- By tobias
Real Vocal String Quartet began with violinist Irene Sazer’s inspiration to combine her musical passions: chamber music, improvising, composing, and singing. With violinist Alisa Rose, violist Dina Maccabee, and cellist Jessica Ivry, Sazer’s vision sparked the creation of a truly collaborative ensemble that freely mixes and ultimately transcends genres.
RVSQ’s surprisingly broad repertoire embraces the diverse influences of all four players, from classical, jazz, and rock, to songs and styles from West Africa, Brazil, and rural America. Yet while four distinct voices can be heard, in seven years of performing together, the Quartet has achieved a true group sound.
Starting from the eclectic, musically sophisticated base of the San Francisco Bay Area, RVSQ has found a national audience since releasing their debut CD in 2010. Recent accomplishments include:
- Selection by the U.S. State Department to perform as musical ambassadors with the American Voices program, which will send RVSQ to 5 countries in Europe for concerts and educational programs in Fall 2012.
- Quartet Residencies at University of Delaware School of Music and Cal Poly Pomona
- Booking by nationally recognized presenters including San Francisco Performances, Folk Yeah, U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, and Switchboard Festival
- Appearances on local and national television (including appearance with Canadian Grammy Nominee Feist on The Tonight Show) and radio
- Press coverage in national publications including Christian Science Monitor, Paste, Relix, Strings Magazine, and The Strad.
- Collaboration and/or recording credits with nationally recognized artists including Feist, Mirah, Beats Antique, Vetiver, Aaron Novik, and Spencer Day
- RVSQ’s second album, produced by Lee Townsend, was released in September, 2012.
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Tim Weed is an acoustic multi-instrumentalist, classical banjo virtuoso, and singer-songwriter whose music traverses genres and defies categorization. His collection of original classical works for the 5-string banjo, Milagros, is regularly featured on National Public Radio and has been highly praised. He has been invited to appear at chamber music festivals and has performed for the Dalai Lama.
Also known as Tim Wiedenkeller, Tim began as a bluegrass prodigy on banjo in Southern California. He started playing at age 16, and two years later was travelling with the high-powered young bluegrass band Last Chance. During its few years of existence, Last Chance helped produce some of today’s most influential bluegrass musicians, including Stuart Duncan, Gene Libbea, and Alison Brown – bandmates who all became Grammy Award winners.
During the 80’s Tim turned his interest away from the banjo, toward guitar, voice, and studio recording. He spent 15 years performing, writing, producing, and recording in a wide variety of musical styles with the best musicians and recording studios in Los Angeles. He also travelled extensively during this time, and was profoundly influenced by the musical cultures he was exposed to in the Orient, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific.
He rediscovered the banjo in the 90’s and began playing, composing, and recording his own virtuosic classical music. This work has been praised for “redefining the banjo” with a new level of sophistication, complexity and beauty, and revealing its similarities to instruments from around the world.
In 2008 Tim recorded banjo with Dave Matthews Band and worked with award-winning producer, composer, and musician Steve Wood, who has produced music with Sting, George Harrison, Stevie Wonder, Kenny Loggins, and Crosby-Nash.
He now lives in northern California working as a concert musician, recording artist and sideman. He’s a yogi, naturalist, environmentalist, surfer, and father of two children.
Live audiences know Tim as an exciting, captivating performer who’s full of surprises. His concerts showcase his cutting-edge acoustic music, journeying through a boundless mix of classical banjo, bluegrass, jazz, rock and traditional music, and international music. His concerts always include improvisation and dazzling interplay between band members, epitomizing what great live music is all about.
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(Tes-LEEM) means both ‘commit’ and ‘surrender’ in Turkish and features two well known Bay Area musicians: violinist Kaila Flexer and Gari Hegedus on oud, Turkish saz, Greek lauoto and other (mostly plucked) stringed instruments. This potent duo performs Greek, Turkish and Sephardic music. In addition, both Flexer and Hegedus are composers whose original music is based on these fertile traditions.
Both seasoned performers and recording artists, Teslim released its debut (self-titled) CD in December 2008. This unusual duo is at home in classical, early music, and folk music venues and holds workshops on a variety of topics.
Bios of Teslim
Kaila Flexer is a violinist, composer and music educator. In addition to performing and recording with Teslim, Flexer also performs with Shira Kammen and three other fiddlers in the Oakland Folkharmonic. Flexer founded and produced Klezmer Mania!, a much-loved annual Bay Area event for over 10 years (1989-2002) and currently produces Pomegranates & Figs: A Feast of Jewish Music. She has been at the helm of bands such as Third Ear, Next Village and Kaila Flexer’s Fieldharmonik, ensembles that featured her original material. She has performed both nationally internationally with her own ensembles as well as with groups including The Hollis Taylor-Kaila Flexer Duo, Club Foot Orchestra and KITKA Women’s Vocal Ensemble. In addition Teslim’s release, Kaila has recorded two CD’s of original music for Compass Records (Nashville). Flexer has a thriving studio of students of all ages. She encourages folk musicians to read music, classical musicians to improvise and to play by ear and everyone to enjoy music and to find and appreciate their own voice.
Oud, saz, laouto, violin, viola
In addition to playing in Teslim, Hegedus is sought-after for his very personal and heartfelt approach to music. In addition to performing with world music groups Janam, The Helladelics, Eliyahu and the Qadim Ensemble, Hamed Nikpay, and numerous other Bay Area Balkan ensembles, he is a luthier and spends many hours making instruments–repairing old sazes and ouds he finds and coaxing out the true voice of these treasures. Gari has studied with oud master Naseer Shamma. He has toured with the Mevlevi Dervish (Sufi) Order of America and continues to participate in Turkish ceremonial and devotional gatherings around the country. (www.garihegedus.com)
The oud is a descendant of the Persian barbat (an early lute). Pictured below is one of Gari’s ouds made by Yaroub Fadhel, an Iraqi luthier currently living in Tunisia. The 11 strings (including five courses of double strings and one bass string) are tied on the back of the instrument, as opposed to being tied at the bridge as they are on an Arabic or Turkish style oud. This instrument was conceived by Munir Bashir in the 1940′s to achieve a louder and more resonant sound than its predecessor. If you look closely you can see that the label inside the sound hole includes a photograph of the luthier himself.
Saz means instrument in Turkish. There are three sizes–from smallest to largest they are: cura (pronounced jura) saz, baglama (pronounced balama, stress on the last a) and divan (pronounced deevan) saz. The saz has moveable tied-on frets made of nylon string. The frets are moveable to accommodate the pitches that occur in the makam system. The saz is associated mainly with Turkish folk music (not Turkish classical music) and has its own specific makam system that is different than the classical Turkish makam system.
The laouto is a Greek lute. It has four pairs of metal strings tuned C, G, D, A. It’s the main accompaniment instrument for music on the Greek mainland and on the islands. Gari’s lauoto was made by an amazing luthier named Dimitris Rapakousios. Check out his other instruments at http://www.dimitrisouds.com/
The frame drum is probably the oldest drum. It’s made of a skin stretched over a circular, usually wooden, frame. Different names for this drum include. def, tar, defi and bendir. Frame drums come in various sizes.
The darbuka (also called a dumbek) is a goblet-shaped drum made of clay or spun aluminum or copper. The head is made of skin or plastic. This drum is found all over the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa.
Much of Turkish, Greek (and Arabic) music utilizes the makam (makamlar plural in Turkish, maqamat plural in Arabic) system. In this system, there are many divisions (or ‘komas‘) of the whole step, for example, between the notes D and E, there are nine divisions of sound that vary depending on the makam you’re playing in. Each one of these divisions is like varying shades of particular color rather than unrelated colors. While makamlar can be thought of as modes, they are much more than that–there are certain guidelines that are used in employing these four and five note “scales” that define the pitches, patterns, and development of a piece of music, in terms of both composition and improvisation. If you’re interested in looking into transcriptions of compositions of various makamlar, check out http://www.neyzen.com/nota_arsivi.htm
One of the many things we love about music from this region of the world is its rhythmic aspect. Generally speaking, so-called “odd” meters are broken into groups of 2′s and 3′s. These rhythms are called by different names in different countries. I have listed one name for each of the rhythms below:
Ruchenitsa (in Bulgarian) 7/8, divided 2 + 2 + 3
Lesno (in Macedonian) 7/8, divided 3 + 2 + 2
Kopanitsa (in Bulgarian) 11/8, divided 2 + 2 + 3 + 2 + 2
Karsilima (in Turkish) 9/8, divided 2 + 2 + 2 + 3
Cocek (pronounced chocheck) 4/4 a common Romani (Gypsy) dance rhythm.
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Stunning improvisation on the flute, mesmerizing guitar, soulful cello lines, bass as you’ve never heard it before and percussion to knock your socks off.
The modern acoustic originals of Elameno Quintet encompass sounds from Jazz and Arabic to Flamenco, Brazilian and Irish.
“Still thinking about that great performance you did at the Mint in LA.” – Billy Childs
“I listened to Elameno Quintet a few months ago; they gave a great performance. I am now a big fan! Great music” Luis Conte
“The Quintet presented a wonderful program of unique and beautiful compositions. The blend of melodies and intricate rhythyms was outstanding. I look forward to hearing more music from these excellent musicians!” – Lin Cook, a founder of the Santa Barbara Jazz Society
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The multi-faceted career of Mira Betz is a testament to her passionate artistry and desire for continual growth. Active in theater, dance and the performing arts for 20 years, Mira Betz has become a sought after dancer, choreographer, costumer, and teacher. Nominated “Instructor of the year” by Zaghareet Magazine, Mira is a valued instuctor at prestigeous festivals and camps across the nation, as well as at the Malonga Arts Collective in Oakland California.
Mira began her training in Middle Eastern dance as a young teen studying with some of the most respected and knowledgeable teachers of our time, such as Katarina Burda, Jamila Salimpour, and Suhaila Salimpour. As a founding member, choreographer, and solo performer of Aywah! Ethnic Dance Company for 10 years, she developed a solid foundation of contemporary, traditional, as well as ritualistic dance forms. Aywah!, under the direction of Katarina Burda, flourished to become one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most respected ethnic dance companies and significantly influenced today’s Tribal Fusion scene. In 1998 Mira went abroad to live and study the native dances of Morocco.
In 2007 she co-founded the Barbary Coast Shakedown, a collaboration of Middle Eastern dance professionals exploring theatrical dance performance. In spring 2006 she was a guest choreographer for Jill Parker and her company Ultra Gypsy. In 2004-2005 Mira toured nationally with renowned drummer Tobias Roberson and was the artistic director of the ECHOS Project; a collaboration of choreographers in the San Francisco Bay Area supporting the exploration of traditional and experimental music and dance fusion. Mira was a featured dancer at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire from1994-2002. She has performed on such infamous stages as the Fillmore in San Francisco, the Hollywood Bowl in LA, Humphrey’s in San Diego, the Knitting Factory in NYC and night clubs and restaurants across the US. She has had the pleasure of working with incredible talent such as David Byrne, Rachel Brice, Jill Parker, Zoe Jakes, Elizabeth Strong, Heather Stants, Amy Sigil and many more. Mira Betz received her B.F.A. from the California College of Arts and Crafts. Her dance background includes training in Salsa, Modern, Jazz, and Flamenco.
Mira continues to spread her experience, knowledge and love for dance through her captivating performance and engaging teaching style.