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article imageLuminato Opens Its Doors to Show Toronto's Diversity

By Tea Lulic     Jun 2, 2007 in Entertainment
Chantal Kreviazuk, Gordie Sampson and Molly Johnson officially marked the opening of Luminato, a week-long Toronto festival of arts and creativity. The event is designed at promoting arts and culture.
The good thing about Toronto and Canada in general is that after every long winter, we get at least three months of summer with humid weather spanning right across the nation. Yesterday was not different. With temperatures ranging between 63-65 Fahrenheit, Torontonians exchanged their winter clothes with summer clothes and headed to the core of the city to spend time with their loved ones, check out visual art on display and most importantly join in with the crowd and musicians to celebrate the opening of this brilliant art event.
Lumina… what?” you might ask and trust me, you are not the only one. The first time I’ve seen a commercial for it, I thought it was a circus name. However, Luminato actually stands for Lumina – TO, as in Toronto. It is a festival which incorporates everything an art fanatic would want an event to include: music, dance, film, literature, theatre and visual arts and design. In total, Luminato consists of over 100 events and the best thing about it is that more than half of them are free.
Like every other well informed citizen, I put on my summer clothes and headed down town for the opening concert. I did not know what to expect – I have heard of these artists before but to tell you the truth, I never truly listened to their music.
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When I stepped my foot on Bay St. I was surprised to see a large number of people already standing or taking their seat on a comfy grass in the warm sun. The street was just buzzing with energy. On one side, the corner of my eye caught Luminato volunteers distributing brochures with the listings of the upcoming events and free Chantal Kreviazuk sample CD’s (yes, they were free). On the other side, journalists were eagerly setting up their equipment, making sure their camera is working. And then there were the citizens, who even though there was no music, were making music of their own: you could hear them talking, laughing or even singing. ‘Ah...’ I thought to myself. ‘Nothing like a true summer atmosphere.’
The first up were Muhtadi International Drummers who were absolutely brilliant. Muhtadi is an internationally recognized percussionist. His music talent spans from playing the djembe to bongos, congas, timbales, steel pan and other percussion instruments. He has worked and performed with artists such as Mary Wilson (‘The Supremes’) and Ralph MacDonald, a well known percussionist (‘Where Is The Love,’ ‘Mister Magic’) just to name a few.
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Since it is an artist’s business to warm up the crowd, Muhtadi and his group of percussionists got the crowd on their feet – they made them jump, put their hands in the air and clap. Some of the Torontonians even joined in the singing of the song dedicated to Toronto (yes, Muhtadi truly knows how to win over an audience). By the time they were done, the audience was beaming with energy and thirsty for more music. His music is vibrant, up beat and truly something everyone would enjoy. If you want to hear him perform, do not worry, you can still catch one more show and that is tomorrow, June 3rd, on Queen’s Park from 12pm – 8pm. Make sure you check it out if you get a chance.
Please see the video above to get a sense of his music.
After Muhtadi and his percussionist group left us, Tanya Kim who was the host for the night introduced Gordie Sampson and his band. “He is hiding somewhere,” she exclaimed while pointing to the space where Gordie was supposed to stand.
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By now, the closed off part of Bay St. was fully packed. Gordie grabbed his guitar and started singing songs from his recently recorded album “Sunburn." He is a well known songwriter and producer - he wrote songs for artists such as Carrie Underwood (‘Jesus Take the Wheel’) or Faith Hill (‘Paris’) and produced Natalie McMaster’s ‘In My Hands.’ His album features 13 tracks including the hits “You (Or Someone Like You)” and “Your Place In This World” which he performed yesterday night. He also performed “Sunburn,” “Hangin’ By Wire” and a couple of other songs from his debut album. Gordie was also honoured by 2007 Grammy Award for writing Carrie Underwood’s song ‘Jesus Take the Wheel.’
He and his group were, in my opinion, brilliant. Their burning energy on stage showed enthusiasm, purity and true love for music and performance. I am putting his band on my “Concerts I must see” list. If you do not know who he is, I would suggest checking out a video for his hit 'Sunburn' here . Gordie and his band left strong impression with the audience and me.
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The next up was Molly Johnson. Molly is known for her jazz music. She has earned a reputation as one of Canada’s greatest voices. Observing the crowd around me, I've noticed Torontonian's love for her music. The moment she walked on the stage, the already 'warmed up' crowd became even more energetic than before. They showed Molly their warm support by cheering and clapping. Her latest CD debut is called ‘Messin Around.’ She seems confident (some would say overly confident) as she performs with her beautiful, full tone voice. While observing the crowd I notice some people dancing, singing or whistling to the tune of her music. It felt as though we were back in the Jazz age when every corner of the street had a saxophonist to entertain the passing crowd.
‘Toronto is so diverse… Paris has got nothing on this culture,’ Molly exclaims while talking about her trips to Paris and comparing it to Toronto.
In one moment, I heard people laughing behind me and as I turned around I saw Zanta, the street entertainer known for his push ups. His appearance was brief but sort of entertaining. He danced around, showing off his muscles and then bent down and started doing push ups at an incredible speed (I am still amazed at how fast he does them!). However, his try to entertain the crowd ended quickly as police officers escorted him away from the stage and the crowd. “Oh, don’t take him away,” exclaimed Molly who also called him a Santa on which he yelled out “With a Z!” Molly corrected herself with a smile on her face. Nevertheless, Molly brought diversity to this concert by singing the ‘oldies’ (as some would call them) and bringing us back in time when Jazz was one of the dominant forms of music.
As the audience awaited the last performance of the night, the crowd suddenly started to move up closer to the stage. Being short, I had to do the same thing to get the full view.
Chantal Kreviazuk’s voice signalled to the audience to start cheering, clapping and jumping. She is one of the most respected artists and songwriters in North America. Chantal has written songs for Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson and Gwen Stefani and has performed on some of the biggest soundtracks of the last decade. Her latest debut called ‘Ghost Stories’ was written by her and her husband Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace and was mixed in studio by Michael Brauer (Coldplay, Bravery). She also received two 2007 JUNO Award Nominations and became a spokesperson for Garnier Nutrisse Cream in 2006.
“I think it’s so important to support and perpetuate Canadian art and talent, more important than ever. I‘m very proud to be Canadian and I’m very proud of what we contribute on a sort of cultural side to the world. That to me begins with art and what our talent has to say. I think it’s very important to maintain that,” Chantal told Metro News in a recent interview.
Reminding the audience that ‘beauty starts from the inside,’ it was treated with songs probably familiar to many Canadians. With an old and a new mix, Chantal treated the audience with songs such as ‘All I Can Do,’ ‘Time,’ ‘Feels Like Home,’ ‘Ghosts of You’ just to name a few.
Probably the funniest moment of Chantal’s performance was when she picked up her younger son and asked if he wants to sing to which her son responded “No.” In the end, her older son was eager to sit on her lap during performance of her last song of the night. Chantal sat him on her lap and started singing.
Surely, her personality and talent shone this night leaving the audience up on its feet and begging for more.
Overall, this night was definitively something to remember. Torontonians were treated with different styles of music throughout the night; the positive energy and enthusiasm were present as a new artistic side of summer season began.
Luminato started yesterday and will go until next week Sunday, so make sure to catch some of the events if you are in Toronto. For the list of free events please visit www.luminato.com.
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