Music News Digest, Oct. 29, 2018

The El Mocambo's neon palms return (pictured), and Alessia Cara's new album is announced. Also in the news are Music BC, Hugh's Room Live, Let's Hear It, Saskatchewan Music Awards, J Noble, Naming The Twins, Bongo Boy, and farewells to Wah Wah Watson, Jack O'Donnell,Jabulani Tsambo, and Sonny Fortune. Videos added for your enjoyment.

Music News Digest, Oct. 29, 2018

By Kerry Doole

Michael Wekerle, owner of the El Mocambo and El Mocambo Productions, announced this morning that the music club's signature neon palms will return to their permanent home atop the Toronto landmark in November. The marquee’s return will be celebrated Nov. 15 during a lighting ceremony marking the next chapter and 70th anniversary of the venue.

The El Mocambo's multi-coloured neon palms were restored byPride Signs in Cambridge, a process that took over a year to complete and includes the work of veteran neon bender, Bismarck Coca. The new incarnation of the space will serve as the HQ for many offshoots that include El Mocambo Records, El Mocambo merchandise, and a line-up of products highlighting the venue’s historical past. With the lights on soon, the burning question now is when will the doors actually open?


– One of next month's most-anticipated new releases is Alessia Cara’s The Pains of Growing, skedded for Nov. 30 (on Def Jam/UMC). The second full-length from the Canadian star, it is entirely self-penned, and Cara also produced some of the tracks. The singer explained to Rolling Stone that "When you have full control, you can give away as much as you want to give away, and be as honest as you want and you know what it means, and no one understands you better than you.” Look for the 15-song album to feature plenty of inner explorations lyrically.

– Music BC's Annual General Meeting is set for Pyatt Hall (843 Seymour St, Vancouver) on Nov. 8 at 6:30 pm. Candidates for the Board of Directors have been announced. For members that don’t live in Vancouver or who can’t make it to the AGM, an online voting program is being set up. 

– On Friday, we reported the departure of Derek Andrews as the programmer at Toronto roots music hub Hugh's Room Live. It has since made known that he'll be replaced by a new four-person collaborative programming team, comprising Treasa Levasseur, Jory Nash, Michael Occhipinti, and Cheryl Prasker. Those first three named are all notable artists, while Prasker is the Artistic Director/GM for the Goderich Celtic Roots Festival. On FB Levasseur explains that "the new programming team reflects the values of collaboration and communication, and those extend out into the community towards our valued long-time supporters and to new faces and audiences as well."


– Music BC's second Let’s Hear It Live concert will take place on Nov. 15, at Vancouver's Fox Cabaret. Curated by Do604, the lineup features Sam Lynch, Jody Glenham, and The Long War. Tickets just $5 in advance.

– The Saskatchewan Music Awards will be held on Nov 25 in Regina, in conjunction with Saskatchewan Music Week. Early bird tickets for the Awards went on sale on Friday.

– Toronto-area rapper J Noble (real name Jermaine Dunkley) is currently on trial for first-degree murder in Toronto. The charges stem from the fatal shooting of Neeko Mitchell in 2013. The Crown alleges Dunkley was then leader of a drug-dealing crew called Monstarz, and it has brought some of his rap lyrics into evidence. Source: Toronto Star


– A phenomenal music sales story is now unfolding in France. The nation lost its beloved pop idol Johnny Hallyday last December, but its citizens are now paying tribute by buying truckloads of a just-released posthumous Hallyday album, Mon Pays C’est L’amour. It came out on Warner Music on Oct. 19, andMBW estimated that it sold an attention-grabbing 630,000 units in its first three days in stores.

– East Coast folk duo Naming The Twins (Kath Glauser and Robbie Smith) has just released a new single “Lay Down Your Weapons,” fittingly just ahead of Remembrance Day. The fourth NTT album, Sing The Winter Away, comes out on Nov. 9, and is described as a seasonal but adaptable collection of originals. Extensive tour dates include Via Rail performances as part of its On Board Entertainment series, followed by shows in the US and Maritimes.


– US music-themed show Bongo Boy TV is now extensively distributed in the US via 66+ TV channels and 15 major cable companies. It recently announced that "we are working on expanding into the Canadian broadcast of our TV show series. Bongo Boy officially opened a Canadian office in the London, Ontario, area early this year." Now in its seventh season, Bongo Boy TV is a monthly show that broadcasts music videos from around the world. Bongo Boy also has a music group and a record label. Source: New Jersey Stage


Melvin “Wah Wah Watson” Ragin, a US guitarist who played on iconic records by Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, and more, died on Oct.  24, at age 67. No cause of death has been announced.

Ragin's nickname came from his signature use of the wah-wah pedal in countless sessions for many stars of soul and funk.

He joined the Motown house band, the Funk Brothers, in 1968 and later played on one of the Temptations’ most celebrated singles, “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” He appeared on Marvin Gaye’s sensual masterpieces, "Let’s Get It On" and "I Want You," Quincy Jones’ most successful solo LP, Body Heat, Rose Royce’s breakout album, Car Wash, Smokey Robinson’s  Love Breeze, disco classics from Gloria Gaynor (“I Will Survive”), Greek singer Demis Roussos (“L.O.V.E. Got a Hold of Me”) and Michael Jackson’s solo star-making LP Off the Wall.

His own projects, including the record Elementary, which he released as Wah Wah Watson in 1977.


Ragin was once again in high demand in the '90s, contributing to Me’shell Ndegéocello’s, Plantation Lullabies and Peace Beyond Passion, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite and Now, and Brian McKnight’s Brian McKnight and I Remember You.  He continued working with pop musicians like Janet Jackson and Alicia Keys in the early 2000s. Sources:Rolling Stone, Pitchfork

John (Jack) O'Donnell, a musician and teacher who served for 50 years as conductor of the well-known Cape Breton's coal miners' choir Men of the Deeps, died Oct. 25 in Antigonish, N.S., at the age of 83. O'Donnell is being remembered for preserving the culture of coal miners through song.

Former miners who sang for him say while O'Donnell was trained in piano and Gregorian chant, he was also a down-to-earth leader who gained a passion for collecting and arranging songs about the lives of the soot-covered men who made their living underground.

The internationally acclaimed choir was formed in 1966 by Nina Cohen. Its first director was Steve MacGillivray, but later that year O'Donnell was engaged to conduct the choir and continued to do so until leaving for England in 1969. After O'Donnell returned in 1973, the Cape Breton Development Corp. hired O'Donnell on a full-time basis.


During his tenure with the choir, O'Donnell researched and arranged an estimated 150 songs. The best-known example is Rita MacNeil's song, "Working Man," which O'Donnell re-worked for the choir's diverse voices — ranging from bass to tenor —fine tuning it into the choir's signature piece. Source: CP

Jabulani Tsambo (HHP), a prominent South African rapper, died Oct. 24, at age 38. The cause of death has not been announced, but he had reportedly battled depression for several years.

HHP started his music career with a group called Verbal Assassins in 1997 before going solo and releasing the album Introduction in 1999.

Jabba, as he was also known, introduced a unique sound of hip-hop rapping in his home language Setswana and featuring isiZulu and Sesotho languages in other songs. In 2004, he released "O mang," a song that saw him receive instant success.

At the time of his death, Tsambo was said to have been compiling a new album. Source: EWN

Cornelius "Sonny" Fortune, an American jazz saxophonist, died on Oct. 25 , at age 79, from post-stroke complications.

Over a career spanning a half century, Fortune was principally known as an alto saxophonist, but he also had an authoritative voice on soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones, as well as clarinet and flute.

NPR reports that "his body of work spans the spirit-minded avant-garde and the most swinging modern jazz, along with multiple strains of fusion — both as a member of a well-documented Miles Davis band and on his own albums."

He worked with such artists as Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, the Coltrane Legacy Band (alongside Tyner and Jones), Mongo Santamaría, Leon Thomas, Nat Adderley, and  Buddy Rich.

The first album fully under Fortune's name is Long Before Our Mothers Cried, a loft-scene artifact originally released on the Strata-East label in 1974.

An extensive solo discography includes albums on Horizon, Atlantic, and Blue Note. Sources: NPR, Wikipedia

Norman Wong



Happy Anniversary, Archie: Alvvays' Debut Record Gets a 10th Birthday Re-Issue

The Canadian jangle pop group's first album will be available on a new cerulean blue vinyl with an unearthed bonus track, as well as the ten original songs — including breakout single 'Archie, Marry Me' — that launched their career in 2014.

A major Canadian indie rock album turns 10 today (July 22), and the band is celebrating with a special re-issue.

Alvvays' self-titled debut helped the group break through on an international scale, propelled by jangly guitars, aloof vocals and an expertly catchy single. "Archie, Marry Me," with its soaring chorus and pleading lyrics, became a wedding song for a generation of ambivalent millennials, earnest and sardonic at the same time.

keep readingShow less