Over the years, The Netherlands has given the rest of the world a host of treasures – from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra to spring tulips. Add to these choice Dutch exports the Uruguayan-born, now Amsterdam-based, vocalist Beatriz Aguiar. A veteran of more than 20 years on the international music scene, she infuses her compositions with the melancholy and romance of the Argentinean tango, the sparkle of the Brazilian samba, as well as the power of the chacarera and Uruguayan candombe rhythm. Gigi Razete of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica described Beatriz as an “interpreter with a fascinating vocal timbre and intense expression, capable of moving between soft and refined jazz, to the songs that represent her deepest Latin American roots..." Other critics have dubbed her “one of the most beautiful voices in Latin American music”.
Although primarily known as a singer and composer, Beatriz Aguiar is also a visual artist, who has been successful at combining her music with her artwork using plastics as the main medium. She feels the two are inseparable, and always draws on one art form to inspire the other.
Las Alegres Ambulancias del Palenque
Direct from Palenque de San Basilio in Colombia’s Caribbean basin, Las Alegres Ambulancias del Palenque are keepers of a rich oral tradition literally hundreds of years old. Singers both young (the alegre player is 11 and the kids dancing are as young as 3) and old (lead vocalist Graciela Salgado is 80) preserve the treasure trove of legends, stories, music and songs that come from their African ancestry. Performances by this celebrated folkloric ensemble keep the Bantu and Angola languages alive, drawing on important musical styles, such as Lumbalu, Bullerengue, Chalupa, Sexteto, Pajanto, and Fandando.
The name “Las Alegres Ambulancias” explains the philosophy of the Blacks of Palenque in their relationship with death. Happiness (alegres) is the vehicle (ambulancias) of change from one state of being to another ... life continues. Over the course of nine days, the body is believed to move easily into the afterlife mentioned by the ancestors, ending with the funeral ritual. Within this Lumbalu tradition, Las Alegres Ambulancias sing to mitigate the pain of mourning, to overcome the absence of the person who has passed, and to emotionally stabilize his/her family and friends.
Boi Akih Trio w/Monica Akihary
Boi Akih ("princess Akih" in the language spoken on the Indonesian island of Haruku, part of the Moluccan archipelago) is a unique Amsterdam-based duo consisting of vocalist Monica Akihary and guitarist Niels Brouwer. Both were born in the Netherlands, yet musically they are true global citizens. For starters, Monica sings almost exclusively in her ancestral language of Harakunese. As one critic observed, "Vocalist, not singer, is the best term for Akihary: her voice swings sweetly – but also soars and swoops, scats and whispers." Niels, her musical and life partner of twelve years, uses just a few carefully placed notes on a gently amplified guitar to create a virtual groove that is felt in all corners of the room. His collaborations with Monica are almost symbiotic. And as is the case at Sunfest ‘10, Boi Akih often adds Indian master Sandip Bhattacharya on the tablas to form a trio.
As a live act, Boi Akih is nothing short of sensational. Blending and bonding Indonesian, Indian, West-African and European cultures on the one hand, and jazz on the other, the ensemble playfully connects the simple with the complex, creating a unity that is both deeply felt and daringly innovative.
Zimbabwe's Chiwoniso performs entrancing and uplifting songs with ancient soul and modern spirit. Backed by the mesmerizing interlocking melodies of the mbira and the deep grooves of an all-star lineup featuring some of Zimbabwe and South Africa's top musicians, her voice resounds with defiant strength and profound tenderness. With a sound that recalls the fire of Angelique Kidjo, the inspiration of Oliver Mtukudzi, the rebellion of Thomas Mapfumo and the soul of India Aire, Chiwoniso is one of the hottest talents in African music today.
Over the years, Chiwoniso has been a member of various music collectives, including A Peace of Ebony, Andy Brown and the Strom, Talent 95, and Women’s Voice. Most recently, she has focused on performing with her acoustic group Chiwoniso & Vibe Culture. CBC Radio 2 listeners may be familiar with the infectious tune, “Listen to the Breeze,” which appears on Chiwoniso’s 2006 CD “Rebel Woman” and continues to receive regular airplay on Canada’s public broadcasting network.
Dobet Gnahoré is a musical tour de force. At 28, she’s already an award-winning singer, dancer and percussionist. The daughter of performers, Gnahoré grew up in Village Ki-Yi M'Bock, an artist colony in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. At age 12, she declared to her father that her academic schooling was over and that she wanted to dedicate her life to the music and dance traditions she could learn from the masters in her village. During the period of political unrest in Ivory Coast, Dobet moved to Paris, where she now leads a multi-cultural band and creates vibrant pan-African music in seven languages. In 2006, she won a BBC World Music award for “best newcomer,” and since then has released two albums full of sumptuously beautiful and irresistibly danceable material.
London Free Press Entertainment Columnist James Reaney was so charmed by Dobet at Sunfest 2008 that he named her festival performances “World Music Concert of the Year”. Reaney wrote: “‘I'm tired, I'm tired,’ [Dobet] said at one point -- surprising because she has non-stop energy to lift her vocals and herself off the stage. She paused for emphasis. ‘I'm tired of all the politicking in my country.’ Her face in an anti-war song from a child's point of view seemed to be full of tears at one moment. When she stepped away from the mic, she jumped and grooved like a WNBA star or an African ballet dancer or a martial arts star.”
Flamenco, African drums, Dance, Hip Hop, Indian tablas, Cuban rumba and much more! They all coalesce in Drums United - an explosive world-percussion group led by drummer Lucas van Merwijk.
Based in the Netherlands, but comprised of nine percussionists from seven different countries (Bangladesh, Senegal, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Surinam and Venezuela), Drums United is more than just a drum group. It’s a smoking live band that gives audiences the opportunity to experience top players, while imparting the underlying message – perfectly suited for Sunfest! - that people from widely varying nationalities can work well together.
Since its inception in 2002, Drums United has been on tour most of the time. It occupies a unique place in its field because of the ensemble’s skill at combining elements of the song and dance tradition with that of percussion.
Lauded as "...one of the wonders of world trance music" by The Los Angeles Times, Mamak Khadem captivates audiences by blending her roots in the ancient poetry and music of the Persian masters with a bold and revolutionary new sound. By nature she is a nomad, one who thrives on open spaces. By occupation she is a bridge, one that connects geography to lore. In music, she is open to cultural influences, but she has chosen the classical Persian style as her base. Formerly of the sensational cross-cultural fusion ensemble Axion of Choice, Mamak weaves a canopy, both simple and rich, for a stunningly emotional and spiritual musical experience that inspires new listeners to embrace cultural diversity, and an appreciation of Persian arts and culture through a blending of old and new.
Mamak was born in Iran at a time when the tides were changing. She was part of the Children's Choir for National Radio and Television of Iran, but it wasn't until after the Iranian Revolution that her passion for singing grew. Inspired by works of master musicians, she seized every opportunity to further her vocal art, regularly traveling back to Iran to study with some of the finest Persian vocalists and masters. She also benefited from the study of classical Indian singing tradition at the Ali Akbar Khan College of Music in Northern California, and from singing with the Los Angeles based Balkan choir Nevenka.
The Klezmatics are globally-renowned world music superstars — and the only klezmer band to have won a Grammy award (In 2006, for their CD “Wonder Wheel: Lyrics by Woody Guthrie”). In 1986, the Klezmatics emerged out of the vibrant cultural scene in New York City’s East Village with klezmer steeped in Eastern European Jewish tradition and spirituality, while incorporating contemporary themes such as human rights and anti-fundamentalism, and eclectic musical influences including Arab, African, Latin and Balkan rhythms, jazz and punk. In the course of more than twenty years and nine albums they have stubbornly continued making music that is wild, mystical, provocative, reflective and ecstatically danceable.
Over the years, the Klezmatics have had the privilege of working with many musical luminaries, including visionary American folksingers Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Theodore Bikel and Odetta, classical virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, Israeli pop icons Chava Alberstein and Ehud Banai, singer-songwriters Ben Folds and Natalie Merchant, Beat poet legend Allen Ginsberg, avant-garde experimentalist John Zorn, Morocco’s Master Musicians of Jajouka, Nubian Egyptian percussionist Mahmoud Fadl and Kosher Gospel belter Joshua Nelson.
Colombia’s LA-33 is the spearhead of the new salsa movement in Bogotá, named for that city’s Calle 33, the band’s home base. Led by bassist Sergio Mejía, this 12-piece unit is celebrated for its hard-driving live sets of old school salsa, mambo and boogaloo. In 2005, LA-33 scored a major international hit with its cover of Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther Theme”, redone as a hard-hitting salsa/mambo dance floor killer! In 2007, its second CD, "Gozalo," ruled the Colombian top ten salsa charts for most of the autumn!
Released in December 2009, the band’s latest album,“!Ten Cuidado!”, is composed of eleven songs imbued with a winning sound that marks a return to traditional 'boogaloo' fused with other genres such as mambo and funk, while maintaining the band’s trademark salsa brava. The album was recorded in the Audiovision studios in Bogota and then juiced up at Sterling Sound Studios in New York by sound engineer Drew Lavyne.
Hendrick Meurkens, a virtuoso on both the chromatic harmonica and the vibraphone, is arguably the most important jazz harmonica player since Toots Thielemans. German-born, but now based in New York City, Meurkens is a two-mallet player in the tradition of Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson. He was well on his way to a distinguished career as a vibraphonist when he became inspired by the sound of Thielemans' harmonica and proceeded to teach himself this difficult-to-master instrument.
Hendrik Meurkens' other life-changing musical experience was his introduction to Samba and Bossa Nova. He was so moved by Brazilian music that he moved to Rio in the early 80s to immerse himself in the music and culture of Brazil. His profound involvement in both jazz and Brazilian music has allowed him to create a very personal and instantly recognizable style of Samba jazz. This unusual cross-cultural amalgam features Meurkens' harmonica and vibes, along with piano, bass and drums, in stirring originals and arrangements. For Meurkens’ third appearance under the Sunfest banner, he will once again be joined by the members of the Toronto Samba-Jazz Connection: Attila Fias (piano), ex-Londoner Jeremy Price (flute), Paco Luviano (bass) and Richard Brisco (drums).
Namgar is a mesmerizing four-piece group from Moscow that preserves the indigenous musical traditions of Southern Siberia and Mongolia, combining old folk tunes with modern compositions and arrangements.
The leader of the ensemble, Namgar Lkhasaranova, grew up in a Buryat family in the tiny village of Kunkur near the borders of Russia, Mongolia, and Manchuria (China). Her tribe’s songs and dances hark back to the glorious days of the Mongolian Empire, preserving many genres and songs that became extinct in other parts of the Mongolian world. Buddhism, Shamanism and the natural beauty of Southern Siberia all have contributed to the Buryats’ rich cultural legacy.
Curiously, the female vocals from this region are almost the opposite of the male ones. They are not the heavy, deep throat singing associated with past Sunfest groups like Huun Huur Tu, but high pitched, melodious long tones. Namgar’s band features highly accomplished musicians on various percussion instruments, flutes and the morin khuur - a string instrument at the heart of Mongolian music.
Orchestre Septentrional d'Haiti
Drawing on a rotating lineup of thirteen of Haiti’s finest musicians, Orchestre Septentrional d’Haiti is the oldest urban formation of music still active on the island – a kind of Buena Vista Social Club for Haiti. In its six decade long career, this maverick big band has ridden the rollercoaster of history, inspiring it to record a repertoire of more than three hundred tracks in various styles, ranging from merengue to bolero. It may be a cultural monument, yet the "Haitian Fireball" still outfits konpa, the island nation's signature dance style, with horn charts irresistible enough to challenge pop bands half its age and size. It has the look of an orchestra, but the sound and feel of an ace party band crafting new formulas to rule the dance floor.
Simon Shaheen dazzles his listeners as he deftly leaps from traditional Arabic sounds to jazz and Western classical styles of music. His soaring technique, melodic ingenuity, and unparalleled grace have earned him international acclaim as a virtuoso on the ‘oud and violin. Indeed, Shaheen is one of the most significant Arab musicians, performers and composers of his generation. His work incorporates and reflects a legacy of Arabic music, while it forges ahead to new frontiers, embracing many different styles in the process.
While continuing to lead the Near Eastern Music Ensemble, Shaheen has focused much of his recent energies on Qantara. The band, whose name means "arch" in Arabic, brings to life Shaheen's vision for the unbridled fusion of Arab, jazz, Western classical, and Latin American music, a perfect alchemy for music to transcend the boundaries of genre and geography. The group's 2001 release “Blue Flame,” earned eleven Grammy nominations and high acclaim by the Los Angeles Times, which called it "stunning" and "meticulously conceived."
Dubbed “the 21st century hybrid sound of displaced souls,” Swami potently blends British-Indian bhangra with alternative electronic club mayhem. Award-winning producer Diamond 'Swami' Duggal founded the Birmingham, England-based band in 1997 with drummer and brother Simon ‘Subs’ Duggal, vocalist Taz Singh and Indian percussionist Kam Bura.
Constantly pushing the boundaries of international music, Swami has largely been credited with bringing British bhangra back to prominence in Indian clubs. Since releasing its 2007 CD, “Equalize,” the group has taken its trademark sound much further afield, through interacting with North African hip-hop from France, Zulu R&B from South Africa, and the black soul and rap of east coast USA, as well as the happening sounds of London (UK) via hybrid electronic mixing from some choice Delhi DJs. For Sunfesters who found their groove in last summer’s Delhi 2 Dublin dance party, Swami is the perfect excuse to once again lace up those shoes and get movin’.
Tlen-Huicani remains one of the most faithful interpreters of the traditional folk music of Veracruz, Mexico and many other regions of Latin America. Since 1973, the band’s exceptional music and international achievements have garnered it the distinction of ‘Best Folk Group in Mexico’ as awarded by the Union of Music and Theater Critics.
Tlen-Huicani, which means “the singers” in the indigenous Indian language of Nahuatl, makes the beautiful “harpa jarocha” or folk harp the centerpiece of its music. Maestro Alberto de la Rosa is respected for his musicianship throughout Mexico and considered among the most outstanding folk harpists in the world. Under his direction, the group has mastered many types of Latin repertoire, including songs of emotion as heard on the CD “Concierto Romantico” and an innovative program of the traditional music of Mexico with orchestra, entitled “Cuerdas Veracruzanas."
Highlighting traditional costumes and instruments, a concert with Tlen-Huicani is like taking a colourful journey through Mexico in music, time and place.
Where the medina (old section of an Arab city in North Africa) meets the contemporary metropolis, you’ll find a multi-ethnic band that “fully possesses the art of mixing and blending and will no doubt go far” (Yves Bernard, Le Devoir, 2008). Montreal’s Bambara Trans offers Sunfesters an upbeat menu of frenetic rhythms and festive sonorities representing the four corners of the world: from chants set to Afrobeat, to Latin music with Berber inflections that morph into reggae, and from Arab funk to jazz solos tinged with the sounds of North Africa and Andalusia, it’s all a brilliant métissage (fusion).
Founded in 2006 by husky-voiced singer Khalil Abouabdelmajib – who’s a master of the guembri (a North African guitar made of camel skin) – Bambara Trans brings together nine stellar musicians of various backgrounds (Moroccan, French, Quebecois and Nova Scotian) on a range of instruments, including saxophone, flute, keyboards, bass, guitar, brass, and percussion. The ensemble was a fan favourite at the 2007 Festival des Musiques du Maghreb and at the 2008 Festival Musique Multi-Montréal. In 2008, it released its debut CD, “Khalouna”.
At the most recent gathering of the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals (OCFF), music industry veteran Richard Flohil called Caracol (Carole Facal) his “best new discovery…a joyful, bilingual, charming and delightful singer from Quebec." Influential CBC Radio host Jim Corcoran (A Propos) is another admirer.
Many music fans may be familiar with Caracol from her association with Dobacaracol - the enormously successful 'world fusion' outfit she formed with percussionist alter ego Doriane Fabreg. Now, in pursuit of her “big passion in life – the ‘chanson’,” Caracol has left Dobracaracol behind, branching out on her own with a debut solo album that is being hailed as a masterpiece of intimate songwriting and raw emotion.
L’Arbre aux parfums is a unique blend of American folk and old Jamaican Rocksteady, evoking an indie singer-songwriter and vintage ‘50's feel, thanks to the sounds of the ukulele, the autoharp, vocal harmonies and the acoustic guitar. Here, Caracol’s mostly French lyrics explore the sometimes darker side of human emotions and relationships through anger, love, contempt, arrogance and the search for something more.
Dapp Theory is a Toronto quintet that blends “contemporary funk, groove and hip-hop into jazz with such seamless, casual precision it’s almost freaky.” (LA Weekly) Voted “Rising Star Keyboardist” by Down Beat Magazine, leader, pianist/composer Andy Milne is one of the most important and respected voices in jazz today. With Dapp Theory, Milne combines the talents of percussive poet John Moon, saxophonist John Beaty, bassist Chris Tordini and drummer Kenny Grohowski, collectively helping to re-draw and extend the boundaries of jazz. Jazz Times Magazine describes the band’s “remarkable chemistry . . . [as] . . . so impeccable, it’s practically a musical Unified Field Theory”.
Milne formed the band in 1998 as a vehicle to “tell passionate stories, promote peace and inspire collective responsibility towards uplifting the human spiritual condition.” Since then, the band has evolved and built a loyal following, in large part due to their commitment to grass-roots touring, an ideology more often associated with indie rock bands. Dapp Theory’s style is indefinable yet highly recognizable, blending influences ranging from Joni Mitchell and KRS One to Thelonious Monk and Van Halen.
Brenda Earle Jazz Quartet
Originally trained as a pianist, Brenda Earle started singing in her early 20s in an effort to better connect to her songs and audiences. As a pianist, she has performed/recorded with Donny McCaslin, the Numinous Ensemble, Dick Oatts, John Riley, Wycliffe Gordon, and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra. In 2007, her piano playing distinguished itself in the finals of the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition. Now based in New York City, Brenda has also performed at the Kennedy Center, the Ravinia festival in Chicago, the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, the Toronto Jazz Festival and in various clubs across Canada, the US, and New Zealand.
Brenda is a jazz artist who draws inspiration from a myriad of influences, including songwriters Pete Yorn, Neil Finn and Elvis Costello, classical composers like Brahms and Whitacre, rock radio, and Brazilian music. As a composer, Brenda has written hundreds of arrangements and compositions for choirs, small and large jazz ensembles, brass quintet, string quartet and orchestra. An emerging artist with a diverse palette of sounds, she is a leading voice in modern jazz.
Hassan El Hadi
Originally from Marrakesh Morocco, but now a citizen of Montreal, Hassan El Hadi is an accomplished composer, songwriter and singer, as well as a master of the oud (Arabian lute), the banjo, and the hajhouj (a 3 stringed skin-covered bass plucked lute).
Raised in a mélange of sounds – including the melodic rhythms of his city’s Annual Popular Arts Festivals, the daily Jemaa el Fna market and numerous ceremonies and local festivities, El Hadi continues to draw great inspiration from the immense wealth of Arab and Berber cultural heritage. In his performances, you will experience all the different flavors of Moroccan “musics”: from playful, energetic Berber rhythms, to the expressiveness of Arab music, to the poetic and refined Andalusian music. Orchestrated in a highly original fashion, his compositions are also spiced-up with a clever touch of jazz.
In addition to leading his own self-titled band and playing in many other Middle Eastern and Asian music ensembles, Hassan has worked with bands whose styles range from western classical music to afro-cuban rhythms. His latest album, “Maroc’N Reel” is a powerful mix of traditional Moroccan and traditional Québécoise music.
Five Alarm Funk
Five Alarm Funk is a Vancouver-based, 12-piece rhythm machine that delivers a delirium-inducing live show fuelled by original funk and afro-beat grooves. The band’s horn and percussion-driven instrumental jams feature searing guitar leads and horn solos wailing and soaring above a four-man percussion maelstrom that is grounded
by Neil Towers’ juicy bass lines.
“There’s a huge afro-beat, Fela Kuti influence,” explains Five Alarm Funk guitarist Gabe Boothroyd. “We take that and combine it with some James Brown and Kool and the Gang and then throw in a lot of youthful energy and reckless enthusiasm. Most people in the band started playing rock-oriented music, and that edge is still there in a lot of our playing and our stage presence.”
FAF’s wacky costumes and stage antics guarantee a frenzied dance party, but the boys in the band also have the jazz chops to really play!
Halifax-based Gypsophilia is a band of seven young performers whose music straddles the jazz and indie worlds. The group formed in 2004 as a Django Reinhardt-inspired project, but soon began treating capacity crowds to its highly original blend of gypsy jazz, klezmer, funk, classical music, tango, indie rock, bebop, and more. Often dressed in sartorial styles from the 1920s to the 1960s that reflect its eclectic musical influences, the unit can also be quite a feast for the eyes!
In June of 2009, Gypsophilia released its sophomore album “Sa-ba-da-OW!” – a fabulous, jazz-era concoction brimming with straight-ahead melody, in addition to some really weird side-jaunts. In Halifax, the band is renowned for throwing beautiful, decadent parties in 1930s style, and the music sure projects that festive mood!
From the global crossroads of the Middle East, Spain, India and North America come Canada’s cutting-edge ambassadors of Diaspora Roots music, ready to take Sunfesters on a journey that is at once ancient and modern, acoustic and electronic, and sacred and secular.
With onstage chemistry as electrifying as it is unique, Jaffa Road incorporates ancient and original poetry in Hebrew, Spanish and English with belly dance rhythms, pulsing dub grooves and exhilarating improvisations. The band’s trailblazing musical odyssey is ignited by the virtuosity of founder and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Lightstone, the ethereal vocals of multilingual lead singer (and former Londoner) Aviva Chernick, the visionary grooves of bassist Chris Gartner, the entrancing sounds of saxophonist/flutist Sundar Viswanathan and the driving beat of percussionist Jeff Wilson. Together, these stellar musicians challenge accepted notions of Jewish music while creating a new form of expression that breaks cultural boundaries.
Affectionately embraced year after year as the festival crowd favorite, Lazo (a.k.a “Mr. Sunfest”) exudes a ‘feel good’ vibe through his unique combination of roots reggae riddims, conscious lyrics and an uncanny ability to connect with audiences. Sunfest Artistic Director Alfredo Caxaj recently beamed…"Is it any wonder we've invited him back for a 15th year in a row?"
Lazo tours tirelessly across the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. His list of international venues & festivals continues to grow (i.e. Brazil's Carnaval de Salvador, El Salvador, Argentina...) In 2010, Lazo appeared throughout the United States and South America as a member of the world renowned Wailers (Bob Marley's original backup band featuring Aston "Family-Man" Barrett on bass, and the legendary Keith Sterling on keys.) Lazo's new CD "Passin Thru" (Y.T. Records 2010), which will be officially released at TD Sunfest ’10, contains a special Sunfest song dedicated to the vision of festival organizers.
Light of East Ensemble
Get ready for Light of East Ensemble to meet Sun of the East ‘10! After head-turning appearances at Sunfest ‘09 and then at The Aeolian to celebrate the release of its debut CD, “Beyond Our Shores,” London’s premier Mediterranean and Middle Eastern instrumental group returns to treat Sunfesters to more of its intriguing melodies, crazy rhythms, unusual tonalities and improvisational mayhem.
Led by the ever-ebullient Panayiotis Giannarapis on oud, bouzouki and baglama, and often joined on-stage by a lithe belly dancer, Light of East Ensemble mines a vibrant repertoire that encompasses traditional, folk, Classical Arabic, Greek Rembetika, and 20th century urban music from regions such as Armenia, Greece (Asia Minor - Smyrni, and Konstantinoupoli) and Turkey, as well as neighboring countries such as Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. Although the six members of LOEE have been shaped by different backgrounds and experiences – from Celtic to Greek – their shared passion for the exotic sounds they create leaves audiences equally spellbound.
Mr. Something Something
Toronto’s Mr. Something Something continues to gain international recognition for its spicy blend of Afrobeat, jazz and pop. The unbeatable dance rhythms of Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ghana anchor signature performances shaped by imaginative solo work, an uplifting horn section and mesmerizing on-stage choreography.
Over the past five years, the band has released four acclaimed CDs and toured relentlessly in Canada, playing over 500 shows. Aside from wildly energized and unpredictable live shows, Mr. Something Something is becoming increasingly well-known for its green politics and environmental activism. The group did a number of “eco-dates” in 2007. Playing a wind-powered show and performing in such unconventional in such unconventional venues as organic farms and food co-ops to highlight communities that are trying to minimize their ecological footprints. In 2009, the band began taking audience participation to new levels with its Sound Cycle – Canada’s first bicycle powered sound system.
On the inside of her right wrist, Alejandra Ribera sports an elegant tattoo. A single word that reads “Escuchame” (Spanish for “listen to me”). And so you should!
Alejandra uses unconventional banter to lead you from aching jazz ballads to Mexican folk tunes, and back to her original alt-pop. Her wildly bizarre vocal range and eclectic writing style have led to comparisons stretching from Edith Piaf to Tom Waits to Joan Armatrading. Woven throughout her sophisticated melodies are unrepentant lyrics conveying a yearning that takes you completely off-guard.
She comes by her passion honestly: born to an Argentine waiter and a Scottish actress, and raised in the heart of Toronto’s gay village, Alejandra has led a life that, much like her music, is spiced with vagabond adventures and lyrical love stories. For instance, after spending only four days enrolled in York University’s Vocal Jazz program, she left for Europe to study energy healing with a witch doctor in the mountains of Slovakia. Unable to deny the call of music, she returned to Canada, this time to build a career as a gifted singer/songwriter. 2009/2010 has been a landmark year for Alejandra. Soon after wrapping up a twelve-month residency at T.O.’s fabled Cameron House and stealing the show at The Art Of Time's Abbey Road tribute concert, she sold out two nights at Hugh's Room.
With master-percussionist Rick Lazar as inspired referee, Toronto's ubiquitous Samba Squad have become a welcome and perennial fixture at Sunfest, where they open the festival with a Brazilian-carnaval-style parade around Victoria Park. And what a joyful noise this 16+ percussion posse makes on drums of all kinds - from the surdo's rumble to the cuica's "squeak". Stop-on-a-dime precision, playful melodies and beaming smiles are always part of the group's appeal.
The musical roots of Afro-Brazil, Afro-Cuba, North and West Africa, as well as elements of Urban Funk and Hip-hop, are dropped into a seething cauldron to produce a dance-till-you-drop tour of global grooves. Proclaiming the motto, “ONE HEART, ONE MIND, ONE GROOVE,” the Squad embodies the quintessential Sunfest joy of embracing different cultures, and is the personification of change and exchange.
At age 26, jazz trumpeter and vocalist Bria Skonberg is already a seasoned performer. Originally from Chilliwack, BC, she now resides in Vancouver where she completed a Degree in Jazz Performance from Capilano University. Since embarking upon a jazz career ten years ago, Bria has been featured as a bandleader and guest artist throughout North America, Europe, China and Japan, playing alongside such greats as Warren and Allan Vache, Bucky Pizzarelli and Howard Alden.
In Vancouver she leads and manages Bria’s Hot Five and The Big Bang Jazz Band, and performs as a soloist and vocalist with Canadian jazz icon Dal Richards and his Orchestra. She is a co-founder of the groundbreaking all female jazz group, Mighty Aphrodite, with members from both the US and Canada. She also is an active advocate for young musicians, working as a teacher/alumni at the Sacramento Jazz Camp and Camp Heebie Jeebies in Port Angeles, as well as programming, narrating and performing educational school shows for students in Kindergarten thru College. In 2009 Bria released her first solo album “Fresh,” which features original songs and arrangements of jazz and mainstream standards.
Vancouver’s five-member Tambura Rasa is a buoyant cultural cross-pollination that fuses contemporary grooves and traditional rhythms into an energetic musical brand all its own. Packed with fiery Spanish guitar, a fully orchestrated Baladi Gypsy string section and burning Afro-Latin percussion, the unit truly smokes any concert grounds where it lands. This ethnically and musically diverse signature group complements its performances with sensual Flamenco and Belly dancers.
Polyphonic in its lyrics (incorporating over a dozen languages!) and global in its reach, Tambura Rasa has become BC’s favorite caravan of vivacious globalistas, filling everything from intimate soft-seat theatre shows, to large dance filled festivals and hip urban clubs, all in an attempt to bring dance, joy and vigor to the world around it.
Les Tireux d’Roches
Straight from the heart of musical Quebec comes another delectable TD Sunfest ‘10 treat - Les Tireux d’Roches (“the stone throwers”), who have been performing traditional stories and songs of La Belle Province since the 1990s. They aren't a revivalist band though -- they're also influenced by the music of North Africa, Scandinavia and the Balkans - as well as jazz. The musicians have adopted the term “modern future” to describe their uniquely creative take on traditional repertoire. It’s a “fantastic musical, story-filled, multi-coloured voyage into an imaginary New-World-of-old.”
Les Tireux d”Roches’ third CD, Roche, Papier, Ciseaux, was nominated for a 2007 Felix in the "Best Traditional Album” category at L’Adisq. The group regularly tour Europe and have appeared at such well-known Montreal venues as Le Medley, Le Club Soda, La Place des Arts, and Le Corona.
Le Vent du Nord
How can a north wind blow such sweet, warm music? Le Vent du Nord is a multiple-award winning Quebecois folk quartet that has been garnering fans and accolades around the world since its debut in 2002. The four master musicians (Nicolas Boulerice, Simon Beaudry, Olivier Demers, and Réjean Brunet) create fiery and fun sounds on violin and vielle-a-roue (hurdy gurdy), accompanied by concertina (button accordion), guitar and foot stomping, of course…and let’s not forget their glorious vocal harmonies. From songs in the traditional folk repertoire to original compositions, this is music guaranteed to get you up on your feet and dancing!
As a June 1st, 2010 concert review in the Vernon (B.C.) Morning Star put it: “Le Vent du Nord is everything entertainment should be … Most of the audience (aged eight to 80) was far from fluent in Quebecois, but the varied program and superb musicianship of [the band] kept most on the edge of their seats … it will take a very strong wind from the south to blow the smile off the faces of many of those present at Monday’s concert.”Cory Weeds
Cory Weeds sure wears a lot of distinguished jazz hats! In addition to his ongoing contributions as a Vancouver-based saxophonist, he is also a broadcaster, jazz impresario, and owner of Canada's leading West Coast nightspot (The Cellar Restaurant and Jazz Club). His self-named Quintet is a group heavily rooted in the hard bop traditions of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and the bands of Horace Silver. Anchored by the hard swinging rhythm team of Jesse Cahill (drums) and Ken Lister (bass) the Quintet weaves its way through crafty originals, and reworked standards with grace and fire.
As allaboutjazz reviewer Raul d’Gama Rose recently observed [The Corey Weeds Quintet stands out at a time when] “few small ensembles playing today complement each other with sensitivity to each other's sound. The Quintet is like an Ellington band, where each of the players, like alchemists, forge tones that meld into one another. Their interplay is almost seamless.”