Music News Digest, Jan. 10, 2022
The AFROWAVETO fest announces its lineup (founder Lexxicon pictured), Torquil Campbell can write you a song, and Kevin Howes’ Voluntary In Nature expands its reach. Also in the news are Saskatchewan Music Awards, Music BC, Capitol Hill Block Party, Jaffa Road, Big Winter Classic, Scott Parsons, and farewell Harpdog Brown, Koady Chaisson, Pierre Jobin, Marilyn Bergman, Michael Lang, and Francisco Serra.
By Kerry Doole
AfroWaveTO, Toronto's newest Black music festival, has announced its virtual winter concert series lineup. This year’s three-part concert series features 24 buzzworthy Toronto acts, including TRP.P, Chelsea Stewart, Tafari Anthony, Omega Mighty, EverythingOshauN, IAmRebelWill, Markus Aurelyus, Renee, and Unlisted Negros. The first showcase concert takes place on Jan. 27 (streaming on AfroWave's YouTube page) and genres covered include rap, dancehall, R&B, afrobeat, and reggaeton. Founded in 2019 and spearheaded by Jamaican-Canadian artist Lexxicon, the festival's mission is to provide growth opportunities for Black multi-genre musicians working within the Toronto music industry.
– With pandemic lockdowns again sabotaging concerts and tours, artists are looking for creative ways to supplement their income. Torquil Campbell, frontman of longtime Canadian indie rock favourites Stars, has come up with a scheme in which, for $1,000, he'll write a song specifically for you. As reported in The Globe and Mail, Campbell explains that “There’ll only be one copy of it [the commissioned song] unless you decide to share it, and your rights will last forever. My aim is to write songs that see you.” He is known as one of the most literate songsmiths around, so it'll be interesting to see the response to his offer.
– The 2021 Saskatchewan Music Awards will take place in a streaming format on Jan. 20 via SaskMusic’s social media pages. Check out the nominees' announcement here.
– Toronto-based music journalist, record producer, and double Grammy awards nominee Kevin Howes has announced the expansion of his Voluntary In Nature (VIN) initiative. Created in 2006 as an online streaming mix for Tokyo’s SNDNST/2Step clothing company, it will now serve as an “outlet for sharing” with the digital Bandcamp release of three lost albums: Wayne ’76 (1976), Indian/Inuit Country (1994), and Catseye (1973), by Wayne McGhie, Willie Thrasher, and Catseye respectively.
Howes informs FYI that VIN "is an artist-to-artist initiative, with the goal of celebrating our community, acknowledging tradition, and expanding the landscape of intergenerational and cross-cultural awareness and connectivity, that will flow into different creative streams with the passing of time: music, film, literature, installations, and resources." Collaborating with Howes on the project are Grammy/Juno nominee Greg Mindorff of Suite Sound Labs and photographer/artist Christopher Jerome Gergley.
– Music BC is now taking submissions for a chance to perform at Capitol Hill Block Party (CHBP) in Seattle this July. CHBP is an annual 3-day festival celebrating art and music from across the Pacific Northwest. Some of the industry's biggest names have performed their stages - including Lizzo, Brockhampton, Dillon Francis, Diplo and many more. Learn more about the event here. Submissions close on Jan. 20.
– Highly-regarded Toronto-based global music ensemble Jaffa Road released a new album, Say When, a few months back. The group describes it as "a cross-cultural musical odyssey that takes listeners from the Negev to the Maghreb, with influences of rock, jazz, funk, electronica and dub." Here's the title track video.
– One of many events forced to cancel or postpone because of stronger pandemic restrictions is the Big Winter Classic. The multi-city fest had 90 bands booked to play Jan. 27-30 in various venues in Calgary alone. Fest founder and director Adrian Urclacher told the Calgary Herald they are in discussions with the other cities and the artists to see if the festival can be pushed back to later in spring.
– Charlottetown-based singer/songwriter Scott Parsons has received a $6K provincial arts grant. He will use that sum to record an album that tells the story of prominent Black Prince Edward Islanders whose stories have been forgotten. Parsons explains that "the Black community contributed a lot to society here but we're never really recognized. It was just kind of something that people just didn't seem to know about." Source: CBC
Harpdog Brown, a Canadian blues vocalist and harmonica player, died on Jan. 7, age 59. No cause of death has been reported.
Brown had been active in Canada's blues scene since 1982. His distinguished musical career was honoured by the Maple Blues Awards, which named harmonica player of the year for three consecutive years, 2014-16. In 2016, he was also honoured with a lifetime membership to the Hamilton Blues Society.
Brown was born in Edmonton, and was adopted into in a family with a musical mother who played slide guitar. He began playing guitar at age 15 in a local garage band. He later played in a duo that opened for performers in comedy clubs, and followed that with solo gigs as a singer and guitar player. In the early 1980s, he put together his own traveling blues band.
Brown got his stage name at a gig in Kitsilano Beach in 1989 at a place called Momma Gold’s. According to Harpdog, at the end of the show, two audience members began shouting "Harpdog! Harpdog!" He liked the name and went on to use it as his stage name. He eventually made it his legal name.
He released seven albums in his 35-year career including the critically acclaimed Travelin with the Blues and What It Is. His latest release is For Love & Money. Last year, he hosted a weekly series, In The Dog House, on his YouTube channel, featuring guest interviews and performances.
Brown's official website invites lovers of his music to join the Dog House Fan Club and notes "We are working on projects to honour his incredible musical legacy and help his family in their time of need. He lived the life he loved, and loved the life he lived."
Fellow Canadian bluesmen were quick to pay tribute on Facebook. Jack DeKeyzer: "Harpdog Brown passed away last night. The epitome of big hearted. An old-school bluesman; hard living, hard driving, fun loving and a generous soul. He lived and loved the blues. Dog, you will be missed by many."
Gary Kendall: "It`s hard to find the right words to comment on Harpdog Brown`s passing. He was a larger then life character. It was a privilege to have known him all these years and an honour to have played the real blues with him on many occasions. Deepest condolence to his family, friends, fans and all who loved him."
Steve Dawson: "Condolences to Harpdog Brown's family and friends. He was larger than life, a free spirit, a great bandleader and harp player. We had some fun jams way back in the 90's when I was starting out and he was hosting an open stage at some seedy bar downtown, and then we reconvened many years later when I produced and mixed his For Love & Money album in 2018. The Canadian blues scene lost a good 'un."
Cam Hayden- Producer, Edmonton Blues Festival and host/producer, CKUA (to FYI): "First met Harpdog in the 1980's and our paths crossed many times in the intervening years. I booked him at venues and events I ran and played his music frequently on the radio.. he, in turn, invited me to be part of his TV series In The Doghhouse last year. The "Dog" was a true bluesman... he felt the music, had the chops, was a top-notch entertainer and bandleader and never failed to connect with the audience. To say "He Lived the Life He Loved, and Loved the Life He Lived" would be an understatement."
Derek Andrews, President of Toronto Blues Society: "He was larger than life indeed. Soaked in character, enthusiasm and authenticity, he was a devoted entertainer and a force of nature. So cruel to see we will not have him continue his blues crusade. Such a loss. He'll be remembered at the Maple Blues Awards in June!"
Sources: Wikipedia, official website, Facebook.
– Koady Chaisson, a member of Juno-winning P.E.I. roots music trio The East Pointers, has died at the age of 37. The band's management confirmed his death to CBC News on Jan. 7. No cause of death has been released.
Chaisson played banjo and tenor guitar for the group, which included vocalist/fiddler Tim Chaisson and guitarist/keyboardist Jake Charron.
The East Pointers came together in 2014. They performed across Canada, the United States, Australia and the U.K. and recorded three studio albums, the last two produced by Gordie Sampson.
In 2016, The East Pointers won the Canadian Folk Music Award for Ensemble of the Year. They also won the Traditional Roots Album of the Year Juno in 2017 for their first album, Secret Victory. The trio also won the East Coast Music Award for Songwriter of the Year in 2020, after taking home the Song of the Year ECMA Award for Two Weeks the year before.
During the Covid pandemic, which followed on the heels of the release of the album Yours to Break and its single Wintergreen, The East Pointers stayed busy by coordinating livestreamed weekly readings from the Prince Edward Island classic novel Anne of Green Gables. Koady Chaisson read the first chapter of the L.M. Montgomery book in that "#Annedemic" project.
The band went on to headline a live reading of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown on Dec. 16, but a second performance on Dec. 17 was cancelled because of the new Covid-19 public health restrictions.
More touring had been planned for next month.
Koady Chaisson’s musical peers quickly took to social media to express their sorrow and pay tribute. Here are some of their Facebook posts.
The East Pointers: "It was 8 years ago that Koady turned his life around. He got sober, changed his habits, and dove into healing himself — the kind that many run away from. Just after this, when times were especially tough for him, the three of us made it a point to build on our musical friendship that had been stewing in the background for a few years prior. There was no intention to take it any further than our living rooms — just hearing Koad’s tunes, collaborating and laughing with him was rejuvenating, electric and so special.
As more people heard him play, and took in his tunes and the stories he would tell, he slowly started feeling like he had something to give back to the world. Writing and performing for you became his medicine. As the band grew, he grew. He’d often talk about how The East Pointers saved his life and became quite comfortable with sharing this concept to others. He helped SO many people heal, open their hearts and follow their dreams — whether it was getting sober, practicing different wellness techniques, or just following your true life’s passion.
He wrote and performed from his heart and allowed us to dig deeper inside to do the same. We’ll forever cherish the hours we spent together on the road, our childhood shenanigans, the caffeinated chats at his beautiful home, and his foolish wit. It’s painful to sit and mourn his sudden passing, it doesn’t seem real and I know many of you feel the same way. But we know he will be with us forever, through his beautiful melodies, words, wisdom and stories."
Lennie Gallant: "I am shocked and deeply shaken to hear of the loss of an amazing musician, beautiful spirit, generous soul, and friend Koady Chaisson. The music community of the East Coast of Canada and far beyond is hit hard by this news as anyone who ever met, heard, or chatted with Koady would know he had special gifts and touched a great many people with them. To have this happen immediately following his amazing winter swim crusade to raise funds for those musicians in need speaks volumes as to who this man really was. He will be deeply missed on so many levels. It is fitting that a raging winter storm should accompany this news here on the East Coast as that is what so many of us feel right now in our hearts."
Miranda Mulholland: “I spent today contemplating Koady's brilliant bright light and being so thankful we were able to witness it and bask in its glow. Gutted he's gone and once again very aware that we will never have enough time with the ones we love so let's be generous and kind. What a loss. Posted Friday
James Keelaghan: “I’m heartbroken to hear of the passing of Koady. He was an amazing musician, an old soul, kind and passionate. My condolences to his family, to Chloe, and to the whole musical community he built and sustained. I will miss him greatly.”
Sources: CBC, Facebook
– Pierre Jobin, agent, cultural host, theater director, and radio host, died on Jan. 4. He had been suffering from Alzheimers.
La Presse notes that “Jobin devoted forty years of his life to the dissemination of French-language songs from here and elsewhere.”
He was especially known as the agent of Félix Leclerc and other Quebec artists,
Jobin notably directed the Théâtre de l'Île d'Orléans from 1973 to 1991, and the Petit-Champlain in Quebec City from 1979 to 1984, then from 1989 to 1996. He also founded the Productions Quebec agency and made it known in Quebec through work with such artists as Pierre Barouh, Pierre Perret, Ricet Barrier, Yves Duteil, Anne Sylvestre, Claude Nougaro, and Anna Prucnal.
He also launched the careers of promising young beginners from Quebec, and was Félix Leclerc's agent from 1973 until the star’s death in 1988. Sources: La Presse, Serge Drouin
– Marilyn Bergman, an Oscar-winning lyricist who collaborated with her husband, Alan Bergman, on some of the most classic pop songs heard at the movies, died Jan. 8 at her home in LA, of respiratory failure. She was 93.
The Bergmans wrote words to melodies by Michel Legrand, Marvin Hamlisch, Quincy Jones, John Williams, Dave Grusin, and many more.
Their songs were interpreted by entertainers such as Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Neil Diamond and — most frequently — Barbra Streisand. Hit songs they co-wrote included The Way We Were and The Windmills of Your Mind.
The Washington Post notes that “the couple had early hits on the radio — the 1959 calypso song Yellow Bird, performed by the Mills Brothers, and the 1960 Frank Sinatra song Nice 'n Easy, — but they set their sights on cinema from the start.”
The Windmills of Your Mind was written by the Bergmans and Legrand for The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), and was a hit for Noel Harrison and Dusty Springfield.
The song brought the Bergmans their first Oscar in 1969. Their other Oscars came for two Streisand projects: The Way We Were and the songs for Yentl. Their other nine nominations included You Don’t Bring Me Flowers — composed by Neil Diamond, who made it a No. 1 hit in a duet version with Streisand — and Moonlight, which John Williams composed.
The Bergmans’ work for television included theme songs for Maude and Good Times, both produced by Norman Lear. They were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1980.
Bergman became the first woman elected to the board of the American Society of Composers and Lyricists and served as president from 1994 to 2009.
– Michael Lang, the co-creator and organizer of 1969’s Woodstock Music and Art Fair, and its follow-ups Woodstock ’94 and the ill-fated Woodstock ’99, died on Jan. 8, age 77. The cause of death was a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to a family spokesperson
Lang was raised in Brooklyn and attended college in NYC before jumping into concert promotion in the late 1960s. The first multi-artist event he organized was the 1968 Miami Pop Festival.
His move to the Woodstock, New York area sowed the seeds of a more ambitious three-day festival. The legendary Woodstock fest drew some 400,000 people to a farm (owned by Max Yasgur) in Bethel, New York.
Variety writes that “A 1970 soundtrack album and documentary film, in which Lang was featured extensively, detailed the scheduling snafus, weather issues and general lack of preparedness for what would turn out to be the seminal cultural moment of the 1960s.”
The clout of the Woodstock name enabled Lang to stage two anniversary shows in 1994 and 1999. The latter event was marred by violence and vandalism.
In 2019, Lang’s ultimately unsuccessful attempts to produce a 50th anniversary Woodstock festival suffered a series of insurmountable setbacks after announcing a bill of heavy hitters that was to include Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus and Dead and Company performing Aug, 16-18 in Watkins Glen, NY.
Lang’s biggest problem was getting permits from local authorities, which were short in coming even after a change of location and a capacity finally set at a lowly 75,000 before Lang finally gave in and pulled the plug. Sources: Variety, Rolling Stone
– Francisco “Pancho” Serra, the creator of a classic hit in Argentine music, died on Jan. 4, of the degenerative disease ALS, age 62.
The peak of Serra’s career came with his band Pancho y la Sonora Colorada in 1995 with the hit Cachete, Pechito y Ombligo (Chest, breast and navel), one that helped the group sell over 300K records
He began in music in the early ‘80s in Santa Fe, as a member of new wave trio Desliz. Serra would later record with JAF and León Gieco, amongst others. He recently recorded a version of Cachete, Pechito y Ombligo in a tango key and renamed it Codito con codito, alluding to the greeting popularized during Covid-19. Source: Ol Canadian