Ventanas explores both the traditional and the new in their second album, “Arrelumbre”.
Though they sprang from the same Spanish soil, flamenco singing and Sephardic Jewish song could not be more different. Flamenco singing burns with passion and fury, and performances reach an emotional fever pitch. Sephardic singers let the wry tales in the lyrics speak for themselves with reserved precision.
“I have given up on purity,” laughs Ilana. “I draw on both the story and the emotion, infusing flamenco feeling into Sephardic stories and vice versa.”
Ilana and her trans-Mediterranean ensemble Ventanas fuse passion and intimate dialogue, embracing the varied instrumental and melodic traditions of North Africa, the Balkans, Turkey and Spain to create fresh interpretations and original songs. Oud, baglama, darbuka, and percussive flamenco footwork intertwine with surprising harmony, joy and yearning, and this unusual musical mix garnered the group two Canadian Folk Music Award nominations in 2014 and two more in 2015. It shines with a new brightness on Arrelumbre.
“I was raised to believe that we needed to preserve folk songs that might otherwise be lost,” says Ilana. “Ventanas preserves these traditions, while at the same time present them in an exciting way, both sonically and visually. We infuse them with new energy, dance and diverse instrumentation to keep things moving forward.”
This forward motion comes naturally to Ilana, who has lived and breathed the Spain’s music from girlhood, travelling with her mother, who is an ethnomusicologist and singer. Ilana and her mother would performed as they went, and sometimes she found herself wishing she could be like other kids. Yet as Ilana gradually came into her own as a musician, singing on stage went from being a childhood chore to a profound joy.
These early adventures have provided the singer with a remarkably deep musical well to draw upon. The repertoire is second nature to Ilana, and includes everything from Original songs (like ‘Libertad’) to Eastern European folk songs (like ‘Makedonsko Devoiche’). Her two main influences come from her ongoing engagement with the Iberian past: flamenco and the songs of the Sephardic Jews, who were expelled from Spain centuries ago and adapted to new cultures as they migrated to new lands (as heard in album’s title track, ‘Arrelumbre’, a medley of Moroccan Sephardic wedding songs).
Ventanas seamlessly incorporate other musical inspirations into very traditional forms, like the oud and violin that weave into the furious emotion of ‘La Sala del Crimen.’ Or the flamenco guitar flourishes that grace the Persian classical piece ‘Amed Nesim-i,’ a composition Ilana learned from family friends in Madrid.
Arrelumbe also features original songs. ‘Libertad’ is one such creation, inspired lyrically by the images of a favorite Sephardic song, yet sparked by musical dialogue with Athens-born oud player Demetrios Petsalakis. Their collaboration is bearing fruit: Petsalakis creates the melodies, while Ilana crafts the lyrics in Spanish or Ladino. Then the band leaps in, expanding and elaborating the arrangements together.
Ventanas braves new ground with Arrelumbre, and the result is a sound unlike anything else you’ll hear this year.
2015 JUNO Award Winner – World Music Album of the Year
2014 Canadian Folk Music Awards – World Solo Artist of the Year
“Modern day troubadour Quique Escamilla makes music that comes straight from the soul. The stories he tells are the stories we need to hear; socially and politically conscious lyrics paired with exceptional musicianship. He’s a unique talent who holds to the traditions of heavyweights like Bob Marley and Manu Chao. Quique is really one to watch!” - Garvia Bailey, CBC Radio Canada.
Quique Escamilla was born and raised to a family of six in the warm, tropical southern lands of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. He started singing at the age of four at his family reunions. At the age of six in a crowded restaurant and accompanied by the in-house six-piece Mariachi band, he performed a full version of “El Rey” in front of an audience where he discovered for the first time the thrill of performing and the powerful magic of live music.
Today, Quique Escamilla is multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and producer living in Toronto. Since his arrival in 2007, he has rapidly become a rising star on the Canadian music scene. In 2011, he was discovered by a CBC radio producer and has since become a favourite on popular CBC Toronto shows such as Here and Now, Metro Morning, Fresh Air and Big City Small World. He has been a featured guest at special CBC presentations like the annual fundraiser Sounds of the Season —aired live from the Glenn Gould studio—alongside artists like Justin Rutledge, Sophie Milman, Jenn Grant and Michelle Wright. 2012 was a important and productive year for Quique in which he launched his self-titled debut EP, with a concert recorded for CBC’s Canada Live at Toronto’s Lula Lounge Arts Centre. In the summer, he was invited to open for Michael Franti & Spearhead at the prestigious stage of Luminato Festival 2012; as well as to perform at other great shows and summer festivals such as Mariposa Folk Festival, and wrapping up the summer season with the closing concert of La Falla Festival (La Tohu, Montreal) and Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square’s Tasty Thursdays summer series. In the fall and winter of 2012 he toured Canada opening solo for Danny Michel’s cd release shows for his latest album “Black Birds Dancing Over Me”, and ended that leg of the Michel’s tour with an opening slot at the majestic Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto and two sold out shows at Canada’s National Art Centre in Ottawa.
”After each song the sold-out crowd at the National Arts Centre walked willingly into the palm of Quique’s hand and became his diehard fans. He is charming without being silly, political without being pretentious, and gifted as a performer in every way.” - Amanda Putz, CBC Radio-Canada, Ottawa.
Quique and his band toured extensively in the summer of 2013. He performed at some popular Canadian festivals, including a spectacular show at the INTERSTELLAR RODEO ALL-STARS: FEATURING JIM CUDDY, DANNY MICHEL, AND QUIQUE ESCAMILLA. Other 2013 festival performances included: Shelter Valley Folk Festival, Blue Skies, Toronto Harbourfront, South Country Fair, SunFest, Small World Music Festival, Yonge & Dundas Square, Toronto Bicycle Music Fest, etc. In most recent performances he got to share reputable stages along with high caliber artists such as Ron Sexsmith, Feist, The Sky Diggers, Serena Ryder, Alabama Shakes, Sarah Harmer.
“Sunday’s early-afternoon highlights included the Interstellar Rodeo All-Stars, featuring Quique Escamilla and his many hats, singer-songwriter Danny Michel, and Blue Rodeo’s charming frontman, Jim Cuddy. The three, backed by members of the Garifuna Collective, traded tunes — with Escamilla’s Mexican-flavoured version of Johnny Cash’s ‘Walk The Line’ taking the title of crowd favourite” - Sandra Sperounes, Edmonton Journal.
In the spring of 2014, Quique released his new record 500 Years of Night. Toronto’s CBC Radio 1 show Here & Now premiered and featured Quique’s first single of the album “Presa Fácil” as the “SONG OF THE WEEK”. After the release, Quique took his full band on a coast to coast, 40-day, Canadian national tour (with the support of the Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the arts and their touring grants programs). In this tour, he got to perform in front of larger audiences at the major Canadian festivals such as Vancouver Folk Festival, Vancouver Island Music Fest, Regina Folk Festival, SummerFolk, etc…allowing him the opportunity to share stages with international artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Mookomba, Cyril Neville, etc… and got to play and sing “La Bamba” with Los Lobos at the Regina Folk Festival’s Grand Finale.
25 years of performing live have seasoned Quique to effortlessly connect with his audiences, be it in an intimate house concert setting or on Toronto’s venerable Harbourfront stage. He breaks down language barriers through his powerful voice and passionate delivery while fusing traditional Mexican styles of music such as ranchera and huapango with modern sounds of rock, reggae, ska, pop, jazz, cumbia, bolero, and a variety of other Latin American rhythms. His lyrics carry powerful messages that are inspired by and support various social and political issues such as human and civil rights, immigration reform, global conservation, anti-racism, discrimination, anti-oppression and Indigenous rights. Despite the distance from his homeland, Quique remains strongly attached to his Mexican roots. He is honoured to be in Canada to share with his audiences a flavour of Mexican culture, heritage and traditions through his music and live contemporary performances.
”An unassuming singer-songwriter, Quique blends traditional Mexican musical forms such as huapango and rancheras with contemporary rock and reggae influences. – Quique has become a sort of a darling for the CBC. His sound has captivated their attention which has opened the door to several performances on CBC radio, including the presentation of his debut EP in January 2012. – Quique Escamilla and the Band, in a short amount of time, have created a strong following behind their electrifying live shows and with a few more years we can be sure Quique will be taking a leadership role in Canada’s growing Alt-Latino movement” - Sergio Elmir, Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre
”In a city like New York, São Paulo, Paris, Toronto, or any multicultural city, we may all have our frame of musical reference, but we can appreciate and take the best of all the musical forms that cross our paths…Every once in a while a musician comes around that “crosses all those bridges” and brings the sounds together for a fine mix and audible feast that can be appreciated by all. We have seen this with many great troubadours, from Bob Marley and Calle 13 to Manu Chao. In Toronto, we have Señor Escamilla and we are now in the “summer of Quique.” He recently opened up for Michael Franti & Spearhead at the Luminato Festival and has developed quite a name for himself with his musical talent and the ease in which he speaks with the crowd, switching it up from Spanish to English without any problems” - Alex Bordokas, UMA NOTA, Toronto.
”Quique Escamilla is constantly evolving, always digging deep for truth, passionate about life and honouring the past. His music is stirring, rhythmic and he has a clear voice with a profound message. But what makes this folk and roots troubadour one of the most unique I’ve ever encountered is his eloquence and enchanting manner, on and off stage, with audiences, fellow musicians, friends and strangers. Quique Escamilla quickly teaches everyone he connects with, that music isn’t just a show, it’s life and it’s all around. It’s in us and always has been. He’s ready. Are you?” - Amy Mangan, Artistic Liaison – Mariposa Folk Festival.