Monday, February 22, 2010

World music (and ice dancing) at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics

My head is still spinning from the impressive skating last night at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in the category of Original Ice Dancing, and to my delight (being not remotely acquainted with the defining parameters of Olympic genres), the four top winners performed to four distinct categories of world music: The winners for the evening (and cumulatively for the two competitions thus far) were: in first place, Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in a stunning adaptation of Flamenco dance; in second place, the U.S. duo of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, demonstrating their exceptional skills in a lively adaptation of Indian dancing, and in particular, Bollywood style; in third place, Russia's Oxana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin presented a toned-down version (following earlier controversy) of their presentation, which included (presumably Australian) aboriginal elements both in costume and music; and in fourth place, Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, also from the U.S., presented a Moldavian folk dance. (Click here for the New York Time's summary of the evening's happenings.)

I'll be holding forth in more detail on world music--and dance--in the Ice Dancing competitions, later in the week, after I've had a chance to watch the entire event on NBC's Web archive. But there are also concerts highlighting world music in the Cultural Olympics, and VOA's David Byrd (who in addition to being one of VOA's sports reporters is himself an accomplished musician) has interviewed three world music performers who participated in the Vancouver events.

In his first report, David interviewed Daniel Bernard Roumain, a Haitian-American (one of dozens of hyphenated American communities--the category now being proudly used by members of same, sometimes with a smile, particularly in academic and journalistic circles) violinist with classical training who, in addition to earning a Ph.D. in composition from the University of Michigan, has been influenced by a wide range of musical styles (as David notes, "growing up in south Florida, [he] was exposed to a variety of musical styles - reggae, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music, Latin, as well as classical"), and now "Roumain - also known as DBR - blends classical violin, funk, rhythm and blues, and hip hop into a musical stew for everyone to enjoy." Click here to hear the captivating report itself.

Photo by David Byrd: Roumain rehearsing with Maestro Bramwell Tovey and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on February 14, 2010.

In his second radio piece, David interviewed Rahim Al Haj, originally from Iraq and now living in New Mexico, a performer on the Arabic oud, and Amir Koushkani, originally from Iran, and now living in Vancouver, performing on the Persian tar. As David observes, "Both Amir Koushkani and Rahim Al Haj say that the Olympic Games offer a unique forum. Both men want fans to experience the uniqueness of their musical traditions and the music's ability transcend ethnic, political, and national boundaries to communicate with the world"--which is indeed the role of music, as I noted last year in my May Day World Music Manifesto on these pages. Click here to listen to David's audio report itself.

Photo by David Byrd: Al-Haj and Koushkani of Iran join to play together as part of the Cultural Olympiad music program.

For more information on Daniel Bernard Roumain, go to his Website, where you can hear samples of his music, and watch videos on his official YouTube page.

You can hear excerpts from Rahim al-Haj's six CDs on his cdbaby page (look for a forthcoming report on this unique music marketing company), and see him in various YouTube videos. It is also worth noting that he was nominated, for his duet with the Indian sarod master Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, for a 2010 Grammy (see my December posting on this) in the Traditional World Music category.

For more information on Amir Koushkani, go to his Website, and click here to listen to excerpts from his CD, "Quest".

More to come on further examples of world music at the 2010 Vancouver Cultural Olympics. . . .

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