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Must-Hear Songs from 2015/16 Chan Centre Presents Artists

From Cuban classics to Spanish flamenco to some of the world’s best jazz musicians, there’s something for everyone in this Chan Centre Presents 2015/16 playlist.



Title: Chan Chan
Album: Buena Vista Social Club, 1997
People: Compay Segundo (vocals, writer, composer), Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club (other instruments), Ry Cooder (producer)
Why it’s great: The song was composed by OBVSC’s Compay Segundo in 1987, whose inspiration was a Cuban folk song he learned at the age of 12. Its four opening chords, which Segundo has famously said came to him in a dream, have become instantly recognizable all around the world. Since its original recording, “Chan Chan” has been covered and re-recorded by countless Latin artists.


Title: Ayer Y Hoy (Guajiras)
Album: La Gitarra Flamenca, 1977; appears on many other North American compilation albums
People: Paco Peña (composition and guitar), Tim McDonald (producer)
Why it’s great: One of Peña’s earlier compositions, “Ayer y Hoy” truly encapsulates the musician’s respect for the traditional sounds of Andalucia culture while including his own unique, innovative elements. Gentle yet instantly uplifting, the song has been included in multiple compilations of classic flamenco guitar music. Allow the playful plucking to whisk you away to the old cobblestone streets of Seville.


Title: 7 Seconds
Album: The Guide (Wommat), 1994
People: Youssou N’Dour, Neneh Cherry (writing and vocals), Christian Falk, Booga Bear, Jonny Dollar (producers)
Why it’s great: A quintessential Youssou N’Dour duet recording that soared to the top of the charts, featuring singing in three languages: Wolof (a West African dialect), English and French. Along with the bright, beautiful vocals of Swedish/African musician Neneh Cherry, “7 Seconds”‘ poignant lyrics about an infant’s first moments on earth make meaningful statements about issues of race and society, still prevalent two decades on.


Title: Lisboa Kuya
Album: Balancê, 2005
People: Sara Tavares (guitar, percussion, vocals, producer)
Why it’s great: What better way to introduce yourself to an artist than through a heartfelt musical ode to their hometown? In this soothing and percussive track, Portuguese guitarist and vocalist Tavares takes the listener on a lovely musical journey celebrating vibrant Lisbon. A beautiful serenade that promises to evoke a range of emotion.


Title: Whiplash
Album: Four MFs Playin’ Tunes, 2012
People: Branford Marsalis (saxophone, producer), Justin Faulkner (drums), Joey Calderazzo (piano), Eric Revis (bass)
Why it’s great: While it’s impossible to choose just one track from Marsalis’ endlessly impressive repertoire, “Whiplash” is just as good a pick as any. A fun and energetic number that prominently features new Marsalis quartet drummer Justin Faulkner in his recording debut, it’s a concentrated, electric dose of what Marsalis and his talented team do best: jazz. Plus, it’s fun to ponder whether the song served as title inspiration for the 2014 Oscar-winning film.


Title: One Fine Thing
Album: Dee Dee’s Feathers, 2015
People: Dee Dee Bridgewater (vocals), Irvin Mayfield (trumpet, bandleader), New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (various instruments)
Why it’s great: What makes “One Fine Thing” so wonderful is the context in which it came about. It’s the first track off Dee Dee’s Feathers, a modern day testament to the musical significance of New Orleans that, in Bridgewater’s words, “epitomized the joys of our accumulative collaborations”. With the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on the horizon, Bridgewater, Irvin Mayfield and NOJO came together for a three-day extraordinary recording experience at the historic Esplanade Studio in the Treme neighbourhood of the Big Easy. The song is the result of pure passion for their craft, created by and for their collective love of their city.


Title: Traces of You
Album: Traces of You, 2013
People: Anoushka Shankar (sitar), Norah Jones (vocals), Nitin Sawhney (producer)
Why it’s great: The title track off her latest album, “Traces of You” marks a significant milestone in Shankar’s musical career. The song features her half-sister Norah Jones and acknowledges the passing and legacy of their father, sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar. It’s a sonic feast, featuring Anoushka’s syncopated guitar, table and glockenspiel alongside Jones’ dark, whispery vocals.


Title: Alice’s Restaurant Massacree
Album: Alice’s Restaurant, 1967
People: Arlo Guthrie (writing, vocals), Fred Hellerman (producer)
Why it’s great: When folks think of Arlo Guthrie, they think of his father Woody, and then they think of “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”, his 18 minute long satirical monologue with guitar backing. The song, an original and very funny account of 1960s counterculture, is an exaggerated tale of a Thanksgiving Day adventure which, among other things, made statements in protest of the Vietnam War draft. Arlo only performs the Massacree on its major anniversaries, so we are in luck – the song turns 50 this year.


Title: John Henry
Album: WomanChild, 2013
People: Cécile McLorin Salvant (vocals, composition), Gretchen Valade, Al Pryor, Maria Ehrenreich (producers)
Why it’s great: John Henry is a historic folk hero whose story has been adapted into song by many well-known jazz, blues and folk musicians. Cécile’s version is utterly breathtaking, showcasing her innate ability to turn something that has been heard over and over again into a completely new and refreshing experience. Her voice, akin to the likes of Billie Holiday and Sara Vaughan, is at the same time entirely unique, allowing the listener to hear about John Henry in a different way than ever before. Goosebumps.

Like what you hear? Tickets to all spring 2016 Chan Centre Presents performances are still available.

Wed Jul 8, 2015