Posts from ‘Blog’
If I didn’t tell you up front that April Verch and her band are playing from the musical heritage of the Ottawa Valley, you might assume that she is from the American South, or Appalachia, or even New England. The music seems so familiar; part bluegrass, part old timey, part contradance. And as she herself said of her dancing during her concert: “..this music originated in the lumber camps. And a lot of people when they see this, they recognize a lot of different dance styles; Irish hardshoe, French Canadian, even clogging or flatfooting… tap dancing in more recent years….if you see any of these dances you’re probably right, there’s bits and pieces of everything.” What this goes to show is that Canada, as much as the United States is a country built from immigrants, and each ethnicity has brought something to the musical mix. And we hear and see those influences and recognize them right away.
Verch is a wonderful fiddler. She has a rich tone, and a great bowing arm, and a smile that never quits when she plays. She is obviously enjoying herself tremendously. And when she started dancing, she lifted the highly critical WOMEX audience right out of their seats. One of the photographers there confided to me that he was exhausted, just from watching her….but in a good way. As for her dancing, it is polished, exciting, and delivered with that same grin. No wonder her management was mobbed afterwards.
Please make sure to watch this video all the way through, as otherwise you may miss Ms. Verch playing AND dancing simultaneously. She credits the late great John Hartford with inspiring her, and that is easy to see. Her backup band consists of Cody Walters on banjo and bass, and Hayes Griffin on guitar—and they all sing.
To contact April: aprilverch.com
Almost 25 years ago, I was walking down West 4th street in Manhattan, and heard a harp-like sound that seemed extraordinarily out of place in the urban noise surrounding me. I tried to locate the source, and eventually realized it was emanating from three tall, slender men in robes who were sauntering up the block ahead of me. I sped up my pace and as I got abreast of them, saw that one of them was playing what I learned later was a kora, as he strolled. And it seemed as if something magical was happening; the instrument changed the environment surrounding the three, as people were calmed and drawn to the sound. All around them, these three stately men had everyone in thrall with the pure, rippling notes of the kora. The instrument itself was sort of a cross between a harp and a some kind of lute, and the most conspicuous part, the resonator, was half of a large gourd. I walked a block out of my way before tearing myself away from the sound to go home.
Since then, there have been quite a few musical collaborations involving the kora in combination with other western instruments. (The wonderful “Chamber Music” with Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Segal is one of the most successful.) But as far as I know, the collaboration between Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch is the first one to pair the kora with another harp. And upon hearing this duet, one actually wonders what took so long.
The two musicians in this duo are well matched, Keita has a history of innovating and experimenting with his instrument –he plays a western-machined double necked kora– but has been careful to always maintain some distinctive root of his beloved West African music. Catrin Finch (known in her home country of Wales as the Queen of Harps) is also known for her forays into experimental music, as well as her mastery of the standard classical and folk repertoire. For this performance, Keita brought both a single and a double necked kora, while Finch played a striking Camac “Big Blue 47″ concert harp with pickups on each of the 47 strings.
There was quite a buzz building up to their performance at WOMEX, which this year was in Cardiff. It was unfortunate that it took place in a rather small concert room instead of the big auditorium, as it filled up to capacity far too quickly and many delegates could not get in to see the show.The room was jammed with a mostly Welsh audience, and anticipation crackled in the air. I was pretty much crushed up agains the apron of the stage, almost in the middle..not the best angle for shooting!
When Finch and Keita play together, there is a complete immersion one with the other. Keita plays the rhythmic patterns and Finch’s precise fingers play a counterpoint or a harmony figure and it all just feels right. Keita grins when Finch plays a stately figure enhancing his motif, and Finch nods back, giving Keita the room to cascade away on the kora. And that’s quite a blazing solo he takes at the end, I might add. Through it all, there is a close communication that is palpable. Purists from one tradition or another may take issue with this blend -and I did hear one opinion voiced that it sounded too Welsh and not sufficiently Senegalese, but I think it is just that the two players have made allowances for each other’s music, and this give and take creates a true hybrid. At any rate, I was in string heaven, awash in pleasure from lovely music, exquisitely played.
For more information about these artists visit astarmusic.co.uk/
Prior to the Revolution, many of the precepts of Western modern art (both figurative and abstract) were being explored and incorporated into the work of Iranian artists.
This exhibit which runs till January 5th showcases some of the major figures of that time. My personal biases have dictated what I chose to shoot, given my preoccupation with surfaces, processes, lines, edges, mediums, organization and of course, color.
I will hazard a guess (not being an expert on the subject) that the exquisite heritage of Persian Miniatures, calligraphy and Islamic Geometry was fertile ground for the various explorations in the show. The result is a rather luscious experience, with an abundance of gold, silver, mirrors, plenty of tactile fun, intriguing line work and loads of detail. Most of it has sufficient intellectual edge to skirt the purely decorative. The show runs through January 5th, and is well worth seeing, as it provides a window into a free and invigorating moment in the life of Iranian art.
For more information about the formidable drumming of Mohammed Reza Mortazavi, visit: flowfish.de/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=35&Itemid=59&lang=en
to see the video from which the audio for this article was taken visit: inter-muse.com/mohammad-reza-mortazavi/
At the request of Asia Society, I have included the list of art donors for the exhibit:
Untitled by Mohsen Vaziri-Moqaddam. Untitled (Forms in Movement), 1970. Collection of the artist.
Parviz Tanavoli. Bronze Prophet, 1963. Collection of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Gift of Ben and Abby Grey Foundation, 1963.
Massoud Arabshahi. Untitled, 1970. Collection of the Golden Tulip Art Foundation.
Reza Mafi. Siyah-mashq, 1971. Collection of Houman M. Sarshar, New York.
Reza Mafi. Siyah-mashq, 1975. Collection of Houman M. Sarshar, New York.
Reza Mafi. Untitled, 1973. Collection of The Farjam Foundation.
Parviz Tanavoli. The Poet and the Beloved King (Lovers), 1964. Tate: Purchased using funds provided by Edward and Maryam Eisler, 2011.
Marcos Grigorian. Untitled, 1963. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Alex J. Gray, 1965.
Marcos Grigorian. Crossroads (Earthwork), 1975. Collection of Cleopatra and Thomas Birrenbach.
Parvis Tanavoli. Oh Persepolis, 1975. Collection of the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar.
Faramarz Pilaram. Mosques of Isfahan (B), ca 1962. Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Abby Weed Grey, 1975.
Mansour Ghandriz. Untitled, 1962. Collection of Shireen and Reza Khazeni.
Parviz Tanavoli. The Poet, 1973. Collection of the Artist.
Abolghassem Saidi. Untitled, 1973. Collection of Sam Bayat-Charlotte Denise Madeleine Bayat.
Massoud Arabshahi. Untitled (Avesta Series), 1978. Collection of the Golden Tulip Art Foundation.
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. Heart Beat, 1975. Collection of Nima Isham.
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. Untitled, 1977. Collection of Zahra Farmanfarmaian.
Mohammad Ehsai. GEREHAYE KHAYAM, 1968. Collection of the artist.
Manoucher Yektai. Untitled, 1951. Collection of Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller.
Manoucher Yektai. Still Life, 1954. Collection of the artist.
Sohrab Sepehri. Trees, 1970. Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Abby Weed Grey, 1975.
Reza Mafi. The Poems of Hafez, 1969. Private Collection.