Music

Forty-Nine Hours at T-Dot Town's Annual Small World Music Festival

DJ Richard Martin, aka medicineman (All photos by Derek Beres)

Today's global music is an extension of the culture that has been emerging over the last century, when airplanes and vinyl recordings made social exchanges possible to an extent previously undreamed.

Forty-Nine Hours at T-Dot Town's Annual Small World Music Festival

I'm not sure why Toronto is called "T-Dot". Oh, I'm sure there's a very simple reason, but sometimes things remain more powerful when a mystery. I had made the mistake of referring to it as "T-Town" at one point, and was nearly assaulted by my friends. I supposed it's like when tourists call New York's Houston Street as if it were a city in Texas -- if one can imagine the political and social distance between Manhattan and the state that spawned George W. Bush, there is no mercy in our reply. Yet my friends were lighthearted in their scolding, and I noticed during my short time in Toronto that everyone I encountered had a similar attitude. Maybe it was the gorgeous architecture of the seasons -- a slight, crisp chill surrounded by pockets of sunshine, a not-very-bitter drizzle that gave way to the lingering scent of autumn. I had made my way 90 airplane minutes north to attend and perform at the 7th Annual Small World Music Festival, one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching global music gatherings in North America. Rivaled by (and piggybacking) Chicago's seminal World Music Festival, the Annual Small World Music Festival provides Toronto with a nearly two-week influx of amazing talent from across the planet in an ambitious feat of cross-cultural programming.

Artist: Eccodek Album: Shivaboom Subtitle: Shivaboom Label: White Swan Contributors: Andrew McPherson Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Shivaboom-Eccodek/dp/B001EKUHVM/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1223493097&sr=8-2 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/e/eccodek-shivaboom.jpg US Release Date: 2008-10-07 UK Release Date: Available as import

I was invited by CIUT radio DJ Richard Martin, aka medicineman, whose show "No Man's Land" is one of a handful of world music programs that have sustained and prospered in a radio market that focuses on anything but international sounds. We met in Montreal nearly five years ago and have since stayed in touch, often trading band names and mp3s in an attempt of giving innovative artists access to the very few media outlets dedicated to international music. He also led me to some things I would have never even imagined possible, like the world's largest rodent (a guinea pig-looking creature the size of a pig) in residence at the zoo inside High Park, and a restaurant dedicated to fusing, of all things, of Hungarian and Thai cuisine. After a surprisingly smooth flight into Toronto (on Continental, no less; my luck would not persist on the way home), I ended up at the Drake Hotel Underground to DJ alongside Eccodek. The party was in celebration of their new CD, Shivaboom (White Swan). I first met Andrew McPherson, Eccodek's founder and keyboardist/producer, when he sent me a copy of the independently released More Africa in Us while I was working as an editor at Global Rhythm magazine. Despite the fact that I had never even heard of Guelph, I was immediately taken to the record. It fused tasteful elements of African music into a lightly textured electronic palette. His follow-up, Voices Have Eyes, did more of the same, only expanding into Turkish and Indian elements, along with flourishes of dub. In fact, dub is something that he knows well. As Richard joked during Eccodek's set at the Drake, it would really have been an experience if everyone in the room were handed a bag of mushrooms upon entrance. All I could say was that I was on a slightly less powerful substance, and enjoying myself thoroughly. Having been a fan of his music for over five years, it occurred to me that, like so many other bands, this was a music form to be experienced. The production skills on his albums are excellent, especially Shivaboom, in which he does two things very right: he turns up the bass, and leaves out the saxophone. The latter instruments work in the context of, say, Afrobeat, but in electronica -- especially the down- to mid-tempo fare he creates -- it is best absent. You always here "this is their best album to date", but that is something all artists should aspire towards. This means they're evolving, maturing. Eccodek's live set features a very grown-up sound. They are a jazz band with sprinklings of digitalism. They were strengthened this night by guest vocalist Kiran Ahlwalia, a former Toronto native who has sang on McPherson's last two albums. As McPherson is putting his time in to evolve global electronica, Kiran has done so in the realm of ghazal singing. One of the highlights of the show was their rendition of "Silent Song", to these ears the new album's most beautiful song.

Kiran Ahlwalia and Andrew McPherson

What I've enjoyed most about his recordings is the sonically philosophical appeal. The kora, n'goni, harmonium, flutes, and various languages are all given the same treatment. In an age where we connect to a global network at the flick of a thumb, it's culturally important to remember that this is still a new phenomenon. Finding one tempo and timbre for the world's music forms is an exciting foray -- it is this column's focus, and has been my own passion for over eight years. The crop of global music being grown today is an extension of the international culture that has been emerging over the last century, when airplanes and vinyl recordings made social exchanges possible to an extent previously undreamed. While it is easy to sample and remix world instruments, there is a certain gravity that's extended to artists that know a bit about the history of the music they are borrowing from. This is part of Eccodek's charm (alongside Andrew's on-stage between-song banter) -- there is cultural respect, and it shows through in their music. Whether exploring the folk traditions of Turkey or India, remixing Mali, or teasing snares out of ProTools as the caribou trounce by in Guelph, the focus of creating a universal sound (and by extension community) is pervasive. When the heartbreaking "Forever Unanswered" concludes the album, you don't need to know that Mela Mert's vocals are Turkish, Mansa Sossok's kora playing is African, or the percussion is Afro-Latin influenced. The song simply moves you, wherever you are. I had trouble moving myself at the end of Eccodek's set, when I was called back to DJ. At that point too many people had invited me to step outside behind the club to partake in another ritual, and my body was the "Weightless Place" that Eccodek describes on Shivaboom. Fortunately I was soon asleep on Richard's couch, recharged the next day to continue my T-dot explorations at the Yoga Sanctuary, where I taught two classes and DJ'd the following evening. It was the launch of Richard's newest initiative, Bhakti Beat, a regular gathering of the yogically inclined, where he spins global music underneath the teacher's instructions. I had done a few such parties in New York, so it was nice to be on the other end of the turntables. I have long felt that my two careers -- yoga and global music -- are different aspects of the same process: coming together, uniting. Both focus on an internal binding of the relationship between spirit and matter; as an extension, both create communities of like-minded people. Thus, the burgeoning yoga community is the perfect audience for world music, as they are engaged in a process of self-realization, which by necessity involves a sort of cultural and universal bondage. By the time I was sitting on my delayed flight back to Newark on Sunday, my body and spirit were pleasantly exhausted. There had been a few rituals involved during such a short period of time, yet sometimes you only need a taste. I have a feeling I'll be spending more of it in the T city, whichever suffix you affix to it. As I mentioned while walking around, it was the most ethnically varied city I'd visited outside of New York, and for me, any area that welcomes diversity on such a scale is the blueprint for the entire planet within the coming centuries.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image