Something Completely Different

By John Swartz

The Orillia Centre for Arts and Culture has a back to back concerts happening November 1 and 2 at St. Paul’s Centre. Think of it as a double header with coffee, breakfast, lunch, and dinner happening during intermission.

The Friday night show is with Jane Bunnett and Maqueque. It’s a 6 piece band from Toronto playing Cuban music lead by jazz saxophonist Jane Bunnett. The Saturday show is the 12 piece Kune, also from Toronto.

Saying both groups are from Toronto is technically correct, but in the first case most of the band is from Cuba, and in the second, well they are subtitled Canada’s Global Orchestra and the players come from all over the world – they just happen to live in Toronto.

“We wanted to pick up where we left off in terms of our music programming. We pride ourselves as being the group that brings stuff that nobody else is bringing to town, not just the town but the whole area,” said Michael Martyn, the Orillia Centre’s general manager. There have been several concerts put on by the Orillia Centre over the last few years which were well received and with outstanding performances. Martyn says it’s Lance Anderson’s fault.

“Having that Lance connection is really key. That’s one of the things I find about having Lance is people trust him.  His word carries some weight,” Martyn said.

Bennett has a few Juno Awards and Grammy nominations, and a multitude of civic recognitions, and with the band appearances at the Newport and Monterey jazz festivals, an appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk lead to being named to Downbeat Magazine’s top ten jazz group list – and a Grammy nomination in 2018 for the album Oddara.

“We’re really lucky to have her here,” said Anderson. He’s tried a few times to book the band for a concert here. “She was always busy and then when she got nominated for a Grammy last year I thought I’d get in there early to do the concert.”

Jane Bunnett

“I’ve known Jane and her husband Larry (Cramer) for years and years and she’s always been such a great player. Her commitment to Cuban music, she started going there 30 years ago and has done number of records in Cuban with musicians at a time when they really needed the work and the support. She’s even brought a number, sponsored a number to come to Canada.”

“I’ve heard her records and I just thought it wasn’t like a normal Cuban record, or even a Cuban jazz record, it has a whole different sensibility. I think it’s because of the women playing. I really thought it was the kind of thing we are looking for at the Orillia Centre, very unusual and something just a little out of the ordinary.”

Kune is, well imagine a band where the sitar, tar, dizi, lyra share ear time with violin, sax, clarinet and percussion instruments of all shapes and sizes. Give yourself a point if you even know what some of those instruments are. When you hear their music it’s OK to be confused about genre. Is it Middle Eastern with a hint of Asian and Metis folk, or the other way around?

Kune -Photo by Nicola Betts

“I was at the Maple Blues Awards at Koerner Hall and Mervon Mehta is the musical director and we got talking. I mentioned one of the things I did was curate as artistic director of this festival in Orillia and he said, “that sounds like something that our new group, this global orchestra, would like to do; they’d be perfect for it.” He gave me a CD and I came back and listened to it and read about them it’s exactly what we’re looking for,” said Anderson about discovering the band.

“The idea was they would put very good artists together from different cultures and have them play their own music but it would all be fused with all the other countries and really representing what Canada is about now, the kind of cultural mix of what Canada has become. That’s why it’s called Canada’s global orchestra and there really isn’t anybody doing something like this in the world. I think it will be a spectacular concert.”

Most people aren’t going to be able to say they have heard any of the songs from either band (if all you listen to is the radio), maybe you did catch a song on the CBC but don’t member. A nice way to get a taste of Kune is to hear something familiar like Hymn to Freedom. Or click the links above and just let the lists play.

“The Royal Conservatory of Music comes with its own clout. They’re the ones who are behind Kune. Kune started as a Canada 150 project. The director of the Royal Conservatory wanted to capture the sound of Canada. Toronto especially is such a multi-cultural space. Toronto is the most culturally diverse assemblage of people ever known to humanity. You think about that, you think about from how far afield people come to settle there and to live their lives there while retaining some of their home culture, (it) provides a really special opportunity for us as a country to engage and to grow our culture, to explore what culture is and what art is. It’s not just that we are richer for it or are better for it,” said Martyn.

For all the issues we’ve all examined recently, post election it’s not a bad thing to remind ourselves we’re not that different, and music is the universal communicating tool.

“There’s a lot of questions in the world right now about how we approach the pace of change and there’s a lot of discomfort with that and that’s understandable. I think one of the things that art, especially art from people who we haven’t met before, whose cultures we don’t know, gives us an opportunity to find those consistent points across cultures, to find that sort of shared humanity, which is very much what Kune is about,” said. Martyn.

The Orillia Centre has two online places to order tickets for each concert here and here.

(Photos Supplied) Main Jane Bunnette and Maqueque, by Rick McGinnis.


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