Tag Archives: Lila Downs

World Music Showcase from Montreal International Jazz Festival 2016!

The Montreal International Jazz Festival, now in its 37th edition, is regarded as the world’s largest jazz festival. The music lineup includes ambassadors of jazz and blues – as well as a generous dose of artistes in world music and fusion. See my write-up from last year’s edition here; fans of jazz and world music can check out my app ‘Oktav’ as well, a collection of witty quotes about music (available on Apple iTunes and Android).

The 2016 edition of MIJF featured artistes from Canada, USA, Japan, Norway, Turkey, Mexico, Senegal, Mauritania, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and Guadeloupe. The festival organizers estimate that the acts drew two million attendees, spread over 10 days and two dozen venues. The long summer days of late June and early July made for perfect outdoor performances, along with ticketed indoor events as well.

Check out some of the highlights in this photo tour of MIJF 2016, and make sure you attend the 2017 edition!

Daby Toure
Daby Toure – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Paris-based Mauritanian singer-songwriter Daby Toure kicked off Day One of MIJF 2016. He delivered a pleasing set of ‘Afropean’ music, featuring tracks from five of his albums, and occasionally drummed on his guitar as well. He has earlier founded the group Touré Touré, and sings in Fulani, Soninke and Wolof.


Mashrou Leila
Mashrou Leila – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Formed in Beirut, Arabic alt-rock group Mashrou’ Leila played to a packed concert hall with their blend of indie rock, ballads and electronica. Their music has addressed topics such as politics, social taboos and religion in the Middle East.


Ceu – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Ceu – Maria do Céu Whitaker Poças – was born into a distinguished Brazilian musical family, and began her career at the age of 15. Her indoor set at MIJF drew fans from across North America, and she performed a mix of Brazilian popular music, samba, reggae and electronica. Her albums include Vagarosa and Ao Vivo.


Denis Chang
Denis Chang – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Guitarist Denis Chang draws on gypsy jazz influences such as Django Reinhardt, and has studied with Fapy Lafertin, Ritary Gaguenetti and Emmanuel Kassimo. He performs across Europe and the US, and has released a series of educational DVDs. He performed two sets at MIJF 2016 in an intimate indoor café.


Cuban Martinez Band
Cuban Martinez Band – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


The Cuban Martinez Band had the crowd on their feet with an infectious set of salsa, merengue, bachata and more. Anchored by Yordan Martinez, the band performed in an astonishing venue at the back of a church near the jazz district!


Orchestre Tropicana D’Haiti
Orchestre Tropicana D’Haiti – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


A Haitian institution since 1963, the Orchestre Tropicana d’Haïti is a legendary big band on a 50-year mission to showcase and enhance Haitian culture. Their recent release is Bravo Tropic, and the band had the audience on their feet for a set of sensuous hip-swaying dance.


Samito – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Samito is a singer-songwriter from Montreal, whose music blends acoustica and electronica. The lyrics and style are reflective of his upbringing in Maputo. Samito sang in Portuguese, French, English and Xitswa, offering a textured set of commentary on the changing times.


Lila Downs
Lila Downs – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Born in Mexico and raised in California, award-winning singer-songwriter Lila Downs performed a sold-out standing-room only set reflecting her deep studies of musicology as well as stage charisma. Cumbia, jazz, ballads and stunning visual animation set the tone for commentary on women’s rights, immigration and poverty in Mexico. Her albums include Pecados y Milagros and Balas y Chocolate.


Baba Zula
Baba Zula – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


One of the extraordinary bands at MIJF 2016 was Baba Zula, with a mix of Turkish dub and psychedelia. Traditional Turkish instruments, wild costumes and theatrical delivery regaled the audience and provided them with a sense of Istanbul’s underground cult movement.


Mariachi Flor de Toloache
Mariachi Flor de Toloache – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Mariachi Flor de Toloache, named for the legendary Toloache flower of Mexico, is an all-female mariachi band. They were nominated for the Latin Grammy in 2015. Their original costumes and ambience blended with modern takes on classic and contemporary tunes, and had the audience clapping and chanting along loudly during their two outdoor sets.


Malika Tirolien
Malika Tirolien – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Singer-songwriter Malika Tirolien from Guadeloupe performed a superb outdoor set. She had the audience on their feet for a smooth mix of Afro-Caribbean jazz and urban beat.


Ilam – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Young Senegalese singer-composer Ilam has already won a range of awards in Canada, and receives wide radio airplay. His spicy outdoor set of reggae, blues, Afro-folk, pop and rock kept the audience dancing even during a slight shower; concert-goers were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow afterwards.


Makaya – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Pianist David Bontemps heads Montreal-based Afro-Caribbean jazz band Makaya. Formed in 2006, the quintet includes percussionist Cydric Féréol, guitarist and singer Jude Deslouches, bassist Nicolas Bédard and congas player Emmanuel Delly. Caribbean rhythms blended with jazz and Creole during their MIJF set; the band has also performed at Montréal’s Creole Festival and released their first album in 2009.


AfroDizz - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
AfroDizz – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


AfroDizz was one of the most sensational bands at MIJF 2016. This Montreal group is anchored by jazz guitarist Gabriel Aldama, who is deeply influenced by Nigerian Afrobeat maestro Fela Kuti. The eight musicians delivered a superb set of Afrobeat, jazz and funk. Their albums include Kif Kif, Froots (2006) and Sounds from Outer Space.

More about the festival at www.montrealjazzfest.com


Second Annual Madison World Music Festival to be Held September 15-17

Boubacar Traoré
Boubacar Traoré

Madison (Wisconsin), USA – Following the success of last year’s World Music Festival, the Second Annual Madison World Music Festival will be held on the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) campus from Thursday, September 15 to Saturday, September 17 with encore performances by three of the groups at the Willy St. Fair on Sunday, September 18.

This year’s line-up will feature prominent artists and bands from around the world as well as student and community dance and music groups representing many different cultures. All performances are free and open to the public. Unless otherwise noted, the shows are all on the Union Terrace and in the Wisconsin Union Theater. A preliminary and tentative lineup includes the following artists:

Thursday, September 15:

Walter Roldán y su Conjunto. Uruguayan polka. Master accordionist Walter Roldán and his band (guitars, vocals and dance) perform the music and dance of their country’s rural areas. These are rhythms and tunes brought originally by European immigrants and influenced by the music of the Black population to become distinctly and uniquely Uruguayan. Roldán, who comes from many generations of accomplished musicians, is one of his country’s foremost interpreters and preservers of traditional accordion melodies, possessing a vast repertoire of styles and tunes.

Seu Jorge. Knockout Ned in the Brazilian film City of God and Pelé dos Santos, the man who sings David Bowie’s music in “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” Seu Jorge is a star in his native Brazil. Growing up in a slum much like the one portrayed in “City of God,” Jorge makes music “for the people, to touch their hearts.”

Friday, September 16:

Vishten. Hailing from New Brunswick, Canada, Vishten’s music is a hardy mixture of French, Irish and Scottish styles, with powerful step dancing taking front and center stage. The group’s show re-creates the joy and energy of the “kitchen party,” the informal community gatherings where all are welcomed to sing, play and dance. The rhythms and melodies reflect the special joie de vivre unique to the Acadian culture of Eastern Canada, with flying fingers, tapping feet, and an unabashed sense of celebration.

Boubacar Traoré. Considered one of Mali’s greatest musical treasures, Traore has been playing his unique style of African Blues since the 1960’s, when he was considered the voice of his country. His songs played on the radio every day, with people everywhere singing his “Mali Twist.” Known as “Kar Kar,” Traore was rediscovered in the late 1980s in London and is now an international star, singing his own material and interpreting traditional songs like “Soundiata.”

Balkan Beat Box is a “semi circus event,” led by several Israelis who have been active for a decade in New York City’s premier underground bands and joined by guest artists from places like Bulgaria, Morocco, Spain and Turkey. Mixing live and pre-recorded music (or “DJing and extreme nstrumentalism”) with strong vocals and an impressive array of percussion, BBB’s show is a dazzling addition to this year’s festival.

Saturday, September 17:

On the Terrace:

Kiran Ahluwalia. Born in the state of Bihar in Northern India to Punjabi parents, Ahluwalia performs two distinct styles of vocal music from the Indian subcontinent: Punjabi folk songs and ghazals. Ghazals are love poems that originated in Persia about 1000 years ago and reached India around 400 years later. Ahluwalia also composes her own music to poems in Urdu and Punjabi, compositions that are firmly rooted in the old traditions while taking a modern turn. Says fiddler Natalie MacMaster, “Her voice is beautiful, natural and so capable and she is a great talent.”

Mártires del Compás. The music of Los Martires del Compas (loosely translated: “Martyrs of the Beat”) is risky, seductive, darkly playful, accessible and utterly infectious. Hailing from Seville in Andalusia, Spain, Los Martires’ play “Flamenco billy.” It is flamenco jondo (deep), mixed with blues, jazz, pop, ranchera, rap, reggae, rock, Cuban son, tango… and seasoned with ironic and sharp lyrics that involve protest and provocativeness, in an irreverent, revolutionary, politically challenging manner.

Lila Downs grew up in the Sierra Madre mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico, and in Minnesota. She is the daughter of a Scottish-American cinematographer/painter and a Mixtec-Indian woman, who sang in Mexico City. Lila started singing mariachi songs when she was eight and later sang at the fiestas of the towns in her mountain region, la Mixteca. More recently, she appeared in the film Frida, singing “Burn It Blue,” a duet with Caetano Veloso. Downs performs her own compositions and also taps into the vast reservoir of native Mesoamerican music, singing in the Indian Mixtec, Zapotec, Maya and Nahuatl languages of Mexico.

In the Wisconsin Union Theater

Trio Jubran. Hailed throughout the Arab world, Trio Jubran (sometimes spelled Joubran) is led by Palestinian ud virtuoso Samir Jubran. He performs with his brothers Wissam Jubran, maker of the instruments the trio plays and the first stringed-instrument maker in the Arab world to enter the Antonio Stradivari Institute in Italy, and Adnan Jubran, who has written the music for an original work by the choreographers Fattoumi and Lamoureux.

Sidi Goma is made up of four lead musicians (drummers/singers) and eight dancers. Their program presents an overview of Sufi Sidi ritual performance. The Black Sidis of Gujarat are a tribal Sufi community of East African origin which came to India eight centuries ago, carrying with them an exceptionally rich musical tradition. Their exuberant energy and joy is captivating and powerful, their unique African-Indian heritage a fascinating discovery and their performance an exhilarating experience!

It’s no surprise that the festival is happening in Madison, according to Ronnie Hess, director of communications for the Division of International Studies, a festival sponsor. “Madison and the UW are very musical and very cosmopolitan,” she says. “From its beginnings as a major public university, UW-Madison has recognized the importance of studying the world’s languages and cultures, and of welcoming international students to campus.” According to Hess, UW has the capacity to teach more than 65 languages and has the largest number of federally funded national resource centers in the U.S. providing information on virtually every region of the world. Each year, 1,600 UW-Madison students study abroad and more than 3,500 international students enroll at UW-Madison.

Adds Bob Queen, Marquette Neighborhood Association Event Coordinator and Madison World Music Festival committee member, “There is a great opportunity for the whole city to get involved and build excitement for this mid-September event. The Willy St. Fair’s involvement is a nice step in eventually spreading the exhilaration of world music from campus to our clubs, theaters, neighborhood festivals and schools.”

The festival’s executive committee includes representatives from the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Theater, Student Performance, and Music Committees, Wisconsin Union Theater, Latin American, Iberian and Caribbean Studies (LACIS), Division of International Studies, International Student Services, and WORT community radio station. Other sponsors include the UW-Madison School of Music , the Anonymous Fund, Isthmus, Madison Mayor’s Office, Associated Students of Madison, Wisconsin International Student Association, Multicultural Student Association, Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, Marquette Neighborhood Association, H&M, General Beverage, and der Rathskeller.

Madison’s World Music Festival is being held in conjunction with Chicago’s World Music Festival, organized through the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Bloomington, Indiana-based Lotus World Music Festival.