If you ask concert producer Robert Benaroya what type of music he likes, chances are he won't answer Beethoven or even classic rock. He's more likely to talk to you about Turkish sufi music, devotional Indian love songs or Zimbabwean rhythms.
Benaroya, who has recently moved to the Sunshine Coast, heads a non-profit arts organization, Caravan World Rhythms, dedicated to the expressive music and dance of many cultures. By promoting concerts 12 times a year at such venues as the Orpheum in Vancouver, Caravan reaches a huge audience. Benaroya will bring some of this colour and culture to the Coast in a series of concerts beginning this month. Holi Heh is an evening of Indian rhythms featuring North Indian folk music group Galitcha and local world beat DJ Nils on Friday, March 26 at The Club in Gibsons. That same week, on Tuesday, March 23, Caravan, in a co-production with Vancouver's Zula, will bring a renowned Turkish Sufi musician, Latif Bolat, to the Gumboot in Roberts Creek for a performance and workshop designed to educate and entertain. Benaroya is especially interested in the Turkish/ Lebanese connection since his own roots are from that part of the world. Nine years ago, he left an environmental management position at B.C. Hydro to write his family history. He also decided to learn flamenco dancing in Vancouver's burgeoning dance community. He loved it and became quite obsessed with it, he says, even organizing a flamenco club and turning semi-professional until an injury forced him back into the audience. He decided to learn all he could about arts management and worked in the office of a modern dance company. In the summer of 2000 he set up the Caravan World Rhythms Society to explore other cultural loves. "Anything Mediterranean related," he says, "Spanish, middle eastern I also love Latin and African, and I'm really excited by a performance we had of European gypsy music."
His desire to produce concerts on the Sunshine Coast rather than in the huge market of Vancouver happened earlier than he expected, triggered by local enthusiasm.
"The excitement and support from the local community has been great," he says. "It didn't feel like work. This is exactly how I wanted it to feel when I set it up in Vancouver." Picking a venue such as The Club in Gibsons also helped, particularly for such events as Holi Heh. One of India's most vibrant holidays, Holi celebrates the beginning of spring and the primal colours of nature. People from all strata of society join in, forgetting their strife and differences, and are allowed many liberties, otherwise forbidden. The holiday is also known for people throwing coloured water and powder on each other. The five-member group Galitcha performs a combination of devotional North Indian love songs and high-energy danceable folk tunes, funked up with an edge of jazz and blues. The songs have lyrics in Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi, with instrumentation on harmonium, tabla, sax and flute, among others. Galitcha has performed with such artists as Harry Manx and Oliver Shroer and have been featured on CBC's Global Village. Chef Michael Riley from The Club provides the Indian appetizers.
At the other event on March 23, a globally known and revered musician in the genre of Sufi music, Latif Bolat, plays baglama, a stringed instrument similar to the bouzouki, and sings devotionals by 13th century mystic poets Yunus Emre, Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi and others, as well as Turkish folk music. As a scholar of Turkish music and history, Bolat educates in a typical evening concert by preceding it with a lecture or story-telling session peppered with poetry and slide images of Turkey, including whirlers and other dancers of joy and surrender. Bolat's music is deeply spiritual and unwaveringly authentic. On April 10, Caravan plans an evening of Zimbabwean music and dance, with DJ Nils, also at The Club. On May 14, Morema presents an evening of Benaroya's beloved Spanish flamenco music and dance, with a live mixture of guitar, dancers and singer.
The Turkish Sufi music concert and workshop is on March 23 at 7 p.m. at the Gumboot Café in Roberts Creek. Tickets are $12 from the Gumboot or from Gaia's Fair Trade Gifts in Gibsons. Tickets for the Indian performance on March 26 are $14 in advance, available at Gaia's, Roberts Creek Health Food Store and Ashley's Books or $17 at the door of The Club.