With global sales of his 2004 debut album Storyteller reaching in excess of 1.6 million copies globally, multiple Top 10 hits in the U.K., and sold-out shows that attract up to 30,000 fans in India, Africa and North America, you’d think Raghav would be a household name in Canada.

But while North America’s South Asian community has embraced his music – and flocked to venues like Toronto’s Rogers Centre, Long Island’s Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum and LA’s Shrine Auditorium to see the Calgary-based, Indo-Canadian singer-songwriter perform – “It’s just never translated in the North American mainstream,” Raghav says.

“The first language you speak will always your mother tongue”- Raghav

Since he signed a Canadian deal with Cordova Bay Records and released his Juno Award-nominated song, “So Much” (featuring Kardinal Offishall) in 2011, however, that’s begun to change. Already, “Fire,” the second single from his 2012 release The Phoenix, has become Raghav’s most successful Canadian single to date; it’s garnered him nominations at the 2012 Canadian Radio Music Awards and Canadian Indie Awards, and achieved certified gold sales status. Raghav has recently signed a U.S. deal with Ultra Records and, at press time, was preparing to release “Fire” south of the border in the summer of 2012.

His records, however, are just one of the creative outlets that Raghav is exploring. Currently, he’s working on a Bollywood film with composer A. R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) and a Hollywood film with both Rahman and Grammy/Academy Award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked). “A.R’s known about me for some time,” says Raghav. “I happened to be in India when he was there and he called me. We started cutting songs for the Bollywood project and ever since, it seems like I’ve been following and working with him all around the world.”

Raghav’s goal has always been to become a more sophisticated songwriter and to expand his musical vocabulary with each successive record. While the Indian music he grew up with still informs his distinctive brand of energetic R&B/pop, The Phoenix finds him drawing inspiration from blues, R&B and the musical traditions he’s encountered while travelling to countries like Kenya, Pakistan and Nepal.

“The first language you speak will always your mother tongue,” he says. “It’s helped me break down the barrier of scale, so when I’m writing a song and I want to take somewhere else, I can, but you can’t keep doing the same thing. The fusion always has to take a different form.”

Track Record
• At age 16, Raghav won the National Songwriters Association of America Award
• As a teenager, Raghav trained with vocal coach Seth Riggs, who’s worked with international stars including Madonna, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.
• His music has been described as “South Asian-flavoured U.S. R&B with hip-hop flourishes.”


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Translations prior to Fall 2013 are currently unavailable. 

Porcelaine a fait son apparition en 2010 avec un mini-album homonyme de cinq titres. À l’époque, le projet reposait sur les épaules de la Montréalaise Mélanie Scala. Un mouvement naturel a fait migrer le projet solo vers la formule collective : « L’élaboration du deuxième album s’est passée différemment. Mon ancien complice dans Maharajah, Simon Bédard (guitares, voix), a co-composé avec moi toutes les pièces de La foire aux animaux. Les autres musiciens étaient dans notre entourage. Au début, on cherchait des collaborateurs en maîtrise de leur instrument, on les avait engagés pour les spectacles. Mais voilà, ils ont proposé leurs lignes et, de fil en aiguille, se sont greffés au groupe. J’avoue que ça m’avait manqué dans l’aventure solo. »

La musique, Mélanie l’a dans le cœur comme on embrasse une vocation. Au cours des trois dernières années, l’ancienne messagère à vélo – qui fut même à une époque lutine de Père Noël dans les centres d’achats – a donné vie à deux enfants, un ep et un album. Vivre de musique et d’eau fraîche, ce n’est pas la voie facile pour une artiste sans compromis, « mais c’est ma passion alors j’y mets l’énergie. Quand on me demande ce que je fais dans la vie, je réponds de la musique. La clé, c’est de rester réaliste, tout en se permettant de rêver ».

Transe collective
Le combo Porcelaine a donc lancé un album le 1er mai dernier et un vinyle en juillet sur lequel s’entend très clairement un solide ancrage dans la décennie 70. Folk-pop atmosphérique aux orchestrations ambitieuses et foisonnantes, la proposition du groupe flirte par moments avec le psychédélisme, sans aller s’y complaire, un peu comme chez Monogrenade. À la flûte traversière, Maude Langevin-Charlebois tutoie le fantôme d’Harmonium, en particulier sur la très belle « Langue de bois », dans laquelle un oiseau se fait un nid avec… une langue de bois ! « Ah oui, c’est drôle, cette chanson-là s’est écrite tellement vite. Je suis partie de nulle part : j’ai commencé par taper sur des casseroles, j’ai ajouté un peu de synthétiseur et quand la flûte est arrivée, tout a décollé ! D’ailleurs, c’est à ce moment-là que j’ai su que je voulais de la flûte sur l’album. Ensuite, les paroles ont coulé de source : il est grand le mystère de la création, » rappelle en rigolant la chanteuse. En ce qui concerne les années 70, « oui, cela fait partie de nos sensibilités. Dans ce groupe, nos goûts musicaux se rejoignent. Nos affinités vont de Gainsbourg à Fleet Foxes et je suis de près la scène montréalaise. En cours de route, on s’est aperçu que notre processus s’apparentait beaucoup à celui des groupes de cette décennie-là : on a le même esprit libéral, on n’est pas enfermé dans quelque chose de cérébral, loin de là. On y va au feeling, en faisant fi des moules et des modes ».

Dès qu’on entre dans La foire aux animaux, ce qui saisit et éblouit, c’est la voix, ou plutôt les voix, harmonieuses, déballées sans emphase, coulantes et fluides, roulant les unes sur les autres. Même lorsqu’elle chante seule, Mélanie Scala a pris beaucoup d’assurance depuis le mini-album de 2010. Les harmonies vocales constituent sans aucun doute l’une des forces de Porcelaine. « C’est ce que l’on souhaite mettre de l’avant. On travaille dans un esprit collectif ; chanter ensemble rapproche, rassemble et unit. L’album en est teinté et je remarque que c’est ce qui rejoint et touche les gens. »

Ce qui nous amène à aborder la question des textes, par moments naïfs mais poétiques, ailleurs hypnotiques ou cryptés. Étonnamment, il n’y a pas tant d’animaux dans cette belle ménagerie. Un œuf de corbeau, un oiseau qui construit son nid avec une langue de bois, mais où sont les éléphants rencontrés sur la pochette ? « Les animaux, c’était surtout un prétexte pour parler des humains. Parfois, nos émotions sont en phase avec nos instincts, mais notre tête nous en éloigne. On sacrifie nos instincts – qui relèvent de l’animal en nous – au profit de notre logique qui veut tout contrôler… Plusieurs de nos textes sont issus de cette réflexion. Nous avons des armes poétiques (…) À la foire aux animaux, nous étions dans la même cage, rassemblés comme un troupeau avant l’abattage, » chante Mélanie sur la chanson qui donne son titre à l’album. Elle conclut, un sourire dans la voix : « La foire aux animaux, c’est aussi un clin d’œil au processus de création de l’album, au groupe qui s’est formé tout naturellement pendant le travail. Cet album a vu le jour parce que nous étions plusieurs et que nous avons mis toutes nos émotions en commun. » La musique : y a-t-il plus beau ciment pour lier les êtres ?


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Bernie Finkelstein has worn many hats in his music career: artist manager, label owner, music producer, music publisher, concert promoter. Whatever the hat, his passion for music has always guided his extraordinary journey. The trailblazing mogul built True North Records into one of the pre-eminent indie labels in the world at a time when “indie” was not a ubiquitous word. Not bad for a high-school dropout from suburban Downsview in Toronto.

“Bernie’s chief assets are loyalty, a passionate love of music, and a chess player’s gift for strategizing many moves ahead,” says Bruce Cockburn of his longtime manager.

It was curiosity that led a teen Finkelstein to Toronto’s hippie hangout of Yorkville circa 1967, when coffee shops abounded, drugs were in the air, and live music was everywhere. Some of Canada’s greatest acts– such as Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young – honed their chops at long-gone venues like The Riverboat, The Penny Farthing and The Mynah Bird.

: “I was thinking of a beatnik life when I left home at 17. I was a lousy student, but I fell into music.”

“I got lucky,” says Finkelstein of his start in the music industry. “I was thinking of a beatnik life when I left home at 17. I was a lousy student, but I fell into music. It was very serendipitous because I fell into something I loved, had a big passion for, and also something that I had a really good ear for.”
Besides a little luck, zeal made this path possible. If Finkelstein believed in an act, his dogged determination made people take notice – whether it was negotiating a distribution deal south of the border or landing their singles on the Billboard charts. For that, they remain forever thankful.
“I’m not much given to ‘what ifs,’ but it’s reasonable to assume that if there hadn’t been a Bernie, someone else might have stepped into that role,” says Cockburn. “But it was Bernie. I think we’d be looking at a very different scene if we put ourselves in an alternate universe that didn’t include him.”

Besides Cockburn, over the years Finkelstein signed such acts (either to True North Records, to management deals, or both) as The Paupers, Murray McLauchlan, Rough Trade, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings and Stephen Fearing, among others.

These days, Finkelstein is semi-retired, having sold True North in 2007; the Canadian Music Hall of Fame member whiles away the day with his wife, either on their Prince Edward County farm or at their North Toronto home. Recently, McClelland & Stewart published his memoir True North: A Life in the Music Business.

Oddly, the book doesn’t deal much with his work as a music publisher. Back in 1970, Finkelstein and Cockburn became partners in Golden Mountain Music. Last year, the pair sold it to Rotten Kiddies, a subsidiary of U.S.-based publisher Carlin Music. As with the sale of True North in 2007, Finkelstein says the decision to divest of the publishing business was because his passion was no longer there.
“The Canadian publishing business is becoming more and more complicated,” he explains. “I came up during an era where if you had one thing and it sold a million copies, you got paid everything all at once for the million. Now it’s the inverse. There are a million things and they all collect one penny. The idea of knowing what the rates are for Yahoo in Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia was not appealing.”

Finkelstein flourished as a publisher in the ’70s. “I recognized, as a young person moving his way into what we now call the music business, that the ability to earn a living and build a company was marginal, almost non-existent,” he says. “I started realizing I needed to be involved in as many things as possible. The corollary to that was, my artists would say, ‘So-and-so wants my publishing, what should I do?’ It became apparent that the odds of the artist giving away their publishing rights in those days was very high.”

So Finkelstein set up a structure where the artists were their own publishers; in return, he owned part of these rights as the administrator. “At the time I didn’t realize it, but it made my business very fluid,” he says. “When people needed to license one of our artists’ records, it would be one-stop shopping. In 2012, the big catchphrase is 360 deals… but we got there a long time ago.”

With the music industry constantly changing, Finkelstein is glad he left when he did. He doesn’t fancy the “retired” label, but he’s certainly enjoying a more leisurely pace of life.

“There are days when I miss it, particularly when I speak to old friends that are still involved, but I didn’t want to just stumble around,” he says. “I use the sports metaphor. I thought I had a fairly decent career: my numbers were pretty good, maybe Hall of Fame numbers, and I didn’t want to keep on playing and watch those numbers get worse. I’ve got too much pride for that.”


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