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Music

The top 10 Toronto bands making fusion music

Posted by Naomi Grosman / July 13, 2014

Fusion music TorontoThe top Toronto bands playing fusion music know anything goes - go ahead and confine your musical interests to specific genres or artists, but know you're be leaving out a world of possibilities. Toronto's upstart DIY, underground, and even indie music scenes have latched onto this lately in a big way (see BADBADNOTGOOD, Lido Pimienta, Not the Wind, Not the Flag, and Petra Glynt, for example), and they owe a lot to early experimenters blending sounds and genres from around the world one might never expect to hear together. Think of the unexpected deliciousness of chocolate with chili, but music.

Emerging out of the city's multicultural music landscape, many Toronto bands and artists are dedicated to crafting these unexpected sounds. While it would be impossible to name the myriad of Toronto artists pulling hat-tricks with surprisingly diverse influences, here are ten who do it right and keep me guessing every time. Just don't call it "world music."

Quique Escamilla
Which patio or beer garden to chill on this summer is what everybody (especially us) is talking about lately, and Quique Escamilla's music will be the perfect soundtrack for late, hazy summer evenings. The palpable energy in his sunny reggae beats topped with a uniquely Mexican sounds and his charming singing (in Spanish) will put a skip in your step and leave you yearning for more. CBC radio's Here and Now premiered the first single "Presa Fácil" off his new album 500 Years of Night. He's touring Canada this summer and has played various festivals including the Dundas West Festival and Luminato.

Blitz
Turn up your stereo's bass volume while listening to rap artist Blitz. The strong and steady Punjabi beat on top of his flowing rap lyrics creates a new and unique hip hop style. Guest vocals and various different instruments are confidently added to the eclectic mix - his collaborations have included other well-known fusion musicians such as Britain's RDB (short for Rhythm, Dhol, Bass) who are also known for a similar Punjabi fusion. His second album Get Blitzed is set to be released this fall.

Lenka Lichtenberg
Interested in hearing songs belted out in Yiddish, Czech or other exotic language? Meet Lenka Lichtenberg, perhaps Toronto's best-known fusion musician. Her enthralling vocals and curious blend of Middle Eastern, Latin, and European influences will add spice and flavour to your musical pallet. Supporting her vocals are instruments ranging from the sitar to powerful percussions to flutes. She's also been featured on CBC's Here and Now - "Open My Eyes" was chosen as song of the week this past January.

Kaminari
Fusing the sound of East, West and countries as far away as Australia, Kaminari uses the quiet and nearly obscure sound of the native Australian instrument the didgeridoo and India's quintessential instrument the sitar to create a unique and positively haunting sound. Their melodies are meditative yet uplifting - and the music's familiar electronica beat makes it way more accessible than the above may suggest. Yoshi and his sitar have also appeared with Toronto based jazz bassist Abbey Sholzberg.

Autorickshaw
In Autorickshaw's music there are only three main elements: vocals, bass and the distinct sound of tabla percussions, a type of Indian percussion instrument. Yet their music is anything but simple. They have an eastern infused jazz sound and one can't help but get caught up in the whirlwind of Suba Sankaran's mesmerizing vocals. Her voice paired with the tabla and bass make for a feet-tapping combination. This summer they'll be touring jazz festivals in Ottawa, Toronto and Oakville.

The Heavyweights Brass Band
There are so many styles and genres of music, why choose just one? The Heavyweights Brass Band definitely don't limit themselves - they blend Latin, r&b, and big-band styles together in one exciting mixture crammed with energy and soul. This six piece delivers a steady sound of five brass instruments blended with a funky and steady drumbeat. Some past collaborations include legendary percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo.

Kae Sun
Reining you in with his alluring vocals, Kae Sun captures your attention at first listen. While some of songs are stripped bare with just soulful vocals and energetic guitar playing, others have a powerful beat and bass which adds depth and a sultry pop quality to his music. Kae Sun's second album AFRIYIE is available on his website. He's currently touring in Germany, but will be in Toronto this summer - catch him on August 14, 2014 at David Pecaut Square.

Drumhand
Your first clue is in the name. Drumhand's overall sound is, well, drum-tastic. This is jazz with an Afro beat, then energetic sounds of brass instruments and vocals add an extra layer to their songs. The five band members all lend their voices in a way which sounds more like hollering than singing. They perform in various different festivals including the Guelph Jazz Festival, but for those who want to release some tension and take a stab at drumming, they band also offer workshops.

The Chameleon Project
The Chameleon Project fuse together funk and jazz, and describe their style as psychedelia. Reminiscent of dance and ska music of the 90s', which, by the look of today's current fashion trends is a welcomed comeback, the colourful style of the band member's clothing matches their energetic presence and the carefree sound of their music. They band are currently working on their third album and have captivated audiences in many different music festivals including Camp Bisco festival in upstate New York and NuJazz Festival in Toronto.

DJ Medicineman
Global sounds mixed with an electronic beat is what DJ Medicineman offers with his hypnotic fusion of electronica, dub, and much more. Tune in to his radio program "No Man's Land" on CIUT 89.5FM to experience the music for yourself. This mellow blend of eastern and western flavours will leave you feeling relaxed as you inescapably impulsively move and groove to the rhythm. His show was nominated as "Community Radio Show of the Year" at the 2012 Pioneer DJ Stylus Awards.

Writing by Naomi Grosman. Photo: Quique Escamilla by Kerry Shaw via Facebook.

Discussion

7 Comments

Toronto Jim / July 13, 2014 at 10:54 pm
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I'm not sure who you are listening to but The Heavyweights Brass Band try and emulate the new Brass Band sounds coming out of New Orleans. They opened for Galactic a couple of years ago and a couple of them got up with Galactic and fit right in. Not saying that Galactic is a Brass band but they sure are New Orleans that is for sure. The Heavyweights are the same in that same way.
Barry Miracle / July 14, 2014 at 02:14 pm
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How could lightsweetcrude not be on here? They fuse East with West, and also sound with visuals. There's more to fusion than just mixing genres - from what I hear, these guys are doing a Nuit Blanche exhibit this year!

http://lightsweetcrude.bandcamp.com

Javindri Kalindas / July 14, 2014 at 08:21 pm
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Great idea, for sure! Heavyweight BB is an odd choice, and while Medicineman is legendary, it's a "bands" list, right?
Tasa, Alaniaris, Rakkatak, Sisters Euclid, Jaron Freeman-Fox should be on here, too.
I agree with Barry ^^ re: lightsweetcrude. Saw those guys open for Toubab Krewe a few years ago, and they were like a jazz-rock Indian jam hybrid!
serena / July 14, 2014 at 10:37 pm
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drumhand is the best band EVER!!!!!! all their songs are drumtastic!!!
serena / July 14, 2014 at 10:39 pm
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(they also should have been the first best band in toronto but what ever!!?)
J-Dills / July 20, 2014 at 04:45 pm
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R.I.P. Punjabi By Nature!
Maaaaatt / August 15, 2014 at 04:55 am
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If you haven't already, another great act to check out is KC Roberts and the Live Revolution. They definitely stay true to their funky roots but don't put limits on their sound. There's a clear jazz influence as well as R&B, hip hop and soul. A lot of T.O. pride in this band as well.

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