The Weeknd earned three honours at the 35th annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards, held April 23, 2018, at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. He was recognized for co-writing his own “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming,” as well as “Unforgettable,” by French Montana Featuring Swae Lee.

The full list of SOCAN songwriters and music publishers who earned ASCAP Pop Awards at the 2018 edition is:

“I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd Feat. Daft Punk
Co-writers: Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, Doc McKinney, Henry “Cirkut” Walter
Co-Publishers: Cirkut Breaker, Prescription Songs, Kobalt Music Publishing Canada

“Starboy” by The Weeknd Feat. Daft Punk
Co-writers: Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, Doc McKinney, Henry “Cirkut” Walter, Jason “Daheala” Quenneville
Co-Publishers: Cirkut Breaker LLC, Prescription Songs, Kobalt Music, Universal Music Publishing Group

“Unforgettable” by French Montana Feat. Swae Lee
Co-writers: Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, Jaegen
Co-Publishers: Concord Copyrights Canada, Kobalt Music Publishing Canada

“Fake Love” by Drake
Co-writer: Frank Dukes
Music Co-Publisher: Nyan King Music

“Stay” by Zedd Feat. Alessia Cara
Co-writer: Alessia Cara
Co-Publishers: EMI Blackwood Music Canada, Kobalt Music Publishing Canada

“Closer” by The Chainsmokers Feat. Halsey
Co-writer: Shaun Frank
Co-Publishers: Universal Music Publishing Canada, EMI April Music Canada

“Wild Thoughts” by DJ Khaled Feat. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller
Co-Publisher: Warner Chappell Music Canada

SOCAN congratulates all of these winning members on their great international achievements!

“Everything that’s bad for the world is good for rock’n’roll,” a wise man once said. He might well have added that everything that’s bad for the world – Trump, the extreme right’s attempt to establish credibility, the designation of false collective enemies – is, paradoxically, good for GrimSkunk… and their fans. The rage that acts as the engine for Unreason in the Age of Madness, a ninth album for the Godfathers of Québec’s alternative rock scene, is fuelled by the countless hotspots of a planet under the reign of a powerful elite that can only conquer by dividing.

GrimSkunkProtestors are anarchists / Dissenters are terrorists / You have no right / No right to resist, the band screams on “Let’s Start a War,” a fake call-to-arms that imitates – to better satirize it – an attempt to reduce the desire to protest in the streets to a temper tantrum. All those intellectual shortcuts now sadly to anyone who’s even glanced at the comments under Facebook posts by any major broadcaster or tabloid newspaper.

“Sadly, there’s more and more people that gobble up the complete bullshit that the right feeds them since Reagan, who said the fortune of the rich would benefit everyone,” says singer/guitarist Franz Schuller, not exactly reticent to serve up a copious slice of vitriolic opinion.

“The fact is, a lot of people in certain media have a vested interest in the one percent remaining in place, and their job is to pretend lies are truth, divide the working class, the uneducated, the poor, by telling them their real enemies are intellectual elites and Hollywood stars.”

Recorded in Gibson, B.C., with Garth Richardson (who produced Rage Against the Machine’s first album), the follow-up to 2012’s Set Fire! still tries to imagine a planet where all borders are abolished, and there are no limits between musical genres. From reggae on “Same Mistake” to the very Pink Floyd-ian vibe of “Starlight,” or the rompin’, stompin’ punk energy of “Gimme Revolution,” GrimSkunk remains true to its legendary, chameleon-like versatility.

“More than ever, the goal of this band is to make people think,” says Schuller, on behalf of his bandmates – keyboardist and singer Joe Evil, bassist Vincent Peake, drummer Ben Shatskoff, and guitarist Peter Edwards. Edwards, on “Hanging Out in the Rain” and “Computeur Screen,” plays guitar solos that reveal the band’s never-quite-abandoned love for prog-rock.

“Some people think we’re preachy, but we don’t tell people what to do or not to do,” says Schuller. “It’s fine if you don’t agree with our ideas. We’re just trying to shine a light on some that are different than those used to brainwash people and make them conform, like sheep in a herd. We want to expose them to different ideas, ideas that might make them want to make civil and political decisions that are different.”

One thing is clear: the band, about to celebrate its 30th Anniversary in November, is still a long way from creating a proverbial folk album for homebody past-punks.

“Of course not, because we still have the same values as when we were young and we don’t feel like turning our backs on the oppressed who need our support,” says Schuller. He decries, on “Same Mistake,” the “redneck revival” of La Meute and other identity-based groups, 20 years after attacking blind nationalism on “Lâchez vos drapeaux,” from the band’s mythical album Fieldtrip.

In other words, how can one stop being angry when the reasons for anger have remained the same? “It’s not because you grow old or more comfortable that you should stop caring about others, especially when so many of them are exploited, persecuted, killed and despised,” says Schuller. “We have a human responsibility towards the other living beings on this planet.”

“Fuck the NRA” GrimSkunk yells on “The Right to Bear Harm,” its raging anti-weapons protest song. “I believe that when you feel angry about something, it’s necessary to express it in the most natural and authentic way possible,” says Schuller. “The basic tenet of punk is that saying things softly has a limited impact. Saying things loudly allows for debate and questioning. Take the kids who manifested against the NRA after the Parkland massacre. We called them pathetic, juvenile, but they shook things up. Anger can be a good motivation, if it’s directed towards a positive outcome.”

But punk’s anger also allows, quite simply and thankfully, to get the things that make your blood boil, in this increasingly injustice-filled world, out of your system. “People thrash during a GrimSkunk show, they throw themselves every which way, and walk out of there covered in bruises because they’ve fallen to the floor, but they also walk out of there with a smile on their faces the size of the sun,” says Schuller. “They’ve been liberated of their frustrations.” At least until the next morning’s headlines.

Their songs may not reflect our love of hockey, or namecheck Sault Ste Marie and Bobcaygeon, but KUNÉ is as Canadian as the “wicked prairie winds” that The Tragically Hip sang about in “The Darkest One.”

As the complexion of the Great White North changes rapidly, exciting, hard-to-categorize fusion is happening in our urban centres. It’s not just bands like Toronto’s So Long Seven, whose lineup includes a guitarist, a mandolin player, a violinist, a banjo player… and a tabla player. Look no further than Jessie Reyez and Lido Pimienta, both of whom have roots in Colombia, and have won a JUNO Award and a Polaris Prize, respectively, for uncompromising music informed by their heritage.

Now there’s KUNÉ – Canada’s Global Orchestra, in a class of its own.

Mervon Mehta

Mervon Mehta

Sure, Canada – and especially, Toronto – has seen African and Cuban super-groups, but nothing like this one, that features 12 virtuoso musicians who came to Canada from every corner of the globe – including one Métis Canadian whose ancestors have been here for centuries. The ensemble was conceived by Mervon Mehta, Executive Director of Performing Arts at The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, and formally came together in December of 2016 under the artistic direction of David Buchbinder.

Within two years, KUNÉ signed a record deal with Universal Music Canada, and a management deal with Opus 3 Artists, whose roster includes Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Project, Roseanne Cash, and Béla Fleck.

The group plays a seamless, intriguing blend that combines many world-music styles. “Cante a la Tierra” (“Song for the Earth”), for example, offers a delightful mix of African instrumentation and Brazilian singing, while “Lahzeye Sokut” features Anwar Kurshid on the sitar, Padideh Ahrarnejad playing the tar (a long-necked Iranian lute), flautist Lasso, from Burkina Fasso, and Dora Wang playing the Chinese bamboo flute. That the music doesn’t sound forced, but rather completely accessible and enjoyable, is a testament to the virtuosity of the KUNÉ members.

Mehta says that he was inspired to assemble KUNÉ during the last federal election, when then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper used the term “old stock Canadians” in response to a question on his support of reduced health coverage for refugees. Like many, Mehta found Harper’s comment confusing and divisive.

“I’m an immigrant who came here in 1961,” he says. “So, am I new stock or old stock? Where does that put me, or my kid, who’s a mix of different ethnicities? So, I started to think, ‘What are we doing as a multi-cultural country, to really reflect our diversity – whether it’s in newsrooms, boards of directors, or on concert stages?’”

Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuk

Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuk (Photo: Kyle Burton)

KUNÉ member Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuk, the Métis singer and violinist, says that as someone who comes from a classical music background, and who’s always been interested in traditional music from around the world, the opportunity to perform with KUNÉ came at a perfect time.

“I was looking for an idea for my next project, and this spoke to my interest in collaborating and learning from other world music traditions,” she says. “The other good thing was that I didn’t have any expectations, and there wasn’t this pressure to be successful.”

Asked what she brings to this world-music party, Delbaere-Sawchuk says, “I’m always trying to go beyond playing the notes, and to be present on stage. I’ve studied with many master musicians who’ve taught me how to think about harmonies and tension, and I’d like to bring that into a traditional music setting.”

KUNÉ Artistic Director Buchbinder says he and Mehta had been bouncing musical ideas off each other over the last few years, before Mehta shared his dream of putting together a Canadian global music orchestra.

“When Mervon told me what he wanted to do, one of the first things I said was, ‘We have to make original music, because if we don’t, we’ll have 12 mediocre bands with a star in each band,’” the award-winning trumpeter and composer says, laughing. “I believe that when you do something original, you’re expressing the voice of the composer. That, to me, is very important.”

David Buchbinder

David Buchbinder

One might imagine Buchbinder and Mehta locking all 12 composers in a big room for weeks on end, and giving them a deadline to make a record. But it wasn’t so. “There was a lot of talking and getting to know each other the first time we all met, and David did a great job making us feel like a family,” says Delbaere-Sawchuk. “When you have 12 strong personalities in a group, conflicts will inevitably come up, but that didn’t happen. We’re like one big, happy family.”

Buchbinder attributes the group’s organic, genre-bending music – that truly reflects the Canadian cultural mosaic – to the trust that developed among the members and the familial vibe to which Delbaere-Sawchuk refers.

But all this didn’t happen overnight. And that’s where Buchbinder expanded his role of artistic director. “I’ve been putting bands together for a long time, and I have a technique I’ve developed that includes working with people’s stories,” he explains. “We talked, we sang, we chanted, we ate together” and, Buchbinder adds, “We spent a day at a farm in the middle of winter.  It was really beautiful, bonding and Canadian.”

While that sounds warm and fuzzy, there’s no escaping the massive challenge of creating music for a 12-strong band. There was the months-long audition process, which saw 150 musicians vying for a spot. Buchbinder said he was looking for the answers to four questions during the auditions: “Can you play? Can you learn something, like a jazz composition, that’s not from your tradition? Can you learn a traditional tune from a different culture? And can you work together?”

“By the end of that process, we could tell who would be a great candidate,” he says. Given the group’s size, Buchbinder adds, there was no way the journey from writing and rehearsing to recording and performing could be a collective process, because “we wouldn’t get there.”

During the actual process, Buchbinder says, “some artists who wrote their own pieces needed help arranging them. Others arranged their own songs. The musicians were given workshops in composing, and they all listened to each other’s melodies. It was a lesson in how to move from something traditional to something unique. And as the arrangements evolved, the question became, ‘How do we keep refining this?’

“They’re working together beautifully, and we’re all curious to see where this can go,” he says.

Delbaere-Sawchuk adds, “There are so many possibilities we haven’t explored yet. I’m very excited for the next phase of creating.”

KUNÉ Members
Padideh Ahrarnejad (Iran): Tar & Vocals
Sasha Boychouk (Ukraine): Woodwinds & Ethnic Ukrainian Flutes
Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuk (Canada – Métis): Violin, Viola & Vocals
Luis Deniz (Cuba): Saxophone
Anwar Khurshid (Pakistan): Sitar & Vocals
Lasso (Salif Sanou) (Burkina Faso): Fulani flute, N’goni, Talking drum, Djembe, Doum-Doum & Vocals
Paco Luviano (Mexico): Acoustic & Electric Bass
Aline Morales (Brazil): Brazilian Percussion & Vocals
Demetrios Petsalakis (Greece): Oud, Lyra, Acoustic & Electric guitar
Matias Recharte (Peru): Cajón, Drums & Percussion
Selcuk Suna (Turkey): Clarinet
Dorjee Tsering (Tibet): Dranyen, Flute, Piwang & Vocals
Dora Wang (China): Bamboo Flute, Flute, Hulusi & Xiao















KUNÉ Music