On the Way
DATEBOOK REVIEW in the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Sunday, September 14, 2008 (SF Chronicle) CD: Lucia Comnes, 'On the way' Image of the Little Man jumping out of his seat and clapping (equivalent to 5 stars) 'Solas and other musical groups have done the traditional Irish folk song 'Calling Home the Calves' (Aililiu Na Gamhna), but Lucia Comnes has taken it to a higher level, using her singular voice and two instruments from the Indian subcontinent - bansuri flute and shruti box - to create a goose-bumpy tableau of nature and memory. 'Calling Home the Calves' is one of numerous delights on Comnes' new album, 'On the Way,' which takes songs from across borders - including from Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria - and interprets them anew while retaining the original language. The result: a cascade of tunes (plus a jazzy Comnes original) that are otherworldly and embedded with soul and spirit. On many songs, violin merges with accordion, electric bass and other instruments, then is capped by Comnes' vocalizations, which cross musical chasms. Comnes lives in the Bay Area, but her home is really the world at large.' Written by SF Chronicle Journalist, Jonathan Curiel 'On the way' - the debut album, released in May 2008. Truly a world fusion project, 'On the way' features Lucia Comnes and her band performing a selection of songs in seven different languages from countries including Bulgaria, Albania, Turkey, Greece and Ireland. The one original song, 'Water', weaves a West African groove on the calabash with a thick bass line, melodic flute and violin conversations, and smooth three-part vocal harmonies. Lucia Comnes - vocals, violin Sean Stillinger - electric bass Aharon Wheels Bolsta - bansuri flute, tabla, darbouka, cajon, calabash, kanjira, frame drum, and other various percussion With special guests... Dan Cantrell - accordion (3, 6) Pat Duffey - guitar (3) Oona Garthwaite & Veronica Perry - back-up vocals (2) All songs traditional, except Water, composed by Lucia Comnes. All songs arranged by Lucia Comnes, Sean Stillinger and Aharon Wheels Bolsta. Recorded in 2007/08 at Small Treasures Studio, San Jose, CA Recorded, mixed and mastered by Grammy-nominated engineer, John Jacob Produced by Lucia Comnes For all song notes, lyrics and translations, please visit Lucia's website. 'Words, particularly English words, are not enough. They have been used to lie on a grand scale. They continue to be used to manipulate and confuse. Music has a purpose that remains to be seen. The potential is beyond imagination.' - Liam O'Maonlai About the Artists: Lucia Comnes is a singer and violinist who interprets songs from many traditions. With a rich background in performance and ethnomusicology, she sings in more than 30 different languages and leads a band that reflects this cultural versatility. An emotive and stunning performer, she takes her audience on a journey around the world as well as into the depths of the human soul. An aspiring composer, Lucia's first original song, 'Water', debuts on her new album, "On the way". A San Francisco native, Lucia was trained since childhood in classical violin, a wide range of vocal techniques, musical theater and dance. She discovered traditional Irish music during a summer tour in 2001, and this led to the study of many other forms of traditional music, including Eastern European, Turkish, Rom (Gypsy), Latin and Jazz. In 2002, at age 18, Lucia joined Kitka, an internationally acclaimed women's a cappella vocal ensemble specializing in Balkan/Eastern European folk music, based in Oakland, California, as their first apprentice and youngest member. In 2006 she completed her BA in Ethnomusicology (Long Island University, New York) after research in Ireland, Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria. Lucia's extensive travels rich in musical exchange and research inspired her to form a band that could bring these vibrant traditions to new audiences. She linked up with world percussionist, Aharon Wheels Bolsta, and jazz bassist, Sean Stillinger to create a hot world fusion trio that could cross between many genres. She selected some of her favorites traditional songs and with the help of Aharon and Sean, composed fresh arrangements that pushed the boundaries of the traditions, all the while representing them with great sensitivity, knowledge and respect. The trio has been performing throughout the Bay Area, California, since June of 2007, and has collaborated with many other local artists, including William Bates-Minou (drums), Dan Cantrell (accordion), Pat Duffey (guitar), Salokhiddin Fakhriev (Uzbek doyra), Farzad Arjmand of Fazz (guitar), Zo'la Dubnikova (dance), Barbara Borden (drums), Claudia Cuentas (flute), and Travis Wernet of Pele's Tears (didgeridoo). In May of 2008, Lucia was invited to open for virtuoso violinist, Colm Ó Riain, at Café du Nord for the San Francisco Irish Fest, and the 'trio' officially became a 'combo' when she fronted a 5-piece band. You can view video clips from this concert on YouTube. In June of 2008, the Lucia Comnes Combo takes their first European tour playing concerts throughout Ireland. They will play shows primarily in Cork and Dublin, linking up with popular local groups including Niwel Tsumbu (Congolese, guitar) and The Polskadots - a world music/gypsy band that Lucia co-founded in 2006 during her studies in Cork. Lucia will then continue on tour by returning to Russia and joining up with another group, Fools Gold, to perform in the Ecological and Ethnic Puppet Festival in the Republic of Khakassia, Siberia. The Lucia Comnes Combo will return to the Bay Area, California, in August, 2008 and host a number of CD release concerts. In addition to directing her band, Lucia's other recent performance highlights include singing with Liam O'Maonlai of the Hothouse Flowers, and Ronan O'Snodaigh of Kila, during their San Francisco tour in 2008; providing music for various events by international dance pioneer, Anna Halprin; performing with Lily Storm at the Polyphonic Song Festival (Voices of Stone) in Athens, Greece, in 2006, sharing the stage with Petro-Lukas Halkias and Domna Samiou among others; and accompanying Tuvan singer, Sainkho Namtchylak in music festivals throughout Russia in 2006. In the Bay Area, California, Lucia also enjoys working with Moira Smiley and VOCO, Tamarind Jones, Oona Garthwaite, Enrique Coria, Yolanda Aranda, Terry Garthwaite and Kyle Thayer. As a member of Kitka, she enjoyed performing at Grace Cathedral numerous times, performing in the concert series, "Songs from Mama's Table" with Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, with Marcel Khalife at the San Francisco World Music Festival in 2005, as well as the concerts with Tzvetanka Varimezova, Merita Halili, Mariana Sadovska, Christos Govetas of Pangeo, and Rumen Shopov. Lucia's passion second to music is the green/environmental movement. Since childhood, Lucia has taken an active role in protecting the planet and working towards a sustainable future. A founding member of the California Freshwater Shrimp Project, Lucia was a planning member of the UNEP Global Youth Conference in 1995. Politically active throughout high school, Lucia helped to lead forums to featuring the student voice, organized protests against standardized testing, organized rallies for the Green Party, and was a leader in the community with the Marin Youth Council, offering alternative social and cultural activities for youth - poerty workshops, open mics, slams, concerts and festivals. She featured as a poet in the Youth Speaks event, "Bringing in the Noise" for Martin Luther King Jr Day in 2002. In 2001 she attended the Nuclear Free Future Awards in Carnsore Point, Ireland, making meaningful connections with activists and artists around the world. When she learned about the damaging effects of Ocean Noise Pollution on marine life, including whales and dolphins, she focused her efforts primarily on this issue and began working closely with the organization Seaflow: Protect Our Living Oceans. In the song, 'Water', Lucia strives to bring attention to the resource which will be the source of much conflict in the future if we don't take action now.