Thursday, June 30, 2016

Canada Day 2016: The Pride of Canada Carousel #folkart

From a media release:

Canada Day 2016 - free rides, cotton candy & more
The Pride of Canada Carousel

After July 1, the Pride of Canada Carousel will be open seven days a week 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. - $2:00 a ride
162 Enterprise Blvd and Birchmount in Downtown Markham

TORONTO – The Pride of Canada Carousel, a 50-foot, one-of-a-kind merry-go-round featuring 44 rideable sculptures was unveiled at a private preview event, today, Tuesday June 28, 2016 in Downtown Markham. The Carousel will make its public debut at a free Canada Day celebration, noon to 5:00 p.m., Friday July 1 at 162 Enterprise and Birchmount in Downtown Markham.

Canada Day celebrants will take free fantastical rides on the sculpture characters including a beaver, a bumblebee, a massive moose, a mermaid, a Canadian Mountie and more, all made from repurposed materials forming ingenious works of art. In addition to free carousel rides, the Pride of Canada Carousel July 1 celebration will feature, free cotton candy, air brush tattoo artist, mini Canadian flags, balloons twister, water station and costumed stilt characters inspired by the sculptures.

• A live BelloSound DJ will play the best of Canadian music. Beaver Tails will be on hand and The Great Canadian Food Truck and Caplansky’s will be curbside for the festivities.
• Across the street at 169 Enterprise Road, the Canada Day block party features more free activities with face painting, live music from Los Moralitos at 3.00 p.m., 5.15 p.m. and 6.15 p.m. and Awash with Flames: the Billions Cobra Show at 4:15 p.m. in the square.

The centrepiece of the celebration, The Pride of Canada Carousel is a spectacular interactive art piece created by notable, Canadian-born, California-based urban folk artist, Patrick Amiot, who is a master at creating art out of found objects. Amiot works in tandem with his wife Brigitte Laurent. The creative duo work side-by-side out of Sebastopol, California, Patrick sculpts while Brigitte paints.

The Pride of Canada Carousel is many things – a piece of kinetic art, whimsy and engineering in motion, a joyful lifestyle connection to tradition and a bucket list destination for globetrotters who seek an old-fashioned ride on a 21st Century Carousel. The legendary Daniel Horenberger of Brass Ring Carousel Company built the Carousel structure. Some of his notable carousels include Disneyland’s King Arthur Carrousel and the General Electric solar-powered Carousolar.

The Pride of Canada Carousel is housed in a dramatic open glass pavilion designed by acclaimed Toronto-based architect Sheldon Levitt of Quadrangle, Architects, Ltd. and will serve as a cultural anchor and meeting place in the 243-acre Downtown Markham development. The Pride of Canada Carousel will soon join the ranks of Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn, New York and Pier 39 Carousel in San Francisco. Christopher Bratty of The Remington Group, the pre-eminent real estate and development firm behind Downtown Markham, commissioned the Carousel to be a centerpiece of The Remington Contemporary Art Gallery (RCAG) The Remington Group’s ambitious $25 million public art initiative in Downtown Markham.

Commissioned pieces such as the Carousel are only part of Downtown Markham’s public art story. The Remington Group endeavors to build a creative community with studio spaces, shows and exhibitions. Art will feature prominently throughout all 243 acres of Downtown Markham as the true live, work, play community evolves in the coming decades. Such as the development itself, RCAG will continue to push boundaries, helping shape a dynamic and truly original urban landscape.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Recently released: Eric Anders - Big World Abide: The Best of Eric Anders (Independent - March 30 2016)

Recently released:
Eric Anders - Big World Abide: The Best of Eric Anders
(Independent - March 30, 2016)

Buy the CD

This is a "Best Of' compilation from Eric Anders, a native of San Francisco. The songs are culled from several different releases - and it's a nice introduction to the work of this artist if you're not yet familiar - but there's a sense of cohesion and consistency to Eric's musical output that doesn't make it feel like a jumble sale of songs.

Eric's songs So Wrong was used in feature film, Man in the Chair and Big World Abide was used in the TV Show "Dirt," starring Courtney Cox.

It begins with the sombre Tethered to the Ground, a track that has a classic vibe in a folk vein. The pared down instrumentation and anthemic melody highlight Eric Anders' slightly raspy, romantically breathy tenor. His vocals have a sensitive sense of expression and a nice range that really carry the music.

A nice, crisp drum line adds impetus to the moody title song, Big World Abide. He pays as much attention to the lyrics as to the music and thoughtful arrangement with a poetic mix of cleverness and poignancy that matches the feel of the track.

God's got a list, he's checking it twice;
Heaven's the gift for those who are nice.

Eric Anders got into writing and recording songs late in life and then tried to make up for lost time by releasing four critically acclaimed CDs in four years: Not At One (2003), Songs For Wayward Days (2004), More Regrets (2005) and Tethered to the Ground (2006). Jeff Peters, who mixed four of Eric's releases, remastered the songs compiled for this 2016 release, Big World Abide: The Best of Eric Anders.

Big World Abide is a full length CD and the songs range from folk to country/rock within a familiar range but played and sung with a conviction you can hear in the recording. The mood ranges from plaintive to driving to bluesy, with each track offering something a little different.

Remembering On My Own is a highlight, a song with flashes of Indian strings and tabla underneath the folk-rock melody and guitar. It's gives the track an intriguing kind of texture. His vocals are soft on an acoustic version of the Violent Femmes' hit Blister In The Sun in a retake that you don't recognize at first. He mines the song for the romance of the words in a version that likely won't please fans of the original - but then again, it's not meant to be compared. Some tracks, like Genocide and Justice, are politically aware.

This is the best of the singer-songwriter genre, lit up by a laid back energy (if that can be a thing) and Eric's voice.

Eric is currently working on his next release with Mark O'Bitz and Matt Brown.


Scarborough Afro-Caribbean Festival August 20 & 21 2016

I'm an official "community partner" and looking forward to this fun event coming up in August:

Scarborough Afro-Caribbean Festival 
August 20 & 21, 2016
Albert Campbell Square

“Celebrating Our Diversity” at the Scarborough Afro-Carib Fest

Scarborough, Ontario – June 2016: It’s BACK!! It’s BIGGER!! It’s BETTER!! The 5th annual Scarborough Afro Carib-Fest taking place on August 20-21, 2016 offers exciting live musical performances, mouth-watering ethnic cuisine, a cultural fashion show, dance competitions, vendor exhibitions, marketplace, beer tent, drum and dance workshops, face painting, kid’s zone and much more!

"Celebrating Our Diversity" is the theme for this event for people of all ages and backgrounds to experience the richness of the city’s diverse communities. Organized by the non-profit organization, Heritage Skills Development Centre (HSDC), with support from the Canadian Heritage and TD Bank, the event fosters pride and demonstrates the richness of the Afro-Caribbean culture, and other ethnic groups that make up the fabric of Canada. The 2-day festival is unique as it helps to bridge social, cultural and economic gaps through sharing music, dance, cuisine, arts and culture.

The Festival will take place from 12:00pm – 9:00 pm on Saturday August 20 and Sunday August 21, 2016 inside Albert Campbell Square at the Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Drive, Scarborough, ON. The event is FREE and will welcome 20,000 people from across Ontario and Internationally.

• For Sponsorship Opportunities, please click here 
• For Vendor Opportunities, please click here 

About Heritage Skills Development Centre (HSDC):
HSDC is a grassroots non-profit organization established in 1993 with a mission to promote the health, social, cultural, and economic self-sufficiency of new immigrants, low-income, at-risk and marginalized groups in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Phone: 416-345-1613 Fax: 416-345-8696

Stay Connected with us on Social Media
Twitter: @AfroCaribFest 
Instagram: @AfroCaribFest

Highlights from last year:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Afro Cuban Soundclash On Tour 2016: BATTLE OF SANTIAGO - Toronto June 25, US Dates July 7-9

From a media release:

On Tour:
BATTLE OF SANTIAGO - Fábrica de Ritmo (Rhythm Factory)

June 25, 2016 in Toronto as part of Luminato

US Tour Dates:
July 7 @ ArtsRoit, Burlington, VT
July 8 @ Rockwood Music Hall, NYC, NY (Fabrica de Ritmo – Live Electronic DJ set)
July 9 @ Joe Pub, NYC, NY 

There’s an epic soundclash taking place North of the Border. Toronto-based group the Battle of Santiago combines classic Afro-Cuban rhythms and vocals with a distinctly Canadian post-rock spirit and sensibility. The result is a wholly unique sound that tells a universal 21st Century story, transcending borders while staying rooted in one city’s immigrant experience.

“There are a couple of different Battles of Santiago’s to choose from,” explains the group’s founder Michael Owen. “There were a few in Cuba, mostly during the Spanish-American War, and there was even an infamous World Cup match in Chile that’s been given the name, too. So you can take your pick. We liked that ambiguity. It reflects how our music can change and take on different vibes. The name also implies some kind of soundclash, which works for us since the band has both a Latino and non-Latino section, and that dynamic can create a really exciting creative tension.”

Fábrica de Ritmo ( Rhythm Factory) is the group's newest exploration deconstructing and rebuilding these classic latin rhythms with their own district sound while marring their experience with electronic dance music. The band has a love of rhythm and percussion with a mission to explore the musical boundaries in non traditional directions using their ambience, electronic, noise, jazz, and post-rock influences.

The Battle of Santiago has been marked by this restless, transnational experimentalism since the beginning. The group has evolved from an exploration of experimental rock grounded in drummer-less Latin percussion, to an instrumental groove machine, to a tight Afro-Cuban post-rock outfit, and to this new mash up with their love of electronic dance music.

While Canada is well-known for its thriving indie rock and electronic scenes, with acts as diverse as Grimes and God Speed You Black Emperor, the country is seldom thought of as a Latin music hotbed. But Toronto hosts many thriving immigrant communities — including one of the largest Cuban expat communities in North America — and the Battle of Santiago is strongly rooted in the city’s wealth of Cuban and Latin musical talent.

The Battle of Santiago doesn’t skimp on their live show, either. There multimedia component developed with Chilean-born artist/designer Patricio Davila,  integrates digital visual art, live musical performance and audience interaction. The result is a one-of-a-kind organic audio / visual installation not to be missed.

The band will be promoting the upcoming release which dives deep into Afro-Cuban waters, mixing Afro-Cuban Yourba chants with subtle electronica (“Barasu-Ayo”) and rumbas with post-rock experimentalism (“Asi Vengo Yo”). The sound is more than just Radiohead meets Irakere, though: there’s cumbia tinged with dub (“Cimmaron”), anthemic Latin rock (“Pa Bailar”) and even the smooth funk of “Complica”.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Epic After Parties at Toronto Summer Music Festival 2016 July 22 & August 2

From a media release:

Toronto Summer Music Festival 2016 presents two epic after-parties! 
Long Winter at the Elgin - July 22 - TIX 
Definitely Not The Proms - August 2 - TIX

More info

TORONTO…Toronto Summer Music launches two new after-party events during the 2016 festival:  Long Winter at the Elgin and Definitely Not The Proms.

Toronto Summer Music has partnered with Mike Haliechuk of Long Winter, the inter-arts festival, to create an epic after-opera event on July 22 starting at 10 PM.   Rumoured to be haunted, the lobbies of the historic Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres (189 Yonge Street) will be transformed by artists, musicians, and dancers for an eerily unforgettable, immersive, artistic experience.  Opera tickets purchased for The Rape of Lucretia include access to the Long Winter at the Elgin after-party.  Tickets to the after-party can be purchased separately online for $20.

On August 2 at 10 PM, Toronto Summer Music Festival hosts Definitely Not The Proms, an after-party featuring great music, wine and food at Integral House (194 Roxborough Drive, Rosedale).  Definitely Not The Proms features food by Michael Tong of Sublime Catering and performances by classically trained singer-songwriter-pianist Jeffery Straker who has recorded for CBC's Canada Live and has toured internationally as far as Peru, Chile and Mexico. "Rufus Wainwright and k.d. lang are among the Canadians making essential and beautiful music – add Jeffery Straker to that list,” writes The Chicago Free Press.  Tickets to Definitely Not The Proms are $75 (admission includes food and drink).

About the 2016 Toronto Summer Music Festival
From July 14 to August 7, the Toronto Summer Music Festival brings outstanding classical music experiences to the city with a program featuring renowned Canadian and international artists in 24 mainstage concerts at Koerner Hall, Walter Hall and the Winter Garden Theatre, plus masterclasses, free outreach concerts, lectures, and workshops.

The 2016 Festival theme, London Calling! celebrates the vast musical traditions of Great Britain – from the Baroque to the 20th century pop British Invasion – with a special focus on the music of great British composers including Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Walton, and many more.  Performances include pianists Jeremy Denk and Christopher O’Riley, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, the Parker and Dover String Quartets, and a semi-staged production of Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera The Rape of Lucretia by Against The Grain’s Artistic Director Joel Ivany.  

For information on all 2016 Toronto Summer Music Festival activities call 416-408-0208 or visit .
Twitter: @TSMFestival
YouTube:  TSMFestival
Instagram: tsmfestival

A taste of Jeffery Straker (playing August 2):

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Existential musings at the Drake Hotel #Toronto

Existential musings at the Drake Hotel

It's been a while since I've slid my (vintage) designer-clad ass into a leatherette booth at the Drake Hotel.

While some of the decor elements may have changed and the demographic shifted - at least for tonight - but the artsy bent and high end energy are the same.

The mixologists are talented; this sherry/passion fruit concoction is possibly the most delicious cocktail I've ever had.
A sherry cocktail, they said

Down market seems to be in vogue these days as a design aesthetic. We are served little paper cups, with wooden forks to pick out the fragrant, spicy rice laced with salmon roe and fish along with veggies. It feels virtuous, somehow, albeit glutenous.

A DJ spins the tunes one into another and naturally, Purple Rain is on the list.

I'm watching the crowd of white scenesters groove, eat and drink to black music. Upstairs, they listen to hip hop as they chatter and take hors d'oeuvres, only to set them down again after a single bite.

These people aren't writers, in other words.
Drake Hotel, rooftop lounge (image by Anya Wassenberg)

There are photographers swarming all over the place.

I'm glad the Rorschach wallpaper and the tangled arrangement of lights along the wall have survived redecorating binges. They've always been among my favourite features of this room.

The crowd is fashionable 20-somethings, with a smattering of oldies like me.

They've tricked the young fashionistas into wearing ugly, shapeless dresses and blocky, unattractive shoes. They wear the kind of old-lady gear I used to make fun of in my teens, such has the pendulum of fashion swung around.

And around and around...
Rorschach wallpaper at the Drake Hotel, Toronto (by Anya Wassenberg)

#TravelSpain: Dalí, Shakespeare, Visconti in a Medieval Town - Exhibition at Gala Dalí Castle Púbol continues to Jan 6, 2017

With material from a media release:

Dalí, Shakespeare, Visconti
Gala Dalí Castle Púbol
Exhibition continues to Jan 6, 2017

Púbol is a small town in the municipality of La Pera, in the comarca of Baix Empordà, in the province of Girona, Catalonia, Spain. A beautiful village with its medieval charms intact, it was home to Salvador Dalí and is now home to the castle where he lived. You can absorb the gorgeous Catalonian countryside as you take in an exhibition that looks at Dalí's ties to the world of theatre.

The Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí is presenting a temporary exhibition at Púbol Castle, officially opened in March and continuing until January 6, 2017. This year the temporary exhibition at Púbol is dedicated to Salvador Dalí’s involvement in the theatre production of Shakespeare’s As you like it directed by Luchino Visconti at the Teatro Eliseo in Rome in 1948.

Concept and content
With the Dalí, Shakespeare, Visconti exhibition, which delves into Salvador Dalí’s relationship with the performing arts, we have sought to take part in the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and, at the same time, we wanted to remember an important moment in the history of western theatre.

Dalí, Shakespeare and Visconti
As you like it is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare written between 1599 and 1600. In 1948, the Italian director Luchino Visconti decided to stage a production of the play and sought the collaboration of Salvador Dalí to give the project greater visibility. Dalí was commissioned to create the set design, which also involved a young Franco Zeffirelli as art director, and also the costume design.

Historical context 
In July 1948 Salvador Dalí returned to Portlligat after eight years of exile in the United States to escape the war. The artist announced his desire to rediscover Italian classicism. In Venice, in front of the basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, he noticed a stone hemisphere surrounded by four rectangles. For Dalí, it was the confirmation that he was on the right path towards his work assuming the logic of classical perfection. Later he travelled to Rome, where he met Luchino Visconti. The director had finished La terra trema, a film commissioned by the Italian Communist Party. Afterwards, he presented the project Rosalinda o Come vi piace as “an uncomplicated show, a game, musical entertainment that evokes calm thoughts. [...] Then came Dalí. I was looking for an eccentric stage designer, a wizard”. With this commission, Dalí immersed himself for a month with total freedom to create the set design and costumes.

Set & costume design
Visconti wanted his theatre to be the expression of a visual fact. Dalí decided to attract attention by creating a structure that would frame the stage. This frame was the geometric motif the artist had seen on the basilica of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice. In addition, he also gave precise instructions for the lighting.

The costumes were made by Eva Mangili Palmer. Dalí himself referred to them in the text Bonjour! that was included in the programme: “my costumes are morphological and, in order to better serve my audience, they are even prophetic”.

Areas of the exhibition
In this year’s temporary exhibition at Púbol Castle there are three original works by Salvador Dalí on display: the drawing Elephant with obelisk from c. 1946, the oil painting Project for ‘Romeo and Juliet’ from 1942, and the wash drawing Study for the set of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ from 1942 (this last work is on display in the Castle library), 29 photographs taken by different authors, including Pasquale de Antonis and Tommaso Vasari, and seven documents. The two works from 1942 are not linked to Dalí and Visconti’s project, but they do complete the homage to Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of his death.

The seven documents in the display case are: one copy of the luxury edition of the programme from 1948, two period leaflets about the play, a photocopy of a handwritten letter from Dalí giving Visconti instructions about the staging, and three specialised theatre magazines which covered the premiere. There is also a screen showing an audiovisual of the programme’s pages being turned one by one. In the middle of the room a sofa has been placed to serve as seating and as a screen. Projected onto it is an excerpt from the television series Per Luchino Visconti broadcast by Rai 3 in 1987, in which the actors Vittorio Gassman and Marcello Mastroianni relate anecdotes about 1948.

The production company DocDoc Films is responsible for these two projections.

The staging of the exhibition was designed by Pep Canaleta from 3carme33 and the graphic design is by Alex Gifreu. Through the use of special lighting in the rooms, all the walls are washed in a faded red that reminds us of one of Dalí’s set designs. The aim was to add a theatrical effect to the staging of the exhibition. The red colour is inspired by Salvador Dalí’s Project for ‘As you like it’ from 1948. The display case has been designed to look like an old stage. And, finally, the button-tufted white sofa in the centre of the room is reminiscent of the ‘sheep couch’.

The catalogue includes texts by Salvador Dalí and Luchino Visconti, with an introduction by Montse Aguer, director of the Dalí Museums, and an article by Lucia Moni, CED coordinator and curator of the exhibition. The catalogue was coordinated by Rosa Maria Maurell, from the Centre for Dalinian Studies.

Púbol is a village with medieval flavour. Its Sant Pere Church (14th century) is an outstanding monument. This church was one of the richest in the region until the Civil War, when its treasures were destroyed, with the exception of the 15th century Gothic altarpiece by Bernat Martorell, now kept at the Girona Diocesan Museum. References to the Castle-Palace go back as far as 1017.

This Gothic-Renaissance fortress has undergone numerous transformations. In 1968 Salvador Dalí bought it and gave it to his wife Gala as a gift. With restoration work that lasted throughout a year, Dalí changed the castle's appearance almost completely, furnishing it with pieces from antique dealers in the region. He decorated the garden with elephants with huge feet, and he built a swimming pool with busts of Richard Wagner. In 1982, Gala was buried in the palace and it opened to the public in 1996. Inside you can see the paintings and drawings that Dalí gave his wife.

Hotel Pick
Las Moradas del Unicornio
Bed & Breakfast
Address: Plaza de Púbol, 17120 Púbol, Girona, Spain
Phone:+34 972 48 88 19
Very well reviewed, this bed & breakfast offers a taste of the area's characteristic Romanesque charms - cut stone on the outside and a lavish sense of decor inside. Outside the Hotel features a pool to cool off in, surrounded by a lush garden. Indoors you'll find a warm palette of colour with lots of natural hardwoood, including an enchanting library.

Púbol Castle, Gala Dalí House-Museum
Plaza Gala Dalí s/n
17120 Púbol, Pera, La
Girona, Catalonia
Telephone  +34 972488655
Fax  +34 972488653

Practical information Reservations

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Psychedelic Folk Funk Collective - Pilgrim Speakeasy New Release: Freak Deco (June 15, 2016)

With material from a media release:

Pilgrim Speakeasy...The World's Foremost Eclecto-Funk-World-Rock-Electro-Folk-Anomaly !
Freak Deco - June 15, 2016

Order the CD

I'm loving the psychadelic swing of this Brand Spanking New Pilgrim Speakeasy album for 2016. Freak Deco was in the making for 2 years and features the talents of many esteemed contributors from many countries, including stars of world music from Brazil, Senegal, UK, Columbia and Finland.

The new album features Finnish legend Sakari Kukko (Piirpauke, Youssou N'Dour) and Senegalese artist Meissa Njang (Orchestra Baobab) along with Brazilian vocalist Sara Elisa Alves and Columbian multi-instrumentalist Luis Fernando Godoy.
Europe'’s psychedelic folk funk collective known as Pilgrim Speakeasy are pointedly taking on interpersonal frustrations with their groove-heavy new single “Plan D.”  The darkly wry lyrics belie the energetic, genre bending world beat.  “Plan D” is the second single from Pilgrim Speakeasy’'s forthcoming album Freak Deco. According to music blogger Jani Ekblom, Pilgrim Speakeasy present “an irresistible musical vision where genres and styles mix and live together in harmony." “Plan D” features world music legends Meissa Niang (Orchestra Baobab) on vocals & percussion, Sakari Kukko (Piirpauki, Orchestra Baobab, Youssou Ndour) on sax and Mika Myllari (MMQ) on trumpet.

Pilgrim Speakeasy began as the “freak-powered vehicle” for the expressions of a psychedelic troubadour, Roger Roge, a Scotland-born expatriate currently residing in Finland. Although solely producing albums since 2000, Pilgrim Speakeasy remain an open entity that has welcomed the talents of esteemed contributors from many countries, including Brazil, Senegal, United Kingdom, Columbia, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.

At present, the Pilgrim Speakeasy collective consists of Roger Roge, Panu Mölsä (bass, ukulele), and Markus Mulkahainen (drums, percussion). Freak Deco is the follow-up to the group's acclaimed Lo-Fi Love at the Park Cafe album.

• For more info visit :

Recorded between 2014-2016 at The Speakeasy, Suomi. Mastered at Hafod Mastering Wales by Mike Isaacs and Gethin John.

Recently released: Tod Hughes - Time Slow Down (Independent - May 8, 2016)

Recently released:
Tod Hughes - Time Slow Down
(Independent - May 8, 2016)

Buy the Album

Time Slow Down is the first full-length release from indie artist Tod Hughes. It's an upbeat collection of songs from a veteran of Calgary's music circuit.

Time Slow Down, the title track, is a rollicking song with a roots country energy. Tod has a storyteller's sensibility and the song features back up singers for a good vocal mix that matches the sunny vibe of the tune.

One of a Kind turns to a groovier rock mode with a melodic hook. The music has a nice sense of momentum that swings through various genres from country to roots to guitar rock, with a little fiddle thrown into the mix just for fun.

In the morning light
we smile at each other in a knowing way
there was magic in the attic by the light of the moon

but I'm feeling insecure now
do I go or stay
where do we go from here now...?

Each song is a story, a scenario, from the working man in the infectious rocker Coming Home To You to the Dylanesque Real You And Me, with its rootsy swing and lyrics to match.

Nothing Too Obscure veers between pop, folk and - as the lyrics themselves say - a wanna be country song. It's the musical terrain occupied by most of this release. Drinking Coffee In a Hipster Place is the notable excpetion, featuring a jazzy trumpet line and beat-esque delivery in his raspy voice.

A native of Winnipeg, Tod is active in Calgary's live music scene and often lends his talents to supporting various charities, including helping to raise funds for education in developing countries, micro-finance and the recent refugee crisis in Syria.

Time Slow Down follows his EP, Changing Gears, and is available on CD, vinyl or MP3 download.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

#TravelGermany - Schwerin in July 2016: A Fairytale Castle, Aida and Gourmet Al Fresco Dining

With material from a media release:

Schwerin in July 2016:
A Fairytale Castle, Aida and Gourmet Al Fresco Dining

Schwerin, in the north of Germany on the Baltic Sea, is a bit of an off the beaten path destination for North American tourists. It's the city of seven lakes, green fields and the sandy shores of the Baltic Sea. With a population of only 100,000, Schwerin is Germany's smallest capital, seat of the Federal state Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
©Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus e.V. (Mader, Fritz)
It enjoys a picture-perfect location among a series of lakes that reflect both the passing clouds in the northern sky and the city's most famous landmark, Schwerin Castle. It is a fitting landmark: light, airy, bright and welcoming – just like the city itself.

Records dating back as far as 965 AD show evidence of a castle built on a freshwater lake in what historians believe to be Schwerin. However, it was only after 1160 that the city was actually established and the castle rebuilt in the shape of the now eminent Schwerin Castle. The Romanesque cathedral, built in 1270, is another spectacular monument - the city's only medieval structure to survive the centuries.

Today, Schwerin is known by many names: city of the seven lakes, Florence of the North, cathedral city and royal seat. All are apt because Schwerin successfully combines nature and architecture, artworks great and small, plus reminders of its long history. As visitors cross the cobbled market square, explore the narrow lanes, admire the historical buildings in the central Schelfstadt quarter or let their gaze fall on the incredibly beautiful castle, they will soon realise that there is plenty to see and do in Schwerin.
©DZT/Verwaltung der Staatlichen Schlösser und Gärten Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Pasdzior, Michael)
The castle is the city's most famous landmark and perches on an island between Lake Schwerin and Lake Burgsee as if taken from the pages of a fairytale. In July, you can experience its native beauty, historical monuments - along with opera and fantastic outdoor eating.

Find out more about the area

Castle Festival Schwerin July 8 to August 14, 2016
What began in 1993 as a secret among opera lovers, has now developed into an internationally renowned festival in front of the imposing backdrop of the fairytale castle of Schwerin. Nowadays, tens of thousands of guests flock to Schwerin each year for the summer productions of the Mecklenburg State Theatre.

Aida could hardly have a grander backdrop than the Schwerin Castle. The story: the Ethiopian princess Aida lives secretly in hostile Egypt as a slave at the court of the king's daughter Amneris. Aida loves Radames, an Egyptian commander, but Amneris has also fallen in love with the handsome soldier. Three lovers, in the midst of a raging war of violence and destruction. The Mecklenburg Staatskapelle Schwerin will present this musical masterpiece under the direction of Music Director Daniel Huppert.

The place 
Against the magnificent backdrop of the fairytale-style castle, the Castle Festival Schwerin presents Verdi's opera Aidi. Under the starry sky above Schwerin in the Old Garden, powerful voices will bring Verdi's dramatic story to life. Audiences will have a unique view of the opera and the castle itself, which rises from the mirror-like waters of Lake Schwerin.

Opera Pampering Weekend
Experience an enjoyable cultural getaway with everything that goes with it and the best seats at the Castle Festival Schwerin - already
* 1 night - from 175€ per person.
* 2 nights - from 250€ per person.

Festival schedule:
Premiere: on Friday, July 8, 2016 at 21 o'clock at the Old Garden.
Performances: each Thursday to Sunday until August 14, 2016
5 wheelchair accessible places
Discount: students to 28 years, students, seniors from 66 years and disabled people (80%) and their companion, trainees, ALG II recipients, welfare recipients and students

• Check out tickets, information and the Opera Pampering Package at the link
©Schwerin, Stadtmarketing Gesellschaft mbh
Schwerin Gourmet Garden July 15 to 17, 2016
Welcome to Schwerin's biggest garden restaurant - an event that turns the castle garden pavilion into a giant al fresco dining and entertainment centre.

As part of the cultural and garden summer a lovely garden restaurant is set up in the historic castle park of Schwerin again. 16 exhibitors and participants have registered for this year. Brand new, the "Phillies - Bar" from Schwerin and representatives of the Dutch fishing industry. It is the first time the culinary offerings will include Dutch young herring, traditionally offered from carts by Dutch girls in historic costumes.

The Mecklenburgische Brauerei Lübz, Sparkasse and Henkel are again partners of the "Gourmet Garden". There are talks with the shrimp farm in Grevesmühlen, the only manufacturer in Germany of fresh shrimp ( Negotiations are currently underway with the company "Güstrower Schlossquell" to win them as partners and sponsors of the event.

The options range from wine from Franconia with the "Summer Lust" in Boxbeutel, champagne & oysters to wild fruit brandy to pasta and wine. The traditional house "SN" is also back again and the "Dutch farm". The "ars vivendi" will convince you with Mediterranean delights. There is ice from the farmer and quiche, coffee and cakes, steaks & beer. The Kühlungsborner Gourmet day club will tempt with its gourmet chefs and critics.

Tiger of Sweden presents SS17 Collection at London Collections: Men

From a media release:

Tiger of Sweden presents SS17 Collection
at London Collections: Men

LONDON, ENGLAND - In the late 17th century the world was transfixed by the Baroque opulence of the recently built palace of Versailles, and it was around this model that architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger based his designs for Sweden’s new royal palace, Kungliga Slottet.

An homage to the French royal seat, Kungliga Slottet was to be a heady mix of rigidly exuberant Baroque and florid Rococo curves. Built between 1700 and 1754, Tessin’s original plans did not come to pass as King Karl XII – the reigning monarch of the time – disliked many of the architect’s extraneous flourishes and made changes to the palace to make it more minimal.
Tiger of Sweden Fashion Show SS17
Inspired by Kungliga Slottet’s transformation from decadent citadel into a temple to Scandinavian restraint, Tiger of Sweden’s Spring Summer ’17 collection consists of a tapestry of influences, ranging from the ornate to the understated.

A Baroque garden-inspired print adorns slick one-and-a-half breasted suits, bombers and windbreakers at the opening of the show, and bright bold stripes adorn blousons and wide leg trousers. Close-cut, clever takes on regency-style mourning suits are worn with nylon field jackets and smart poplin shirts, while baroque-print jacquard tunics come teamed with classic two piece suits. All these contrasts help to create a sense of intricacy and depth – a blend of old and new, minimal and maximal that feels, ultimately, contemporary.

Elsewhere, utilitarian zip-up field vests in monochromatic shades come worn over traditional cotton tailoring, while sheer jumpers are teamed with poplin shirts and high-shine nylon shirt jackets. Suits are worn with sneakers throughout, while cropped postman jackets look utilitarian and simple in contrast to the collection’s baggy, shortened and kick flared trousers. Above the knee tailored shorts teamed with pulled up white socks have a boyish charm.
Tiger of Sweden Fashion Show SS17 - finale
A considered jumble of styles which comes together as a cohesive whole thanks to Tiger’s consistently sharp cut, this is a collection inspired by Sweden’s rich cultural history as much as it is Tiger’s contemporary attitude to the clothes it produces. Lush yet laconic, smart yet soft – and as desirable as ever.

About Tiger of Sweden
Founded in Stockholm in 1903 as a men’s tailoring brand, Tiger of Sweden has grown over the past century to operate across three continents. Always focusing on their brand philosophy, ‘A Different Cut’, Tiger has grown to now offer complete men’s and women’s RTW lines, shoes, accessories, underwear and a dedicated Jeans line. Continuing to evolve under the directorship of CEO David Thunmarker, Tiger of Sweden offers a modern and contemporary approach to traditional tailoring. Since 1993, Tiger of Sweden has gone from an €1.5 million turnover to €126 million for the 2014–2015 fiscal year. Tiger of Sweden is sold and marketed in 20 countries and has been part of the IC Group A/S since 2003

Twitter: @TigerofSwedenTO
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Hashtag: #TigerofSweden

All images courtesy of Tiger of Sweden

Tiger of Sweden Spring Summer 2017 Fashion Show from Tiger of Sweden on Vimeo.

Friday, June 10, 2016

CD Release: Soukous Master Siama Matuzungidi Finds a New Stream of Musical Creativity on Rivers (June 10 2016)

From a media release:

Out Today (June 10, 2016)
The Congo Flows in Minneapolis: Soukous Master Siama Matuzungidi Finds a New Stream of Musical Creativity on Rivers

Download the CD - name your price

Siama Matuzungidi left home at 17, his guitar strapped to his back. Music has since carried him across Africa, from his home in rural Congo (then Zaire) to the capital Kinshasa, then to Uganda, and eventually to Nairobi, Kenya.

Along the way, he played with some of the biggest names in soukous, including Kanda Bongo Man, Sam Mangwana, Moni Mambo with Shika Shika, Lovy Longomba, Tshala Muana and Samba Mapangala with Virunga. As a prolific studio musician, Siama laid down a string of radio hits still enjoyed by soukous fans today, playing on more than a hundred singles. His own songs, tales of love, desire, and betrayal, feature his knack for catchy tunes and wry twists of humor.

Now based in the Twin Cities, Siama gathered together a diverse community of Minnesota-based master musicians from across the globe to transform his modern take on traditional Congolese music and soukous via the emigre experience on Rivers (International release: June 10, 2016; Minneapolis release: May 31, 2016, 7:30-10pm at Cedar Cultural Center). Glittering guitar and gorgeous vocal harmonies meet an array of surprises, including Carnatic Indian singer and veena virtuoso Nirmala Rajasekar, renowned gospel singer JD Steele, master Tibetan multi-instrumentalist Tenzen Ngawang, classical cellist Jacqueline Ultan and Joe Savage on a mean pedal steel. With Siama at the helm, these combinations click into place, defying expectations.

“I invited musicians to share what they feel when they hear my music,” muses Matuzungidi. “I didn’t tell them what to play. I just encouraged them to express themselves in their own way. The music still sounds like home but they’ve added so many cool ideas to it.”

Matuzungidi has decades of songwriting under his belt, though you’d never know unless you were a soukous expert. Like many songwriters in the scene, he was tapped while in the studio to share his compositions, and he was never credited officially, though fans knew who was behind their favorites, songs like Matuzungidi’s classic “Sisili,” which chronicles a yearning so red hot, the namesake’s father drove in from the country to fetch his daughter, much to Matuzungidi’s chagrin.
Siama Matuzungidi by Dallas Johnson
Matuzungidi’s songs and his quicksilver guitar work left their mark on soukous and even earned him the title, “soukous legend”, but it never made him much money. Still, he loved his vocation. Soukous is a uniquely competitive genre in terms of proficiency. Just having catchy songs wasn’t enough to stay on the charts during the golden era of soukous (‘70s-‘80s). To stay in the game, soukous musicians brought in surprising scales and layered their songs with intricate hooks. He didn’t know it at the time but this attention to precision and ingenuity prepared Siama for his future passion for musical experimentation.

After enjoying extended contracts in Japan (with Ibeba System for Stage Master International) and Dubai (with Moreno), Siama landed in Minneapolis, which he explains, “…was a big change because for the first time there wasn’t anyone to play soukous with. I was worried I might have to stop playing but another voice told me to try new things.”

He heeded that voice and began to try new musical directions and ideas. He often landed on panels and stages with a wide range of musicians. Siama says, “The way my music started growing was so fun. Working with someone new gives me ideas I never thought about. Musicians in Minneapolis are so open about trying new things and working together. I’d never experienced that before. It’s why I made this a collaboration album.”

Siama has incorporated these diverse elements seamlessly on his new album. “Ndombolo” (about late nights with his family, singing and dancing under the stars) is a globe-spanning vocalists’ showcase, where Siama’s bold, joyous singing meets Tenzin Ngawang’s soaring sounds from the Himalayas, Nirmala Rajasekar’s imaginative serpentine phrases and JD Steele’s signature layered gospel harmonies.

Siama Matuzungidi by Dallas Johnson
On, “Maisha Mazuri” (“Beautiful Life,” written for a friend with cancer who embraced life and laughter), Matuzungidi finds a kindred musical spirit in Nirmala’s mood-setting and masterful phrasing.

While responding to his new musical environment, tight, rich vocal harmonies and sparkling guitar still run through everything Matuzungidi does. In both his reprised hits (“Kueya,” originally recorded with Samba Mapangala) and new songs (“Malembe,” in which he reminds us to take things one step at a time and “Jungle Zombie” a rollicking 6/8 number punctuated by trumpet hooks), Matuzungidi’s fluid playing brings it all together. This project deepened Siama’s appreciation for traditional music from DR Congo, which he aptly brings to life throughout the album.

“This project has brought so many fans, old band-mates and friends to the surface,” reflects Dallas Johnson, a vocalist and co-producer on the album and major instigator of this new phase of Matuzungidi’s career. “They call Siama ‘maestro’ and talk about the impact his music has had on their lives. It’s exciting to see him step out from behind the guitar to really showcase all of his talents on this record. His whole life is in this music.”

Siama’s excited to share his new sound with soukous fans across the African diaspora and anxious to connect with music lovers in the US and beyond.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Wines of Italy - Vino d'Italia: Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri 2016

With material from a media release:

Wines of Italy - Vino d'Italia
Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri 2016

• Here's a guide to all the Tre Bicchieri winners

What could be more appetizing than a room full of Italian wines and foods to sample? Add the posh surroundings of the Liberty Grand complex at Exhibition Place, and the experience was nothing short of sublime.

3 Glasses is the top distinction awarded to some of Italy’s best wines by Gambero Rosso, an Italian journal that celebrates the hedonistic pursuit of food, wine & culture.

Every year in the Fall, Gambero Rosso announces their short-list of Tre Bicchieri winners (pronounced “tray bee-kee-AIR-ee”, which means “3 Glasses”). These are the wines that are judged as the best from a massive collection of 22,000 wine contenders from 2,400 Italian wineries. Taste testing 22,000 wines continues over a 6 month period.

This year just 421 wines earned the Tre Bicchieri distinction. That’s the top 2% of all wines taste-tested.

Luckily, I got to check out the Gambero Rosso road show when it hit Toronto this week. There was tiramisu, meat balls, polenta and osso bucco, cheeses, salads and did I mention tiramisu...? There was organic fair trade, single origin, richly aromatic coffee from  Caffè Paranà.

Vino d'Italia

And the wines? I can only comment on a few that I sampled, very inexpertly - and in no way to besmirch the good name of the very many that I couldn't get to.

From La Guardiense, a winery in the Campania region in the south of Italy - the Sannio Aglianico Janare '14. This is a lovely, big, fruity dark red with a nice finish, not too tart and perfect for sipping.

Monte del Fra Bardolino 2015 is a light red wine made on the eastern shores of Lake Garda, in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy. Monte del Fra Bardolino is made from 55 year old indigenous native vines from Custoza in the Verona region.

Just released in Vintages (the LCBO store) it's a perfect summer wine - fruity and fragrant. It would be lovely for sipping or with light summer dishes.
Cantina Nals Margreid - Pino Bianco Sirmian '14. Made in the Alto Adige or South Tyrol region of Italy, this white wine has a bright acidity that fills the nose, with light citrus notes from grapes grown 1200 meteres high on the slopes of the Tyrolean mountains. It's a nice sipping wine with fruit or cheese or perhaps accompanied by fish and seafood.

From Tuscany, I checked out a classic Chianti '13 from Badia A Coltibuono. The Badia A Coltibuono itself is a fascinating place centered around an 11th century monastery that has evolved into the burgeoning agritourist area. The Chianti '13 was fruity, with dark notes of cherry; it would go with any Italian dish I could conceive of.

From the Emilia Romagna region, I tasted the lovely Cleto Chiarli Tenue Agricole Rose Brut De Noir. It was nicely effervescent, with a light acidity. I could sip this wine with fruit and cheese for days on end.

Since I was on to bubblies, I finished with Bartolomiol - Voldobbiandene Brut Priot '14. It has a lovely and light taste with subtle peachy notes for a nice alternative to Champagne.
I regret I didn't get to all of those lovely bitters and liqueurs, but at least I got to a few.

Fernet-Branca Amer/Bitters
If you like bitters - and I do! - you'll have to try Fernet-Branca Amer. It's the perfect digestif, wonderfully aromatic with a variety of spices and herbs, made in Milan, Italy by Frateli Branca Distilleries.

I found it light and flavourful, delicious on its own or over ice. It's made with 27 different herbs from 4 continents - including aloe ferox, gentian, chamomile, chincon, colombo root, Chinese rhubarb, myrrh, peppermint, saffron and ireos - and then aged in oak barrels for 12 months for a taste that's light, mot syrupy, with just the right bitter edge.

Amaro Lucano
Amaro Lucano is an Italian liqueur made by Amaro Lucano S.p.A., a family-owned company founded in 1894 and based in Pisticci, Basilicata. The liqueur is made using a secret recipe that uses wormwood, Roman wormwood, clary sage, musk yarrow, sweet orange and gentian, among others. Nice with ice or on its own, Amaro Lucano was made for mixing in cocktails too.

Lucano & Chinotto
45ml Amaro Lucano
Chinotto with soda

Amaro Lucano cocktail
(Chinotto is an Italian soft drink made with the juice of the fruit of the myrtle-leaved orange tree.)

Lucano 1894
2/5 Amaro Lucano
1/5 Red Vermouth
2/5 tonic water
Orange juice - just a splash
Orange slice

Pour everything into a tall glass and stir with a straw and add the splash of orange juice last. Garnish with an orange slice.

Lucano & Gazzosa
45ml Amaro Lucano
100ml Lemon soda

Friday, June 3, 2016

Art/Fashion/Celebrity: Tommy Hilfiger to sponsor & co-host the star-studded Serpentine Summer Party 2016

From a media release:

Tommy Hilfiger to sponsor & co-host the Serpentine Summer Party

The iconic American designer will co-host the Summer Party, a highlight of London’s annual social calendar, in support of the renowned Serpentine art galleries

Image of Tommy Hilfiger courtesty Tommy Hilfiger© 2009 
AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS – Tommy Hilfiger, which is owned by PVH Corp. [NYSE: PVH], will sponsor the 2016 edition of the Serpentine Summer Party, taking place at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens, London, on Thursday, July 6, 2016. The event will be co-hosted by Mr. Tommy Hilfiger alongside actress Salma Hayek, former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, entrepreneur Sir David Tang, architect David Adjaye, entrepreneur Matthew Freud, architect Bjarke Ingels, cricket administrator Lalit Modi, and Serpentine Director of Summer Programmes, Julia Peyton-Jones and Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist.

“Art has been one of my greatest sources of inspiration since the beginning of my career,” said Tommy Hilfiger. “Co-hosting this year’s Serpentine Summer Party is a fantastic opportunity to support the artistic community, and celebrate some of art, design and architecture’s most incredible talent. From painting and photography to sculpture, architecture, music and performance, the Serpentine Galleries bring all forms of artistic expression together in an incredible setting.”

“The Summer Party is renowned for bringing together leading figures from a variety of different worlds and we are especially excited that Tommy Hilfiger is partnering with us this year,” said Julia Peyton-Jones, Director of Summer Programmes, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries. “As well as creating one of America’s most iconic brands, which is synonymous with summer, Tommy Hilfiger is a globally-renowned figure whose long-term commitment to art and education chimes with the Serpentine’s long-held maxim of ‘Art for All’.”
Serpentine Gallery Summner Pavillion by Bjarke Ingels
Danish architect Bjarke Ingels has been commissioned to design this year’s annual Serpentine Pavilion, an ambitious program that began in 2000 and is now an established platform for architectural experimentation. Each year, the Serpentine Gallery invites an internationally-acclaimed architect or design team to create a temporary summer pavilion, and the unique landmark structure is exhibited on the gallery’s lawn for the public to explore during the summer months. For this year’s pavilion, Ingels has created a structure inspired by an “unzipped wall” which has been transformed from a straight line into a three-dimensional space.

“We have attempted to design a structure that embodies multiple aspects that are often perceived as opposites: a structure that is free-form yet rigorous; modular yet sculptural; both transparent and opaque; both solid box and blob,” said Ingels, founder and creative partner of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). "The pavilion will house a café by day and in the evenings will host the Serpentine’s Park Nights program of works by artists, writers and musicians."

BIG’s Pavilion is a dramatic space that by day houses a café and free family activities and by night becomes a venue for the Serpentine’s acclaimed Park Nights programme of performative works by artists, writers and musicians.
Serpentine Gallery Kengsington Gardens by Mark Ahsmann
The Serpentine Galley is among London’s most popular art venues, recognized for championing new ideas in contemporary art since opening in 1970. For the past 46 years, the Serpentine has presented groundbreaking exhibitions, showcasing a diverse range of work from both emerging and internationally recognized artists, designers and architects. The gallery’s Summer Party is a highlight of London’s annual social calendar, and past guests have included celebrities, models and influencers such as Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Lara Stone, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Karlie Kloss and Pharrell Williams, and as well as distinguished names from the art and fashion worlds including Zandra Rhodes, Tracey Emin and David Bailey.

Jersey (New) Moves! Emerging Choreographers Friday June 17 2016

From a media release:

Jersey (New) Moves! Emerging Choreographers
Friday, June 17, 2016
Doors 7:30pm / Performance 8pm
Victoria Theater
Presented in Association with Dance New Jersey
Part of Jersey Moves! Festival of Dance


The second annual program showcasing New Jersey's best up-and-coming dancemakers! Accomplished mentors partner with four young choreographers from the Garden State to develop works that will be premiered at NJPAC.

This year's featured emerging choreographers are Ariel Grossman from Jersey City (mentored by Douglas Martin, Artistic Director of American Repertory Ballet); Kamille King from East Orange (mentored by Karen Love, Artistic Director of Umoja Dance Company); Kyle Marshall from Jersey City (mentored by Sylvia Waters, Artistic Director Emerita of Ailey II); and, Scott Willits of Jersey City (mentored by choreographer and tap dancer Maurice Chestnut).


Thursday, June 2, 2016

#TravelAfrica - Zanzibar...So Much More Than The Beach

With material from a media release:

Zanzibar...So Much More Than The Beach
Matemwe Beach Guesthouse - Unguja Island
Aiyana Resort - Pemba Island

Can you take the dream beach vacation of a lifetime AND have a positive impact on the destination and its people? Sounds almost too ideal, but you can have it both ways at the Matemwe Beach Guesthouse and The Aiyana Beach Resort in Zanzibar.

About Zanzibar
Zanzibar, birthplace of Freddy Mercury, is actually an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, about 50km off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa. It consists of two islands, Unguja, the capital - aka Zanzibar - and Pemba Island. A wonderful trip on its own, it's also an easy add-on to a trip to South Africa. Its population numbers just under 160,000 and the main island covers 2,461 km².

Hot Tip: The best time to travel is during the relatively cool spring - between June and September.

Zanzibar's past
It is believed that human civilization dates back about 20,000 years in the archipelago. It is mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman documents by around the 3rd century AD. The tides of time and human civilizations have washed across Zanzibar over the centuries, and its current day incarnation bears the influence of both Swahili and Islamic culture. Zanzibar has been ruled by the Portuguese, the Omanis and the British. It has been influenced by Swahili and Chinese traders. Zanzibar's history has been shaped by both the spice trade and the slave trade. It has seen wars - including the One Day War, the world's shortest war that happened without a single gunshot - colonization and political annexures.

Spirit lore
Local legends speak of the spirits who have protected Zanzibar through its trials over the ages - and those who still wander the islands angry for revenge. It's not hard to trace the link between Zanzibar's often turbulent history and the stories of troubled, even vengeful spirits.

Some of that dark history isn't all that far in the past. Zanzibar won its independence from the British after the revolution of 1964. Four weeks later, John Okello, a migrant labourer from Uganda, led a second revolution against the Zanzabari ruling class, who were largely Arab and Indian. Many people were killed and many also fled the country, including the sultan - Zanzibar's last - Jamshid bin Abdullah.

Many say the spirits of the slain still haunt the area. If you are interested in the spirit worlds, witch doctors are available for consultation throughout the area.

Unguja Island
Unguja features a preserved historic centre called Stone Town in the heart of the capital, a designated Unesco World Heritage site with perfectly preserved cobbled streets. In Zanzibar City, you'll wander through lanes that meander through the minarets and streets lined with heavy, beautifully carved wooden doorways, a unique feature of Zanzibar's native architecture. The House of Wonders, a 19th century sultan's palace, offers a glimpse into the relatively recent past.

Along with the expansive blue ocean, most Zanzibari beaches have super fine, white sand with a beautifully silky texture, along with palm trees and other greenery to provide shade if you need it. The north shore of Unguja is renowned for its glorious, pristine beaches and the diving opportunities offered in the turquoise waters. Watersport opportunities abound in the area, with just about anything you can dream up available, including scuba diving and snorkeling in world renowned coral reefs, deep sea fishing, kayaking, windsurfing and waterskiing. Mnemba Atoll is considered by many to offer the best opportunities to spot colourful fish, turtles and more. There are many hotels to choose from near the north coast villages of Nungwi and Kendwa.

Hot tip: Watch out for mischievous monkeys in areas near the forests - they like to steal hats, bags, sunglasses and other assorted items of tourists who are beguiled by the beach and not paying attention.

Other places of interest include the slave museum, which served as a real slave trading post centuries ago and the colourful, noisy night market at Forodhani Gardens, located in front of the Old Fort. It opens at about 7pm and it's a hotspot for enjoying local cuisine.

Local cuisine
Fresh prawns and shrimp are local delicacies. Other local specialties include seafood kebabs, sugar cane juice and Indian fare with a Zanzibari twist like chepatis filled with Nutella. Uroja soup is a thick and delicious mixture of ginger and pureed mango with various additions such as egg, meat, or potato boulettes. A Zanzibar pizza is actually something like a thin pancake or crêpe filled with meat, eggs and other fillings. Also called Zanzibar pancakes, the thin pancakes made with rice flour may also have a sweet filling.

Alternate accommodations - Matemwe Beach Guesthouse:
Nowadays you'll find major international hotel chains like the Park Hyatt in Zanzibar City and elsewhere, but there are alternatives that are much more budget friendly. The Matemwe Beach guesthouse offers an alternative to the hotel scene about 45 minutes from Stone Town. From their website:

Our aim is a simple one: to provide authentic, stylish and comfortable accommodation, in an atmosphere of relaxed hospitality and friendliness, while services are provided effectively and efficiently. We live in peaceful co-existence with the villagers who conduct their lives amongst us.

Not a hotel and not a resort and we regard this as a matter of pride!

Pemba Island
Pemba Island is located to the north and remains the world's largest producer of cloves - a savoury scent that carries on the ever present breeze. Life in the archipelago generally follows the slow and deliberate rhythms of the incessant waves that splash at the sandy shores. With water temperatures at a balmy average 26ºC and visibility of 30-40 meters, snorkeling is naturally one of the most popular activities on the Island. Even more inexperienced divers will find a world of wonders beneath the waves.

Pemba Island also includes Misali Island, surrounded by a coral reef. In the 17th century, this was once of the hideouts of the infamous Captain Kidd the pirate - and some still believe there's buried treasure to be found on the ocean floor. On the western side of Pemba Island, you'll find traces of Zanzibar's darker history in the Pango ya Watoro’ or ‘the cave of the fugitives' - those who hid from the slave traders.
The Aiyana Resort, Pemba Island (Zanzibar)
Aiyana Resort
The Aiyana resort is blessed with a secluded location on the north shore of Pemba Island. It includes 30 white villas with an airy decor that features local and traditional artwork, including intricately carved woodwork. Villas were designed to integrate into the landscape without marring or harming the natural environment. The resort's owners used local resources and materials wherever possible such as mangrove and coconut woods, coral stones - even manpower from the local villagers, who helped to shape the final version of the design.

Inside and outside merge seamlessly, including the ocean-facing villas that open onto the fine sand of the beach and a serene garden on the grounds. Even the showers open up to the sky.

The resort is surrounded by a dense forest. It is part of the Ngezi Rainforest on the northernmost point of Pemba Island. The protected rainforest represents the last vestiges of the original native forests of Zanzibar.
  • Cool fact: The Ngezi Rainforest is home to the Pemba Flying Fox, a type of bat native to the island.
  • Cool fact #2: The Rainforest is also home to the bright blue vervet monkey.
The resort offers guests a variety of activities, including the opportunity to experience the waters in a dhow, the traditional watercraft of the island. Meals are private and set up wherever you decide to eat, from the formal dining room to the beach, in the garden or anywhere else you desire.

More than a resort...
The owners of the Aiyana resort are very committed to improving local conditions and they've set up projects in the local village to provide income, education and other essentials while respecting local traditions. Guests are encouraged to participate in a variety of projects fostered by the resort that contribute directly to the life of the villagers and preservation of the natural surroundings.