Led by singer and flamenco dancer Tamar Ilana, Toronto's Ventanas (the Spanish word for windows) embraces North African rhythms and upbeat Bulgarian dance tunes, as well as Greek, Turkish and Sephardic love songs, and heart-wrenching Flamenco dances. They seamlessly lead their audiences through windows into other lands and cultures. Lise Watson, in her review of a recent Ventanas concert in the Toronto World Arts Scene, praised the group, "This fine collection of skilful performers sharing a common passion was hard to resist. Several audience members joined in on two pieces with Macedonian circle dancing, joining hands and weaving their way through the aisle, adding to our delight."
This stellar trans-Mediterranean ensemble formed in 2011 when Tamar returned home from studying flamenco in Seville, Spain and met up with Mark Marczyk (one of the violinists in Lemon Bucket Orkestra). They began exchanging tunes and in no time had advanced the collective Fedora Upside-Down, whose goal was to cross-pollinate Toronto's various culturally diverse music communities. llana's powerful vocals, honed through a lifetime of performing internationally, evoke deep emotions. Add to this the excitement of the Middle Eastern doumbek, the soulful sounds of Greek outi and baglamas, the party vibe of Klezmer and Eastern European fiddle, the fire of flamenco, and the sensuality of belly dance and you have one unforgettable celebration.
Ventanas' eclectic mélange shines with a new brightness on the group's second album, Arrelumbre, which was nominated for two 2014 Canadian Folk Music Awards. "I was raised to believe that we needed to preserve folk songs that might otherwise be lost," says Ilana. "Ventanas preserves these traditions, while at the same time presenting them in an exciting way, both sonically and visually. We infuse them with new energy, dance and diverse instrumentation to keep things moving forward." This forward motion comes naturally to Ilana, who has lived and breathed the music of Spain from girlhood, having travelled extensively with her mother, an ethnomusicologist and singer.