Monday, November 09, 2009

Weekend Update

I attended three very different shows this weekend, and all of them were highly inspiring.

Friday was the fourth edition of Jahnice's showcase Fanmi se fanmi (family is family). As part of the Ville-Marie borough's cultural activities, the night took place in the St-James Church on Ste-Catherine near Bishop. I've walked by this church many times, but had never been inside. For that matter, I'd never seen anyone come in or out of it. It felt more like a converted house than a church, with hardwood floors and fairly low ceilings. It was a great gathering of artists from across the spectrum of Montreal life: catering from Ital Livity food, Monk.e painting live on the side, DJ Yéza warming up the crowd, and three bands representing the umbrella of "world music."

The night started with Maloukai in their first of two mini-sets. Led by Anne-Marie Kirouac, they're an all-female percussion troupe, somewhere between a traditional batucada and theatrical percussion pieces like Stomp. Their work is truly captivating, with tight breaks and fierce grooves. It's always inspiring to see their rapport with each other and with the audience. Socalled took the stage with a mixed-up crew of Patrice Agbokou (Islands/Jahnice) on bass, Kim Ho (Creature) on guitar and Damian Nisenson on saxophones, with Socalled moving between MPC and accordion. His music is an irreverent party-starter mixing klezmer and hip-hop, references to Jewish prayers and culture mixed with a meditation on Kim's breakfast. Another Maloukai interlude followed before Wes'Li hit the crowd with some truly solid Afrobeat.

As it was sponsored by the city, it was an all-ages event and it was so beautiful to see kids running around enjoying the music and banging on Maloukai's surdos sitting in the corner. I wonder at what age we lose that constant attraction to music. At the weddings I've played over the past year, most of the adults don't really pay attention but there's always one or two young kids drawn to the piano.

On Saturday, I played a house concert in Sherbrooke with Isaac Lima at his brother-in-law/producer's home, on a double bill with Mike Evin & Andrew Creeggan. It was a cozy, informal setting for relatively acoustic music. Andrew lives in Sherbrooke and most of the audience knows him as a neighbour, not as an ex-Barenaked Lady; it was almost like an extended family gathering rather than a concert. People were highly attentive, probably discovering our covers of Gilberto Gil, Lenine and João Bosco for the first time. Mike and Andrew were a great duo, playing catchy folk-pop songs. Mike probably gets the Ben Folds comparison a lot but it makes sense: a solid pianist with a straight, reedy tenor, and witty songs. Mike and Andrew switched between piano and Rhodes, with Andrew also playing cajon, guitar and accordion. I really enjoyed playing in that atmosphere, and the relaxed conversational nature of the singer-songwriter aesthetic might well be adopted in certain measures to jazz.

Sunday night was a massive Brazilian blowout with Rael da Rima, up visiting from Sao Paulo. Les Bobards was as packed as I've ever seen it, and Rael ignited the place with his first set of reggae and MPB-influenced hip-hop. He was rapping over tracks and it would have had even more impact if he had been able to deliver those tunes with a live band. The second set was live, with percussionists from Bloco Afro Malungos, Wes'Li on guitar and the entire Nomadic Massive crew invading for a track based on Tim Maia's "Que Beleza." Rael played funky MPB from the 70s - the same well of repertoire that Trio Bruxo draws from: Djavan's "Avião," Jorge Ben's "Umbabarauma (Ponta de lanço africano)" and more. A truly frenetic and crazy party to end the weekend.

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