Music Notes – April 2010

The Cozy JUNO Awards

More than a million Canadians will tune in to the 39th annual JUNO awards on April 18. The extravaganza celebrates the best musical “product” of the year. Although there are many talented and deserving musicians nominated in the 39 award categories, these are not exactly the peoples’ music awards. Most of the winners will be determined by panels of judges who are hand picked by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. The board of directors of CARAS is stacked with presidents & CEOs of the biggest international record companies, distributors, concert producers and talent agencies. Board member Bruce Allen manages Artist of the Year nominees Jann Arden and Michael Bublé as well as rocker Bryan Adams, who will be receiving the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award. Another board member, Vinny Cinquemani, presides over the firm that manages Artist of the Year nominee Diana Krall and represents Hall of Fame inductees April Wine. Very cozy indeed.

Strike! A Labour Musical With Big Plans

Strike! returns for another theatrical run in Winnipeg July 29-August 4. The musical about the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, first performed in full in 2005, is becoming an annual event, and with some major funding hurdles cleared and interest being expressed by some “name” actors, a feature film adaptation is getting closer to reality. Strike! composer Danny Schur, on a recent Alert! Radio podcast, stated that shooting for the film will begin next year. The original production received significant backing from organized labour. For more information visit: http://strikemusical.com

K’naan Links Up With Coca Cola

Canadian rap-reggae star K’naan has hooked up with Coca Cola for a new recording of his hit song “Wavin’ Fag” that will be the official anthem of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in June. K’naan has replaced lyrics that refer to war, hunger and poverty with lines like “celebration, it surrounds us” and “let’s rejoice in the beautiful game.” The 31 year-old singer, who came to Canada in 1992 with his family to escape civil war in Somalia, has been compared to Bob Marley. However, that great reggae artist never, to the best of my knowledge, watered down a song for a corporate sponsor. Does K’naan not know about the international boycott campaign against Coca Cola, whose executives are accused of complicity in the death squad killings of union activists in Colombia? For more information visit http://killercoke.org.

Springsteen vs Music Biz Monopolies

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission ruled in February that Ticketmaster used “deceptive tactics” while selling tickets to 14 shows on Bruce Springsteen’s 2009 tour with the E Street Band. The ticket selling giant has agreed to repay defrauded Springsteen fans what will amount to about a million dollars. The company redirected online ticket buyers to its resale affiliate TicketsNow, which charged them three to four times the cost of a ticket and left many with what one observer described as “a really expensive lotto ticket.” Ticketmaster recently merged with giant concert promoter Live Nation to create an even bigger monopoly, Live Nation Entertainment Inc., which the U.S. Dept. of Justice has allowed even though the two companies are the biggest in their fields. The sharks backed off when “The Boss” complained, but one artist can’t stop the entertainment monopolies. To do that requires a united political struggle. Meanwhile ticket prices keep rising.

Olympic Medals in Music?

The big musical event at the Vancouver Olympics may have been K.D. Lang’s extraordinary performance of Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah”, but another musical performance in Vancouver during the games raised questions about the role of the arts in the Olympic “movement.”  On February 14 the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra gave a concert at the Orpheum Theatre, performing Divertimento No. 1, by Canadian composer John Weinzweig (1913-2006). The song won a silver medal at the 1948 summer Olympic Games in London. That’s right! From 1912-1948 the Olympic Games awarded medals in arts categories, including music, literature, sculpture, painting and drawing. Ironically, considering what’s happening in the Olympics today, the arts awards were discontinued because organizers thought the artists were too professional.

Oh! What a Lovely War Comes to Toronto

Toronto area readers might be interested to learn that the Soulpepper Theatre Company’s production of Oh! What a Lovely War is running until April 10 at the Young Centre for Performing Arts. The U.K. anti-war musical was first produced at London’s East End Theatre Workshop in 1963 by the Marxist director Joan Littlewood (1914-2002). If you can’t make it to Soulpepper, look for the brilliant 1969 film version directed by Richard Attenborough (available on DVD). The old WWI songs take on a new meaning.

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