Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Earth Day is a Croc!

They say it’s “Earth Day” my social media feeds are blowing up with “Happy Earth Day” messages. I believe “Earth Day” is a croc. We don’t need an Earth Day anymore than the Earth needs people. I believe the emphasis of “Earth Day” is misplaced.  We don’t need to save the Earth. What we need is to preserve the habitability of it for us, the human race. We need a “Human Day”. For the Earth will be around long after we have left it and you know what? The Earth won’t blink. It will simply reclaim all that we’ve done to it.
We need to put aside selfishness and pettiness and fight for humankind. Instead of Jewish people and Arab people fighting for land, why not just be people people working together to ensure that the River Jordan and the Dead Sea continue to thrive and people have water. For if you cut a Jew and cut an Arabian, both will bleed red.
Instead of killing in the name of a God whom you call “Merciful” why not live in the image of your God and be merciful yourself?
For once people put aside their differences with people, then we can work cooperatively to ensure the amount time our children and their children can inhabit this planet. Governments can find budgets to foster positive change rather than building their weapons of destruction and keeping others from building their own.
Let’s not worry about saving the Earth. Let’s worry about saving the people.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Mishima Album Launch

“True beauty is something that attacks, overpowers, robs, and finally destroys.”
― Yukio Mishima

An artist is a complex person. An artistic genius exponentially so. What do to when your spirit is torn in so many artistic directions? Divide and conquer is the solution employed by one Michael Dowling. He is soul, R&B, reggae, calypso, rock and roll,  and punk-rock. In the two years I’ve known him he’s been Molahsiz, Mic Dainjah (as in microphone danger), Henry Lee Rawlz, John Orpheus and most recently Mishima.

Mishima is a Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario band (big up to The 5-1-9!) and is comprised of the aforementioned split personality, who is the lyrical composer, vocal lead man and bassist of the trio. Kevin Suess, a fan favourite, grooving on keys, providing back-up vox and adding percussion on Überdude and fed the energy with hair-flipping head-banging. Rounding out the trio is drummer and record producer Ryan Dugal.

Mishima held their inaugural album launch for “Love Is The Revolution” at the iconic Kitchener hot-spot, The Boathouse (AKA Bo-Ho) on April 18, 2015. They had the place pumping with their hard-hitting grooves, hands were clapping, fans were dancing and heads were nodding as they ran through the full album.

On my first listen to the album had a feeling that something missing. Mind you I had prime seats at the show, right next to the stage, my ears and head were ringing for hours afterwards and as I drive back to The Six playing the CD over a few times I felt like what I missed was harmony. After a good long sleep I awoke and took my car for a short drive to get some gas and listened to first two songs again, what I realized was that the harmony wasn’t what was missing. It’s what I had been missing. Listening, to the passion and the lyrics on this album what I found was that I was not supposed to sit and consume this, I was meant to participate, to fill in the harmony with the emotion that was elicited. Yes, the harmony was in me all along. Mishima was the needed catalyst.

Kali Kali

21, young and dumb
Cocked back like a loaded gun
Accelerating. Desecrating.
On the money. On the run.
Fire kiss. Arsonist. Burning bridges with her lips.
"I got no time to reminisce. Got bills to pay, chasing hits"
Ashed her cigarette on God.
Epiphanies in bathroom stalls.
Stiletto tall: 'fuck them all"
Strapless back against the wall
Racing through red carpet nights
Neon gospel, flashing lights
Revlon jungle. Red eye flights
Still waiting for my wings to make it right

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Alysha Brilla - In My Head - CD Review

Have a seat and strap yourself in because Alysha Brilla’s music career is about to take off like a rocket carrying a new crew to the International Space Centre.  The Tanzanian-Canadian artist’s second album, “In My Head” is set to be released on July 11th, 2013.  

Already much acclaimed,  as a musician/song-writer, Brilla (A.K.A. Alysha Brillinger) had a record deal with a major US label, but walked away due to creative differences.  Now an independant artist, Brilla wrote, performed and produced the album which follows a torrid relationship from beginning to end.

Here is a track by track look at the new album:

In My Head, the title track begins the story of the relationship with her crazy obsession with a partner. Musically, the track is mainly piano driven, with quirky circus-like sounds thrown in and some horns to add to the fun.  The song itself is an old friend from Alysha’s eponymous titled first album, “Brilla”.  The original one was acoustic and guitar driven.

Nobody finds a jubilant Brilla, who must have made a connection with that guy, because, she is on top of the world. Brilla gives a nod to her Tanzanian heritage by doing a verse in Swahili.   This song is highly percussive and charged with happiness.  My aunt heard this song and said, “I could have used this last week”.   I dare anyone to listen to it and not smile, or sit still.  You’ve got to dance!  I can actually picture the smile on Brilla’s face while she sings this.  Can’t wait to see her do it live!  

Sailor’s Wife was the first new song off the album that Brilla started to perform in late March.  In the song Alysha declares her commitment to the long distance relationship, “I’m gonna wait for you”.  The song has a Bob Marley-esque reggae vibe, with a bubbling bassline, which I love, and is flavoured with a trumpet(!) solo, brilliantly played by Marie Goudy.The music video for this song is nothing but fun to watch! Love it!

Suddenly, the relationship changes course, the “kisses aren’t as sweet, and the hugs aren’t as tight” in Ain’t Right.  The horns take the lead on this track, along with a bouncing bassline.  The song is bluesy and jazzy at the same time and I imagine it’s what I would hear in jazz club in New Orleans.

Why? Why!  Why would someone do this to you Alysha!!?  Why? Who hurt you so much?  “The truth came out that you cheated and you lied.”  This led Brilla to tears, and now she needs some serious drinks to numb the pain  with Two Shots.  Despite the sad lyrics, this track is surprisingly uptempo, and peppy.

The next five songs are representative of the five stages of grief:  denial (L.A. Hotel Room), anger (Never Gonna Get Me Back), bargaining (Sorry), depression (Mark on Me) and finally acceptance (Lifted).

The poignant, L.A. Hotel Room is one of my favourite tracks on the album.  Alysha’s guitar, vocals and emotions are front and centre.  The song is sweet and haunting, and I think it will be a sin if it doesn’t become a huge hit.

Another familiar friend, the uplifting (pun purely coincidental) Lifted is Brilla’s anthem, a floor-filling show closer, that embodies her mission of making music to make people feel good.  Just like the In My Head, this track is taken from the Brilla album and given the band treatment to great results.

Closing th album on a positive note, I Don’t Need the Stars, takes us back to a point between tracks one and two when the relationship is still new and fresh, it is a jazzy and sultry number, bass plucking, horns swooning, Alysha and background singers working the mics.  

Overall I found In My Head to be a great album.  I love Brilla’s voice, her songwriting and her spirit.  I can see this being a very successful album for her, so make sure to pick up your copy and check her out live when you get the opportunity, she always puts on an awesome show.  She’s certainly made a Brilliever out of me!  

For tour dates and more information check the links below.


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Stay in School, Kids!

I recently got a new car and it came with a free trial of GM’s OnStar service.  By touching a button on my rearview mirror I’m connected to a live operator who can run analysis on my car’s systems or give me driving directions, etc. 

My car didn’t come with a built GPS Navigation system, which is fine because my smart phone is one of the best Navigation devices around, but from time to time I’ve made use of OnStar just for the novelty of it.  I mean might as well make use of my free trial, right? 

Well I had this humorous conversation with an OnStar Customer Service Rep (CSR) the other day and I thought it would be worth sharing.  This is paraphrasing, but it’s pretty close to the actual conversation.

OnStar CSR:  Hello, this is L******, how may I help you today?
Me:  Hello L******, my name is Tony and I’d like directions to a restaurant called “Bangkok Gardens” please.
OnStar CSR:  Is that in Vaughan?
Me:  No, it’s in Toronto.
OnStar CSR:  Is that Bangkok, like the country?
Me:  No, that’s Bangkok like the city.
OnStar CSR:  Huh, the what?  Oh…yeah…I have those directions for you…they’re downloading now.
Me: Thanks L******, you have a great day!

And that folks, is why you should pay attention in geography class.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Experience BRILLiAnce

When a good friend of mine invited me to see a singer I had no idea what to expect. She refused to give me any clues as to what I would witness. What I found was a true diamond in the sky.
My friend Mary, had attended an open air concert by Esperanza Spalding at the TD Jazz Festival and happened to be sitting next to a young lady. They struck up a conversation and soon the young lady had to leave because she was a singer herself and was off to her own gig.  Before leaving she left my friend with her contact information.  

Not long after that, my friend decided to check her out live at the Resevoir Lounge and was moved by her incredible vocal ability.

I saw her at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club, a small bar on The Esplanade, a chic, tiny stretch of bars in the core of Toronto.

Alysha "Brilla" Brillinger took to the stage at 10 pm sharp, strumming her guitar, and accompanied by Sam Dlugokecki on the cajón. She opened her set with the Jackson 5's I Want You Back.
I was immediately taken by Brilla's playful open handed guitar  strumming which made every song sound fun. Her stunning, soulful voice channeled Amy Winehouse.

What ensued was a serious of cover songs with Brilla's own originals distributed through the night. Her originals were as good, if not better than anything she covered, and what she covered ran the gamut from the aforementioned Amy Winehouse (Valerie) , to Bob Marley (Stir it Up) to Jessie J (Money).

Throughout the night she was joined by guests, Mark who laid down a rendition of Let's Get it On that was so good you know Marvin was smiling down it. Djembe by Garima Harvey added to Sam D's drumming. Brilla reminded the audience that percussion was the first sound we heard in the womb as a fetus hearing our mother's heartbeat.

During her third and final set of the night Brilla wss joined by a musician that she drew a lot of inspiration from, her father, Yasin Dewji. He stood at the back of the stage playing bass guitar.

The night climaxed with a packed dance floor grooving to Brilla's anthemic Lifted. What a great night. Brilla has a weekly residency at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club and I was already looking forward to the next Thursday night I could make it down there and if you have the opportunity, you should go check her out too!

Experience BRILLiAnce here:

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Prince's Welcome 2 Canada Tour

For more than half of my life I was a die-hard Prince fan.  It started when I first saw Purple Rain and was solidified when I saw Prince live in early December of 1985 on the Purple Rain tour.  Prince has released at least one album every year since 1978 and as far as I was concerned every single one of them was genius material.

Then one day in mid 2010, I was listing to Prince’s Twenty10 album I realized that the music was not good.   Then it dawned on me that the album before that was not good either, nor the one before that, I had to think back to late ‘80s to find an album that was great. 

Over the years I’ve been lucky to see Prince perform live many, many times.  He’s so good live that I’ve often travelled for his shows.  Aside from my hometown of Toronto, I’ve seen him in Montreal, Buffalo, New York and Minneapolis where on July 7th, 2007 I was lucky enough to see two of his shows in one day, first at the Target Center and then at 1st Avenue, on the very stage where Purple Rain was filmed.  That was the last time I’d seen him until a month ago.

Pince symbol shaped stage
Photo courtesy
On November 25th, 2011 Prince kicked off his Welcome 2 Canada tour in Toronto and I already had a commitment out of town, so I had to miss it.  I ended up catching him in Ottawa a week later at Scotiabank Place on December 3rd, 2011. 

I was super-hyped to see this show, it utilized the same amazing stage that was used for Prince’s performance at the Super Bowl four years prior.  It was shaped like the hieroglyph which Prince had used as a name for a few years. 

He opened the show with the song D.M.S.R. (Dance Music Sex Romance), from the “1999” album which was released in 1982.   The music was thumping and Prince looked more like a 20-something than a 53 year old.  I was rather surprised to see how lithe he was, considering that it was well documented that he had a bad hip from his years of high-heel wearing, however he could not take the hip replacement surgery due to his religion which forbids him from having a blood transfusion. 

Prince brought the funk throughout the night and he focused mainly on his music from the early to mid-80s.  The one exception was the song “Guitar” from 2007’s “Planet Earth” album and when he played that song it was so unfamiliar to the audience that the energy in room just deflated, even though it was a very energetic song.  It was clear that he’d lost his audience with this one and he quickly returned to the ‘80s bangers. 

This was the first time that I wasn’t familiar with the whole band line-up.  Of course I recognized a couple of the musicians that had been with Prince for a while.  The prestigious Maceo Parker was featured on saxophone.  John Blackwell, who was with Prince on 2004’s Musicology tour returned as his drummer, but not very well featured.  A newcomer to the band, Andy Allo, is a female rapper and backup singer, was stunningly gorgeous wearing a print top that featured her own face. 
Prince with Andy Allo performing at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
Photo courtesy of

Andy Allo is featured on a rap during Prince’s song “Extralovable” which had been released the week before to coincide with the launch of the tour. Interestingly, the song was originally recorded in the early ‘80s, during the sessions for the 1999 album.  It was never released and finally Prince went back on re-recorded it.  In fact he mentioned that he plans to release three different versions of the song.  The original was a brutally misogynistic piece, but the new version was considerably softened.

So here’s Prince with a new song from the early ‘80s and almost every song he performed in the show was from the ‘80s. It was if he had come to same conclusion as I had about how much his more recent works lacked relevance.  Although he never did perform “Extralovable”, he did perform three songs from The Time, a group that was a prodigy of his, and it is generally accepted that he wrote most of the their songs and produced their albums.

 Prince rarely performs songs exactly like the record, his thinking is that it’s got to be better than the record, his songs are his babies and they continue to grow through years, but I was thrilled that the guitar solo ending of “Let’s Go Crazy” was a duplicate of the record, as was the guitar solo in “Purple Rain”. 

A really cool part of the show had Prince playing with a synthesizer that triggered samples of various songs.  He teased the crowd with one song or the next.  Prince’s mission with this show was to turn the arena into a dance club.  I think he succeeded.  I think Prince is one of the greatest concert performers of all time and I truly believe every other musician or serious music fan is missing out if they do not see him live.  Yet, maybe it was just me, but I couldn’t help to think that Prince failed to connect with the audience at this show.  This is one of Prince’s fortes, building a repertoire with the crowd and I didn’t sense that this time. I felt that he wasn’t totally engaged on this outing.  He had after all just played Montreal, one of the greatest cities on the planet the night before, so maybe he was tired on this bone chillingly cold night in Canada’s capital city.