A veteran photojournalist on the Toronto arts and entertainment scene, Julian Bynoe is a Toronto-based cartoonist, artist and arts blogger. From 1996 to 2014, he was the arts/entertainment editor for the street publication The Outreach Connection, and has had articles featured in Realms Magazine, among others.

EDITION #2 - WEEK OF JUNE 16-22, 2014

LUMINATO 2014 REVIEWS – PART 2
Part 2 of a 2-part series
Bubbly Gilberto

Bebel Gilberto

Festival Hub, David Pecault Square, 55 John Street

Monday, June 9; 9 p.m.

When you make a rare Toronto appearance, it’s obvious you’ll get a highly packed venue as the one Bebel Gilberto filled up at the Luminato Hub all bathed in a sea of theatrical fog onstage, fluttering around like a butterfly in a rainforest, which isn’t too bad an entrance to make.

Daughter of Brazilian music royalty (dad’s bossa nova pioneer João Gilberto, mom’s singer Miúcha), Gilberto’s butter-soft warbles accompanied her taunts, teases and humour were a delight considering she was fighting off a recently acquired cold you wouldn’t have known it for the concert’s 90-minute duration.

Singing Brazilian Portuguese and English of her brand of samba, bossa nova, pop and electronica from favourites “Cade Voce,” gorgeously done “Momento” and old chestnut “Summer Samba (So Nice),” she also threw in songs from her upcoming release Tudo (Portrait/Sony Music Masterworks) – her first in five years – like “Sandade Vem Correndo,” “Somewhere Else,” “Areia” and the title track, as the audience ate it all up along with her energetic attitude which is what makes her so lovable, even when ad-libbing lines along “So Nice” and dabbling a little reggae with Bob Marley’s “Where I Stand” to closer “Close Your Eyes.”

Having a nice warm evening set the atmosphere of it all, considering the polar vortex winter Toronto endured, as a most welcome tonic provided by Gilberto and her backing band that managed to catch up with her body and soul.

The Great Red North

Buffy Sainte-Marie/Tanya Tagaq presents Nanook of the North

Festival Hub, David Pecault Square, 55 John Street

Tuesday, June 10; 8 p.m.

Two of Canada’s First Nations stars graced the Hub’s stage, being national icon Buffy Sainte-Marie and rising Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq for the June 10 evening events brought awareness of environmentalism, Native rights and the presence of culture and in-your-face reminders of what this land all was half a millennium ago with modern infusions.

Still looking great at 73, Sainte-Marie’s activist-rock, aboriginal fusion, folk and country reigned supreme for her hour-long set showcasing her Academy Award-winning ballad “Up Where We Belong,” rocked hard with highlight on eco-messaging “No No Keshagesh,” “Look at the Facts,” “Darlin’, Don’t Cry” and one real rockabilly hand-clapper “Sorry.”

She also managed to charm with quieter stuff “Time for You to Go,” got acoustic with her signature song “Universal Soldier,” plus a classic from her time on Sesame Street “Country Girl Again.” It was a treat seeing both young and old fans in the crowd enjoying it and establishing the fact she is one of those artists that can bridge generations with her world-weary wisdom and mentioning some recommended reading of John Morgan’s The End of War and Jack Rutherford’s Indian Giver about the histories of militarism and the struggle of aboriginal peoples everywhere.

Ending with shout-outs to Native heroes Leonard Peltier and Annie Mae Aquash on “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” “Star Walker” and encore number “Indian Cowboy,” there’s got to be one question that lingers: with Sainte-Marie’s influences in popular music, why hasn’t she been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as of yet?

After such an awesome concert that would be a hard act to follow, Nunavut throat singer Tanya Tagaq joined violinist Jesse Zubot and percussionist Jean Martin in the TIFF Lightbox-commissioned interpretation screening of the 1922 silent documentary Nanook of the North in providing an experimental soundtrack composed by Derek Charke, totally mesmerized the audience willing to go on musical journey of sight and sound.

Left to right: Tanya Tagaq, Jean Martin (centre) and Jesse Zubot.

From her outward appearance, Tagaq seemed like the shy type. But put a microphone in her hand and roll the film, she lets it all go impromptu with her ethereal echoes, gasps, yelps and howls almost nonstop for the duration through her hypnotic technique emitting so much emotions of centuries-old traditions straddling with techno, rock and heavy metal.

Directed by Robert J. Flaherty, considered the founder of the modern-day documentary film genre,Nanook of the North still has the power to draw in on its subject matter and striking contrast of the Arctic over 90 years ago of abundant ice floes, giving new audiences to contemplate the consequences of global warming and the harsh conditions Nanook’s family lived through in relying on his hunting and fishing skills providing sure intensity, provided by the musicians; to the prevalence of culture shock as the Inuit are introduced to the (back then) new items of so-called civilization: the phonograph player and castor oil.

This melding of worlds, cinema and music, was more of an art performance than anything else. And when the audience cheered at its end with fervour, it was a triumph not only for the artisans in question but of one about the survival of the First Nations from repression, genocide and assimilation to become stronger than ever in the 21st century.

Video Verdicts

Mariano Pensotti's Take on Me Video montage

Take on Me Video Project

TTC Subway screens, various locations

Perhaps the most overlooked section of Luminato 2014, I just managed to catch three 30-second different silent shorts of the Take on Me Project done by ten participating artists, viewed onto the TTC Subway video screens for the fest’s duration did put a little thought into what its participating artists decided to add to a possible conversation. Observed at St. Andrew Station June 10, theatre provocateur Ryan Mitchell (who brought Paradisiacal Rites) directed two hand-holders against a multitude of light bulbs in sepia tones moving about in a romantic waltz-like gesture and contented mood, said a lot more in what it was showing.

During a morning commute on June 12, multimedia artist Terrence Koh presented just a cloud-covered blue sky at the Dundas West Station that could suggest anything. Praying for good weather; an environmental message or what? And the everyday objet de art video of experimental filmmaker Mariano Pensotti seen at St. George Station on June 15 struck something sentimental from the stuffed toys to cassette tapes of the 1970s and ‘80s in its viewing and how they are – or were – part of our lives once.

Or maybe that was the whole point behind the Take on Me series. They provide the imagery and one comes up with whatever explaination pops into your head. After all, isn’t that what the conversation of art is all about?

Senior Sex Drive

All the Sex I’ve Ever Had: The International Edition

Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles Street

Friday, June 13; 7:30 p.m.

Don’t let that title throw you off that the idea of seniors discussing their sex lives sounds a bit creepy or that they’ve got prudish notions about it, particularly when it comes to our parents and grandparents (hey, how’d you think you got here?). As directors Konstantin Bock and Darren O’Donnell and the Toronto-based Mammalian Diving Reflex showed, All the Sex I’ve Ever Had: The International Edition is a sharp-witted and daring production looking beyond human sexuality that will also surprise you, too.

As six seniors from all walks of life and different countries – Canada, England, Czech Republic, United States, Germany, Singapore and Switzerland respectively – start from 1937 to the present of the pre- and postwar generation recalling their memorable moments about the phases of their lives for the next two hours. From first crushes and kisses to heartbreak and joy, there’s a wealth of information (for some, too much information) and experience that’s not lost in translation with these folks and even gets personal asking audience members mention about having public sex, a lover who stole from them and a brief, if touchy venture into sexual violence.

Direct as it is, it’s disarmingly honest in being some frank sex talk around a discussion panel. Sometimes the stories are riotously funny, tragicomic and bittersweet, yet that basically what life is underneath the titillation and sordid confessions this group dares to bare for the world and onto their sleeves. There’s never a shortage of gasps, groans and sympathies from the audience much as gets its share of laughter and applause. All the cast members have interesting tales to tell, yet the one that stands head and shoulders above has to be openly-gay Henry “Hattie Louise” Major being unabashed about his cruising days and has one beautiful quote of wisdom: “I’m always admiring beauty no matter what gender.”

Closing up on predicting what their futures may hold in 2037, All the Sex I’ve Ever Had: The International Edition gives a broad universal scope in looking back without too much regret and prepared to go forward with wonder and enthusiasm, which should be a lesson for many.

Ziggy Livens up Luminato

Ziggy Marley with Sierra Leone All-Star Refugees and The Arsenals

Festival Hub, David Pecault Square, 55 John Street

Saturday, June 14; 9:15 p.m.

Very few progeny can carve their own status from under the shadows of a celebrity parent. Max Spielberg is a videogame programmer. Lisa Marie Presley, although an accomplished country singer, hasn’t exactly burned up the music charts. And the late Christopher Robin Milne preferred to bitch and moan about being the instigator behind the Winnie the Pooh books later in life.

David “Ziggy” Marley has not only beaten the odds in blazing his own trail but has created his own legacy, even as huge as his father’s stature was and remains so; as he took his tour to Luminato in support of his latest solo release Fly Rasta(Tuff Gong) and totally brought the packed house down in the Hub and left them burning for more.

Without any need for an intro and just straight walked onstage, he immediately got this jam started with “Love Is My Religion,” expressing a relaxed demeanour and “no worries” attitude followed by an obviously pro-pot number “Wild and Free” and there was plenty of it with the scent of smuggled-in cannabis wafting about.

Mingling in material from the new album like “I Don’t Wanna Live on Mars,” “Moving Forward,” “I Get Up” and “Give It Away,” Marley bantered older material such as the swayful “Personal Revolution” and ska-steady “Blackcat” and went further to include classic hits from the 1980s Melody Makers period “Tomorrow People,” “Conscious Party” and (my personal favourite) “Look Who’s Dancing.” Making things all equal, would one expect anything else from him to throw in some ditties of his daddy Bob’s songbook “So Much Trouble in The World,” “One Love/People Get Ready” and “Iron Lion Zion”?

Spreading his message of love, peace and understanding as he recognized the cosmopolitan makeup of the Torontonian audience in ending on encore tunes “Lighthouse” and going percussion on “Fly Rasta,” Ziggy Marley was the best concert highlight not only for this year’s Luminato Festival, but the best one in its eight-year history by far, leaving a buzz that wasn’t effected by no weed yet on good vibes all round.

Previous acts local reggae band The Arsenals did a preshow slot at the satellite Luminato Lounge Stage, doing some pretty good covers of “Mule Train” and “Space Cowboy” and the opening Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars (inset), whom I’ve saw a couple of years back at the Toronto Jazz Festival, warmed up the audience with their crazy dance moves, bouncy African highlife rhythms (“Min Do Sin Tay,” “Chaimra”) and reggae grooves (“Treat You Right,” “Rich But Poor”).

String Sensations and New World Order

Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita

Festival Hub, David Pecault Square, 55 John Street

Sunday, June 15; 4 p.m.

The North-South aesthetics of master harpists Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita were well received by the reasonably sizeable gathering on the final daytime Luminato concert that after a deluge of rock, blues, R&B, hip-hop and such, a quiet repose from these two was a much needed change.

Seckou, a regular fixture of the West African music scene with his kora all the way from Senegal; and Finch from Wales, the noted “Queen of the Harp” and Royal Harpist for Prince Charles himself; proved to be a very harmonious teaming in promoting their collaborative effort Clychau Diban (Mwldan) that’s drawn raves from the critics in Europe, are now making their North American debut in sharing with the audience their sound.

Theirs is not just an African and European hybridizing of music, it also merges their cultural histories and stories such as “Robert AP Huw Meets Nialing Sonko,” based on the Welsh story “Song of the White Piper” from the former and the traditional tale of an unjust Senegalese king of the latter, both sharing the aspects of storytelling and impeccable dexterity of these performers the audience endeared to.

Other standouts from the hour-long show were a depth-driven “Llongau Térou-bi,” some friendly “duelling strings” and experimental plucking on “Future Strings,” the “Les Bras de Mer” tribute to the musicians’ seaside landscapes of their respected homelands that was calming and steady to more Afrocentric (“Bamba”) and Euro classical (“Genedigaeth Koring-Bato”) planes, drawing much acclaim.

 

Toronto Symphony Orchestra: Salute to the Americas

Festival Hub, David Pecault Square, 55 John Street

Sunday, June 15; 7 p.m.

Toronto Symphpony Orchestra; Simone Osborne (inset)

Artistic Director Jorn Weisbrodt came to the last major event of Luminato 2014 not just to give a big thank-you and goodbye to the full fledged turnout at the Hub for another successful fest and support, but to MC the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Salute to the Americas. As a co-theme for this year – and a precursor to next year’s Toronto PanAm Games – it felt more like a rehash of the TSO’s 2012 concert they gave at the same spot commemorating the War of 1812 bicentennial set list. Nonetheless, taking composers from both hemispheres of classical to instrumental was a substantial mixture under the expert administrations by conductor Peter Oundjian.

After playing our national anthem, the programme snaked its way starting with Canadian composers John Estacio and John Weinzweig of the fast-paced “Frenergy” and simplistic folk of “Barn Dance” from Red Ear of Corn, respectively before Americans Aaron Copland’s “Hoe-Down,” Leonard Bernstein’s “Mambo” from West Side Story and John Williams’ timeless Star Wars Theme still manages to spine-tingle; plus Jose Moncayo of Mexico’s “Huapango” held a aerated flow. It must be noted that resident conductor Shalom Bard took over the last two selections and didn’t do such a bad job at it in handling the TSO with competence and delivery.

Graciously returning the podium and conductor’s baton to Oundjian, Cuban Erneste Lecuona’s “Malagueña” added some Latin dramatics as much as they did to the Brazilian undercurrents found on Villa-Lobos’ “Ária (Cantilena)” accompanied by emerging Canadian Opera Company soprano Simone Osborne, along with the cellist section; had an exquisite voice that should be hearing a lot more from in the future. Capping it all off in Argentina, a sophisticated tone was adopted to perform the smoky overtures of Astor Piazzola’s “Libertango” without an accordion around did impress, as well as Alberto Ginastera’s “Four Dances” from Estancia, got the standing ovation for the orchestra and the producers of Luminato to hold over until next time.

FESTIVAL SUMMARY

The pleasant weather was the key to this year’s Luminato success (only one rainy day!) and line-up proved that that festival has come of age after eight years in the game and Weisbrodt’s direction, having been brought onboard not too long ago; in giving it a broad palette for discerning tastes to choose from and the usual last-minute surprises. What was once thought to be in trouble due to cutbacks in its budget by successive governments in the last two years, the fest did manage to keep things on track in providing the best it can offer and what it can do with the remaining $500,000 left in the reserve fund to run it for 2015.

New stuff like adding a licensed concession area at the Hub and paying for some of the concerts there was a good move, despite its restrictive menu choices and hefty price tags. And the TSO June 15 show playlist could have used some more originality instead of relying on old standbys. Still, chalk up another decent Luminato and best of luck in preparing to compete against the PanAm Games and the Toronto Jazz Festival next year June 19-28. And they thought the World Cup was going to be tough.