October 2005

Badi Assad
October 2, 2005Lula LoungeToronto
In Her Infinite Variety
by Stanley Fefferman
From the start of her performance, Badi Assad is real: her smile includes everybody, and when she throws her head back to sing, you know she’s going to give it everything she’s got. And she’s got a lot.
This world music folk pop artist won the Villa-Lobos International Guitar competition at age 18. During the past 10 years, Ms. Assad has been voted the best finger-style guitarist by Guitar Player Magazine; two of her albums have won ‘best album’ and ‘best world music album’ of the year, and she has been listed in Downbeat and Acoustic Guitar as one of 30 outstanding artists of the ‘90’s. If you didn’t already know all that about her, you could feel every bit of it this night at Lula Lounge, as she explored the song list of her latest album for Deutsche Grammophon, Verde–meaning–Green.
This is a woman who knows her own mind and is fearless about her passions. She sings:” I went out for revenge in my little white top.” She sings: “ I am a fountain of blood in the shape of a girl.” She imagines U2’s Bono alone on the beach in Buenos Aires playing “One” as a slow bossa nova, soft and ringing with harmonics.

What Badi Assad does with the guitar, and her classically based arrangements, is world class and effortless. Her touch is sure, her tones are modulated with subtlety, her strumming techniques are varied. She seldom repeats a phrase or an effect. She also uses her guitar as a drum, as an elbow-rest when she sings a capella, or she prepares it with a drumstick under the strings and gets a koto sound out of it.

With her voice, Badi produces an infinite variety of effects. She sings, yes, and her voice is wonderfully expressive in all registers including the whisper. Then there is her unique vocabulary of sounds: she groans, and screeches, builds the pitch till she’s wailing like an ambulance siren, clucks and clicks like castanets, ticks and tocks like rim shots, squawks like a parrot, chatters like a monkey, drops out of the jungle into the nursery and coos a lullaby that makes you wish you were her baby.

Badi Assad’s performance is what live music is about: expert and spontaneous expression that lifts you out of yourself into the joy of creativity, where, for a time, you are one with the performer and the music, and you can stop judging and let go into applause that seems to go on by itself longer than you intended.

Ms. Assad was last in Toronto in 1998. Thanks to Mr. Gary Topp who produced this performance, hopefully we won’t have to wait very long before she comes back.

We welcome your comments and feedback
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Stanley Fefferman
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The Live Music Report

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