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T.O. Music Pix Newsletter #117: August 26, 2010
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This newsletter's focus is on a few Toronto institutions: some gone, some still here...

In this newsletter:

1. Blues for the Silver Dollar: no more blues on Spadina
2. Adam Solomon: great guitar licks from Kenya in the 80's and on Bayview and a streetcar
3. This Ain't The Rosedale Library: also gone; who's next?
4. Assorted notes: Khaira Arby in Toronto; Desandann in the UK



When Torontonians think "blues", we usually think of the Silver Dollar, the venerable and funky club at Spadina & College. As of next week, we'll have to think again, as the club has switched modes from blues to rock. Veteran bluesman Gary Kendall is no longer booking acts there.

This Saturday, Aug. 28 features the last blues show, with Treasa Levasseur. 10pm.

It will be sad to see that Toronto institution pass. While some other clubs, like Hugh's Room no doubt will pick up some of the slack, few will have the atmosphee of the Silver Dollar.  Note the next item for mention of a blues-only club...



Equally well-known in both the blues & African music worlds of Toronto, the Kenyan-born musician seems to be popping up in various places this week. Adam of course is known locally for his varied work here over the years: with the ground-breaking band The AfroNubians, his own band, Tikisa, the Juno-winning African Guitar Summit, and for his series of solo, "African blues" CD's. His latest, Africa and the West II, is now out.

But before coming to Toronto, Adam had an extensive and notable career back in Kenya.

One of the many excellent African reissues and compilations released in the past several years, World Defeats the Grandfathers: Swinging Swahili Rumba 1982-1986 by Issa Juma and Super Wanyika Stars has been getting great reviews around the world for more than just its title.

Below is an excerpt from a recent review from Roots World's newsletter:

Keith Richards and Mick Taylor. Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers. Duane Allman and Dickie Betts. Johnny Marr and himself.  Add to this brief and selective roster of great guitar duelists Adam "Adamu" Solomon and Abbu Omar Prof. Jr. Who might they be, you may reasonably ask, and why am I including them among the ranks of stellar axmen? 

Adamu and Abbu are the guitarists featured on most of the tracks on World Defeats the Grandfathers, a compilation of recordings made between 1982 and 1986 by Issa Juma, a Tanzania-born vocalist and bandleader who became a star in Kenya. 

The review isn't posted yet on the RW website, but you can listen to one of the CD's songs here. It's available in all good local record shops (see next item below) and on iTunes.

Meanwhile, you don't have to travel in space or time to catch "Adamu". He's playing live at a couple of places this week:

a) "On the Rocket"

Many know Adam well for his subway busking in Bloor, Eglinton and other stations. He's a guest this week on TTC Chair Adam Giambrone's TV show, On the Rocket, talking about the subway musicians program and playing some songs.

The show is actually filmed live on a streetcar as it travels the city, and you can comment or ask questions of Councillor Giambrone either by phone, email, or in person on the streetcar (it's free). The streetcar will be leaving the McCaul loop around 9pm Thursday.

The show is on CP24, Thursday, 9pm, Check the show's link above for info.

b) Highway 61

Highway 61, perhaps now Toronto's main "blues-only" club, it also serves up Southern BBQ food.  Adam is doing a gig there this Saturday, Aug, 28 at 8pm. No cover.

Get out and see this "stellar axman", and help support live roots music before another venue goes under.


c) Online

Watch some of Adam's blues here.


One of the "Dollar's" classic shows


Adam Solomon brings his African Blues to the Silver Dollar, 2005


Another Toronto institution that disappeared recently was This Ain't The Rosedale Library, one of Toronto's best -- and one of my favourite -- independent bookstores. (I'd been shopping there for close to 30 years). They started out on Queen East, then spent many years at Church & Wellesley, and more recently moved to Kensington Market.

This past summer, they finally had to close, or more accurately, were closed up by their landlord.

Although this isn't directly a "musical" item, the lessons about the precarious nature of unique, knowledgeable and irreplaceable independent businesses is pretty universal. From the last entry on the store's blog (dated June of this year), in response to queries about how to save the store, Charlie & Jesse Huiseken wrote:

We encourage all those who have shown such enthusiasm for the store to consider helping us and stores of our kind but in the future.

While we are open to suggestions, we are hoping that our own unfortunate case might offer others the opportunity to seriously consider the factors which combine to make creating and running a bookstore such a challenge in North America. Predatory pricing of Amazon, inflated rents in urban centers, remaindering of excessive print-runs demanded by big-box stores and corporate publishing have had a devastating effect on smaller entrepreneurs. We are still of the feeling that without big changes the best and most satisfying way to support indies is to explore the stores in your city, browse their selection, trust your own curiosity, and buy gift certificates if nothing suits you.

I will certainly miss that store, as I miss other similar businesses. On a musical note, it's worth seriously considering the next time you're CD shopping, and find Amazon is selling some CD, DVD or book noticeably cheaper than the small shop you really like visiting. Save the money now, and it's likely that in a few years, great shops like Soundscapes on College with their unique inventory, service, and perspective just won't be there as a choice.



a) Khaira Arby

In the last newsletter, I'd mentioned this unique Malian singer who is making her first North American tour. (See the previous newsletter for more about her).

There were unconfirmed reports she'd be playing Toronto Labour Day weekend at the Ashkenaz Festival at Harbourfront. I've been getting more excited as I've been reading great reports about her shows and her excellent band. (eg, see this Afropop article by Banning Eyre).

The good news is that she will be performing in Toronto; the bad news (for me) is that it won't be with her band, and it won't be a "Khaira Arby" performance. She'll be a "guest star" with the band Sway Machinery, playing at 11pm, Sunday, Sep. 5 in the Brigantine Room. Not to take anything away from the band, or the performance... I expect it will be certainly worth catching. However, I would very much like to see a full show by her fronting that excellent band.

For more about the very extensive Ashkenaz Festival, check the Festival's website, and Harboufront's for the portion hosted there.


b) Grupo Vocal Desandann

The Cuban vocal group is a long-time favourite of mine, and has often been mentioned in this newsletter and website. Their beautiful, largely acapella 10-part harmonies, have long been deserving of wide recognition. As noted in an earlier newsletter this year, that may finally be happening.

Following their tour of the UK last summer, they caught the attention of Peter Gabriel, and have now recorded a CD on his Real World label. The CD will be out this fall. (In the UK, they are known as The Creole Choir of Cuba, reflecting their Haitian roots).

Here's a recent update from The Guardian. I'm happy for them, and look forward to their next visit to Toronto.

Desandann's previous CD, Pwan Dife, produced by Jane Bunnett and Larry Cramer and released in 2009 unfortunately got virtually no distribution.

John Leeson