Ventanas is bringing a high-energy world music and dance party to Chemainus next week.
Born out of Toronto’s Fedora Upside Down, an urban folk movement aimed at bringing together musicians, dancers and audiences from the city’s diverse ethnic folk scenes, Ventanas fuses Balkan, Turkish, Sephardic and Flamenco music and dance.
The band will be performing Tuesday, Aug. 5 at 7 p.m. at Waterwheel Park for Music in the Park as part of its Magic Carpet Tour. Admission is by donation, and the performance will take place rain or shine.
Ventanas will follow this up with a barefoot Flamenco on the beach workshop Wednesday, Aug. 6 at 7 p.m. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Ventanas first launched itself as a quartet featuring Balkan/Sephardic-influenced singer and dancer Tamar Ilana, Lemon Bucket Orkestra (LBO) violinist Mark Marczyk, LBO percussionist Jaash Singh and Flamenco guitarist Dennis Duffin. They were later joined by Flamenco dancer Alexandra Talbot, oud player Demetrios Petsalakis and violinist Jessica Hana Deutsch.
The Magic Carpet Tour features Ilana, Duffin, Talbot, Deutsch, Petsalakis, and Derek Gray on doumbek and cajon.
“Ventanas is really the story of my life on stage,” Ilana says in a press release. “I grew up performing and travelling my whole life with my mother, ethnomusicologist Dr. Judith Cohen. This tour is about who I am today and the transformations I have gone through with this music.”
Ilana started performing when she was five. She grew up singing and making field recordings of Sephardic music with her mother.
“It feels very natural to me,” she said of performing during a phone interview from Toronto. “It’s gone with me through every stage of my life and from not wanting to perform and feeling forced as a child to ignoring it and trying to do anything but, to embracing it and doing it my own way. I grew up singing and performing with very traditional styles, and now I’m mixing it with other styles and mixing it with the many different musicians who play; they will bring their own feeling to it.”
Ilana, whose own heritage includes Ashkenazi, Jewish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Cree, Scottish and Romanian ancestry, met up with the musicians in Ventanas after returning to Toronto to Spain in 2011, fresh from a year studying Flamenco there. Since debuting in the fall of that year, their sound has expanded to include original compositions and even more global rhythms, styles and instruments.
“Studying Flamenco in Spain is very intense because in the south, it’s very entrenched in people,” said Ilana. “It’s a whole way of life, a way of music and dance they live and breathe.”
Ilana recalls the first couple of days at the school were very difficult. She was floored by how much talent there was there.
“It really humbles you, and you realize how much you still have to learn,” she said. “Every time I go back, I try to learn so much. There are so many ways to sing Flamenco, whether it’s happy, sad, flirtatious … It really transformed me. It changed how I felt about the way I sing. It gave me a lot of emotion and depth.”