Event Review: Ventanas “Arrelumbre” CD Launch, Aga Khan Museum, Friday, June 5, 2015

ventanas group by mp

(photo credit:  manish pothen)

This was a beautiful evening.  Not only were Ventanas and friends in fine form, but the venue and its grounds were gorgeous; the evening air was fresh and clean.

Ventanas, formed in 2011 by lead singer Tamar Ilana, presents an intriguing mix of Mediterannean musics.  This was my first time to see the group in performance and I was immediately reminded of Toronto’s Maza Meze.  The mix may be different, but the effect is similar; bringing their beautiful blend of music, which might otherwise be heard only in the specific Mediterranean cultural communities, to much wider and more diverse audiences.

arms open

(photo credit:  carlos garate)

We heard everything from pleasurable original and traditional pieces of Spanish flamenco, Moroccan and Turkish Sephardic music, to Lebanese and Macedonian folk traditions, both from the new release Arrelumbre, and older repertoire.  Backing up Tamar’s rich vocals on stage were two solid flamenco guitarists, the talented Benjamin Barile and the charismatic band member Dennis Duffin.   Then there were oud and baglama virtuoso, Demetrios Petsalakis, Jessica Hana Deutsch on violin, Justin Gray on bass and the unusual Bass Veena (a combined bass and classical Indian instrument of his own invention) rounding things out nicely. .  (I’m always eager for an opportunity to hear one of my favourite instruments, the oud, played by the omnipresent Demetrios Petsalakis, and he did not disappoint!)


(photo credit: carlos garate)

Assorted percussion abounded courtesy of Derek Gray and guest artist Waleed Abdulhamid, who sat in for Jaash Singh who is currently studying in Turkey.  Dancer Ilse Gudiño was stunning in both Caña and Elianto, with her alternately crisp and fluid movements and luxurious costumes.  A particularly touching moment came when Tamar and her ethnomusicologist mother, Judith Cohen, came on stage together.  Judith sang the Moroccan Sephardic version of the classic Landarico; in turn, Tamar sang the Turkish version. Tamar grew up travelling with her mother, singing and researching music, and it is lovely to witness their bond in all its glory.

This fine collection of skilful performers sharing a common passion was hard to resist.  Several audience members joined in on two pieces with Macedonian circle dancing, joining hands and weaving their way through the aisle, adding to our delight.

A rousing encore of the Greek song Tha Spaso Kupes  and the French Canadian Germaine completed the 90 minute set, leaving us to wander through Aga Khan’s shimmering pools of water and trees with satisfied souls indeed.                                                                  Reviewed by Lise Watson

Check out ventanasmusic.com


(photo credit: carlos garate)


(photo credit: carlos garate)


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