People had been arriving since from before 8:00p.m. was what the chap at the door said and that the room was filled to capacity when I arrived to line up at 8:30p.m. While there were many yet lined up outside on Cameron Street hoping to get in with only minutes to show time; Zuze was right on time. Nine p.m. as promised. Sharp. The room was chock full with nary a space to stand. Warm. The music began like one coming upon a gushing beautiful river in the Iranian countryside of a Mohsen Makhmalbaf film but written in afrobeat and a good shot of funk.
According to the bill the songs were popular and folk melodies of Iran and Azerbaijan. Some set to a lovely waltz tempo and when Raha Javanfar with her violin reminding one of Esperanza Spalding opened her mouth to sing as the afrobeat grabbed the room she threw an invisible ball of flame, threw it into the crowd and lit the entire audience on fire. The expectations were real and in that first half second everyone knew instinctively that this was the real deal. Music that was poetry, the words of which many in the room did not understand but which touched each and everyone in it.
The first second most on their feet started to dance and Javanfar’s violin was straight out of a Tony Gatlif film. Gypsylike yet something more. Something urbane. Though warm and robust and insistent there was a depth of feeling to the music which was never overbearing. The crowd wanted more and Zuze went on giving. It was love at first sight on a two way street. All inhibitions put aside. Halfway through the concert it was evident a few had some joints going to supplement the beer and cocktails.
Waltzes and lullabies and more in great big strands. Beautiful coloured strands amassed and woven together morphing into a river which we’d never seen or heard of but had always known. No one feared anyone and the whole room was love for about an hour. No inhibitions. Just joy and the music as Zuze set the room on fire. Not a hot burning kind but a grand intimate familial human connection. People were kissing with joy, dancing, bobbing up and down just being in the music. It was so pure. I’ve been in many rooms where live music is played but never felt this sense of freedom and absolute sense of oneness with everyone around me.
I used to come close to it sometimes with certain musicians at WOMAD when it used to come to Harbourfront many many ages ago. But this was different and more original. Not from somewhere else but made right here in Toronto with Iran, Azerbaijan and its poetry threads weaving a tapestry of humanity. The whole front room of Cameron House was one last night. Freedom.
Renuka Mendis, Toronto, April 15, 2016