 11 years, the organizations that represent visual artists, CARFAC & RAAV, have been trying to negotiate standards for the payment of artists at the National Gallery that would be binding - similar to a minimum wage. In 2007, the gallery suddenly refused to negotiate these fees; they argue that artists have the right to be paid less if they choose.

The gallery was initially found guilty of bargaining in bad faith but this was overturned in a split decision by the Federal Court of Appeal in March 2013.

Half of visual artists in Canada earn less than $8000/year. Most artists want to have their work in the National Gallery, and there is a lot of pressure to give away their rights. Setting binding minimum fees would relieve that pressure and ensure that all artists who work with the National Gallery are treated fairly. Artists would still be free to negotiate higher rates.

Artists of all disciplines have been watching this case with interest as it could have an impact on other agreements signed between artist associations and federal institutions in Canada such as those of the Writer’s Guild of Canada and the Canadian Screenwriters Collection Society. Both groups will be acting as interveners at the hearing.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

21C Festival of newly minted music May 21 to 25 2014 in Toronto

From a media release:

21C Festival
of newly minted music
May 21 to 25, 2014
at Koerner Hall, Toronto

In this festival of newly-minted music, today’s most fearless musicians and composers bring us fresh new sounds and ideas. Over five nights, eight concerts featuring mostly music composed in the 21st century will be presented as part of Koerner Hall’s fifth anniversary concert season, which will include 12 world, one North American, two Canadian, and five Toronto premieres, in addition to five more works by John Cage, Michael Colgrass, Morton Feldman, Leo Ornstein, and Canadian icon R. Murray Schafer. The Royal Conservatory of Music has commissioned four pieces (Javier Limón’s Requiem Flamenco, Chilly Gonzales’s Suite from “The Shadow,” Trichy Sankaran’s HAMSA, and Jennifer Higdon’s Dooryard Bloom) and co-commissioned four more (by Jia Guoping, Shi Fuhong, Zosha Di Castri, and Christopher Mayo). The works traverse the worlds of classical, jazz, pop, and South Asian genres. 

“Michael and Sonja Koerner have been champions of the creative process and commissioners of new works for much of their lives. It came as no surprise that Koerner Hall, named in their honour, was opened in 2009 with Beethoven, but also solo piano works by Györgi Ligeti and a new orchestral and choral work by their long-time friend, R. Murray Schafer. The Conservatory is extremely grateful for Michael and Sonja’s support and encouragement that enabled us to launch an annual festival of new works,” said Mervon Mehta, Executive Director of Performing Arts at The Royal Conservatory.

Michael Koerner remarked: “Charles Ives, the American composer-iconoclast wrote outrageously courageous music about 100 years ago and when asked what he was up to, he would say “I want to stretch your ears.” This 21C Music Festival is just about that: ear stretching.”

On Thursday, May 22, a concert titled FASTER STILL ANAÏS NIN will include a world premiere of String Quartet No. 3 (The Questioning) by Canadian composer Christos Hatzis, written for and played by the Afiara String Quartet, The Conservatory’s quartet-in-residence. The Toronto premiere of Canadian composer Brian Current’s Faster Still, a piece that is part of a series of works that feature constantly changing tempos, will be performed by the Nyx Quartet (ensemble formed by students of The Glenn Gould School), Véronique Mathieu on violin, and Claudia Chan on piano. Both Ms. Mathieu and Ms. Chan are Royal Conservatory alumnae. The Canadian premiere of Dutch composer Louis Andriessen’s Anaïs Nin, a semi-staged work for chamber ensemble, video, and soprano, based on the diary entries of Anaïs Nin, will be performed by Canadian mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta and 21C Ensemble. The work is staged by Liza Balkan, with the help of videographer Valerie Buhagiar. This very special evening also serves as a celebration of the 80th birthday of R. Murray Schafer, who has been composer-in-residence at The Conservatory since 2010, with the performance of his Quintet for Piano and Strings, played by The Conservatory’s own ARC Ensemble.

chilly eve of lemon cane on Friday, May 23, features three world premieres – by Canadian, Spanish, and American composers – that stretch the boundaries of classical music. Grammy Award nominated jazz pianist Uri Caine will offer a piano quintet (commissioned by The Banff Centre) to be played by the Afiara String Quartet and himself, titled Jagged Edges, inspired by the dramatic landscape of The Banff Centre in the Canadian Rockies. 2013 Grammy Award winner (for his work with Daft Punk), pianist, producer of numerous artists including Feist and Drake, provocateur, and Royal Conservatory alumnus, Chilly Gonzales, debuts his Suite from “The Shadow” (commissioned by The Royal Conservatory), written for a chamber ensemble that includes the composer at the piano. Gonzales said: “For years I’ve entertained the idea of writing some dramatic music around this fairy tale for adults by Hans Christian Andersen. Somehow, I haven’t managed to compose the full Wagnerian blockbuster this deserves to be. But in the meantime, here is a suite for chamber ensemble depicting a man at odds with his own shadow. It contains my first self-conscious waltz, a few glaring “leitmotifs,” and some sentimentality that I just couldn’t resist adding.”

Flamenco guitarist and producer Javier Limón, who made his Koerner Hall debut during the 2012-13 concert season with Amanda Martinez, debuts his first string quartet, Requiem Flamenco (commissioned by The Royal Conservatory), performed by the Afiara String Quartet and Alberto Suarez on the cajón. Finally, Toronto-based pianist/composer Eve Egoyan teams up with visual artist David Rokeby for the Toronto premiere of their piece, Surface Tension, a collaborative work for disklavier piano (an acoustic piano with a computer interface) and interactive video.

In NIGHT BLOOMS on Saturday, May 24, Marc-André Hamelin, one of Canada’s most prodigious piano talents, is featured in works that look back to 20th century stalwarts and forward with a new piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon. Hamelin plays The Perilous Night, a solo work for prepared piano by John Cage, and is joined by the Pacifica Quartet for Leo Orenstein’s Piano Quintet, a still thoroughly modern piece, written in 1927. Finally, Hamelin and the Pacifica Quartet are joined by a Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins for the Canadian premiere of a work by Higdon, titled Dooryard Bloom (commissioned by The Royal Conservatory). Dooryard Bloom is based on Walt Whitman’s poem “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” which he wrote in response to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Marc-André Hamelin appears for the second time during the 21C Music Festival on Sunday, May 25, in a concert titled HUSH!, which features a rare performance of For Bunita Marcus, a 70-minute work for solo piano marked entirely triple piano by the late American composer Morton Feldman.         

On two evenings, following mainstage Koerner Hall performances, Festival After Hours concerts will be held in Conservatory Theatre, featuring new works in a causal setting. A cash bar will be open. On May 23, two Toronto-based Indian artists, Trichy Sankaran (mrdangam) and Gurpreet Chana (tabla), will perform. Mr. Chana, known as “The Tabla Guy,” presents his ground-breaking integration of tabla and technology that will start in a classical mode and then turn the Conservatory Theatre into a club as he morphs into dance beats. Internationally revered percussion master Sankaran performs the world premiere of Hamsa, commissioned by The Conservatory. On May 24, the Pacifica Quartet will perform the world premiere of Shulamit Ran’s String Quartet No. 3 – GLITTER, DOOM, SHARDS, MEMORY for string quartet; flutists Susan Hoeppner and Leslie Newman play Andrew Staniland’s Flute vs Flute; and Sanya Eng (harp) and Ryan Scott (percussion) perform Michael Colgrass’s Pan Trio (steel player to be announced shortly).

The Royal Conservatory has partnered with New Music Concerts Ensemble (under the direction of Founding Artistic Director Robert Aitken) and Esprit Orchestra (conducted by Founding Music Director Alex Pauk) who will present two of their respective season’s concerts as part of the inaugural edition of the 21C Music Festival. On May 21, New Music Concerts presents New Beijing will feature pipa virtuoso Lan Weiwei, who coordinates a contemporary music program at the Beijing Conservatory. New Music Concerts has invited Weiwei’s colleagues Jia Guoping, Shi Fuhong, and Chen Xiaoyong to compose new works for her (commissioned by New Music Concerts with funding from The Royal Conservatory and Roger D. Moore), featuring pipa in combination with western instruments. Shi Fuhong’s piece is titled Mountains and Seas, and the concert will also include Chinese-Canadian composer and Conservatory alumna Alexina Louie’s Imaginary Opera. On May 25, Esprit Orchestra presents Mysteries will include premieres of new works by two important emerging Canadian composers living and working abroad: Zosha Di Castri (world premiere) and Christopher Mayo (world premiere of a work for soprano, two mezzo-sopranos, alto, and orchestra). The program will also feature the North American premiere of Mysteriën, a new piece by Louis Andriessen, as well as the Toronto premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Out of Black Dust.

Additional events:
All of the performances starting at 8:00pm will also include either a pre- or post-concert artist/composer chats, with the pre-concert events starting at 7:15pm. Additionally, Chilly Gonzales launches his Re-Introduction Etudes, a book of études for solo piano, with a discussion and selections performed by students from The Royal Conservatory, on Saturday, May 24, at 2:00pm in Mazzoleni Concert Hall, located in the historic Ihnatowycz Hall.

NB - since these are premieres, naturally the videos present earlier works by these artists.

The Lisabel Suite Launches at the InterContinental Toronto Centre (featuring the work of artist Lisabel)

With material from a media release:

Contemporary Art & Marketing:
The Lisabel Suite
Launches at the InterContinental Toronto Centre
featuring the work of artist Lisabel

I had the opportunity to check out the newly launched Lisabel suite at the InterContinental Toronto Centre and speak to the artist and agent/co-partner Glenn Miller.

Lisabel's bold abstract works greet you from the lobby along with - for a limited time - the Lamborghini Art Car that's gotten her eye popping and colourful makeover.

Her pieces are bright and wonderfully textural and made of composite materials - a medium, as it turns out, where you could say she has some history. Self-taught as an artist, she was actually one of the first female graduates of a program in composite materials from CEGEP de St-Jérôme, QC.

"I sold engineering and chemical products," she recalls - all while working on creative projects. She began her artistic career during a stint in Atlanta. "I made about 20 pieces and sold many of them."

"It was my dream to do this," she says of the life of an artist. "In 2007, I had a big roller blade accident - I broke my back, my wrist. It was difficult. God decided for me." Choosing to pursue art full-time proved to be fortuitous. Later in 2007 she won the first Grand Prize in Distinctive Techniques at the 24th International Visual Arts, Sound and Light Gala Contest held by the Cercle des artistes peintres et sculpteurs du Québec and it began the process of raising her profile in the arts scene. Together with Glenn Miller, she now owns and runs a studio and gallery in Montreal and her work has been shown in Europe and North America and is part of collections all over the world.

The Lisabel Suite is a themed suite at the InterContinental - the second such project (the first having launched in Montreal in 2010). It's not only an opportunity for the artist to market work in a new way, but also to bring art into the public sphere in a space outside the sometimes too rarefied atmosphere of the gallery.

Glenn is her agent and co-partner. "I had a 50-year vision of the business. I wanted to build a brand," he says. He began by considering projects involving strong global brands and approached the InterContinental in Montreal. They sold InterContinental on showing some of Lisabel's work in their lobby and then - prodded in part by the general blandness of hotel room decor worldwide - expanded by suggesting the concept of creating a theme out a hotel suite.

The result was what is now one of the honeymoon suites at the InterContinental in Montreal, for which Lisabel made an exclusive collection of pieces. Her work has an immediate appeal - striking, textural and with a richly saturated palette of colour - that adds a distinct note of urbam glamour to the typically neutral tones of the hotel suite.

"Once you've done that, you've created a concept that you can market," Glenn explains. "Once a year we change the collection. There will only be one Lisabel Suite in town."

The goal is to expand the idea across the globe. "I want to change the way art is viewed. I want to change the way art is sold," Glenn says.

About the Lamborghini Art Car
Grand Touring Automobiles (GTA) presents an exclusive custom-designed 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo 560-4. The stunning work of art was created by world-renowned, Canadian artist Lisabel - who painted the original work in composite materials (the same medium that the shell of the Lamborghini is made of), recast them in 3M vinyl, and then enveloped the Lamborghini in the material.

Lisabel joined forces with Lamborghini to fuse the technological fit and the beauty of her art, with the world's most artistic, desired car. "The car served as a source of inspiration to bring a feminine artistic touch to the sexiest modern car today", shares Lisabel.

"GTA and Lisabel share the same clientele and many of the same brand attributes, such as high-performance and exclusivity. The Gallardo is a true exotic, and the one prepared by Lisabel is truly art on wheels. It's sexy, too." says Shawn Morris, Vice-President of Operations at Grand Touring Automobiles.

About the Lisabel Suite
The newly renovated 540 square foot suite showcases the sleek and sophisticated urban art of Lisabel, bringing dramatic presence to the understated luxury of InterContinental Toronto Centre, while creating a residential experience with a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere. Low profile furnishings were smartly used to afford uninterrupted city views. The new Lisabel Suite integrates classic design and textures with contemporary murals.

“We are delighted to have this partnership with Lisabel. Her vibrant urban art is a perfect match with our sleek and contemporary hotel design and dynamic downtown city feel” says Alexi Hakim, General Manager, InterContinental Toronto Centre.