Tony Hillier

Hillier's Hotline

Issue #17 April 2012: World Class Fare at the Tanks



It’s a ludicrously nebulous term really, one dreamed up by a coterie of marketing wallahs in a London pub back in the late ‘80s.

MoantribeDalecana Flamenco

Representatives of the UK’s leading independent record labels were after a generic term that could be used to promote greater awareness in international music, which hitherto had been haphazardly racked in record shops. They came up with “World Music”.

Like it or not — and I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the label — World Music has become a successful genre in its own right, even though it obviously covers a multitude of styles and sounds.

Last year, your correspondent was lucky enough to get a stop-gap programming contract at the Tanks Arts Centre, and one of the first things I put forward was the idea for a World Music Series, on similar lines to the long-running Jazz Up North. I’m delighted to report that the inaugural four-concert program was an overwhelming success.

I hope the second series, which starts at the Tanks on Saturday April 14th — — will be equally well supported. At $80 for four concerts, the subscription series, which will be on sale from Ticketlink — 1300 855 835 or — until the day of the opening gig, certainly offers outstanding value-for-money. It actually represents the not insignificant saving of $55.

Apart from four great headline acts, all tried and tested on Australia’s flourishing roots festival circuit, the concerts feature outstanding support acts, two local and two from interstate.

I predict here and now that the opening show, which will see a local trio comprising three of Cairns’ finest players, Peter Ella, Dave Martin & Kirk Steel (the first two-named the hub of Kamerunga — — supporting the Joseph Tawadros Trio, will be one of the concerts of the year at the Tanks. Joe and his kid brother, James, are respectively among the world’s best players of oud and req (Arabic lute and tambourine). Those readers who saw the siblings performing in Band of Brothers at the Civic Theatre last year, with the Grigoryan brothers will know that already.

MoantribeJoseph Tawadros

Joe Tawadros — — is one of those musicians who thrive on challenges. In the hands of this fearless young maestro, oud ceases to be an instrument that’s simply synonymous with Middle Eastern music. With a series of increasingly inventive and musically superior albums and live performances, he has taken the fretless Arabic lute into a brave new world of artistic cross-cultural collaboration and composition. His incomparable playing has been heard in a variety of settings in the past few years, most recently in tandem with Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

Joseph and James have also recorded two albums in New York City in the past couple of years with the crème de la crème of contemporary American jazz. You can check out the making of The Hour of Separation, your columnist’s favourite album of 2010, with American jazz giants John Abercrombie, John Patitucci and Jack DeJohnette at:

The Tawadros bros will be joined in Cairns by one of Australia’s most adept jazz bass guitarists, Steve Hunter, who plays a 6-string instrument with the aplomb of the late great Jaco Pastorius. The fact that Hunter is able to match Joseph T’s lightning runs, note for note, is testament to that claim.

MoantribeShaolin Afronauts

The undoubted highlight of last year’s inaugural World Music program was Melbourne’s Arte Kanela. The second series brings another outstanding flamenco troupe to Cairns on Friday May 4th. The DALéCAÑA Flamenco Company is led by guitar maestro Gerard Mapstone and violin whiz Shenton “Shenzo” Gregory, who supported Arte Kanela so brilliantly 12 months ago. Mapstone — — has paid his dues in Spain, working and performing with some of the finest flamenco artists in Andalucia. His Brisbane-based troupe also includes dancers and percussionists.

The DALéCAÑA Flamenco Company — — will be supported by a talented Sydney-based Israeli singer-songwriter called Noam Blat — — who turned heads at last year’s Tablelands Folk Festival at Yungaburra with his beautifully crafted songs and silky performance skills.

A young South Australian band, answering to the unlikely name of the Shaolin Afronauts — — will be upping the tempo and the decibels at the third concert in the 2012 Tanks’ World Music series concert, on Friday, June 15th. This 9-piece group of young masked marvels blew me away at last year’s WOMADelaide festival with their bodacious brass and electrifying Sun Ra and Fela Kuti-inspired mix of afrobeat, funk, soul, hip-hop and jazz. Supporting them at the Tanks will be the Raconteurs, a polished Cairns group led by guitar gun Dave Breeze.

MoantribeVolatinsky Trio

Last, but by no means least, in this year’s World Series comes Sydney’s exotic Volatinsky Trio, on Friday, July 20th. Comprising virtuoso players of domra (Russian mandolin), cimbalon (a 78-string hammer-dulcimer of gypsy origin) and cello from Australia, Belarussia and the Ukraine, they have wowed festival audiences around Australia with their Russian and Balkan inspired instrumentals — .The support act, Sydney singer-songwriter, Miriam Lieberman — — is one of the few Australians I know who’s proficient on kora, the 21-stringed West African lute-harp.

Another series thankfully retained at the Tanks Arts Centre this year is Tanks Unplugged, the brainchild of Entertainment Cairns’s driving force Ray Elias. Ray’s talented daughter Simone Elias, who’s based in Brisbane these days, will be among the guests opening the 2012 program on Friday June 1st. You can see the young singer-songwriter in action at an earlier Tanks gig, at:

This Hillier’s Hotline ends on a sad note with the news that former Cairns-based singer Simon Bridge, a long-time member of local World Music choir Woyaya, passed away in Melbourne on March 25th. The only solace is that he went out on a high note following a performance of Bob Dylan’s gospel songs at the 2012 Port Fairy Folk Festival just two weeks earlier with the Melbourne Mass Gospel Choir. My last memory of Simon will be of him singing his heart out in the second row of that choir. I think it's an image that he would wholeheartedly approve of. Simon achieved many great things in an extraordinary life. He is survived by his wonderful wife, Mary and two young daughters.

Tony Hillier


For up-to-the-minute information on what’s happening on the big gig scene in Cairns and environs, and to hear relevant tracks, tune in to ABC Far North on Friday afternoons between 4:45pm and 5:00pm for Tony Hillier’s World Of Music. Hillier’s interviews and reviews can be read in the national print media, notably the Weekend Australian and Rhythms, the country’s only dedicated roots music magazine.