La Sala Rossa in Montreal was packed last week for the eleventh Artists Against Apartheid concert, a cultural event series bringing diverse musicians to the stage in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom. Artists Against Apartheid is occurring within the growing international campaign to enforce boycott, divestment and sanctions on the Israeli government in response to Israeli apartheid policies against the Palestinian people living under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. This global movement gained prominence and support after the internationally condemned Israeli bombardment on the Gaza Strip last winter.
At the eleventh Artists Against Apartheid hundreds gathered to listen to unique performances, including a trio featuring Sam Shalabi on oud, Omar Dewachi on oud and Pierre-Guy Blanchard on percussion who opened the evening. Sam Shalabi’s performance at the concert builds on a growing excitement in Montreal and globally towards Shalabi’s innovative sound that incorporates tones from the Middle East and experimental musical styles from North America. Shalabi recently released an album, Land of Kush, on the celebrated independent record label Constellation Records. In recent years Shalabi has visited and performed in Cairo, Egypt developing styles on the oud and linking with groundbreaking musicians in Cairo, a cultural center in the Middle East.
Artists Against Apartheid XI also featured Seven Arrows, a new ensemble including featuring Joe Grass (pedal steel), Rebecca Foon (cello), Andrew Barr (drums and percussion), Sarah Pagé (harp), and Yuki Isami (flute and shinoboe), who transfixed the audience with a beautiful performance. Seven Arrows formed to perform at the Artists Against Apartheid concert series and includes the participation of musicians who also perform with some of Montreal’s most celebrated musical groups including Lhasa de Sela and Silver Mt. Zion.
Composer and pianist Antoine Bustros closed the concert with a trio, with Benoît Piché on trumpet and Greg Smith on sampler, performing alongside footage from Territories, a documentary film by filmmaker Mary-Ellen Davis. A unique performance that incorporated visuals and music, Bustros performance was enhanced by the images from Canadian photographer Larry Towell, a key member to the esteemed Magnum photo agency in New York City, and the subject of Davis’ film.
A beautifully toned evening featuring some of Montreal’s most celebrated alternative musicians points to the growing interest in the Artists Against Apartheid concert series, which is coordinated by Tadamon!, a grassroots collective of activists struggling for social justice in the Middle East. Additional concert dates are planned for the new year in Montreal, and will be announced on Tadamon’s website in December.
Stefan Christoff is a community activist and journalist based in Montreal.
Photos of the Seven Arrows performance by Elsa Marie Jabre.