Saffron comes to Oak Bay for a world-music concert with Syrian flavour to fundraise for a refugee family.
A group of Oak Bay volunteers host the Syrian Refugee Family Benefit Concert at The Oaks Restaurant and Tea House on Saturday, May 14 at 7 p.m. starring world music trio, Saffron.
The group’s three veteran musicians play a range of music from many world cultures.
“It’s a world music group that plays a good section of Middle Eastern music on Middle Eastern instruments,” said Oak Bay organizer Joe Blake, who tapped his musical resources to put Saffron on the stage. “They’re master musicians and they’ve got an extensive repertoire.”
Saffron will be joined by special guest Sari Alesh, a classically trained violinist and recent Syrian immigrant.
The trio Saffron, Niel Golden, Ken Hall and Enrique Rivas, are veteran musicians who formed Saffron to accompany the poetry of Rumi, Hafiz and other poets at the long-running Mystic Journey performances.
Saffron has also produced a critically acclaimed CD titled Road.
Sari Alesh came from Syria in February.
“He’s played with the UVic orchestra,” Blake said. “Enrique (Rivas) told me ‘Joe, put him on after us.’ He’s so good, and we’re talking about guys who teach guitar at Larsen and the Conservatory.”
Percussionist Golden’s musical journey began with a trip to India in 1972 and a BA in ethnomusicology at York University.
Golden studied tabla drums with Pandit Sahai in the 1980s before moving to Victoria in 1986. He played with New Earth and Juno-nominated Djole in the 1990s and has played tabla and other percussion with Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra for two decades.
Golden has also collaborated with a wide range of Canadian musicians including Harry Manx, Daniel Lapp, Xavier Rudd, Celso Machaco and others. In addition to his founding role with Saffron, Golden plays with guitarists Brad Prevederos and Greg Joy in Three Words and in DNA with David Kaetz and Alex Olson.
Hall began his musical career studying piano at the Royal Conservatory before switching to guitar in 1968 when he moved west to Vancouver. He studied flamenco guitar in Europe in 1974 and spent six months in Morocco studying oud and the ney flute.
Since moving to Victoria in 1984, Hall has been a member of Kumbia, Sunyata, Kettle of Fish, Blue Morocco and the Sara Marreiros Band in addition to his continued work with Saffron. Hall has produced two original CDs and played on dozens of others. He was head teacher at Old Time Strings for 20 years and now teaches at Larsen Music. For the last four years Hall has studied cello, focusing on baroque repertoire and contemporary fusion music on the instrument.
Rivas plays guitar, tres and various percussion instruments. He began his musical career in Venezuela playing folk music on the ukulele-like cuatro and tambora, a large barrel-shaped drum. He has a passion for African-inspired Latin American music and has played in numerous pop and jazz groups in Victoria.
Rivas is also principal musician and sound designer for Puente Theatre.
“I envision (the four of them) will work out a jam on a Syrian folk tune of some sort,” Blake said. “It will emphasize what we’re getting in this deal (with Syrians moving here), this amazing talent that we’re getting. We’re all immigrants.”
The fundraiser will help house a family of five who had to flee Syria.
The Oaks plans to offer a special menu of Middle Eastern items for the May 14 Syrian Refugee Benefit Concert.
Advance tickets are available at The Oaks, 2250 Oak Bay Ave. for $20 or $25 at the door. Call 250-590-3155 for more information.