Shahriyar Jamshidi and Raphael Weinroth-Browne, the two talented musicians that make up the duo Kamancello, met in Toronto in the summer of 2014. Raphael discovered through a friend that Shahriyar had recently played the kamanche in a fully improvised concert. Having listened to Persian music since he was quite young, Raphael loved the kamanche and, excited about the possibility of collaborating with someone who played the instrument, reached out to Shahriyar online and they met up for an improvised jam. The jam was a success and they decided to perform together in front of an audience a few weeks later. At this point, the chemistry was undeniable and they felt inspired to continue playing together.
Having spent most of his life in Iran, attending a music conservatory in Tehran, Shahriyar has a strong background in traditional Kurdish and Iranian music. Raphael has incorporated elements of his beloved classical and metal music with the Persian music into his playing in this duo. Kamancello’s roots have sprouted from their respective musical backgrounds, and grown into a beautifully evocative sound that conveys emotional landscapes and intricate dialogues.
When sitting down to listen to Kamancello, one can expect a convergence of string sounds that blend together, intertwine, and evolve almost as a single morphing entity. The kamanche has the register of a violin or viola, but it has a far more expressive sound – mournful, but also nimble and agile – like a sort of Middle Eastern fiddle. Raphael’s cello adds extra low depth and warmth, thunderous heavy rhythms, as well as taking on a very lyrical, melodic role at times. The two instruments take turns playing melody and rhythm parts and can swap registers very comfortably so that the interaction is never one-sided. There is never a defined leader or follower, and as a result they must always listen attentively, in order to be ready to follow the direction the music takes them.
Their work often begins with a free, non-rhythmic exchange, which progresses into a rhythmic pulse. Depending on the mood of the improvisation, this could be a rapid dance in 7/8 time or a slow, brooding rhythm in 3. A piece might end in an explosive finish after a long buildup, or gradually fade away into nothing.
Since coming together in 2014, Kamancello has performed at a multitude of venues in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. Notably at Montreal’s Place des Arts for the Festival du Monde Arabe and at Harbourfront Centre for Tirgan Festival, a Persian music festival in Toronto. They have just completed their first full-length album, which will be released on Bandcamp on this Friday, October 13.
Kamancello’s debut album was recorded at Union Sound Company, where Raphael recorded the entirety of The Visit’s, album Through Darkness Into Light. The sessions were recorded and mixed by Leon Taheny and mastered by Jeff “Fedge” Elliott. The creation of the first four pieces recorded was also filmed by Mitchell Fillion of Southern Souls. As you can see in the videos, the duo was set up facing each other in the studio, so that they were able to maintain eye contact and communicate their musical ideas while playing.
In the first day alone, they managed to record roughly 16 pieces averaging 10 minutes each. On the second day, they recorded two more and spent the rest of the session listening to all of the material, to gain a sense of what they had to work with. Just like that, they were done recording – and with very little editing to be done, what you will hear on the album is exactly as it was played.
Due to the improvised nature of their creative process, what the longest was not making the music, but deciding on a tracklist for this album. Ultimately, they had so much material that they decided to group the pieces into three separate albums and release them one at a time, as a trilogy.
Their album release show this Thursday night takes place one evening before the official release of the first album of this trilogy, giving Ottawa audiences VIP treatment and the opportunity to buy this record directly from the artists, before anyone else. The show will also feature an incredible opener, Heather Sita Black, who many may know as the vocalist from The Visit. She will deliver a fully improvised, haunting solo voice set. As a whole, you can expect the unexpected from this one-of-a-kind show.
Kamancello perform with special guest Heather Sita Black at Pressed (750 Gladstone Ave) on Thursday October 12 at 8pm. Tickets cost $10 online and at the door.