Ravi Shankar and Aditya

 

[Editorial note:  Studying classical Indian music is an immersive experience. It is part of an ancient Indian apprenticeship tradition known as Gurukula, living and learning music in the guru’s home. Students, or shishyas, move in with their teachers for a number of years as part of a spiritual journey that goes beyond melody and rhythm. This is what Aditya Verma embarked upon at the age of 18, when he left Montréal to join virtuoso sitar player Ravi Shankar in his home in Delhi. Here are some of his memories.]

 

In August 1987, I entered the gates of Pandit Ravi Shankar’s home at 95 Lodi Estate in Delhi to begin my life as his shishya (disciple). It was a hot day and my palms were sweaty. I was excited but nervous at the prospect of a future living in a Gurukula, an ancient system of apprenticeship built on the sacred relationship between mentor and disciple, with this musical legend. As I approached the house, “Guruji” looked up and beamed a huge smile at me from his rattan chair on the veranda where he was drinking chai with the great singer Lakshmi Shankar. They were listening to a song in Raga Nat Bhairava that will forever be etched into my memory, “Uchata Gayee Mori Nindiya.” In the coming days, my nervousness would dissolve and give place to euphoria as I played my first notes on the sarod.

Earlier that year, I had visited Pandit Ravi Shankar in New York City, where he was recovering from heart surgery. My father, Dr. Narendra Verma, had been close to Guruji since his childhood, so I called him “Nanaji” (grandfather). I had gone there to give him support, but also to discuss the possibility of learning music. I grew up in Montréal learning to play tabla from my father, who is one of the most senior disciples of tabla legend Ustad Alla Rakha. Guruji tested my talents in music, rhythm and melody. Perhaps much more, though, he wanted to gauge my dedication to music and my willingness to surrender to the intensity of the traditional way, Guru-Shishya-Parampara, that is, Teacher-Disciple-Tradition.

It was the rarest of privileges.

 

A house devoted to music

Every morning, the gardener would bring flowers for the prayers. Someone would light the incense, and sounds began: the tanpura, sitar, sarod, tabla, with a different person practicing in every room. In spite of being in Delhi, a metropolis notorious for its capacity to overload the senses, inside the gates, the whole environment was conducive to learning. It was in fact a lot like a retreat, an ashram. The only thing that was really demanded of us was the purity of our intentions toward learning music.

The days were filled with lessons and practicing – often 10 to12 hours a day! There were four other shishyas living in the house with whom I often learnt and practiced. In doing so, we also became best friends. Guruji humorously called us his Panch Pandavas, a reference to the five brothers featured in the epic story of the Mahabharata. Many musicians visited the house, as well as senior students who came to learn throughout the day.

There was also what we call seva (or service): doing something for somebody, even the smallest gestures, like bringing Guruji some tea first thing in the morning,  accompanying him during daily activities or attending events such as concerts. I would very often go with him on his walks. It was a wonderful time for me to listen to him speak about his own upbringing. As a young man, he was traveling and performing with his elder brother when he decided to step away from all that in order to live and learn with his Baba – a great sacrifice that was also the greatest blessing, the decision that allowed him to become the artist he was.

 

The gift of teaching

Indian music is an oral (not written) tradition passed on from Guru to shishya, which has been in existence for many generations. This is one of the reasons why a sitar player (like my Guru, and his guru before him) can teach other instruments such as sarod, bansuri, violin or guitar. Beyond the technique and proficiency of playing an instrument, the guru would transmit knowledge of ragas, talas, and forms and styles of playing.

I’ve played the tabla since I was a little boy, but learning to play the sarod, this beautiful North Indian melodic string instrument carved from a single piece of teakwood, implied a completely new vocabulary – a vocabulary I learnt through vocalization and song.

Initially, Guruji sang and I followed, often first singing the notes in Indian solfege, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa, then reciting the right-hand strokes or bols: Da Ra Diri…, then finally singing the composition set to a rhythmic cycle of hand-clapping. Once vocalized, I then played it on my instrument. Guruji was a fountainhead of knowledge. Sometimes even just a small comment from him would lead to a new technique which would take weeks to master.

On a personal level, I underwent a difficult transition from my life in Canada. I initially found the adjustment overwhelming, and I felt homesick. Guruji sensed this in me and tried to lift my spirits: “If you can’t talk to me, who can you talk to?” My relationship with him progressively shifted from grandfather to Guru. And his teachings went far beyond music.

Traveling with him, accompanying him to concerts, I had the opportunity to observe his interactions with other senior artists, both on and off stage. I witnessed the kind of respect he showed other people, and how he expressed that respect. Guruji taught me life lessons that shaped who I have become, for which I am forever grateful.

Teachers such as Guruji carry compositions that originated hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Following a lineage that’s been passed down through many generations is a huge responsibility for both the teacher and the student, who are entrusted with the future. When you have had the good fortune of learning from a veritable wellspring of knowledge, you have a responsibility to continue that tradition and to pass it on to your students, propagating the culture to other people. It is a responsibility I take seriously. My teachers passed their knowledge to me with such effort and dedication and sincerity that it is my duty to do the same.

With the pandemic, I started meeting with my students by Zoom or Facetime, or in my backyard in Montréal, where I teach music in the same way that I was taught. A student will come and I’ll sing, and I’ll get them to sing the same passage back to me, and then they’ll play it back on their instrument to me.

 

Developing one’s own sound

The sarod is not an easy instrument. There are no frets or divisions between the notes, and you must balance pressure between your fingertip and nails to create a sound. It takes years just to develop a proper tone.

Aside from that, starting an instrument when older, as I did with the sarod, is very different from doing so as a child. I feel that with age you have the mental capacity to understand and analyze more with every new lesson. This can be a boon but also an extreme challenge, especially when you just need to practice repetitively to train your fingers and hands to respond. I learnt to embrace discipline as a joy, not as drudgery. Every moment became an opportunity to learn something. Though Guruji was very strict and traditional, he taught in ways that were engaging, stimulating and playful, and I found myself gravitating towards a mindset of always practicing, thinking about and contemplating music.

There was an immense amount of material. I tried to notate wherever possible, as music was rarely recorded. The rest was spent trying to absorb everything I could and developing critical thinking in music by listening to other students, recordings and performances.

In the early years, my practice was focused on just a few ragas, the scientific, precise, subtle and aesthetic melodic forms upon which the artist improvises his performance. Every raga is characterized by its own particular rasa, or principal mood (romantic/erotic; humour; pathos; anger; heroism; fear; disgust; amazement; and peace), and is connected to a particular time of day or season of the year.[i] The fact that the notes, moods and techniques were distinct from one another kept practice fresh and challenging.

Over time, every successive generation of musicians injects itself into the music, whether it’s in terms of intonation, interpretation or expression. Sometimes you may realize a detail that puts the composition under a different light, or you may improve on it based on your own experience… and you are able to bring your own feelings into the tradition. Purpose and intent are key.

The more I learned, the more I realized that there was so much more to learn. Knowledge is like an ocean, and I felt I had only fathomed but a few drops.

 


Aditya Verma on sarod, in a Montréal church in 2009

 

Improvisation and inspiration

In a recital of classical Indian music, as much as 90% of the music may be improvised, depending on the artistic facility and creativity of the performer. This creative latitude allows the artist to take into consideration the setting, his or her own mood, and the feeling the artist discerns in the audience before beginning to play.

For instance, while performing a concert, a musician may hear a small sound of appreciation from somebody in the audience at exactly the right moment, recognizing certain elements of finesse which are not necessarily evident. It makes you feel like you are connecting, and it puts you in an inspired state of mind.

At times you become like a channel: the music is going through you and you are not even fully aware of what exactly you are playing, you are so caught up in the moment. Those are very magical moments you hope will happen as much as possible – instants I owe to my father and gurus, and to the lineage of teachers who have preceded them for centuries.

 

Aditya Verma © Michel Grenier, 2019

 

For more on Aditya Verma’s music, please visit his website and Facebook page. You can also consult a variety of videos and a montage in tribute to Ravi Shankar.

 

[i] Raga Bhairav is traditionally performed in the morning, Raga Sarang and its variations in the afternoon, and Raga Yaman in the evening.

 

 

 

© Michael Morais

 

Sometime in 2009, I was given a recording of my father performing some of his poetry on CKUT-Radio McGill, accompanied by music he’d chosen.* The recording was a bit rough – it had been transferred from an audio cassette from around 1989 or 1990, a year or two before my father died.

I started playing with it on my laptop and composed some music around it. It was like a stream opening up, with me creating one piece after the other over the course of a day. I wanted to make a soundscape with the rhythmic patterns of my father’s voice and cadence, as well as his poetic presentation. I wanted to have the beat go back and forth, creating a kind of call-and-response effect.

I ended up dissecting the poetry, highlighting some words, not wanting to disrupt the meaning but putting my own take on them. I turned parts of the poems into choruses and repeated other parts to emphasize certain lines or words. I wanted the music to reflect the content.

These pieces I created so many years ago have been quietly biding their time in my old computer files. Now seems like a good time to let them out.

Here is my sampling of a medley of my father’s poems, which includes excerpts of “Old Lady as I Entered the Metro”** and “Robbed in a Country I Cannot Afford.” The original recording was of my father performing these poems in 1990 on the program “Breathing Fire,” hosted by Robert Harding.

 

 

ROBBED IN A COUNTRY I CANNOT AFFORD

(Saying Goodbye in a Hostel)

Me feeling sorry for you
feeling sorry for me
makes me feel worse
than you think
we can live together
suddenly by the bootstraps
kicking up our heels
in Kentucky
fried kids
letting our hair down
once and for all
have a really healing
hoe-down
South naturally
on smoky blue grass
rolling mountains of it
beneath the bright diamond skies

For goodness sakes
don’t cry, Vickie Lee
the air is warm and rich like fur
the moon burnished gold
here in Jerusalem
the rabbis say
even the streets
where tonight I will sleep
are holy

© Michael Morais

 

My father wrote plays and short stories as well as poetry. This is my spoken word/music fusion of excerpts from his short story entitled “A Collector of Many Things.” Part of the story is included below.

 

 

Heavy with her presence, everything seemed to fade, the flowered
curtains, walls, table, chairs, stove, fridge, and kitchen sink into grey
almost shapeless forms blurry around the edges as though giving up
matter molecule by molecule detaching themselves drawn by magnetism
gravity magic or some chemical process silently through space then
disappearing through the pores and orifices within her body. Her
being like a black hole absorbing everything within proximity. He
felt that space itself was being drawn into her – vast distances
closing – the whole universe consumed. Into her eyes he could not
look at her, or even in her direction, and holding his own tightly
closed he wondered what on earth was she doing here – then suddenly
realised that she had said both alone and in front of witnesses why
she was here – she was her for him – and now, was confidently waiting.

He opened his eyes with the frightening awareness that if he
did not act immediately he might soon disappear. He swore not to give
in, and in an effort to resist he did the only sensible thing left within what he feared were his already diminished powers . . .

 

Excerpt from “A Collector of Many Things”© Michael Morais

 

My father’s seminal poem nicknamed “Semen stick together” was dedicated to his friend and fellow writer Dan Daniels, who was a merchant marine seaman. Here’s what it sounds like with my music stirred into the mix.

 

 

Excerpt from “For Semen Everywhere” © Michael Morais

 

Here is my fusion take on it “My Aunt Tillie,”** performed by my father in 1990 on CKUT’s “Breathing Fire,” hosted by Robert Harding.

 

 

 

© Michael Morais

 

Spoken word/music fusion and samplings © Gavin Morais

 

The writings featured in Gavin’s music will be published in an upcoming collection of his father’s work.

For more on Gavin Morais’ art, visit his website.

 

 

___________

* My father’s radio performance in 1990 included Joan Armatrading, Memphis Slim, Tom Waits, Timothy Buckley and an unidentified dub artist.

** The first and last poems sampled here, “Old Lady as I Entered the Metro” and “My Aunt Tillie,” were published in the student newspaper The Link Magazine on March 27, 1981.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lewis Braden and Andy Williams – Photo © Tony Revoy

 

The history of music is all about borrowing and building on the work of predecessors, whether it be Griots keeping old stories alive and telling the stories of their time, or Johann Sebastian Bach traveling to hear Buxtehude’s organ playing and transcribing Vivaldi, or jazz musicians of the 21st century learning from mid-century 20th recordings by Clifford Brown or Charlie Parker. Additionally, musicians have used their instruments to tell their stories, whether it be voice, drum, kora, saxophone or symphony orchestra. Not surprisingly, the long-playing vinyl recording itself has become an instrument of choice for musicians of the 21st century who have inherited the art of mixing from predecessors as illustrious as DJ Kool Herc, and Grandmaster Flash, not to mention the many lesser known DJs out there spinning discs on turntables in the house parties and dance halls of the world.

One local act that centres on this most post-modern of musical arts where pastiche is king and time travel a given, but with a decidedly fresh approach, is Jazz Amnesty Sound System (J.A.S.S.). Deejays Andy Williams and Lewis Braden (aka DJ Sweet Daddy Luv) are the duo at the turntables, spinning jazz tracks from their colossal collections. Moving their mixing art further, they are currently finishing a 2-LP release called An Afro-Cuban Excursion, featuring the music of the Cuban-born eclectic jazz pianist Omar Sosa.

Andy Williams is no stranger to Montréalers as a tasty spinner of jazz recordings, and Lewis Braden has joined the UK-born Williams to mount a series of projects focused on mixing jazz for the masses. Williams and Braden have worked together since 2010, but this is Williams’ 40th year in the business. He’s also in his 25th year at Montreal’s CKUT, airing a show called “The Goods.” Braden, for his part, has been a self-confessed “music industry lifer” since the 90s, working in the record distribution business, notably at Cargo records and Ninja Tune. His record collection is in the 20,000 range. (He calls it “The Record Canyon.”) Along with his involvement in JASS, Braden has a label called Totally Real Probably Not Fake, which releases his own music under the name “almost nobody,” as well as bands like Boar God, Ironic Butterfly and the mysterious 4th-dimensional band called The Graffiti People.  Following a more journalistic and scholarly bent, Williams, along with deejaying, has been a pedagogue since 1996, teaching math, science and the humanities for the first 18 years, and later black social history. He ran a series of workshops on jazz history at McGill University for 10 years and is a frequent guest lecturer on the subject at local colleges and cultural institutions.

 

Keep it Fresh

The collective goal of Jazz Amnesty Sound System is to try “to draw attention to jazz.” The instrument they use to do their work is a complex one. “My instrument,” Braden says, “is a basement full of records.”  And the art is many-layered. “It’s a selection thing. We’re not scratch DJs. It’s about the flow,” he explains, pointing out the improvisational aspect of the art that requires close listening and reading the energy of a crowd of dancers. “Your plan is, I’ve got this many records,” Braden quips.

The fact that “Jazz is so vast” is the challenge JASS rises to, via their collection. They believe that it is entirely possible to present mixes on a particular theme that can be different each time out, just like a true jazz performance, given the fact of the substantial quantity of tracks on LPs, most of which people have never heard.

“There’re so many records out there and I’ve always looked at that as a challenge,” Williams says. “My former mate in the Goods, Scott C, always said, ‘Keep it fresh.’ So in my mind it’s always there, to keep it fresh. You’d be surprised – if you have 5,000 records in your collections, you probably play 10,000 of those tracks, but there’re actually 30,000 or more of those tracks. So you can always keep it fresh.”

Lew and Andy – Photo ©Tony Revoy

The duo admit that they have “some grandiose ideas,” but this hubris is backed by a love of jazz and an encyclopedic knowledge of the discography of jazz, an aspect of their work that becomes obvious when one listens to their mixes (available at https://www.mixcloud.com/J_A_S_S/). Culled from their personal collections, the mixes are impressively varied and include masters like Duke Ellington and Randy Weston, rarities like Ahmed Abdul-Malik (the hard-bop oud-playing bassist), futuristic visionary Sun Ra, CTI jazz (1970s jazz’s most idiosyncratic label), 80s jazz, women in jazz, jazz rock experiments and much much more.

A black vinyl disc spinning under a diamond-tipped stylus on a turntable was once, of course, the standard thing for decades, but with the rise of the CD and more recently the phenomenon of streaming and digital/virtual product, things have changed dramatically to the point where DJs do their work via laptops. The trend is reversing, however. Braden found it remarkable that after this year’s International Record Store Day on April 18, Nielsen’s ratings showed sales that week that were the 3rd largest since they began listing the stats in 1991. Although the music market is still overwhelmingly digital, vinyl, like CDs, is “for those who want to buy stuff, and there’s digital for everybody else,” Braden says. “That means, roughly, that physical musical products these days are 70% vinyl and 30% CDs for those who want a physical product, and there is digital for everyone else. Even Bruce Springsteen only makes about 10,000 copies of a record,” a far cry from the heyday of the LP when sales were in the millions of units.

During the heyday of the CD, vinyl was kept alive by Heavy Metal fans and electronic music DJs, Braden claims, but also significant is the richness of the analogue sound and the fact that analogue round waves, in contrast to the step waves of the digital format, will carry bass sounds more fully. “That’s why Dub step, when it came out, was all on vinyl… the bass just sounds so much better,” Braden adds.

 

Curating the Jazz Experience

Jazz is not often spun by DJs, but it is a rich vein to mine for these artists. “The idea is there’s lots to jazz,” Braden says. “Jazz dips into all kinds of different things and it’s been around for a while and it’s influenced music all the way through, so we try to touch on different aspects of it with the mixes.”

The idea for JASS came after a fortuitous event when Braden was deejaying at a wedding and the client wanted an all-jazz playlist. Braden found that people really liked it and came up to ask about the tracks. He didn’t want to embark on the project alone, so he recruited Williams due to his expertise in the genre. “I’ve learned a lot from him just hooking up with him,” Braden says,  “so we decided to start JASS.”

The focus on jazz was a natural thing for Williams: “I’ve always been involved with jazz since I was 17. So we made projects out of concepts we’d discussed, for instance the event at the Contemporary Art Museum called Living Inside Jazz, which involved mid-century furniture and music within jazz.” Braden elaborated: “Music was chosen on the basis of album covers. Every time we would play the record, we would slide the cover under a camera and the camera would project the image on a screen behind us.”

“We rented a bunch of mid-century furniture,” Williams adds, “and set up two facing living-room sets with big old TVs but the TVs had jazz images and quotes from jazz musicians.” Because of poor sight lines preventing the projection of the images to everyone’s field of vision, they went as far as setting up a projection system where images of the album cover would appear on blank covers that patrons could read to find out what they were listening to. “We also had magazines and books. I brought in Jazz Times and other things pertaining to jazz.”

For Braden, the JASS project has a large scope. “Part of what we do with this is we’re freeing jazz. We expose people to it as best we can. And because jazz is such a wide thing there are lots of different ways to go about it. So we have a lot of these different projects that are about ‘here’s another way of looking at jazz.’ That Musée d’art contemporain project was album cover art. We curated another project that was a Jazz Mass, at the Red Roof Church on President Kennedy, (where) Andy and I deejayed a set of all spiritual jazz music. And we had jazz musicians come in and just randomly start playing.”

“There was Gary Schwartz, (and) the Maha choir,” Williams says.

“We also had Bob Olivier do a Jazz Mass,” Braden adds. He was like our preacher for the night. We had Eric Lewis read something about his mother passing and John Coltrane. It was really nice. We also do this project called the Evolution of Jazz, and the concept is something that we can do over and over again. Each performance can be unique, but the general idea is we start from Quadrille from 1889 off a cylinder and then we’d play that and then the next track a few years later, and each track goes further and further along in the history of jazz, so in a set you’d hear jazz mutate, but because there’s so much jazz, you could do that journey a million different ways. And we have images to go with it so we can equate where we are… what era we’re in.”

Andy and Lew – Photo © Tony Revoy

 

Back to Vinyl

As mentioned above, the JASS project of the moment involves the music of eclectic jazz pianist Omar Sosa whom Williams met through Scott Price, Sosa’s manager and owner of Otá records. It was in 2008 in Barcelona, but Williams had always been a fan of his. “Omar bangs out an album or two a year, which is really impressive, but I realized when I was going to his shows, there were all these baby boomers, whereas this was also the most beautiful, spiritual music that younger folks and my average listeners, friends I know, would listen to – like Pharaoh Sanders and Yusef Lateef – and I thought, why can’t Omar have that kind of a setting? And I spoke to Scott Price about it and he said ‘that’s not a bad idea.’”

Braden adds, perking up, “none of his stuff was ever on vinyl, either. It was all on CDs and digital. The crux was like, why don’t we do a compilation of his Afro-Cuban stuff, put it on vinyl and use that to try to attract a larger audience? Andy had sort of worked some of this out before I got involved and I’ve been assisting him to make it actually happen. It’s called an Afro-Cuban Excursion. And Omar Sosa covers the African music diaspora. Lots of different musicians from places like Mali, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire… Andy did a really good job of choosing one track from each of these records and making a nice compilation that highlights one of the aspects of Omar’s sound.”

The project will mean a vinyl release of Sosa’s music packaged as a 2-LP set with original cover art from HVW8 artist and co-founder Gene Pendon, and extensive liner notes from McGill University educator and professional pianist David Rhyshpan. Originally scheduled for Montreal’s Suoni per il popolo festival this June on the same bill as free jazz saxophonist Charles Gayle, the launch has been postponed due to a cancellation by Gayle.

Sosa’s African experiments parallel William’s own as he is no stranger to African music, having been, among other things, involved in a South African project for 3 years in a row called All Roads Lead to Gugulethu, which is also scheduled for future release as a 2-LP set on the G-Three/Jazz Amnesty label.

Along with the Omar Sosa and South African projects, Williams and Braden are looking ahead to a venture focusing on free jazz, with the help of free jazz musician and record collector Eric Lewis, the goal being an interactive three-way mixing of free jazz tracks to create a new, unique soundscape, fully improvised.

For more info on the upcoming release dates of J.A.S.S.’s Omar Sosa, South African and FREE J.A.S.S. projects, and Andy Williams’ and Lewis Braden’s art of DJ mix generally, you can visit https://www.mixcloud.com/J_A_S_S/.

 

J.A.S.S. Logo © Pat Hamou

 

 

L’envol 1 – Photo © Marie-Josée Tremblay

 

Démarche artistique

Que ce soit par la musique, les chansons, la photographie, le cinéma ou la peinture, ce que j’exprime avant tout ce sont les émotions que nous vivons tous en tant qu’êtres humains.

Quand je chante, je me connecte avec mon Créateur. Quand je chante, je rentre dans un bien-être physique, mental et spirituel. J’écris des chansons aux rythmes autochtones en racontant des histoires vécues, des situations, des émotions qui ont existées et qui existeront toujours. Je suis près des gens. Par mon langage simple, direct et compréhensible il est facile de visualiser mes chansons.

En m’inspirant de la nature, des arbres, des animaux, des gens, des villes, c’est par la photographie que je laisse parler leurs âmes. Je me connecte avec mes intuitions. Je prends cette photographie. Je leur cède la place. Leurs émotions parleront au travers d’eux.

C’est par la peinture que j’exprime mes états intérieurs profonds et inatteignables en utilisant la peinture acrylique sur grande toile.

Que ce soit le cinéma d’animation en stop motion, la fiction ou le documentaire c’est la magie qui m’attire dans ce médium. Les images qui bougent. Lire entre les lignes. Se raconter sa propre histoire. Faire le point sur soi. Se poser des questions. Réfléchir à sa situation. Évoquer des faits. Faire rêver. La possibilité d’entrer dans l’écran et faire partie des images. Je deviens magicienne des images, de la mise en scène, du scénario ainsi que des décors. C’est un médium que j’aime depuis longtemps puisque j’ai étudié les communications et le cinéma au Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf. Après avoir terminé et réussi mon BAC en Théâtre (Jeu) à UQAM, c’est là que mon rôle de comédienne et de metteur en scène s’épanouissent. De plus, je me permets de réaliser mes musiques sur mes films. Donc, le cinéma, pour moi, devient rassembleur avec tous mes autres médiums.

Mes quatre médiums se rejoignent tous soit en prenant des chemins différents ou en se mariant les uns aux autres. Mon travail se termine seulement lorsque mon produit final me parle et me satisfait.

 

Mustang (composed and interpreted by Marie-Josée Tremblay)

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/mjtremblaymusic/mustang[/soundcloud]

Mustang © Martine Marie Josée Tremblay (aka MJ Tremblay)

They run after me,
They hope to catch me.
They wish to kill me,
They want my skin.

I just run faster…
The same old story:
Chasing after me…
“Try to capture me”!

Wild horse (wild horse)
Wild horse (wild horse)

Mustang is my name! 4X

Don’t you know your rights
About free hunting!
Killing animals
For your own pleasure?

You push us away.
Trapp’ us from our land.
We become your slaves!
This is the end of:

Wild horse (wild horse)
Wild horse (wild horse)

I had a family … I was surrounding by
My brothers and sisters, my fathers and mothers,
My children, grandparents.
We’re warriors of the time! 4X

Mustang is my name! 4X

(see La Boîte aux paroles)

 

Marie-Josée Tremblay – Photo © Patricia Chica

 

Whether in animation or stop motion, fiction or documentary, it’s the magic that attracts me in this medium. Images that move. Reading between the lines. Telling my story. Taking stock of my life. Asking myself questions. Reflecting on my situation. Calling up the facts. Creating dreams. The  possibility of entering the screen and being part of the images. I become a magician of images, staging, scripts and sets.

 

Ni l’un ni l’autre (Wapikoni mobile)

 

Le battement de ma ville (Wapikoni mobile)

 

Un matin tranquille (Wapikoni – UQAM)

 

L’envol (Wapikoni – UQAM)

 

 

L’envol 2 – Photo © Marie-Josée Tremblay

 

For more information on Marie-Josée Tremblay and her art and music, please visit her general website, her music website and the Wapikoni website for young Indigenous filmmakers. Her songs will also be available via the CD Baby website and on iTunes, Amazon and other digital platforms in the near future.

https://mjtremblaymusic.wordpress.com/

https://mjtremblaymusic.wordpress.com/chansons/

http://www.wapikoni.ca/cineastes/mj-tremblay

 

 

CD Review

Cultures around the world provide a rich heritage to draw from for practicing contemporary artists, but it’s always a thorny issue when a non-native draws on stylistic features of the practices of another culture, as care needs to be taken to avoid cultural appropriation and ensure respectful treatment of that source culture and its artists.

In this CD by the Montréal group known as Togetherness, the music of South Africa is the stylistic core, featuring tunes by composers Abdullah Ibrahim, Dudu Pukwana and Mongezi Fez. The CD also includes tunes by non-African musicians inspired by the South African musical style – a joyous choral sound that is rhythmically infectious and melodically sweet and celebratory – as well as featuring some outside-the-box playing by the seminal musicians mentioned above.

In this release, five of the six musicians involved are Montrealers (Ellwood Epps, trumpet; Erik Hove, alto sax; Scott Thomson, trombone; Stéphane Diamantakiou, double bass; Louis-Vincent Hamel, drums), and they are joined on three tracks by South African saxophonist Rus Nerwich, a native Capetonian who appears to have been a catalyst in this band’s genesis. Nerwich’s presence provides an obvious authentic link to the source, but the authenticity also comes via the musicians’ approach. Their pleasure in exploring and sharing the music comes through loud and clear and is what makes this set worth listening to repeatedly.

Music aficionados are no strangers to the South African idiom. The recent death of South African flugelhornist Hugh Masekela was widely noted in the mainstream press, evidence of the esteem people had for his musicianship worldwide. Paul Simon’s use of township players and the vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo in his Graceland album, while controversial, nonetheless played a role in raising the profile of South African music.

Celebrated jazz artist Abdullah Ibrahim (formerly known as Dollar Brand) is here represented by two tracks: “Salaam” and “Blues for a Hip King. The CD features two other South African composers: Mongezi Feza, a fascinating trumpet player with the fabled South African jazz group The Blue Notes (which included Louis Moholo, Nikele Moyake, Johnny Dyani), and Dudu Pukwana, saxophonist and chief composer with The Blue Notes (“Angel Nemali”). The non-South African composers include Misha Mengelberg  (“Kwela P’Kwana”), William Parker (“Looking for Gilchrist”), Roswell Rudd (“Bamako”) and Togetherness’s trumpet player Ellwood Epps (“Homescoolin’” and “Clay”), seamlessly weaving their pieces into the whole.  All share the celebratory qualities mentioned earlier.

The first track sets the cheerful tone of the album. It is “Kwela P’Kwana” by Misha Mengelberg, New Dutch swing master, a tune that appears on the Vancouver label Songlines, in a CD with contemporary jazz artists Dave Douglas, Brad Jones and Mengelberg’s Dutch compatriot, drummer Han Bennink.  It is a parade-like anthem announcing the upbeat music to come. This buoyant tone is also a feature of Pukwana’s “Angel Nemali,” Feza’s “You Ain’t Gonna Know Me (‘Cause You Think You Know Me)” and Epp’s own “Clay.” The other two composers, William Parker (“Looking for Gilchrist”) and Roswell Rudd (“Bamako”) are Americans who are squarely in the avant-garde camp. Rudd, a trombonist who passed away last year, was one of the pioneers of free jazz, and bassist Parker is currently one of its most prominent and respected artists. The pieces reflect the free spiritedness of South African jazz.

The eight tracks taken together share characteristics of early New Orleans jazz, for the three-horn front line (a fourth horn appears on three tracks) and the perky drumming and bass lines and the feel-good effect that seems to be the ultimate redeeming and endearing quality of this release, which is thankfully respectful of the musical sources. But the band also seems devoted to the idea of celebrating the spirit of the South African musicians and their musical heritage. The arrangements are varied and the playing is inspired and polished.

Togetherness, formed in 2016, has since played more than a dozen performances, including the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Something Else! Festival and a tour of Ontario. The future looks promising for the group, judging from this CD, which is evidence that cultural borrowing can work if done respectfully, with proper recognition of the source artists and the wealth of their cultural heritage.

CD Details: Togetherness, on the Mr. E Records label (#5)

Recorded by Zach Scholes at Atobop Studio, Montréal, on October 1, 2017

http://www.ellwoodepps.ca/togetherness/

 

 

 

 

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Imagine nomads in quilted alkhallas (long loose robes), strumming ektaras (single stringed drone guitars) in the Sufi-Baul[1] tradition on the streets of Chicoutimi, Québec! “Goley malé goley malé Pirit koro na!” Don’t mess around with love, because it will mess your life up: one of the most famous Baul songs from India.

Well, it almost happened! Instead, when Mosaïque from Québec journeyed to Kolkata (Bengal, India) to present two joint concerts with Surojit and his band Surojit O Bondhura,[2] there was one question on everyone’s lips: what made Surojit, one of the top musicians from West Bengal, go all the way to Québec and associate with a band there? Instead of trying to explain himself in words, Surojit let Mosaïque showcase its music in a major press conference and two subsequent concerts in Kolkata itself. A magic web had been spun on stage through this sharing of each other’s music. It was the music produced by Mosaïque and its philosophy that deeply touched Surojit, and left an impact on him. A bond had been created between Québec and Bengal.

Surojit went to Saguenay, Québec to be with Mosaïque in 2006, 2008 and 2013, enjoying himself in impromptu jam sessions, exploring different sounds and participating in formal concerts. While preparing for the three major concerts in 2013, Surojit was struck with a strong desire to produce a new album to share Mosaïque’s magic with a wider audience. The first tracks were laid while he was in Québec in August 2013. The work on the album continued on both sides of the world, connected through the Net. However, Surojit in his fondest dreams saw Mosaïque and Surojit O Bondhura on the stage together in Kolkata. His dream came true in January 2015. The two bands, steeped in music and friendship, spent four weeks putting the final touches on the album Folk Fusion: a fusion of minds and hearts.

Surojit often mentioned that one of the facets of Mosaïque that appealed to him was its dedication to music and its adventurous spirit of exploring rhythms from far and near. Although his contribution to the music of Bengal is through his songs crafted in Bengali, it did not deter Mosaïque musicians from being drawn to him, and as Surojit mentions in one of his postings on Facebook: “Music has only one language: MUSIC.”

Although Surojit has produced several albums, prepared musical scores for a number of movies and won several prizes, he feels that this album with Mosaïque is something special. The album is now available online on iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/id1039452841) and will be eventually available on other platforms as well. Surojit O Bondhura is perhaps the only band in India that has ever given rise to a flourishing poetry club (Surojit O Bandura Kobita Club) with about 10,000 members, to promote and share the works of established as well as new performers and artists.

 

www.kobitaclub.com

 

[1] Mystic minstrels from rural Bangladesh and the state of Bengal (India)

[2] Translated into English, this means “Surojit and Friends”