Culture & Conversation

Speakers’ Corner

Are you up-to-date with current affairs in Rwanda? Do you wear yoga pants outside of the studio? Circulate online human rights petitions on the regular? Do you, perchance, like to partake in a Tam Tam drumming circle on Sundays? If you answered two or more of these questions in the affirmative, I saw a show last night that I think you’ll like.

Eclectik is an “interdisciplinary soapbox” at the MAI featuring some 30 installation and video artists, slammers, dancers, poets, actors, composers and musicians. The artists explored an exhaustive array of different causes and subjects; the Palestine/Israel situation, the Villanueva affair, the African diaspora, the Libyan revolution and countless other causes.

Now, I must state a bias: Personally, I am highly allergic to spoken word as a genre. Ditto slam poetry, incense, and photos like this and this and this.  Eclectik was riddled with all of these, bar the sickly patchouli cloud of incense. But in the interests of objectivity (and acknowledging that I cannot, for the sake of brevity, review 30 performers), I’m going to focus on the things I enjoyed about this show.

Daniel Bellegarde is a self-taught percussionist who has worked with Cirque du Soliel and a number of other performance groups. In Eclectik, he accompanied Rhodnie Désir in her choreography Bow’t. The piece explored the “psychic” notion of homeland, and she displayed an articulate movement quality as her dance took her from factory floor to immigrant ship and beyond. However, the standout was the percussionist and his thoughtful interactions with the sounds of the ocean, foghorns, and African folksongs.

Geeta is a singer/writer/poet who has a smoky quality to her voice and a captivating stage presence. She performed a new piece, The Bandit Queen, a semi-abstract ballad about rapes in India.

Giselle Valdés Fernandez is a highly talented percussionist and vocalist who performed with Julio Hong in The Aristocrat. Her sense of rhythm was immaculate, her musical communication with Hong was absolute and her vocal accompaniment had a fascinating quality to it. I would love to see her perform again in a different context.

The evening finished up with multicultural musical act, Emrical. This six-piece band provided an up-tempo end to the performance with their songs I FREE KA and COMBIEN DE MORTS.

In general, Eclectik was just too long, and the curators could have easily pruned the programme to good effect. Additionally, most works were simply too literal. I think that good art should attempt to show, not tell; to demonstrate universal or specific truths without stating them outright. And yet we were subjected to rolling power point presentations about mining in the Congo, slam poets rhyming “Haitian” with “devastation” and an Indian dancer with voiceover wondering why we can’t just all get along. Indeed.

As with any cabaret-style show, there are gems in there. It’s just a case of wading through until you find them.

Eclectik finishes tonight, 1 June. Tickets are $15 and available at the door or by booking through the MAI box office (514 982-3386).


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