Music Notes – June 2012

Karkwa’s “Le Bon Sens”

 Karkwa is an innovative indie rock band that’s been making waves in Quebec for more than a decade. In 2010 their reputation spread to English-speaking Canada when they received the Polaris Music Prize, an annual award given to the best Canadian album, regardless of genre, sales or record label. It was interesting to notice, while watching video recently of one of the mammoth student protest marches for accessible education in Quebec, their song “Le Bon Sens”  being used as part of a soundtrack. “Le Bon Sens” is from their award-winning album “Les Chemins de Verre.”  It’s easy to see why Quebec students might be attracted to the song. Here’s a rough translation of a few lines: “It’s difficult to see Paradise with one’s face in the exhaust of a Ferrari…liquid paper is effacing my name…I want to walk backwards to move forward in the right direction.” Visit CBC Radio’s A Propos website for host Jim Corcoran’s tribute to the band, including English translations of six songs from “Les Chemins de Verre.” 

 Norwegians sing out against Breivik

 When Norwegian mass-murderer and Islamophobe Anders Breivik testified at his trial that Pete Seeger’s 1973 song “My Rainbow Race” was a tool of “cultural Marxists” to brainwash children, citizens of the Scandinavian country responded swiftly. On April 26th  40,000 people gathered at Oslo’s Youngstorget Square in the pouring rain, lifting their voices to join folksinger Lillebjoern Nilsen in the Norwegian version of the popular Seeger song. At the same time thousands more sang the song in public squares across the country in defiance of Breivik’s message of hate. The 33-year-old Breivik, with ties to a network of far-right groups across Europe, went on a bombing and shooting rampage last July that left 77 dead, most of whom were members of the Labour Party’s youth wing. For a complete YouTube video of the response of the Norwegian people to Breivik’s ravings, search with keywords “thousands of Norwegians in Youngstorget Square.”

 Evalyn Parry at Toronto Mayworks

 Singer-songwriter Evalyn Parry closed Toronto’s Mayworks festival last month with an entertaining and politically-engaged concert at the Gladstone Hotel. Parry, who’s  also an actor, playright and director, accompanied herself on guitar and shruti box, and led bandmates David Celia (guitar), Ben Whiteley (bass) and Brad Hart (drums)  through two sets of original material, touching upon a wide variety of political and personal themes, including a witty feminist take on the history of cycling and a rap on the politics of bottled water. Between sets with the band Parry offered a fascinating glimpse of a work in progress. “To Live in the Age of Melting” will deconstruct Canadian folk icon Stan Rogers’ song Northwest Passage, and examine issues of Arctic sovereignty, global warming, colonization, folk music and the history of conquest in the Canadian North. Stay tuned for more on this ambitious project. For more info:

 On Lâche Rien (We Don’t Give Up)

 In 2011 HK & Les Saltimbanks, a French band from the northern city of Lille, released its debut album “Citoyen du Monde.” Founded in 2006 by Kaddour Hadadi, a son of Algerian immigrants, the band blends blues, reggae and hip-hop with ‘chaâbi’ (a style of Algerian folk music). “On Lâche Rien (We Don’t Give Up)” is a celebratory song from “Citoyen du Monde.” It was posted on YouTube last fall with equally uplifting video images. The result is a near-perfect expression of the spirit of revolt that is raging in Europe and throughout the world these days. As the song says: “From deep in my ghetto to the depths of your countryside our reality is the same, and everywhere revolt is brewing.” Unless you’re bilingual look for the version with English subtitles. HK & Les Saltimbanks demonstrated their support France’s new Left Front coalition when they performed at a massive rally in April at Place de la Bastille for its presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. For more info:

 Drummer Billy Bryans: 1947-2012

 Drummer, producer, and Parachute Club co-founder Billy Bryans died on April 23rd after a long struggle with cancer. He was remembered in a Toronto memorial and celebration on May 6th. Family and friends, as well as musicians and fans attended an afternoon drum procession, led by local Brazilian percussion groups Samba Squad and Baque de Bamba, through Bryans’ old haunts in the Queen Street West club district. Later the scene moved to the Lula Lounge, the popular world music nightclub in the city’s west end, for a moving memorial service followed by an evening of performances by artists associated with the drummer during his 40-year career, including Lillian Allen, Mojah, Molly Johnson, Lorraine Segato and Ken Whiteley. Billy Bryans will long be remembered for his solidarity and friendship with musicians from the city’s insurgent anti-racist, feminist and LGBT movements in the 1980s and beyond, as well as with countless visiting artists from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. 

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