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Tag Archives: Tradition

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Sun Times Article 3: From Cuba to Canada

Every year Artistic Director James Keelaghan writes a series of 12 articles for the Owen Sound Sun Times previewing the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival

By James Keelaghan

To make my living I have to travel—a lot. While the travelling has some nice moments, it’s not relaxing and it is most assuredly not a vacation. About 10 years ago myself, my wife and my son actually took a vacation. We went to Cuba for a week. I enjoyed the sun, the sand and the general laid back nature of the island, but it was the music that really hooked me. The resort where we stayed, on the Ancon peninsula near Trinidad de Cuba, was far away from the hustle and bustle of Havana or the  non-stop tourism of Varadero. Still, every night there was music at the resort, there was music in town, there was literally music everywhere at all hours.

 

Latin music has a reputation for being sultry and sensual, but Cuban music takes it to the nth degree. I loved it before I went to Cuba, but I was a fanatic by the time I came back.

When the chance came to book Adonis Puentes for this year’s Summerfolk I jumped at it.

 

I mentioned in last week’s article that traditional music is important to me. It’s not just the traditional music of my ancestors, though. Traditional music, in all its forms, is the backbone of what I try to book for Summerfolk. I like music that is aware of its history, even if it plays with it some.

 

We had Adonis’ brother, Alex Cuba, here a few years back. Alex has taken the music of his youth and added contemporary flourishes creating his own Latin pop sound. Adonis Puentes is a traditionalist. They grew up south of Havana in a house that was musically dominated by their father, Valentin, and spiritually by their mother, Maria. By the age of six they were playing guitar, eventually joining their father’s 24 piece travelling guitar ensemble. On days off they found time to jam with some of the greats, among them Ibrahim Ferrar of Buena Vista Social Club fame.

 

Love brought both Alex and Adonis to Canada, and though they recorded their first cd as the Puentes Brothers, they soon branched out on their own. The quality of their early musical education has seen both of them garnering Juno and Grammy nominations for their work, even while they have charted different musical paths.

 

Adonis is firmly in the tradition of the soñero—the lyrical, sometimes improvising, singer in a Salsa band. The songs are pure poetry, but the distinctive Cuban rhythms propel the lyric. It’s almost impossible not to dance once the band starts playing. It’s as if the beat channels the song into your entire body. Even if you can’t speak a word of Spanish, you can hear the joy, the love of life and the passion in his voice.

 

Puentes returns to Cuba often, to touch base and to replenish the creative spark. He feels like he is an ambassador for Cuban music, but can’t really be a proper representative if he is not in touch with the current scene on the Island. There is no doubt that he is a bearer of the tradition—even giants of the genre acknowledge this. He has sung with the likes of Celia Cruz and Ruben Blades. He became lead singer to Los Angeles-based Jose Rizo’s band Mongorama and was thrilled when they earned a Grammy nomination as best tropical Latin album.

 

Another Salsa great, the legendary Oscar Hernandez, director of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra,  arranged three songs and played piano on his Adonis’ cd Sabor a Café. Oscar Hernandez’s piano solos are such a foundational element in Cuban music that they are taught in Cubas music schools.

 

Dicen, Adonis Puentes third solo recording project ,was released in March this year in Victoria, where he makes his home. This time produced by Oscar Hernandez, the recording is destined to become a classic of the genre. It’s  a sophisticated mix of elegant balladry and rumbas as sweet as they are sensual. Hernandez’s keyboard and horn charts are the perfect foundation Puentes’ velvety crooning, punctuating his romantic pleas without challenging them. As performed by his acoustic Voice of Cuba Orchestra (guitar, tres, bass, percussion, piano and trumpet), the music makes for lively performances.

 

Puentes routinely advises audiences to bring their dancing shoes to his shows, and his appearances at Summerfolk will be no exception. We are even arranging for an instructor to teach an afternoon Salas class so you’ll be completely ready to dance the night away.

 

The Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival happens August 17, 18 and 19 at Kelso Beach Park. Information can be found at www.summerfolk.org. We hope to see you there. Don’t forget your dancing shoes!

 

Georgian Bay Roots Ep 42

Georgian Bay Roots

With your host Jon Farmer


1609969_10154532318180220_5111923560966166563_nEvery Sunday on CFOS 560 from 4-5pm, Georgian Bay Roots shares some of the best music that’s made in and played in Grey and Bruce Counties with roots music from across Canada and around the world thrown into the mix. Host, Jon Farmer, brings a musician’s ear and the heart of a fan to the airwaves with stories about performers and news about upcoming shows and releases. Tune in to hear some of your favourite acts and new bands that you didn’t know you loved.

This show starts with a trad set, features musicians playing as part of next week’s Month of Sundays show, and showcases performers who will be at Summerfolk42.

If you missed the live show, we will post the episode by 6pm ET.

You can download an iTunes podcast here

Are you making music that you want us to share?
Do you have gig coming up that you want to promote?
Are you interested in being a sponsor or advertising on the show?
Contact us at georgianbayroots@summerfolk.org

Georgian Bay Roots is presented by the Georgian Bay Folk Society with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation

Georgian Bay Roots is sponsored this week by:

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Play List Coming Soon

Archives

Visit our  iTunes podcast page for archived programs

Pages with set lists and further info can be found below.

GBR show 1

GBR show 2

GBR show 3

GBR show 4

GBR show 5

GBR show 6

GBR show 7

GBR show 8

GBR show 9

GBR show 10

GBR show 11

GBR show 12

GBR show 13

GBR show 14

GBR show 15

GBR show 16

GBR show 17

GBR show 18

GBR show 19

GBR show 20 – Valentine’s Day

GBR show 21

GBR show 22

GBR show 23

GBR show 24

GBR show 25

GBR show 26

GBR show 27

GBR show 28

GBR show 29 – Easter

GBR show 30

GBR show 31

GBR show 32

GBR show 33 – Mother’s Day

GBR show 34

GBR show 35

GBR show 36

GBR show 37

GBR show 38

GBR show 39

GBR show 40 – Canada Day

GBR show 41

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Refreshing Classics And New Traditions

By James Keelaghan
It should be no surprise to you that with a name like Keelaghan, I know a bit about Celtic flavoured music. It might surprise you that it’s not the fiddle in Irish trad that really gets me going — it’s the tenor banjo.

There is a whole twisted and fascinating history of how the banjo got into Irish music, but however it got there, I think the music is the better for it.

For a number of years, the tenor banjo all but disappeared from traditional celtic music. In the ballad heavy 50s and 60s, the five-string banjo was king. But with the trad revival of the 70s, it came roaring back. Kieran Hanrahan of Stockton’s Wing and Mick Moloney brought it to the fore. I was backpacking in Ireland in 1979 at the height of the revival and the sound of the tenor banjo was the soundtrack of my travels.

It went out of fashion for a while, but there’s been another renaissance, though the resurgence has been mainly in Canada. Composers like the late Jean-Paul Loyer and players like Darren McMullen, who was with us last year as part of Còig, have been bringing it back.

Which brings me to The East Pointers, who are joining us for the first time at Summerfolk this year. The East Pointers are a wicked band. Wicked! Tim Chaisson is surely one of the finest fiddlers on the planet, and a great songwriter in his solo career. Jake Charron is a rock-solid rhythm guitar player-like a machine, he drives the tunes forward. And then, there is the tenor banjo player, Koady Chaisson. His playing is staccato, but it isn’t square. It pushes and it pulls, but it never drags. When all three instruments suddenly land on the melody line, it’s electric, played with a precision that is at odds with the laid-back look of the group. You wonder how much they must have played in order to be so pristine. They don’t play it sitting down, either, which is also a change. It adds to the raw energy of their sets.

The East Pointers

The East Pointers

Here’s the best thing—all the tunes are new. There are no old chestnuts, but every single tune sounds like it’s already a part of the tradition. It helps that the Chaissons (Tim and Koady are cousins) are one of the dynastic musical families on PEI. There have been at least seven generations of musical Chaissons on the island. While the taste in the family has always run to the Scottish, The East Pointers have brought in the Irish and the French to create a sound that not only raises the roof, but rattles the floor. Add Tim working on a stomp box and the pickup system that allows Jake to play bass as well as guitar—it is innovation-advancing tradition at its very best.

I get excited about music that has a bloodline that goes along with the melody line. Music that knows where it came from is inherently more interesting than a flavour of the week, or music from an artist that is dipping a toe into a genre.

Lindi Ortega is serious about the bloodline of country music. Last year she wrote an article partly in response to some things that Blake Shelton said. Specifically his contention that, “Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music” and his reasoning that sales are the only measure of good country music. What bugged Ortega was that Shelton’s solution to making country more popular is that commercial country music is now a …“bro country” domain. It is a world full of frat boys, partying and drinking, and making sure their women wear tight jeans and are referred to as “girl”.

She summed it up beautifully. “Gone are the days of originality, not only in style but in songwriting. In that classic era you could tell the difference between Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. Artists were easily discernible and legends arose because of their unique qualities that made them not only country music legends, but revered and respected all over the world.”

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Ortega is nothing if not discernible. She doesn’t fit the mold. You get the feeling that she probably stands out at industry mixers. That’s bound to happen in a world that often mistakes fashion for achievement. In a town that is notoriously hard on artists that are “different”, critics have nothing but praise for her. Universally, the praise refers to her as refreshing. They then point out that the refreshing thing about Lindi is that she has a classic sound and classic sensibility.

Her songwriting style is confessional, but not self-indulgent. In this, she is solidly in the bloodline of country music. She writes and sings stories that are missing from mainstream commercial country. She’s not singing about pick-ups and beer. It’s about heartache and being from the wrong side of the tracks. It’s about good women and bad choices.

Her singing voice is true, but has rough edges. It’s a voice with character, easily identifiable. If you HAD to make a comparison to a voice from the classic generation, I’d choose Kitty Wells singing It wasn’t God that made Honkey Tonk Angels.

She’s been known to play some classic covers during her sets, but like The East Pointers, she’s really all about moving the tradition forward. To make people realize that their grandpa’s music was pretty good, and that’s the standard you have to write to.

The refreshingly classic Lindi Ortega and new tradition of The East Pointers will be gracing the stages of the 41st annual Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival on August 19, 20, and 21st at Kelso Beach Park. There’s more info at summerfolk.org.

Fruitful artists have roots in tradition

Joel Plaskett

Joel Plaskett

By James Keelaghan

Several years ago, I was teaching at a music camp in New Jersey. I had a group of about 16 songwriters as students. On the first night they invited me down to a songwriters’ circle at one of the cabins. I went, stayed for one round through the circle, and said my “good nights”. I then went and played for two hours with the contra dance band.

The next day, they asked what I thought about the circle. My inner Canadian was still asleep and instead of being polite, I said what was on my mind. I told them that the best thing they could do as songwriters was to go back home and find a traditional band to play with-traditional Irish, traditional Rock and Roll, it didn’t matter. They were writing songs that had no tie to any tradition, except a singer songwriter tradition. To write better songs, they had to grow some roots. Case in point-Joel Plaskett.

Joel is a node. He’s one of these people who works well with others. He has written the occasional song with Matt Andersen. He produced the latest James Hill CD. He’s recorded and performed with Rose Cousins and Anne Egge. He’s played everything from orchestral shows to Cafes. Later this month, he’ll be performing as part of the Interstellar Allstars for the Interstellar Rodeo in Edmonton with Kathleen Edwards and Luke Doucet. He clearly likes to play. He likes to explore and bring people along for the ride.

Joel has spent most of his career in bands-Nabisco Fonzie, The Thrush Hermits, Neuseiland and his eponymous Joel Plaskett Emergency. Lately, he’s been appearing more as a solo or a duo. It allows him to be more nimble, to switch up the material. He’s a great live performer, relaxed and comfortable. His melodies are catchy. Though he has dabbled in a lot of styles musically, his lyrics maintain a consistent conversational tone. There’s a lot of storytelling.

Joel has enjoyed and is enjoying the kind of success that independent artists aspire to. Great sales, sold out concerts, nominations and awards are all fruits of hard work and talent. But there is something else.

Joel is, in fact, a poster child for the value of exposing kids to live music.

Before moving to Halifax, Joel grew up in Lunenburg Nova Scotia.The town is the embodiment, in wood and stone, of what every Canadian imagines Nova Scotia to be. Trim wooden houses rise up from the harbour. It looks prosperous because it was. The Bluenose is the most famous of the vessels that was built in that harbour, but she was only one of thousands born in Lunenburg’s cradles. In the mid 1800s, there could be as many as 18 vessels under construction at a time. There may be busloads of tourists now posing before the picturesque, but it’s still a working harbour.

Joel’s father, Bill Plaskett, is a musician in his own right. He was one of the founders of the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival. On festival weekend the town is dominated by the tent atop Blockhouse Hill, the highest point in town. Music also happens on the docks on the waterfront.

From the beginning, the festival was plagued by a lack of accommodation for the musicians. Volunteers and members of the board offered their houses as billets. Kitchen parties at the Plaskett house during the festival were a big event, but there was live music in the house all year round. Joel did not learn to be a musician in isolation, it was part of the fabric of his youth.

Evalyn Parry, who is going to be with us at Summerfolk this year, puts it this way

I was raised in a tradition: squeeze boxes in the kitchen.
Heads thrown back, call and response, feet stomping, gut strings thrumming.
Believing in the songs I was raised with .
Songs sung from festival stages, around campfires…
You can circumnavigate the globe in song, but you know you are home
When you know all the words

That’s why Nova Scotia, or Winnipeg, or the Ottawa Valley continue to produce consistently great musicians. There is a tradition of music being part of the everyday fabric of life.

That’s essentially what I was trying to say to that group of writers in New Jersey. They had some catching up to do. You don’t write good songs unless you come out of some sort of tradition. The more music you are exposed to in your youth, the better you will be. Luckily, it’s never too late to have a great childhood.

Joel Plaskett will be playing in the amphitheatre at Kelso Beach on Friday, August 21. He will do a workshop on Saturday Morning at 11AM with James Hill and Steve Poltz. They are just three of the over 40 acts that will be playing the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival August 20-23. Tickets and information can be found at summerfolk.org.

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