Small World Music has announced the lineup for the 14th Annual Asian Music Series, a set of concerts that celebrates Asian and South Asian Heritage Month. The series will take place from April 2nd to May 29th, 2016 at several of the finest venues in Toronto.
Highpoints this year include a strong female presence, with two of the most significant artists in South Asian music, Anoushka Shankar and Abida Parveen. Other performers include Indo-Canadian star Kiran Ahluwalia, pipa maestra Wu Man and singer Ramneek Singh, among many others.
Also scheduled is the new Small World Music Explorers Program, a cross-promotional initiative for purchasing tickets in the city.
Asian Music Series Program:
Wednesday, April 6
Anoushka Shankar (India)
Thursday, April 7
Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre
Saturday, April 9
Wu Man & Shanghai Quartet (China)
Thursday, April 28
Kiran Ahluwalia (India / Canada)
Friday, April 29
Shuujat Khan / Ramneek Singh (India / Canada)
Aga Khan Museum
Saturday, May 7
Globtrotter – Adham Shaikh (Canada)
Friday, May 13
Tabla Workshop TBA (India)
Small World Music Centre
Sunday, May 15
Abida Parveen (Pakistan)
Roy Thomson Hall
Friday, May 20
Avatar (Canada /India)
Small World Music Centre
Saturday, May 28
Telematic Asia (Canada / China)
Small World Music Centre
Sitar master and composer Anoushka Shankar is set to perform on Wednesday, April 13 at Royce Hall at UCLA in Los Angeles, California. Anoushka will appear with supporting musicians Manu Delago, the Austrian percussionist and frequent collaborator of Björk, on Hang drum; Tom Farmer on acoustic bass and keyboards/piano. Multi-instrumentalist Sanjeev Shankar, who plays the shehnai (double reed oboe) along with live electronics, completes the lineup.
Profoundly rooted in the Indian Classical music tradition, Anoushka studied exclusively from the age of nine under her father and guru, the late Ravi Shankar, and made her professional debut as a classical sitarist at the age of thirteen. By the age of 20, she had made three classical recordings for EMI/Angel and received her first Grammy nomination, thus becoming the first Indian female and youngest-ever nominee in the World Music category. In 2005, Anoushka released her self-produced breakthrough album Rise.
In 2011 Anoushka signed to Deutsche Grammophon, releasing Traveller (produced by Spanish musician Javier Limon). This was followed by Traces of You (produced by Nitin Sawhney and featuring Anoushka’s half-sister Norah Jones on vocals), and Home, a purely Indian Classical album where she returned to the Ragas her father had taught her.
Her new album Land of Gold, Shankar’s response to the humanitarian trauma of displaced people fleeing conflict and poverty, will be released in the US on Deutsche Grammophon on April 1st.
General tickets are available at cap.ucla.edu, all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at 310.825.2101 or in person at the UCLA Central Ticket Office on campus.
Two great music traditions come together on ‘Call of the Blues’: American blues and Indian classical music. It’s a combination in the skilled hands of Michael Messer’s Mitra. The trio includes British blues modernizer, vocalist and slide guitarist, Michael Messer; Hindustani mohan veena (slide guitar) master Manish Pingle (Mumbai, India), and London-based tabla player, Gurdain Singh Rayatt.
‘Call of the Blues’ combines traditional form rural blues songs with Indian ragas and opportunities for improvisation, showcasing the talent of the musicians. It’s fascinating combination of slide guitar styles from different parts of the globe that flows very nicely.
Michael Messer met Manish Pingle during a trip to Mumbai in 2013. They ended up jamming on two mohan veena’s at Pingle’s home. The two musicians enjoyed the experience and vowed to work together again. Six months later, Manish traveled to London where he played a concert with Messer. They invited tabla maestro Gurdain Rayatt to join them on stage and the trio was formed.
In 2015, Michael Messer’s Mitra toured the UK and recorded their first album, ‘Call of the Blues’.
Call of the Blues is a remarkable fusion of country blues with Hindustani music showcasing the splendor of the slide guitar and the talent of three extraordinary musicians.
Seems like a clear majority of releases coming my way nowadays are some kind of fusion music. It hasn’t been easy tearing myself away from specific genres I know and love, but this thing we call World Music is getting ever more, well, worldly, and being along for the sonic global ride can result in finding music that excites listeners as much as breathtaking sights thrill literal travelers.
You’d expect an album with a title like Planetary Coalition (Skol Productions, 2015) to be pretty far-reaching, and it is. Under the guidance of guitarist Alex Skolnick, a versatile axe man known mainly for dual identities as a thrash metal and jazz player, this sizable, ArtistShare-sponsored coalition shines on 75 minutes of sounds from many a corner of the world.
Skolnick’s string finesse trades off gracefully with the santoor of Max ZT on several tracks, matches the deft fire of Rodrigo y Gabriela on another, makes the textures of Yacouba Sissoko’s kora that much more heavenly, underpins Kiran Ahluwalia’s ghazal-influenced vocals with the proper mysticism and adds electricity to the tart tones of Adnan Joubran’s oud. And that’s barely marring the surface. There are Argentinian, Eastern European, Far Eastern and Latin Jazz ingredients here as well, and notable guest players aplenty. Yet this mainly instrumental set doesn’t overreach. It’s an ear feast that satisfyingly blends the familiar and the unexpected.
For the time being he’s put aside the Idan Raichel Project name and recording simply as Idan Raichel on At the Edge of the Beginning (Cumbancha, 2016). An Israeli keyboardist, composer, producer and arranger, Raichel has (apart from his acoustic albums with Mali’s Vieux Farka Toure) long blended Jewish, Arabic and African sounds with a worldly dance music sensibility. His new one finds him more introspective, starting off with a pair of chamber-like pieces that primarily showcase Raichel on piano.
Programmed rhythms fuel the tracks that follow but the feel stays rather whispery. The tracks are short and many have a lulling quality to them, reflective of Raichel’s recent identity as the father of two small children. Sparse instrumentation in the form of things like accordion, cello, saxophone and baglama stays on the supportive outer edges of the songs, which are delicate in their construction but have their own quiet strength. While not as groundbreaking as Raichel’s earlier material, his latest nevertheless gets to the heart of its matter by being touchingly low-key.
Karim Nagi has got a thing or two to say about Arabic culture and Detour Guide (Self-released, 2015) says it with percussion, spoken words, rap-like cadences and beat backdrops. Born in Egypt and presently based in Boston, Nagi is out to dispel myths, question stereotypes, recount history, impart truths and make both humorous and serious points about what it is to be of Arabic ethnicity nowadays.
He seamlessly mixes the cheeky with the sincere on titles like “What Arabs Do For Fun,” “Oriental Magic Carpet,” “Heart Full of Cairo” and “If I Were Hummus,” bringing so many observations to the table that you’ll have to listen to this disc multiple times to digest it all. It’s a kind of aural performance art that’s impossible to describe in any significant detail, but a rewarding listening and learning experience just the same.
A mashup of Balkan brass, stomping funk, Gypsy zest, punkish energy and Afrobeat syncopation, I Love You Madly by Washington DC’s Black Masala is a rousing fun burst of energy and true musical chops that’ll get you smiling and busting dance moves you didn’t think you had in you. While the music changes gears quite a bit, it does so rightly and tightly, such that the resulting songs are full of infectious instrumental and vocal passion rather than just one hot mess after another. Great stuff.
The musical connections between Moorish Spain, North Africa and the Middle East have been explored before, but seldom as grandly as the work of David Broza & The Andalusian Orchestra Ashkelon on Andalusian Love Song (Magenta, 2015). One of Israel’s most respected singer/songwriters, Broza here has a number of his tunes arranged for a 35-piece ensemble of strings (bowed, plucked and strummed), reeds, brass and percussion.
Improvised interludes set the mood between the songs, which range in feel from aching to celebratory (much like the ups and downs of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that often figures into Broza’s work). The vocals are richly emotive and the music, under the direction of conductor and arranger Tom Cohen, is unfailingly superb.
Avataar, a band led by Toronto-based saxophonist/flautist Sundar Viswanathan, achieves a crackling good mixture of Indian classical music, jazz and ambient frameworks on Petal (InSound Records, 2015).
Viswanathan’s reeds put forth the same sonic sweetness as Felicity Williams’ largely wordless vocals, and the expert support of Michael Occhipinti (guitars), Justin Gray (bass, mandolin), Ravi Naimpally (tabla, percussion) and Giampaolo Scatozza (drums) provides serpentine grooves, nimble melodies and unending pleasure. The music is intricate without being overbearing or showy, and the result is blissful.
The Ragam Tanam Pallavi was in full flow. Nodding my head contentedly, I happened to see the artiste’s parents sitting a little away from me. And it occurred to me that Tiruvalluvar might have been inspired by a similar sight to write his famous couplet about what makes a parent most happy: undisputed evidence of their offspring’s accomplishments. And Archana Murali did just that for her parents on 5th February at the Krishna temple in Muscat. A chance attendee would have found it difficult to believe that this was her first ever solo performance. He or she would have thought yet another star of Carnatic music had come visiting the city.
As the curtains went up, one could see a young, somewhat nervously smiling girl, barely in her teens. But all that was forgotten by the time she finished her opening varnam in Vasantha ragm and launched into Papanasam Sivan’s “ganapathiye” in karaharapriya.
The chittaswarams were crisp and brisk, setting the mood of the concert. “Palimpa” in aarabhi followed, followed by “Muruga” (Periyasami Tooran) in Saveri where she gave ample evidence of her ability to handle a tisranadai talam. She had the attention of the audience fully by now.
When she took up a partimadhyama melakarta Dharmavati for alapana next, I was impressed by her choice. The alapana was elaborate, yet free of any shades of Madhuvanti. Udupi S. Srijith who accompanied on the violin gave a masterful and melodious reply. She went on to sing the popular “bhajana seya rada O Ramuni” of Mysore Vasudevachar.
After a brisk “Maakelara” in Ravichandrika, Archana launched into her main piece of the day, “ Koluvamare” in Todi. In the alapana she revealed her understanding of the wide range offered by Todi. Perhaps because the stage was very warm due to the bright lights, she found her throat going dry when she explored the lower octaves.
The kriti was handled like an expert, and she gave generous opportunities to her senior colleague on the violin, like a seasoned expert! The Tani avartanam that followed, with Muscat’s own Nandagopal on the mridangam and Trivandrum Rajesh on the ghatam, was impeccable, and added glory to the concert, which, by now, had the audience totally engrossed.
Nandagopal, a mentor of sorts for young Archana, produced yet another brilliant exposition on the mridangam, reinforcing this reviewer’s opinion that he belongs in the prime time slots in Chennai’s major sabhas. Rajesh was very impressive with his laya suddham, on his incredibly melodious instrument. This Tani will be remembered for a long time by all those who witnessed it.
For a first timer, wrapping up the concert with a few tukkadas would have been more than acceptable. But Archana had no intensions of being a mere beginner. She went on to prove her mettle by singing a short “bantu reethi” in Hamsanadham which she cleverly chose to start at the anupallavi, and followed it up by a surprisingly elaborate RTP in Kapi.
In both the alapana and tanam, she and Srijith regaled the audience with phrases soaked in bhava. The pallavi itself was not remarkable in its phraseology, but Archana scored again in the ragamalika, exploring charukesi, Misra Sivaranjani and Kalyani to her credit. By now, the concert had gone on for about two and a half hours. Archana has a wonderful voice, and it held steady to the very end, which came after another thirty minutes or so of soulful singing: Papanasam Siva’s “nambi kettavar evarayya” in Hindolam, the popular Maand piece “Muralidhara”, and the Purandara Dasa kriti “ Innu day barade” in Kalyana Vasantham.
She wrapped up her concert with Lalgudi Jayaraman’s lilting thillana in Karnaranajni to a standing ovation by the much impressed, and very discerning Muscat audience.
To have the fortune of being born to parents who are both excellent musicians is one thing, but to have the commitment and application to score so well in her maiden concert, deserved the accolade she got.
Well done Archana! Here is another Middle Eastern Star ready to light up the Chennai sky in the annual seasons to come!
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