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Michal Shapiro
Michal Shapiro is a videographer, musician, music journalist and record producer. She blogs regularly about music and musicians near and far.

Entries by Michal Shapiro

Big Music from Small Places: Maya Kamaty at AME (Video)

(0) Comments | Posted June 4, 2014 | 3:53 PM


My previous post on Cape Verdean Singer Neuza, resulted in a trip to the AME, The Atlantic Music Expo in Cape Verde. As impressive as the local talent was, there were plenty of great acts drawing from the environs. I'm working on a...

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Habib Koite: A West African Fête at the City Winery (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted April 18, 2014 | 1:51 PM

Habib Koite, one of Mali's most beloved singer/guitarists was in town last month to promote his new CD "Soô" on Contre Jour Records. He packed NYC's City Winery with a polyglot audience, which included a hefty West African compliment.

Koité is a seasoned performer, and everyone on stage...

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From Another Green Isle: Cape Verde's Neuza at SOB's (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted February 26, 2014 | 12:25 PM

If we know anything of Cape Verdean music, it is largely due to the efforts of one man: Jose DaSilva, founder of the Lusafrica label, and producer of the late great Cesaria Evora.

Since that diva's death, there have been many singers touted as having "inherited the mantle of Cesaria...

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Magic From Crete: The Stelios Petrakis Quartet at WOMEX 2013 (video)

(0) Comments | Posted January 6, 2014 | 12:12 PM

"Will you LOOK at the size of that Bass Lyra!!"
--Jeff Greene, delegate to WOMEX, and president of Evergreene Music, upon seeing the setup on the stage for the Stelios Petrakis Quartet.

First off, all the instruments you see being played in this video were made by Mr. Petrakis,...

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Amira Sings Balkan Sevdah at WOMEX 2013 (Video)

(0) Comments | Posted December 16, 2013 | 12:24 PM

Sevdah, or Sevdalinka, is a folk song form common throughout the former Yugoslavia, and has origins tracing back to Ottoman times, particularly in Bosnia. These songs have been handed down, over the five centuries, and are still a part of the culture of the area, and of late, new interpretations...

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Canadian Heat: The April Verch Band at WOMEX 2013 (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted December 10, 2013 | 2:41 PM

Canadian Heat: The April Verch band at WOMEX 2013 from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

If I didn't tell you up front that April Verch and her band are playing from the musical heritage of the Ottawa Valley, you might assume that she is from the American South, or Appalachia, or even New England. The music seems so familiar; part bluegrass, part old timey, part contradance. And as she herself said of her dancing during her concert: "This music originated in the lumber camps. And a lot of people when they see this, they recognize a lot of different dance styles; Irish hardshoe, French Canadian, even clogging or flatfooting... tap dancing in more recent years... if you see any of these dances you're probably right, there's bits and pieces of everything." What this goes to show is that Canada, as much as the United States, is a country built from immigrants, and each ethnicity has brought something to the musical mix. And we hear and see those influences and recognize them right away.

Verch is a wonderful fiddler. She has a rich tone, and a great bowing arm, and a smile that never quits when she plays. She is obviously enjoying herself tremendously. And when she started dancing, she lifted the highly critical WOMEX audience right out of their seats. One of the photographers there confided to me that he was exhausted, just from watching her... but in a good way. As for her dancing, it is polished, exciting, and delivered with that same grin. No wonder her management was mobbed afterwards.

Please make sure to watch this video all the way through, as otherwise you may miss Ms. Verch playing AND dancing simultaneously. She credits the late great John Hartford with inspiring her, and that is easy to see. Her backup band consists of Cody Walters on banjo and bass, and Hayes Griffin on guitar -- and they all sing.

To contact April:

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Two Harps That Beat As One: Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted November 20, 2013 | 7:30 AM


Almost 25 years ago, I was walking down West 4th street in Manhattan, and heard a harp-like sound that seemed extraordinarily out of place in the urban noise surrounding me. I tried to locate the source, and eventually realized it was...

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A Siren Song From the Emily Portman Trio (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted November 13, 2013 | 2:48 PM

My deep love for British folk music stems back to my first Young Tradition albums, which landed in the USA and immediately made waves in the folk community here. Although there will always be musical mingling along borders, I still find that Britfolk is distinctive from Celtic music. I will...

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Hafez Meets ZZ Top at Asia Society (Video)

(0) Comments | Posted October 7, 2013 | 9:46 PM

The press release I received referred to Mosehn Namjoo as "the Iranian Bob Dylan." Part of me reacted with "huh?" but after a bit of consideration, I read on, and decided to check him out. A few weeks later I found myself at the Asia Society concert space amongst an...

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A Rarely Seen Face of Iranian Art at Asia Society (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted October 2, 2013 | 10:47 AM

Iran Modern at the Asia Society from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Prior to the Revolution, many of the precepts of Western modern art (both figurative and abstract) were being explored and incorporated into the work of Iranian artists.

This exhibit which runs 'til January 5th, showcases some of the major figures of that time. My personal biases have dictated what I chose to shoot, given my preoccupation with surfaces, processes, lines, edges, mediums, organization and of course, color.

I will hazard a guess (not being an expert on the subject) that the exquisite heritage of Persian Miniatures, calligraphy and Islamic Geometry was fertile ground for the various explorations in the show. The result is a rather luscious experience, with an abundance of gold, silver, mirrors, plenty of tactile fun, intriguing line work and loads of detail. Most of it has sufficient intellectual edge to skirt the purely decorative. The show runs through January 5th, and is well worth seeing, as it provides a window into a free and invigorating moment in the life of Iranian art.

For more information about the formidable drumming of Mohammed Reza Mortazavi heard here, visit:

To see the video from which the audio for this article was taken visit:

At the request of Asia Society, I have included the list of art donors for the exhibit:
Untitled by Mohsen Vaziri-Moqaddam. Untitled (Forms in Movement), 1970. Collection of the artist.
Parviz Tanavoli. Bronze Prophet, 1963. Collection of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Gift of Ben and Abby Grey Foundation, 1963.
Massoud Arabshahi. Untitled, 1970. Collection of the Golden Tulip Art Foundation.
Reza Mafi. Siyah-mashq, 1971. Collection of Houman M. Sarshar, New York.
Reza Mafi. Siyah-mashq, 1975. Collection of Houman M. Sarshar, New York.
Reza Mafi. Untitled, 1973. Collection of The Farjam Foundation.
Parviz Tanavoli. The Poet and the Beloved King (Lovers), 1964. Tate: Purchased using funds provided by Edward and Maryam Eisler, 2011.
Marcos Grigorian. Untitled, 1963. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Alex J. Gray, 1965.
Marcos Grigorian. Crossroads (Earthwork), 1975. Collection of Cleopatra and Thomas Birrenbach.
Parvis Tanavoli. Oh Persepolis, 1975. Collection of the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar.
Faramarz Pilaram. Mosques of Isfahan (B), ca 1962. Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Abby Weed Grey, 1975.
Mansour Ghandriz. Untitled, 1962. Collection of Shireen and Reza Khazeni.
Parviz Tanavoli. The Poet, 1973. Collection of the Artist.
Abolghassem Saidi. Untitled, 1973. Collection of Sam Bayat-Charlotte Denise Madeleine Bayat.
Massoud Arabshahi. Untitled (Avesta Series), 1978. Collection of the Golden Tulip Art Foundation.
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. Heart Beat, 1975. Collection of Nima Isham.
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. Untitled, 1977. Collection of Zahra Farmanfarmaian.
Mohammad Ehsai. GEREHAYE KHAYAM, 1968. Collection of the artist.
Manoucher Yektai. Untitled, 1951. Collection of Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller.
Manoucher Yektai. Still Life, 1954. Collection of the artist.
Sohrab Sepehri. Trees, 1970. Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Abby Weed Grey, 1975.
Reza Mafi. The Poems of Hafez, 1969. Private...

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A Return to Taiwan (video)

(0) Comments | Posted September 16, 2013 | 5:17 PM

Return to Taiwan from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

This is a departure for me of sorts, as I usually cover international music. The trip to Taiwan promised a great deal of culture and concerts, but Hurricane Soulik blew that second element away. Still, there is so much that is fascinating about Taiwan's culture that I knew I would come back with something of interest, so I just kept my camcorder rolling, and here is the result, and some written comments about it.

One of the things that of course makes Taiwan unique is that as my colleague Lucia points out in the video, it is over 90 percent Han Chinese. Yet even the hordes of tourists who come over from the Mainland these days will tell you that Taiwanese are somehow different. Yes, much of the culture is directly traceable to the mainland, but one must factor in the influence of the European powers who traded (and exploited) this island for hundreds of years, the 50 years of extremely influential Japanese occupation, and the history of a nationalist military dictatorship, which morphed fairly smoothly into democracy. Then a generation of hard work also created a highly successful capitalism that is peculiarly Taiwanese. And let us not forget that it is an island, and islands tend to create particular cultures in and of themselves. There are aboriginal tribes, and also a significant population of Hakka Chinese that arrived hundreds of years ago, to farm the lush, mountainous south, to be factored into the mix.

I start my video with Taipei 101, which is a kind of symbol for the hard-won business success of Taiwan (it is currently a hub of the tech industry). Its Green elements and its pagoda-like design, also point to a sensitivity towards nature and Asian art, respectively. And a word about the puppet theater: I mention that glove puppetry has been voted the most representative art form of Taiwanese culture, but the performance I show here is very traditional. Today, there are complete televised soap operas acted out with puppets, and even teenagers have their favorite characters, and get all caught up with the stories. These characters have modern dress, and modern concerns. So while what I caught and present here is wonderful, it is only part of the story.

I'm sure I don't need to tell anyone about why food is a cultural marker. (I am a confessed foodie.) Legend has it that When Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan, he brought all the best cooks with him. This may or may not be true, but what is certainly true is that a very specific and sophisticated Taiwanese cuisine has developed based on the ingredients so readily found here, with an emphasis on tropical fruits, fish, poultry and seafood. The textures are delicate, the flavorings subtle, with little in the way of spicy heat. Of course the fare at the Night Market was far brasher, and the experience of wandering around in this high energy place, filled with one fascinating offering after another was totally exciting, and sheer fun.

I closed my video with an off-the -cuff interview with two delightful young people who were selling pineapple cakes at Taipei 101. They seemed quite perfect.

NOTE: I have since learned that the mystery food in the Night Market, the small vegetable wrapped in green leaves is called a "betel nut." The vendor stuffs the fruit with special herbal ingredients and wraps it up with a betel nut leaf. It has a stimulant effect, so people who need to stay awake use it. Priestley, our colleague from the Solomon Islands mentioned that in his homeland, it is commonly used as well. He noticed that our bus driver used it too, instead of coffee. Priestley thought perhaps it was another link between Taiwan's aboriginal population and the Solomon Islands.

If you like the music that you heard in this "travelogue" you can see a rehearsal and interview with the band Sizhukong here:
It is part of a six part musical journey I documented years ago using at the time, a Flip camera; all of it is on my site at...

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Dancing Till Dawn in Warsaw

(2) Comments | Posted July 6, 2013 | 4:04 PM

There's something shakin' in Poland these days. Musicians who are curious about their folk legacy (the real one) have been discovering its joys, and are passing that joy along to a whole new generation of young people. And they are dancing up a storm... to the Mazurka.

They even...

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A Devi Diva at the Highline Ballroom

(0) Comments | Posted June 7, 2013 | 11:51 AM

I first heard Falu at a concert in a yoga studio, about 6 years ago. There was a buzz about her then, but her presentation was quite different. Falguni Shah (Falu) seemed bird-like, fragile and shy although her voice was strong and assured. Over time, I was sent a CD...

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A Catalonian Feast-ival (Video)

(1) Comments | Posted April 22, 2013 | 7:41 AM

Located about 50 kilometers from Barcelona, Manresa is a small, laid back Catalonian city. It has its picturesque Old Section as well as an impressive, well-appointed cathedral, and the famous monastery of Montserrat is perched on a nearby rocky mountaintop. But the Fira Mediterránia de Manresa, a four-day celebration and...

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Report From Chennai: Independent Music in India and Indian Ocean (Video)

(1) Comments | Posted April 2, 2013 | 9:05 AM

I first became acquainted with Sonya Mazumdar as a voice at one end of a U.S.-India Skype session about the licensing of "Laya Project," a dazzling musical journey around the areas devastated by the massive 2004 tsunami. The newly formed Indian production company and record label EarthSync India had just...

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Violeta Went to Heaven: The Mother of Nueva Canción Has a Film at Last (VIDEO)

(1) Comments | Posted March 29, 2013 | 8:52 AM

We can listen to a song and think we know the singer. And in the case of Violeta Parra (1917-1967) perhaps this is so.

She seems to spring fully formed at us, an autodidact revolutionary and creative to an impossible degree. She was the mother of the Nuevo Cancion movement,...

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A Catalan 'Waka Waka'

(0) Comments | Posted March 18, 2013 | 8:48 AM

This one requires some set up. As someone who is invited to many different countries to cover their culture, I frequently find myself listening to music that I am unfamiliar with and unknowledgeable about. So I approach the journey, trying to be open minded, and to learn.

When I...

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Dynamic Duo: Kayhan Kalhor and Erdal Erzincan (Video)

(1) Comments | Posted March 12, 2013 | 5:50 PM

If you have not savored the joys of classical Persian music, or Turkish folk music, now's your chance to take a sweet bite. I won't bore you with any formal explanations about the structure of this music, this performance speaks for itself. But go ahead and look up "maqam" if...

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Classical Fusions at the Asia Society: The Knights With Wu Man

(1) Comments | Posted February 15, 2013 | 2:24 PM

The Knights have been making waves with their blend of high musicianship, adventurous programming and youthful camaraderie on stage. This is all good, because classical music has needed an infusion of the latter two, and now there are wonderful conservatory trained ensembles updating both the repertoire and the presentation of...

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Talking Technology Tools for the Music Biz (Video)

(1) Comments | Posted January 22, 2013 | 12:58 PM

Around the beginning of December I started getting an eyeful of Tweets and Facebook shout-outs about Rock Paper Scissors' series of pre-APAP conferences. (APAP is the acronym for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and thousands of members converge on the Hilton in midtown Manhattan in the first week of...

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