Dadawa in Vancouver: mesmerizing Asian world music
Dadawa recieves her flowers after an exhuberant ovation at the Chan Centre – photo Todd Wong
Dadawa put on a mesmerizing show last night at the Chan Centre. Part Bjork – part Enya – part new age – Chinese traditional, it was definitely contemporary world music.
The first half consisted of songs that were almost meditative. The musicians and back up singers were all dressed in white. After five minutes, Dadawa came out to join them, choosing to sit on a small raised platform in the front centre of the stage area. I have often seen this setup for tabla players. She crouched and started swaying with the music, then singing in Chinese.
This was definitely not traditional Chinese music – but it wasn't contemporary canto-pop either. Dadawa was drawing on the many musical influences of her life's journey and creating a unique presentation of her creativity. Sometimes the chanting evoked the sounds of Canadian First Nations, sometimes the lyricism was melodic like Asian folk songs.
The second half featured an extended set of individual solos, as Dadawa called out each band member by name. For people expecting more of Dadawa, this must have been disappointing. But it really demonstrated the incredible musicianship of her band. Featured sitarist and instrumentalist Andrew Kim told me that the band had only rehearsed for 10 days prior to the concert.
For an encore, Dadawa apologized to the audience that she didn't have anything else prepared… but decided to improvise on one of her songs. The musicians joined in to develop a foundation upon which Dadawa created a vocal scat. Very cool – just like watching jazz musicians who know their stuff.
Todd Wong, Dadawa and Andrew Kim pose for a picture at the post-concert reception – photo by Diana Stewart Imbert on Todd's camera
I was very surprised to learn that her band was full of Canadians including vituoso erhu player George Gao from Toronto. During the second half, Dadawa was joined by Vancouver area musician Andrew Kim. I have known Andrew since about 2002, when I first met him performing solo at the library for Asian Heritage Month, and soon after when he joined the band Brave Waves with Joe McDonald. Andrew has perfored many times at Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and even was on the Gung Haggis dragon boat entry in Vancouver's first ever St. Patrick's Day Parade.
2004 Brave WavesAndrew Kim and Joe McDonald in Vancouver's first ever St. Patrick's Day Parade – photo Ray Shum 2004 St. Patrick's Day Parade
Click here for a backgrounder about Dadawa