Posts Tagged ‘Montreal’

que equivoca’o

March 2, 2010

Late February, snowy winter night – what could be so compelling to inspire a spontaneous visit two hours north to Montreal? Not the hockey game, in fact Team Canada’s Olympic gold medal victory was announced over the radio on the way there.

No, the answer is a-t-t-i-t-u-d-e, also known as the singer/poet Telmary Diaz.

It turns out her date last night at Club Balattou was a fairly impromptu arrangement in itself, which is probably why I didn’t find out about it sooner. But I’m really, really glad I did.

I was introduced to Telmary a little over two years ago when she came out with her solo debut, A Diario. I remember being immediately struck by her presence, her artistry, and the confident directness with which she delivered her music. She has occasionally mentioned the internal struggle in having multiple callings in singing, poetry, writing, and rapping. (I comfort myself a little with the thought I will never have to worry about having such an array of choices to make!)

The solution she’s come up with combines all of those talents in a “best of all worlds” situation. In a live performance, add to that her perpetual big smile, her irresistable stage presence and seven great local Cuban musicians on everything from keyboards to trumpets and congas. She’s having a party on the stage and everyone’s invited.

That’s what makes a wintertime drive to Canada on a Sunday evening a worthwhile effort.

To describe her music solely by its origin – Afro-Cuban – is too unidimensional to be accurate. Telmary Diaz’s artistry is rooted in the traditional timba, son, rumba, and lando styles of her native Cuba, but just as importantly she translates those styles into the modernized musical languages of hip-hop and rap. She’s also been described as a feminist. Consider how uncommon women rappers are in the first place, much less those from Cuba. So what meaning does “feminist” really have in this context? Any woman who can hold her own (and she does) in the swaggering, macho arena of rap and hip-hop could be called a feminist but ultimately the truth of that designation also depends on the content and message of the music itself. Telmary Diaz isn’t a feminist because she raps, she is a female who raps on themes that include topics that speak directly to women.

With that thought in mind, a song that really distills Telmary’s talents is Que Equivoca’o, from A Diario. It was also the song that closed Telmary’s triumphant second set last night. It’s a pointedly humorous, powerful and catchy anthem sung in Spanish wherein a woman’s address to a man translates: “How wrong you are! Is that what you want? One that washes, you prefer one who waits, who cooks, that mops? Is that the women?” It’s telling of her wide appeal that when the time came for last night’s crowd to sing along with the chorus, everyone – not only the women – joyously joined in with Telmary to bring the evening to a rousing close.  Here’s the song (I dare you not to bop your head along with this!):

Telmary Diaz now makes her home in Toronto. In the next year, paperwork willing, she and her band will be traveling to Cuba to record her second album. When they come back to this area – anywhere in this area, within several hundred miles – you can bet I will be there to join them in their continuing celebration of musical and human empowerment.

Further reading: check out this excellent article on the women artists of Cuban rap and hip-hop music.

remembering Lhasa de Sela

January 7, 2010

The new year begins with the loss of a genuinely original voice in our world’s music.

Word has been slow to circulate, as the family mourns and final arrangements are made for the Montreal-based singer Lhasa de Sela. She was 37 when she died on New Year’s day after a long battle with breast cancer.

I discovered Lhasa’s music with her debut 1998 recording La Llorona. A friend who knew how much I loved the music of Violeta Parra suggested I might like Lhasa’s debut release, which had just come out. (The same friend turned me on Lila Downs. What would we ever do without our friends and the invaluable introductions like this that shape our listening lives?) I did enjoy it very much, appreciating in particular the intimacy and warmth of Lhasa’s singing and the strength of her songwriting.

Her 2003 followup recording, The Living Road, expands on the life experiences described in La Llorona as Lhasa’s own creative life flourished by moving to Marseilles. (She lived the rest of her life shared between France and Canada.) The Living Road is another solid collection of originals sung in French, Spanish, and English.

Lhasa’s final, eponymous recording was released last spring, and it’s her first recording sung entirely in English. I haven’t heard it yet. When I do, I know it will be with no small measure of sadness in realizing that Lhasa represents the final expression of an artistic spirit silenced far too soon.

The official obituary for Lhasa concludes with a line that is especially touching:

“It has snowed more than 40 hours in Montreal since Lhasa’s departure.”

playlist #84 (10/12/2009) – en memoria de Mercedes Sosa

October 12, 2009
Mercedes Sosa, 1973 (photo property of public domain)

Mercedes Sosa, 1973 (photo property of public domain)

World of Music
Pgm #84 – Remembering the incredible spirit and musical power of Mercedes Sosa, 1935-2009
Listen Mondays 3-5pm EDT  – at 105.9FM in Burlington, VT or online at The Radiator
Nas with Youssou N’Dour & Neneh Cherry: Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling) / Open Remix / (download) – (USA / SENEGAL)
Sunshiners (covering John Lennon): Woman / Welkam Bak Long Vanuatu / Ter a Terre 21 – (OCEANIA)
Bob Marley: No Woman No Cry / Legend / Island 90169 – (JAMAICA)
Jon Balke & Amina Alaoui: A La Dina Dana / Siwan / ECM 2042 – (NORWAY / MOROCCO) *NEW*
Kobotown: Abatina / Kobotown / MusicDish Network 2005 – (TRINIDAD / CANADA)
Lisa Ono: Bésame Mucho (Kiss Me a Lot) / Romance Latino, vol. 3 / EMI 341318 – (JAPAN)
Paname Dandies: Je Sais Parler aux Femmes (I Know How to Talk to the Ladies) / Le Swing de l’Escargot / Volvox Music 703 – (FRANCE)
Hüsnü Şenlendirici: Şina Nari / The Joy of Clarinet / Doublemoon 30 – (TURKEY)
Renata Rosa: Lá em São Paulo / Zunido da Mata / Outro Brasil 741-490 – (BRAZIL)
Kerekas Band: Ördöngös/Black Magic / Pimasz (Cheeky): Magyar Funk / BGCD 170  – (HUNGARY)
Lil’ Lavair and the Fabulous Jades: Cold Heat / Cold Heat: Heavy Funk Rarities, 1968-1974, vol. 1 / Now-Again Records 5017 – (FLORIDA, USA)
Irakere: Bocalao Con Pan / Si, Para Usted: The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba, vol. 1 / Wxing Deep Records 2006 – (CUBA)
S-Job Movement: Love Affair / Disco Funk Special: The Sound of the Underground Lagos Dancefloor, 1974-1979 / Soundway 10 – (NIGERIA)
Tiempo Libre: Olsa de Yemaya-Batá (on Bach’s Cello Suite Prelude in C) / Bach in Havana /
Sony Classical 44701 – (CUBA) *NEW*
Nelly Palacios: Ay! Mujer (on Bach’s Cello Suite Prelude in C) / Nicaragua Presente! / Rounder Records 1564 – (NICARAGUA)
Omara Portuondo & Richard Bona: Drume Negrita (on Leo Brouwer’s ‘Canción de Cuna’, the Afro-Cuban Lullaby) / Gracias / World Village 479021 – (CUBA) *NEW*
Los Destellos: Para Elisa (on Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’) / The Roots of Chicha / Barbès Records 16 – (PERU)
Bole 2 Harlem: Bole 2 Harlem / Bole 2 Harlem vol. 1 / Sounds of the Mushroom 1 – (ETHIOPIA)
DJ Click & Hightone: Bad Weather / Labesse (You’re Alright?) / No Fridge Records 4 – (UK / NORTH AFRICA)
El Tanbura: Zayy El Nhardah (The Canal Song) / Between the Desert and the Sea / World Village 450002 – (EGYPT)
Jeszcze Raz: Les Catastrophes S’enchaînent / 2 Univers / MusicAction 10174 – (QUÉBEC)
Badar Ali Khan: I Fall In Love With You / Lost in Qawwali II / Media Creature Music /– (PAKISTAN)
Tsuumi Sound System: Hotas / Hotas / Aito Records 10 – (FINLAND)
Rupa & The April Fishes: L’elephant / Este Mundo / Cumbancha 15 – (SAN FRANCISCO, USA) *NEW* – * Rupa & the April Fishes at Parima on Nov. 9th: *
Pablo Ziegler & Quique Sinese: Fuga y Misgterio / Bajo Cero / Zozo Music 200504 – (ARGENTINA)
Mercedes Sosa: Gracias a la Vida / Homenaje a Violeta Parra / Philips 818 332 – (ARGENTINA) * Remembering Mercedes Sosa, 1935-2009 *

novalima in burlington

July 20, 2009

2009-Jul19-Novalima02<—-(Parima Thai Restaurant, Sunday night, 10:30pm: just checking. Yep, remarkably, the roof’s still there. Good thing it’s a vaulted one.)

Novalima blew the lid off the place.

There it is, out in the open for the public record.

Eight members strong (and strong is the word); one musician for every year they’ve been a group. They shook it, smacked it, and sang it for all they were worth in a sold out show that lasted a little over two hours last night at Burlington’s Parima Thai Restaurant.

A late-breaking engagement (it helps that their record label is here!), their only Vermont appearance was squeezed in between shows at Montreal’s Nuits d’Afrique festival, Millennium Park in Chicago, and the rest of their North American summer tour.

Novalima at Parima Thai Restaurant: kicked it, yes they DID

Novalima at Parima Thai Restaurant: kicked it, yes they DID

The stage setup spoke volumes. I took a quick count before they got started and noted an iBook and two keyboards (at the back), an electric guitar and bass (one on either side), and four different drum setups of various sizes, styles, and tools. Four.

Best instrument of the night had to be the large bleached lower jawbone that clattered and clacked its way through the hands of several bandmembers in the course of the show. It’s just cool to ‘play’ a jawbone, that’s all there’s to it. (“Jawbone of an ass” – sound familiar? Check out the reference here for fun.)

True to their roots, Novalima spins out catchy Afro-Peruvian grooves heavy  on percussion and powerful vocals. The contemporary twist is that the acoustic instruments and  high energy, rhythmically- infused melodies are also overlayed with a tasteful veneer of electronic sounds and effects that amp the music into the ‘club mix’ zone and make it irresistably danceable.

These are musicians who thrive in the energy of a live house and love playing with each other. It was obvious in the rounds of smiles that made their way around the group throughout the show, and in the ‘click’ of the music itself.

They were on.

Check here for info about Novalima’s albums “Coba Coba” and “Coba Coba Remixed”

montreal festival de jazz

May 12, 2009
Festival Art:  Yves Archambault's "Swing"

Festival Art: Yves Archambault's "Swing"

Even if you can be in Montreal for the entire two weeks of the International Jazz Festival, you’ll need more ears and eyes than you have to take in the  3,000+ artists featured at this year’s event.

Last Friday the Festival held its biannual press conference in Burlington on a sunlit hotel balcony overlooking the waterfront. As the season’s first sailboats tentatively ventured out into the distant, deep blue, newly thawed waters, around 20 local media folks gathered to find out more about this year’s plans and events.

Where to start?

Well, first off, you should know that 2009 marks the Festival’s 30th anniversary year. With that landmark birthday comes coinciding celebrations for the 70th anniversary of Blue Note Records; the 55th anniversary of the iconic Newport Jazz Festival (and founder George Wein); the 10th anniversary of Montreal’s own Effendi recording label; jazz legend Dave Brubeck reinterpreting tunes from his pivotal Time Out, 50 years after its 1959 release; AND, Jimmy Cobb’s So What Band in a 50th-ann. tribute to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.

Dave Brubeck (1954)

Dave Brubeck (1954)

As the press release says, birthdays are more about giving than receiving!

Other highlights: teen musicians in the family might be interested in auditioning for the annual  Blues Camp, a chance to share some 12-bar grooves with other young folks on everything from the accordion and guitar to the trombone and blues harp. And whether you’re a musician or not it’s always fun to stop by the Musical Instrument Show (“SIMM“) and experience the casual environment where many performers drop in for impromptu jam sessions to try out the latest equipment and accessories. You never know who will show up, I was there one time when Esperanza Spalding showed up to check out the new electric upright basses (you just might see her use it in her Festival show on July 2nd – she affectionately calls it “the skeleton”).

Another “not miss”: the 3rd annual Montreal Guitar Show runs July 3rd-5th. It’s one of the Festival’s most popular partnerships and the new venue this year (the Palais des congrès de Montréal) offers a roomier, more comprehensive experience than in previous years where the lack of space dispersed the various elements (retailers, musicians, demo tables) into different areas. I’m not a guitarist but even as a passing visitor it’s fun to check out the Show just to be able to see close-up and learn about instruments like the oud, the Greek bouzouki, the Saz, assorted kinds of steel guitars and pretty much anything else that can be strummed or plucked. Very cool.

Oh yes, and beyond the showcases and workshops this year’s 30th anniversary Festival promises over 650 shows, with the majority taking place on the free outdoor stages. If all you do is walk around, soaking up the atmosphere and taking in a little of this and that as you pass by, it’ll still make for a memorable experience. The last time I was at the Festival, the walk to the music plaza one morning was unexpectedly impeded by floats, honking buses, and a mighty mass of people (many wearing bright t-shirts the colors of flags, with the words “Trinidad” and “Tobago” splashed across the chest) carrying lots of grilled pineapple kabobs on long blackened sticks. It turned out to be a Caribbean pride parade, right down a major street near the Festival! Random, and wonderful.

See? You just can’t miss.

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder

As for the ‘inside word’ from the Festival (and you would expect a little insider info from someone who went to the press conference, right? Right.) – I’m relieved to say that I can now let you in on the big secret revealed on Friday: the free, opening night concert that “not even Montreal knows about yet!” We were under strict instruction to sit on it until at least yesterday (when Montreal found out) that — STEVIE WONDER is the opening act for this year’s Festival, in a free concert (9:30pm on 6/30) at the new Place des Festivals. Jazz? Nah. Jazz-informed? Sure. Classy, soulful fun in a concert befitting the magnitude of this year’s 30th anniversary? Absolutely.

Hope to see you there.


I don’t work for the fest – publicity or otherwise. I just love music and the special occasions like this that can bring musicians and music supporters together in  joyous, culturally celebratory and unifying experiences. The Montreal Jazz Fest is great in all of these respects.

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