We’re delighted to present the fourth concert in our Encircling the World series, an ongoing opportunity for musicians and audiences from different traditions to meet, listen, explore and collaborate.
After gatherings celebrating flutes and zithers, it’s time to cast our ears and eyes to members of the lute family, and on SUNDAY APRIL 16/23, we’ll welcome ARNAB CHAKRABARTY, sarod; HASSAN EL HADI, oud; JONATHAN STUCHBERY, lute, and WEN ZHAO, pipa. The presentation will include a short solo set and introduction by each player, a Q&A session with the audience, and some improvised ensemble playing. These encounters are allways fascinating, inspiring, and fun – join us!
One of the front-ranking sarod artists of the current generation, ARNAB CHAKRABARTY (b. 1980) is a consummate performer and teacher of Hindustani instrumental music. Well known for his fine articulation of musical phrases, prodigious imagination, and fidelity to canonical raga forms, Chakrabarty is one of very few Hindustani musicians today who embody commitment to protecting and advancing the art form. Trained in the traditional Lucknow and Shahjahanpur gharānās, Chakrabarty has had the good fortune to study with some of the most erudite luminaries of the sarod, like Dr Kalyan Mukherjea, Ustad Irfan Muhammad Khan and Pandit Buddhadev Dasgupta. His music displays a wonderfully subtle amalgamation of his gurus, catalysed by his own unceasing quest for blending skill with emotion, virtuosity with affect.
A student of music for over 35 years, Arnab Chakrabarty has been a professional musician for two decades, appearing at over 850 public concerts in 33 countries. His performances have taken him to almost every important music festival in India and dozens in Europe and the United States, including the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Silk Road Festival (Damascus) and Trafo House of Contemporary Culture (Budapest).
Arnab received the Toronto Arts Council Music and Audio recording grant for 2020, which led to the creation of his third solo album, Cat’s Cradle – Fresh Expressions in Vintage Ragas (released June 2022). Chakrabarty is a prolific teacher and some of his students are now beginning to make their mark on the concert stage. He is also one of the very few ranking Indian musicians to have had rigorous academic training in the humanities and social sciences. A graduate of Hampshire College (Amherst, Massachusetts), Arnab applies the principles of critical enquiry to the process of learning, teaching and making music, and encourages his students to do the same. He is also the most prolific and creative designer of sarodes today, and his long-standing collaboration with the master sarod maker Naba Kumar Kanji has resulted in significant ergonomic improvements to the sarod.
“Chakrabarty plays in a calm, melodious style free of drama, and brings out languorous notes on the sarod.” – The Hindu (2018)
“A musician known both for his emotive virtuosity and cerebral approach.” – The Hindu (2016)
Lyricist, composer, singer, oud and banjo player and percussionist, HASSAN EL HADI s a man of many talents. A native of Marrakesh, where the great diversity of Moroccan music comes together, he grew up under the influence of the melodic beats of Jemaa el Fna Square, home to many local ceremonies and festivities. He is also among the few artists from elsewhere “who blow hardest on Quebec tradition, allowing himself to improvise on old popular tunes and to get the iconic ‘la Bolduc’ swinging in French and in Arabic. To all this, he adds jazz harmonies, Berber rhythms, and the subtlety of Arab and Andalusian musical styles. In his genre, he is a unique case.” (Yves Bernard, Le Devoir)
With his albums, Salam Quebec and Maroc’N Reel, he reaffirms his extraordinary ability to blend the musical traditions rooted in North Africa with the sounds of his adopted home of Quebec. His music is without borders, where genre-bending and hybridization rule for a new generation of global music enthusiasts.
Accompanied by several artists of various origins: Celtic, Quebec, African and Spanish, El Hadi pushes the exploration further, blending the sounds of Celtic music and Quebecois foot tapping with that of Berber music and Moroccan kaada. Together, they blend and dialogue between the Arab-Andalusian, Celtic and Quebecois cultures to produce an original and festive musical style that finds its source in the infinite and diverse influences of the Maghreb, North Africa and the Celtic countries.
JONATHAN STUCHBERY is a Toronto-based specialist in period instruments of the lute and guitar family. His performances have been lauded as “exciting and technically brilliant” (Marvin Dickau) displays of the wealth of the musical language, and are engaged in inspiring and educating audiences. Versatile as a soloist, chamber musician and continuo player, Jonathan frequently distinguishes himself in the rich early music scene throughout Canada and abroad. He can be seen performing music on period instruments, solo and with ensembles such as Tafelmusik, Aureas Voces, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Capella Intima, Theatre of Early Music, and in festivals and series including Music and Beyond, Festival Montréal Baroque, and Musique Royale. Alongside soprano Sinéad White, Jonathan forms Duo Oriana, who’s album ‘How Like a Golden Dream’ releases March 17, 2023 under the Leaf Music label. Duo Oriana has been featured by Early Music America, as artists in residence at Toronto’s St. James Cathedral, and embarks on their first tour abroad in September 2023 as they head to the UK and Ireland.
Additionally, Jonathan has an interest in developing new repertoire for historical instruments. In September 2020 he premiered Arie Verheul van de Ven’s piece ‘Mosquito Touch’ for solo theorbo, accompanied by animations from visual artist Alex McLeod, and the first recording of his lute song ‘Initium noctis’ can be heard on Duo Oriana’s 2023 album ‘How Like a Golden Dream’.
In 2020 Jonathan received a Master’s in the Performance of Early Music at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya in Barcelona, studying in the studio of Xavier Diaz-Latorre. His master’s research on historical stringings on the baroque guitar received the highest marks and is published in RECERCAT which archives research carried out at institutions in Catalunya. His classical guitar studies began in Penticton, British Columbia and he received a bachelor of music with a double major in guitar and lute performance at McGill’s Schulich School of Music, where he was recognized for outstanding achievement in Lute. He studied with Jérôme Ducharme and Sylvain Bergeron.
WEN ZHAO is an acclaimed pipa virtuoso, “a sensitive and lyrical performer.” Born in Beijing, she began to learn the pipa at the age of seven, eventually winning the first prize at the Beijing Youth National Instrument Competition, having studied under the renowned pipa master Wang Fan Di at the China Conservatory of Music. In 1990 Wen continued her musical journey in England, performing and leading Chinese music workshops throughout the U.K. Wen has lived in Toronto since 1997 and teaches pipa at York University. She is also a co-founder of the Lute Legends Collective, Toronto (www.lutelegends.com).
Wen has appeared at major ethnic music festivals worldwide, touring in China, Europe, Canada, and the USA, and has given solo recitals on many concert series and at universities. In recent years she has collaborated with some world’s top Western ensembles, including Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Toronto Consort as well as other organizations dedicated to music education. Wen has been a key player in world-premiere productions by Western opera companies, including Guo Wenjing’s Feng Yi Ting at the Luminato Festival, Alice Ping Yee Ho’s The Lesson of Da Ji with Toronto Masque Theatre and upcoming world-premiere opera Dragon’s Tale at Luminato Festival . She has also created several East-West music projects for Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum.
Wen directs the China Court Trio which performs traditional music from the Qing dynasty using the haunting combination of Court instrument. The trio produced narrative concert projects about Marco Polo (with the Toronto Consort), Silk and Bamboo (with the Toronto Music Garden) and Matteo Ricci (with the Toronto Chamber Choir). Wen is especially honored to be one of the featured musicians for the CBC award-winning documentary film The Four Seasons Mosaic. The Toronto Star described her as “a virtuoso player who displayed her dexterity and percussive skills on the pipa,” while a reviewer in WholeNote magazine described her as “the Jimi Hendrix of the pipa.”