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  • Review: Réminiscences by Hichem Khalfa Quartet

    Lately, jazz bands are starting to incorporate hints of rock n’ roll into their sound. The Hichem Khalfa Quartet is a prime example of this.

    Lead by composer and outstanding trumpet player, Hichem Khalfa, the Hichem Khalfa Quartet, have been grooving around Quebec since 2016.

    Other members of the quartet include Jérome Beaulieu on keyboard, who has collaborated with bands like Misc and Bellflower.

    On bass is Jonathan Arseneau, who has worked alongside Bobby Bazini and other bands such as Samito and Haïka. Meanwhile, the drums are occupied by Dave Croteau, former band member of the Blue Bell Sisters and Les Chiens Clochards.

    With a roster chock-full of well-developed talent, the band has already won several prestigious awards. In September last year, the quartet received the Grand Prize Winner award from the Rimouski Jazz Festival. They also received the François Marcaurelle award during the Off Festival de Jazz de Montréal in October.

    The quartet’s most recent album, Réminiscences —set to drop on March 10—introduces itself as a jazz-rock hybrid, providing an electrifying sound while still remaining within in the scope of the genre. The quartet will be officially launching the LP on March 15 in Montreal at O Patro Vys.

    The album’s overall sound is comparable to musical works by the Weather Report. Both bands have a tendency to let each instrument do its own thing, until finally layering them all together, creating an electrifying jam session.

    In the track “Yonko,” for instance, the quartet replicates the Weather Report’s sound, starting with a funky bass line, followed by drums and trumpet.

    “Years Later,” one of seven tracks on Réminiscences, is arguably the most intense song on the LP. With its fast, rhythmic, musical pattern, “Years Later” consists of a funky bass line, somewhat reminiscent of bassist Jaco Pastorius’s track, “Kuru/Speak Like a Child.”

    In the middle of the track, the style smoothly falls into a blues/rock jam. However, the quartet goes back to the initial rhythm with keyboards, followed by drums, then ending the track with a horn section.

    While incorporating other genres such as fusion, blues and a hint of rock, Réminiscences is a great introductory album to the world of jazz.

    The Hichem Khalfa Quartet – Réminiscences // March 15 // O Patro Vys // 356 Mont Royal Ave. // 6 p.m. // FREE

  • Problematic Activism in Angry Inuk: A Critique On Ethical Politics

    It is -40 C where you’re standing on a sunny day in Nunavut. From here, you can see two icy fields — you have a detailed view through your binoculars. Upon one landscape is a person dressed in a black coat with a fur lining and seal skin boots. They have a hunting rifle on their back as they step down from their Skidoo.

    You shift your lenses over to the other landscape to see a harp seal jump out of the water — it has teary blue eyes and snowy white fur. The image is moving, quaint even, but remember that this is a seal pup and will not be hunted until it is of age. Also, do not assume those tears indicate that the seal is unhappy.

    Do you remember Indigenous history or the term “Truth and Reconciliation”? Did you know that in Nunavut, a head of cabbage can cost as much as $28 dollars? The possibility of oil rigs off the coast of Baffin Island looms over the region — precarious labour and environmental threats intertwined. Now, a sustainable means of an income for many Inuit, the seal pelt is but 10 per cent of its worth than in previous years.

    The right to survival and an enriching way of life for Inuit people is the central message of Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s documentary film Angry Inuk. The movie was produced through Arnaquq-Baril’s own company, Unikkaat Studios, which is “focused on producing Inuit cultural documentaries and Inuktitut language productions,” as stated on the official website of the company.

    The seeds of Angry Inuk began with the exclusion of Inuit people from the discussions on sealskin bans within Europe. As articulated within her documentary, Arnaquq-Baril shows that living off the land has a much greater impact than ensuring that people are fed. It’s a longstanding tradition within Inuit communities to rely on sealskin as a source of income. The practice has been vehemently denounced by animal rights activists since the 1970s.

    While their behaviour seemed altruistic, the activists inadvertently barred Inuit people from the international market. European politicians assumed the sale of sealskin products within the EU was immoral; as a result, bans seemed to be a clear route to take in order to reach the ideal virtuous society. The irony of their actions is a theme that is consistently revisited by Arnaquq-Baril in Angry Inuk.

    Concerning developments happening in Canada, Angry Inuk acts as a focused critique on the ideals of these activists. The use of the white coat harp seal, for instance, has caused European nations to disregard the Inuit community in their policies.

    Furthermore, the pity and outrage evoked by the image of the harp seal is more lucrative for NGOs than necessary. A CBC radio interview with Paul Watson, the founder of Greenpeace, is featured during a brief segment within the documentary. Watson’s insight implies that those who support animal rights do not fully grasp how their money is spent, nor do they realize the repercussions it incurs.

    Currently, global warming and resource extraction jeopardizes the survival of all marine life in the Arctic. Nevertheless, the harp seal is not endangered and the use of the white coat image incites more hatred towards seal hunters, particularly Inuit seal hunters, than proactive involvement in establishing sustainable economic strategies.

    However, Arnaquq-Baril and others from the Inuit community repeatedly stress within the film their desire to communicate with the activists. Those who assume that their campaigns were sound have largely chosen to ignore the Inuit population — thus, their own accountability to a people whose concern for the environment is part of their daily life.

    The rhetoric of some NGOs,, for instance, claim that “selling seal skin to the EU is not a basic human right.” While the Inuit should be entitled to “subsistence hunting,” to claim that a “ban has infringed upon their rights is nothing short of ridiculous.”

    Althought some activist groups seem to portray the Inuit as privileged, that is certainly not the case. Impediments on the market prevent Inuit communities from supporting themselves, leaving few ethical alternatives. Minerals and natural gas may take the place of hunting. Yet, had the Inuit been consulted over forty years ago, you have the sense that their situation would not be so dire.

    Angry Inuk // Feb. 16 at 5:45 p.m. and Feb. 17 – 22 at 8:10 p.m. // Cinématheque Québécoise (335 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.) // $9 for students, children, and elderly OR $12 for general admission

  • Seoul C’est Loin: Jules Tomi Brings His Inspiration to Montreal

    From cinema, to K-pop, to fashion—South Korea is a cultural hot-bed at the moment. Yet, rarely is it that we get to see beyond the glamour and buzz.

    In his first photo exhibition, Seoul C’est Loin, photographer and McGill University sociology student Jules Tomi reminds us that Korea is a complex country with cultural depth. He invites viewers to take a closer look at the modernity of this progressive country.

    At the Glass Door Gallery on St. Laurent Blvd., are works of Tomi’s. They depict moments of everyday life in Korea, from images of city landscapes, torn down buildings, to new developments and still-life of civilians on the streets. The photos he captured during his two-month trip to Korea last summer come across as honest, smart and intimate.

    Tomi’s photographs not only lend themselves to the moment they capture, but bring an emotional impact to the viewer from the moment they stand in front of the image. While some shots are seemingly mundane, other are captivating and intriguing.

    Of the exhibition, Tomi wrote that he wanted to “adopt the gaze of a random bystander” and “capture scenes from an ordinary modernity.”

    There is a melancholic feeling that accompanies Tomi’s photographs. The pictures, taken during aimless walks throughout the streets of Korea, showcase the everyday occurrences in the lives of the country’s inhabitants.

    Interestingly, the images don’t come from a place of sheer curiosity, but rather were chosen to tell a story—to give an idea of what life in Korea is like. Tomi spent close to five years studying the Korean language and culture. Through his studies, Tomi said, he was able to gain a deeper understanding of the country.

    “I guess I owe it to my intellectual background on Korea—I studied Korean issues sociologically and anthropologically.”

    He referred to a photograph of an older lady peeling garlics on the street, “For instance, the lady peeling garlic in the street, I know that the reason why so many old ladies sell vegetables on the street has to do with the fact that there’s a lot of old age poverty in South Korea. That old age poverty is caused by certain social phenomenons that I’m also aware of and therefore I can make the connections.”

    Tomi admitted without his prior knowledge of the certain social standards and phenomenons in Korea, perhaps some of the photographs would just be passing moments.

    The McGill student first became interested in Korea through cinematic mediums.

    “The movies drew my interest towards more social and political issues,” he explained. He was mostly intrigued by the fact that Korean cinema did not strive for the typical Hollywood happy endings. “In Korean cinema, that rarely happens, usually everyone dies—it’s very tragic. I found that really refreshing compared to Western tropes of cinema.”

    His interests piqued when he took language and culture courses on Korea in university.

    “Everything changes so fast,” Tomi said, adding that there was a certain “dizziness” to how fast-paced everything felt.

    According to Tomi, South Korea is one of the fastest developing countries and has been on a modernization high since 1945.

    Even though the government has become increasingly aware of the pressures and stress that face many Korean citizens, work hours for the average citizen are still insanely long—ranging from 12-16 hours a day. Still, Koreans continue to push for more public holidays and more leisure time.

    “I feel like when we usually hear about Korea in Western countries, it’s always K-pop and dramas. It’s that very glorified image of the country. Whereas, it’s like any country, you know there are good things, bad things, there’re problems and there are solutions. I feel like I offer a perspective that you don’t see very often. That’s why it mattered to me to set up this exhibition,” Tomi explained.

    “More than half of the people who came throughout the first [opening] night, I didn’t know. So that’s surprising, ‘cause you know, it makes sense that your friends and family come, but when it’s mostly strangers, it feels even better. It means that you managed to reach people you don’t know,” Tomi said with excitement.

    On his official website, Tomi describes himself as being a social photographer. He said that, while the term may not be suitable to describe him anymore, his goals for his pictures were to convey symbols that were his understandings of certain things.

    Seoul C’est Loin was a triumphant effort in showcasing the duality of modernity in South Korea, as well as capturing the ‘post-industrial melancholy’.

  • Throwbacks and Tubed Yogurt: A Review of Tuesday Night Café’s Be Tween

    Middle school was an awkward time for most if not all of us. We had embarrassing moments, first crushes and moments where we genuinely thought that it was the end all or be all of our lives. We cringe when we are reminded of how we were back then.

    When I walked into the theatre space at the downtown McGill campus to watch Tuesday Night Café Theatre’s production Be Tween, I was tossed back into my own middle school memories. Songs from the early 2000’s like Sean King’s “Take You There” and Hellogoodbye’s “Hello” made me realize that I still had these songs buried at the back of my mind, and the memories that came with them.

    Needless to say, TNC’s Be Tween was a nostalgic trip that had me smiling throughout all of it.

    Written and directed by Concordia student Phoebe Fregoli, the play had originally been a submission for TNC’s playwriting contest. The prompt that Fregoli was given to produce a brief ten-minute play for this contest was simply “y’know those yogurt tubes?”

    From there, the script was developed and made into the play that it now is. I wasn’t sure how it’d be possible to consistently incorporate yogurt tubes throughout a play, but Fregoli managed to do so in many clever ways.

    Be Tween deals with themes of masturbation, sexuality, friendship, and learning more about oneself at the most awkward time in our lives. The dialogue in the play was realistic and evocative of how we used to talk back then. “Well, if you know what a blowjob is, why don’t you explain it us?” “I can, but I wanna see you explain it first… You know, so I can tell you if you’re right.”

    Sitting there watching the show was almost like watching something from your past take place in front of you, but all you can do is knowingly scoff and watch it unfold.

    Each character that was portrayed onstage was so relatable in one way or another. That cocky jock, the guy that convinced you that if you mimed shaking a salt shaker over your tongue you would taste salt, the melodramatic preteen that threw ultimatums left and right. You know who I mean.

    The actors did a great job in representing young, curious, and occasionally arrogant kids on the cusp of becoming teens; from the way they delivered their lines to how they walked around on stage. The main reason these characters were so relatable was thanks in large part to these solid performances.

    “It was a collaborative effort,” actor Neve MacLennan explained. “We shared stories and thought of some really funny cliché things that we thought when we were kids.”

    “The music also helped in a big way,” castmate Hannah Silver continued. “Throughout the rehearsal process, we’d dance to a lot of songs from that time in our lives, which was a fun way to take us back.”

    With funny tongue-in-cheek writing and some great scenes onstage that were downright ridiculous, it was definitely a surprise that the cast didn’t break out in a fit of muffled laughter.

    This actually proved to be a challenge during rehearsal time, as cast member Kyla Kaplan-Chinard said. “I guess it’s the best problem you can have when putting a show together.”

    The main goal that the cast is aiming for is to get their audience to relate and to have them relive some of their own memories. But most importantly to let them be able to laugh at themselves as well.

    Tubed yogurt paired up with the thoughts and worries of young middle schoolers, Be Tween is definitely something to check out while it’s still around.

    Be Tween // Jan. 21 // Morrice Hall (3485 McTavish St.) // Doors open at 6:45 p.m. and again at 8:45 p.m. // $6 for students OR $10 for general

  • Matter and Emotion: Myriam Boucher’s Waves of Sound and Light

    • Miriam Boucher is an electroacoustics artist.  Courtesy Pierre-Luc Lecours

    It is possible to feel wind and water upon your skin in the stillness of a concert hall.

    This article has been updated.

    And it is possible to ride such drifts up into the air, down into the earth, and through its crust to another world altogether — through the frame of sound art, that is.

    I have expressed my opinion about the subliminal potential of electroacoustics before in an article on Akousma. I am not outside myself, though, when immersed in the work of Myriam Boucher.

    Rather, I am very much within my body. I experience something intangible, yet so mesmerizing it feels real.

    I’d like to see the substances around me similarly: those fragments of ice outside my door, or those grey clouds about to release snow, that drop of water in the bottom of my glass —- but they do not exist as pixels or sound waves.

    Boucher, however, transforms natural and banal objects into fantastical, living phenomena. They shake your eardrums, make your skin tingle, and fill your heart with warmth. I had the opportunity to see her latest video-music piece, Nuées, at Akousma XIII in October. It delivered the textures and momentum of birds in flight.

    Nuées (extraits) from Myriam Boucher on Vimeo.

    Boucher began with classical piano, then jazz, and finally post-rock.

    “We played a lot with timbre, instruments, effects and synthesizer guitar pedals,” Boucher said. “I told myself, “Wow! It’s really fun, to play with sound this way, more so with textures and effects.”

    That’s when she heard about electroacoustics. She began researching the field, listening to notable electroacoustic musicians like Louis Dufort and Hans Tutschku.

    Her interest only grew, leading her to pursue a BA in electroacoustics at Université de Montréal, studying video art creation through visual music courses. This caused Boucher to leave behind post-rock for a time.

    Boucher feels no ambivalence about fusing video with sound pieces.

    Creating video entailed the use of similar programs as those used in post-rock and electroacoustics. Boucher was able to approach video as she did musical composition, through a visual interface. She adopts the same approach today as when she began, fleshing out timelines concurrently, and by placing elements into digital frames side by side.

    Surprisingly, Boucher denies the title of cinematographer or visual artist. “It’s like matter for me,” she said.

    There is an enormous fluidity to Boucher’s work that is mesmerizing to the eyes. Elements within her pieces move in synchronisation with the waves of sound.

    Cités _excerpt from Myriam Boucher on Vimeo.

    Her work, evocative in its dynamism, brings its audience close to something akin to feeling multiple emotions all at once. Forms within her pieces will shift from solid to liquid, fragment to wave, their digital origins easily forgotten. They become organic, relatable.

    “What I want to do is to kind of evoke emotions,” says Boucher. “I’ll be drawn to a material, for instance last year with birds. I was really drawn by the sound of flapping wings and was observing birds a lot and altogether this evoked a lot of emotions for me.”

    Structure, form and matter are not limitations for Boucher, however. She uses what she needs until the path presents itself to her.

    “In electroacoustics, it always begins with a flash, a sound,” Boucher explained. “Something that I love or like that is truly evocative for me — and I begin from there.”

    Boucher said that she records sound and gathers video footage, not knowing what her end result will be. Her unpredictable process reveals its gems by the end, though.

    “Approaching visual and audio material is very experimental,” Boucher said. “It’s not planned out in advanced. Sometimes I film and strange things emerge and I tell myself, ‘This is really beautiful.’”

    Boucher reacts with us, prior to our experiences with her work. She takes in the world and brings aspects of it to the foreground of our mind.

    Dec. 8th // 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. // Tanna Schulich Hall, New Music Building // 527 Sherbrooke St. W.