British Columbia Guide for World Music, Part 2

When I began putting the

British Columbia Guide to World Music
together last July I had a loftier
view of how it would look in the end. While I was aiming for the sky, I ended up
in a tall tree. The view is wonderful even if I wouldn’t call it majestic. Below
you will find a handful of CD reviews that I hope will whet your appetite to
hear more of world music coming out of British Columbia, Canada. I have also
added a list of other Canadian groups from other provinces that have been
reviewed on this site and I invite you to visit Cranky Crow World Music where you will find even more reviews and interviews with Canadian acts.

When I first began writing this article, I was unaware of the numerous delays or
the CDs that would not find their way to my mailbox. I apologize to the
musicians, who had to wait for the posting of this article and with no further
ado or excuses, allow me to present part 2.The Bill Hilly Band – All Day Every Day, Borealis Records, 2002

The Bill Hilly Band, from Victoria deliver Appalachian twang with a Capitol “T”
that is mixed with multi-culture flavoring. One moment this quartet lounges on a
back porch somewhere in the American Deep South strumming on banjos and singing
about moonshine. And the next moment they’re dancing a traditional Sicilian
tarantella or crooning a Ukrainian lament (Kolomeika) on a mandolin that sounds
oddly like a balalaika. This imaginative band traipses from pop jazz to swampy
fiddling in a blink of an eye, showing off an uncanny musicianship and a
remarkable showmanship. Keep a look out for several guest musicians and a
memorable snip of a Edith Piaf classic. The press loves The Bill Hilly Band and
one listen to this CD will show you why.

Elyra Campbell – Girl In A Tree, self-produced, 2002

Celtic harpist, composer and vocalist Elyra Campbell presents her own whimsical
compositions along side traditional Irish airs, lullabies and Hebridean (mouth
music) songs on her self-produced Girl in a Tree. Her lyrics are often playful
bordering on Celtic mysticism. And her arrangements that are rendered by Chris
Gestrin (percussion, piano, programmed percussion), Jesse Zubot (violin,
mandolin), Steve Dawson (slide and acoustic guitars) and Elyra (vocals and harp)
recall work by Kate Bush and Sheila Chandra. Listeners are offered a mystical
journey in which they might want to repeat often. Girl in a Tree marks a
fabulous recording by an imaginative artist with an enchanted worldview.

Mei Han & Randy Raine-ReuschDistant Wind, Za Discs, 2001

The Canadian culture & arts grant system allows traditional musicians to explore
musical frontiers. This grant system gives birth to new musical hybrids and
gives Canada an edge over the US’ music industry’s business-as-usual approach.
Distant Wind conjures up images of jade and bamboo with its shimmering oriental
music played here with Zen awareness. Mei and Randy perform duets on the Chinese
zheng with one zheng holding the melody and the other adding rhythmic texture
with bassist Laurence Mollerup acting as a musical anchor on Nokoto, Dragon
Dogs, Forest Rain and the extremely dark, Black Zheng. The result is often
atonal and what we would expect when a zheng virtuoso (Han) and improvisational
musician (Raine-Reusch) pair off. The most challenging piece, Black Zheng,
proves a difficult listen with its plucked and bowed zheng and mixture of
dissonant instrumentation that includes such oddities as a hun undertone
singing, didgeridoo and waterphone. This couple resides in Vancouver

Harry Manx–see review for

Road Ragas
(2003) on this site.

Currently residing on Salt Spring Island, Harry Manx has spent a great deal
of his adult life globe trotting. You might call him a Canadian blues man meets
an Indian sage. He marries Mississippi delta blues with music of Rajasthan,
India while pulling out a banjo, a mohan veena and a slide guitar during live
performances. You will also find these instruments highlighted on Harry’s
recordings including, Jubilee with Kevin Breit, Road Ragas, Dog My Cat and Wise
and Otherwise. Harry is an extraordinary talent and a heart-centered human.

Orchid Ensemble – Heartland, 2000.

Hailing from Vancouver, the
featuring Lan Tung on Erhu (a Chinese two string stick fiddle), Mei
Han on zheng (Chinese zither) and Jonathan Bernard on percussion, bring ancient
instruments to public awareness along with their breathtaking and delicate
music. The Orchid Ensemble describe themselves as providing traditional and new
compositions for Chinese and western instruments while featuring three dynamic
performers from three cultures.

You will find an innovative blend of marimba, vibraphone, cloud gongs,
glockenspiel, Chinese opera gongs and bells along with the traditional zheng and
erhu. You will also find a variety of musical compositions ranging from the
flowing Lantern Riddles, to the frantic frolic Lonely Crows Playing in a Winter
Stream, the lively The Gallop and the gypsy-like Shepherd Girl. And who can live
without, the Mongolian folk melody Meeting in the Yurt that reveals a rendezvous
between two lovers? The Orchid Ensemble’s Heartland proves meditative and

Safa–Alight, Songlines, 2002

Safa (Farsi): means inner purity, sincerity and sincere affection. The Vancouver
ensemble Safa comprised of Puerto Rican percussionist Sal Ferreras, Quebecois
jazz clarinetist Francois Houle and Iranian vocalist and tar/setar player Amir
Koushkani compose music that would bring delight to the master Persian Poet
Jalaluddin Rumi’s ears. The bulk of Safa’s recording, Alight focuses on Persian
classical music, often recalling the California based Persian musical group,
Axiom of Choice. The tangy sound of the lute marries an emotive, throaty
clarinet that is accompanied by a vibrant palette of rhythmic textures and
topped off with Koushkani’s stunning vocals. Safa with its varying musical
influences, passion for Persian music and improvisational jazz creates a
multicultural and spiritual space where anything can happen and usually does.
Listeners will immerse themselves in Persian poetry that speaks of various kinds
of intoxication as well as, dissonant elements found in experimental music. The
whimsical Turkish Nihawend Lunga, masterful traditional Persian Chahar Mezrab
and the Judeo-Arabic Ninavae promise to intoxicate listeners’ ears.

Sara Marreiros Trio–Alma da Terra (Soul of the Land), 2002

With the rising popularity of Portuguese fadistas, it’s refreshing to find one
living so close to home, Victoria, to be exact. But don’t expect a homage to the
late Amelia Rodrigues (if one exists, it’s discreet). This trio, led by Sara
Marreiros (Portuguese-Canadian) marries improvisational jazz with fados
(Portuguese blues). You can hear both influences on Alma da Terra, a sunny
recording, absent of the standard Portuguese guitar. The trio includes Sara’s
silky vocals, Robert Mari’s innovative piano and Sean Drabitt’s moody bass. The
trio mostly cover traditional fados that speak of estranged lovers, the sea, the
land and of course, fados. And the recording ends with a nostalgic recording of
a four-year old Sara singing a poem, recorded in Germany. This collage reveals
the seed that would later blossom into a formidable talent. If you’re lucky, you
can catch Sara live, performing with any number of ensembles while rendering
jazz, fado and bossa nova.

Sandy Scofield–Ketwam, Kokum Records, 2003 & Riel’s Road, Arpeggio, 2001

Metis vocalist-songwriter, Sandy Scofield
successfully leaps from one music genre to the next. In the past, she performed
rockabilly and Cajun zydeco music with groups and she struck out on her own with
three recordings. Short reviews of Ketwam (2003) and Riel’s Road
(2001) follow.

I prefer Ketwam with the vocal trio Nitsiwakun featuring drums and chants sung
in Cree, Algonquin and English. Even the bluegrass tunes, Indian Orchard and
River Song with Daniel Lapp handling fiddle duties, carries a tribal groove.
Other highlights include appearances by First Nation singer Winston Wuttunee
(White Oak Tree and the round dance, Tapweh). The vocal trio of Sandy, Lisa
Sazama and Shakti Hayes offer many delightful harmonies and the three women take
turns on lead vocals. All songs both traditional and original were arranged and
produced by Sandy Scofield and the vocal trio shares songwriting duties. The end
result is gorgeous album created from the cooperative spirit of all those
involved with the project.

Riel’s Road only offers two songs, Beat the Drum and Sha Sha that carry
traditional elements. And the bulk of the recording falls into the jazz, folk
and rock categories. The songs mostly speak of social issues that First Nation
peoples encounter. The gritty Get High reflects on needing to escape daily
hardships. Bloodline falls into blues-jazz territory and reflects on alcoholism
and its consequences. The songs on Riel’s Road are heavy hitting. Yet, Sandy’s
talents as an arranger, songwriter and vocalist rise above the occasion while
delivering a powerful recording. Sandy resides in Vancouver.

And look for following Canadian musical acts also on this site:


Hart Rouge


Martina Sorbara

Toronto Tabla Ensemble profile
and CD review

Contagious Drumming in Toronto
Vent du Nord profile

Spoons and Fiddles CD review

Cranky Crow World Music also features numerous Canadian musical acts. Check out reviews and interviews on the site.

Author: admin