September 2007


at The 6th Annual Small World Music Festival
September 26, 2007 Lula Lounge Toronto

Lula lounge
A Slovenian Soundscape
by Tova G. Kardonne with photos by Roger Humbert

The fifty-odd people who rattled around in the cavernous Lula Lounge last Wednesday, were determined to cheer like a full house for Brina, the six-piece Slovenian band in town for the Small World Music Festival. Like the landscape of their little country, with its mountains, plains, rivers and Mediterranean regions, nestled between Italy, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, and the Adriatic Sea, Brina drew on a plethora of influences while generating its own unique energy throughout the nearly two-hour set.

Named after the vocalist and bandleader, Brina played new versions and arrangements of Slovenian melodies that were “so old, they were already forgotten and we had to find them in books.” While some of the tunes were clearly of the Slavic old school — 7/8 time alternating with 9/16 madness, waltzes with the emphasis on the second beat, the old themes of booze and love — many had the international flavours and twists that tease and amuse while showcasing the talents of these well-versed international musicians. Opening with what appeared to be a deep-pocketed reggae groove, the slightly confused audience was equally reassured, entertained, and jolted sideways by the recurring maniacal quadruple-time 8th bar. At various points in the program, we were treated to west-African-style guitar picking, Berlin cabaret, merengue, rubato ballads and lamentations, polkas, and a bewildering encore performance whose time signature would eventually add up to twenty, but the subdivisions are simply not to be borne.

A word about Brina herself: she was a pleasure to behold. Her serene and dreamlike vocals contrasted delightfully with her dramatically expressive and graceful movements. Pliant as a willow in a musical thunderstorm, she lived out not only her own lyrics and embellishments, but the improvised solos of the other band members as well, creating a seamless aural habitat in which we all became as caught up as she. The violin and accordion interaction was clearly an artistic wellspring within the band, and some intense and turbulent solos sprung from it over the evening, but the violinist might keep in mind that to favour the audience with her back while playing directly to another musician is nonetheless ill-advised. With instrumentation that included both accordion and guitar (as well as electric bass and drum kit), the comping was divided effectively by extensive use of counter-melodies and riffs.

Having just played in New York and Chicago, next on to Indiana concert dates, and with two albums amassing an impressive following in Europe, these players put on an excellent show for the few of us in the room that night. They did it gracefully, passionately, and whole-heartedly, obliging us by playing two encore numbers before flowing gracefully away back stage, waving and singing all the while. Their stage-craft and their grace were as compelling as their originality and commitment to Slovenian material. These folks are not to be missed.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Tova G. Kardonne
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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