A wonderful tribute to the late Achilla Orru (see post below) in the March 19 Globe & Mail‘s “Lives Lived“. Written by his friend & fellow Ugandan-Canadian Opiyo Oloya, who is also known by all African music supporters in the Toronto area.
Many harried Toronto subway commuters likely never knew his name, where he came from, his mother tongue, or his deepest love. To them, Achilla Orru Apaa-Idomo was the blind black man with the sweet voice who played music on the funny-looking instrument in the station.
Tribute/Fundraiser, April 7
A tribute to, and fundraiser for his wife and children will be held at the Lula Lounge Sunday April 7. 8pm. The following information is from Batuki Music Society
Toronto artists and musicians will join together at the Lula Lounge on Sunday, April 7, 2013 to pay tribute to Achilla Orru Apaa-Idomo. Achilla passed away on February 4, 2013 in Toronto. Born in Uganda, and blind at childhood, Achilla was the finest musician that ever played the simple lukeme, a hand-held wooden box instrument with keys made from flattened bicycle spokes (also known as likembe, mbira, kalimba, sanza or simply thumb piano). The extraordinary gathering of so many talented artists at the Lula is a fitting homage to Achilla who touched the lives of many with his music in Toronto, Canada and around the world.
The hot-line up of featured performers includes Achilla’s band – Baana Afrique, African Guitar Summit, Njacko Backo & Ann Lederman, Nhapitapi Mbira, Lizzy Mahashe/Kobena Aquaa-Harrison, Ruth Mathiang, Sani Abu of Ijovudu Dance, Kwame Stephens, Katenen ‘Cheka’ Dioubate and Subway Friends.
Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. West, Toronto
Doors open 7 PM Show: 8 PM – 11 PM
Tickets: $20 suggested donation. All proceeds go to the Achilla Orru Memorial Fund.
Donations can also be made at any branch of Bank of Montreal
ACCOUNT NUMBER: 00022-3941-436
Written while listening to Achilla’s 2004 CD, Dho-Mach (Sacred Gift)…
The Ugandan and Canadian world music communities received sad news this past week, that lukeme player Achilla Orru passed away at the age of 53. apparently as the result of heart disease.
Some information about his passing is on this page, written by Davies Bagambiire. This page contains some biographical & music information.
Achilla’s wife, Rose, lives in Uganda, but had just recently been granted a visa to enter Canada. There are fundraising efforts beginning to help her and their three sons (aged between 2 and 6) to get to Canada.
Stay tuned for updates.
I believe Nadine McNulty will be including a tribute to Achilla tonight, Sunday Feb. 10 on “Karibuni”, CIUT 89.5 (6-8pm, also available on CIUT’s archives for a week beginning Monday).
Below, a video profile of Achilla when he received the 2009 Skills for Change 2009 New Pioneer Arts Award.
Below, Achilla at the 2009 Afrofest in Toronto.
And a clip from the same performance found on YouTube:
Last week, Kevin Norton wrote a tribute on the No Depression website to the great Texas singer-songwriter, Townes Van Zandt, who died New Year’s Day, sixteen years ago.
This sentence captured some of the flavour of his talent, his music, and his demons:
If there was ever a musician that fit the mold of Robert Johnson’s blues man making a demonic bargain at a crossroads at midnight for his talent and then looking over his shoulder, terrified, as he fled for the rest of his life from some hell hound only he could see, it was Townes.
This is the first update of news or events I’ve posted here since last fall.
For a time, the website had a technical glitch preventing me from updating it, but the main reason for the lack of activity has been other time demands. I admit, that much as I’ve enjoyed doing this, after 7 years of maintaining the website & newsletter, I’ve also very much appreciated the recent break.
At this point, I’m not sure how or if I’ll keep the website/newsletter active, but at least for the immediate future, it will likely be much quieter than in the past. I will try to keep event listings reasonably up to date, but perhaps not as thorough as I did previously. I have just posted some updates to the events calendar (www.events.to-music.ca)
To follow any music news or other updates, you can:
But, it is also, as always, an immediate source of that information/news/music mentioned above. And, if your interests, tastes, viewpoints on those areas, are not well-served (I hope not!) by “mainstream radio”, if Internet streams and radio stations provide little, if any, information about what’s going on in your neighbourhood, or about concerts and music news here in town…
… then you have to turn to community radio. We have already lost one crucial broadcast station recently: Toronto’s oldest community radio station, CKLN. (Its successor is broadcasting online as Radio Regent). I believe that we have to keep truly local, truly connected voices on the airwaves.
This weekend, CIUT-FM is concluding its semi-annual fundraising drive. I encourage everyone to put their money where their ears — and heart — are. Kick in a few bucks to keep the community on the air.
Your support for individual shows is very much appreciated as well.
More than 20 years ago, I first discovered “world music” by tuning in to “Global Rhythms”, then on Friday mornings, and hosted by Ken Stowar. Since then, it moved to Saturdays, and then Sundays — but Ken is still there, churning out great music each week.
Soon after, I deepened my love of African music by listening to Karibuni with Opiyo Oloya. That show is still on the airwaves, now hosted by Michael Stohr and Nadine McNulty.
Those two programs now run back-to-back: Sundays 3-6 and 6-8pm. Given the focus of this website, I encourage people to contribute a few (or more) dollars to CIUT, and in particular to one of those two shows.
I came across this 1951 video of the great Western Swing Band, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys on Twitter recently (posted by Afropop Worldwide no less!), singing their 1930′s hit “Ida Red” – a song first recorded a decade earlier (by Fiddlin’ Powers and Family), and has roots back to an 1878 popular song, “Sunday Night”.
The video is a terrific capture of one of the seminal bands that pushed country music boundaries in the pre-World War Two era. Wills was known as the “King of Western Swing” and recorded over a 40 year period.
But the song made its mark in rock & roll history as well.
Bob & The Texas Playboys…
In 1955, and unknown, but ambitious blues guitar player from St. Louis managed to connect with Leonard Chess whose Chess Records had established itself as the blues label of Chicago. His biggest star, Muddy Waters, was the one who sent the young Chuck Berry to seek out Chess.
It turns out, Chess wasn`t as impressed with Berry`s blues number as his reworking of the old “hillbilly” (as country music was termed) classic, “Ida Red”. The song kept some of the country roots, but added a more driving beat, and new lyrics, set in a highway race. Chess wasn’t crazy about Berry’s title of “Ida Mae” (too “rural”, and it might cause copyright issues). The song ended up taking its title from the brand of a mascara box spotted nearby. ”Maybellene” helped launch rock & roll, and is the subject of this 2000 NPR broadcast, part of its series on the “100 Most important American musical works of the 20th Century”
You won’t be able to sleepwalk through this guitar extravaganza. The 2nd annual Sleepwalk Guitar Festival at The Great Hall on the weekend of Nov. 2-4, sponsored by Six Shooter Records and curated by Luke Doucet will be filled with guitar stars and legends: in concert, in workshops and in interview sessions.
The festival website with schedules, ticket info and more is here. The Six Shooter Facebook page has more information, and a raft of videos of some of the performers.
Some more about a couple of the artists is below.
Many years ago, whenever I read anything about him, he was inevitably referred to as “the great James Burton“; now of course it’s “the legendary…“, and while I find that term thrown around much too easily, in rock or country musical terms it’s completely appropriate for him. He’s a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (and several other HOF’s).
He first made his mark at the age of 15 in 1957, playing the guitar licks that made “Susie Q” (by vocalist Dale Hawkins), one of the all-time classic rock songs. Soon after, he started playing guitar behind Ricky Nelson. Any rock & roll credibility that teen idol Nelson had as an Elvis wannabe came from the driving guitar backing up his songs. Burton played with Nelson until 1967, when he was recruited (by Johnny Cash) into the band playing the TV rock show Shindig.
Following that gig, he became Elvis’s lead guitarist until Presley’s death, and for a few years in the mid-70′s juggled touring jobs with Elvis and Emmylou Harris’s first band. (He’d met her when they both recorded with the late Gram Parsons on his two albums). He apparently had to turn down Bob Dylan’s request to join him on his first electric tour. (Was Robbie Robertson the substitute?), and since then has recorded and/or toured with a massive list of stars.
Burton will close the Toronto festival, with a raft of guest singers performing some of the songs he’s played on over the years, and earlier that afternoon will be doing an interview, plus a workshop with Albert Lee, Cindy Cashdollar, Junior Brown & Luke Doucet.
Burton’s success in the early days of rock & roll came not just because of his technical skills, but because he really did synthesize the two main musical strains that created the new music: country and rhythm & blues. You can see — in great detail — his style and technique in the 47 minute guitar instructional video below. But even if you’re not a guitar geek, it’s an excellent view into how some of rock’s great sounds were made, as he runs through how he did what he did on many of the most famous recordings he played on.
A few notable spots
The first 6 or so minutes are basically James picking and visiting guitar shops. Then…
His unique picking style: around 7:35
Around 11:06 he tells how he tried to capture the echo effects he heard on many of the early rock & roll records. Not knowing what equipment those recordings had used, he developed his own “echo” sound through his playing
From there, he continues through the techniques and playing he did on many of Nelson’s hits
His “chicken pickin’” style: around 18:30
24:30, he goes into the techniques he’d used on many of Merle Haggard’s early records
At 28:10, he talks about his sounds with Emmylou Harris’s first recordings, including (at 29:08) the sounds behind her beautiful “Too Far Gone” from her first (Pieces of the Sky) album
Finally, at 42:00, he sums up, and just plays…
I’m looking forward to finally seeing him live. (I missed him back in the 1970′s when Emmylou’s first Toronto concert was cancelled for visa issues).
One of my favourite (of many) memories of concerts at Harbourfront goes back to a double-bill sometime in the mid-90′s. Part of a guitar-themed weekend, it was the first time I saw Louisiana slide-guitar wizard Sonny Landreth, and Junior Brown.
(I recently came across an online reference to those two in a comment posted on a page entitled “What live performance has made the biggest impression on you?”
Some guys are just other-worldly. Sonny Landreth and Junior Brown immediately come to mind.
Luke Doucet says of Brown,
Junior Brown straddles the line between pioneer of guitar wizardry and flat out showman. His ten gallon hat is eclipsed (barely) by his most unorthodox technique of playing a 6 string Telecaster & a lap steel guitar simultaneously–as they are built into one monster instrument known as the guit-steel. The juggling act itself is enough for many but I have always bristled at gimmicks when they stand in for music. Fear not. Brown would be welcome at Sleepwalk if he showed up with nothing but a beat up Tele–and no hat–as he is a master of the slippery western swing licks that have become his trademark, whether he is pulling them from the lap steel or the working man’s axe. He will no doubt awe us with both..
A clip of him performing his classic “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead”
There are a raft of other terrific performers, including the great Albert Lee (on a double bill with Junior Brown on Saturday night!), slide guitarist Cindy Cashdollar (last in town I believe a few years ago at a guitar concert for Luminato, playing with Sonny Landreth), Hawaiian slack-key guitar whiz Don Rooke of The Henrys (who played the same Luminato date), Kevin Breit, Nels Cline (Wilco)… and Luke Doucet plus others.
I’ll leave this post with one last video clip, featuring James Burton, Albert Lee playing with Chet Atkins on “I Got a Woman”. Watch here
José Ortega, the Artistic Director of one of Toronto’s musical gems, the Lula Lounge, has just opened his first solo art exhibit,”thinkin’ one thing and doin’ another” at IndexG Gallery, 50 Gladstone Ave. The exhibit runs opened Oct. 11-Nov. 18, 1-6pm Wed-Sun.
The opening reception is Sat. Oct. 13, 3-6pm.
No doubt José is best known here for his great music contributions. Two years ago, he won the Roy Thomson Award of Recognition from the Toronto Arts Foundation. which recognized “creative, performing, administrative, volunteer or philanthropic contributions to Toronto’s musical life”.
José is also an established and recognized visual artist whose work not only graces street murals along Dundas West, but has been selected for postage stamp designs in the U.S and Ecuador (his native country).
Music is Ortega’s muse and this solo exhibition has been inspired by the sounds of jazz. Using paint and collage on wood and cardboard, Ortega has approached each piece as if it were a song with rhythm, colour, harmony and a narrative. His quest for composition within chance reveal interesting and intricate patterns reminiscent of ancient Persian rug designs, Arab mosque tiles and geometric shapes found in South American textile. A rich colour palette of browns and ochres as well as a monochromatic paint-patchwork, display not only technical abilities but character and attention to detail.
Jose Ortega will be sharing the gallery with his mother, Juana Zuñiga, a self-taught artist. Zuñiga’s collection of art pieces are a colourful prism of magical scenes created from fabric and paint. Her work has been included in illustration catalogs and she has participated in group shows in the US and Canada.
Jose with his 2010 award
INDEXG Gallery is located at 50 Gladstone Avenue. The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday 1:00pm – 6:00pm.