Culture  The sounds of solidarity

This past Wednesday, diaspora solidarity collective Tadamon!, in collaboration with the Suoni per il Popolo music festival and CKUT, hosted the eleventh edition of Artists Against Apartheid. The event, a musical contribution to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, was held at Sala Rossa and featured performers including Sam Shalabi and former members of Silver Mt. Zion.

“Tadamon!” means “solidarity” in Arabic, and the concept had a palpable presence in Sala, with Palestinian flags and kaffiyehs draped over most of the room’s surfaces. The night’s theme was “remembering political prisoners in Palestine,” and between the evening’s three performances, the stories of two Palestinian political prisoners were related to the audience.

The evening’s first performance was an Oud trio featuring Montreal music-scene giant, Sam Shalabi, and Omar Dewachi, an Iraqi musician and academic. The performance, arguably the evening’s highlight, reprised many of the musical themes from Shalabi’s recent Land of Kush release, which brought together elements of free-jazz, psych-noise, and Nasser-era Egyptian orchestral music.

Seven Arrows, a new ensemble partly composed of musicians from Lhasa de Sela and Silver Mt. Zion followed. Likely because of its unusual instrumentation (harp, flute, steel pedal lap guitar, cello, and light percussion) Seven Arrows played a nuanced and unfamiliar brand of post-rock that would have been appealing to fans of Silver Mt. Zion, while remaining wholly distinct from their forebearers.

The evening closed with the Visual Music Project, led by film score composer Antoine Bustros. Against a projected background of striking images of 9/11, prairie farm towns, and brutality in Palestine from Mary Ellen Davis’s film Territoires, the VMP’s jagged blend of traditional instruments and creative sampling was haunting, raising goosebumps on many a spectator. Benoît Piché’s soaring trumpet was given a modern take as the sampler twisted and bent its already-eccentric phrasings.

As the musical profile of Artists Against Apartheid grows, the series could be one to watch for bigger and bigger acts, with some significant political implications to boot.