Corby's Orbit

Corby's Orbit
Listening in All the High Places illustration by John Kricfalusi

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Canadian Folk Music Awards Part 3

  Live from Calgary, it’s Sunday night! Book your time away from network television to watch the super heroes and heroines of folk, roots and world music get totally gregarious at, Sunday November 10 at 7:30 p.m. MDT/9:30 p.m. EST.

  Canadian Aboriginal Music has gone through a robust year of rededication with the international recognition of Idle No More providing an inspiring example of protest and focus. The “Pow Wow Step” of A Tribe Called Red made it to the Polaris Prize short list and the touring Beat Nation exhibition (currently in the heart of Montreal) is drawing First Nations culture into an uncompromising statement of the present and future of its cultural expressions. Toronto’s Mama D, aka Diem Lafortune, has certainly taken the B.S. by the horns with an explicit stand on behalf of the poor, the oppressed and their potential champions on her album, Beauty And Hard Times. Lyrically, she digs deep into her life and history and laces urban and natural images into a pulsating, militant call to action. She sings with hard-won insights into the chances and dangers of progress, and drives home her vital question:”What can we make of this?” Prince Rupert native Kristi Lane Sinclair has a ground-breaking record (see RMC review called The Sea Alone,  as mysterious, deep and raging as its title. Kristi proudly self-identifies as an Aboriginal artist, although her work could easily hold its own as a contestant for Contemporary Album or English Songwriter awards. Soaring cello arrangements and intense drum and guitar turmoil make it an amazingly accessible example of the kind of deserving record that this celebration helps to elevate.

  Essentially, the World Music Solo and Group categories assemble music featuring artists who sing in neither of the official languages.  As language learner Deborah Ostrovsky’s fine essay, Finding East, points out, “There are so many places that translation can’t reach”. Music is a perfect conduit for pulling the interested Canadian ear into distant realities that evade close focus in the media or on the vicarious holiday trip. As Aviva Chernick comments, “At least it gets the ball rolling”. When two of the diverse nominees become recipients this evening in Calgary, the awards could potentially go to a jazz band, a devotional singer, a pop star, an acoustic guitar virtuoso, a klezmer ensemble or any one of a few pan-cultural mavericks.

Bass luminary Chris Gartner last won for Second Nature, the fascinating Minor Empire album, in 2011 (dubbed “Turk-tronica”). He is behind three of tonight’s offerings: as co-producer, on the expansive and tender praise of Adonai on Aviva Chernick’s When I Arrived You Were Already There, and on the inventive explorations of contemporary world fusion music by Aviva’s group, Jaffa Road, titled after Leonard Cohen’s crystalline phrase, Where The  Light Gets In, and also as bassist for Fray, the ensemble on Lenka Lichtenberg’s virtuosic group hug, Embrace, which reconstructs traditional elements of her Euro-Judaic legacy into scintillating dances of celebration and desire.  On his tenth album, Ici Bas, Rien N’est Pas Possible (Here Below, Nothing Is Impossible), Njacko Backo conjures a whirlwind tour of Diasporic styles using Kalimba Kalimba, an elite squad of enchanted musicians of variegated backgrounds. As a Cameroonian, Njacko can be heard singing in English, French and Bamileke. With  Alex Cuba’s emotive Spanish singing over muscular electric guitar and drum builds on Ruido En El Sistema, he propels himself into a strategically powerful position of rock gestalt awareness. If he wins, and speaks, his eloquent disdain for the diffusive effects of the term “world music” as a containment idiom should prove educational and provocative.

The only way to find out is to watch tonight. Make the broadcast the “folk-al” point of your evening. There will be a convenient chat box for sideline commentary. We’ll be talking later, then?

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