Garage Concerts 2023 : The Planet in Your Garage!

Interview by Frédéric Cardin

Additional Information

There’s a tiny little festival you absolutely must check out, music lovers of all stripes! It’s called Garage Concert and it takes place, yes, in a garage. To be precise, in the garage of Ziya Tabassian, a top-flight percussionist who has been heard with the Ensemble Constantinople, among others, and more recently with the Trio Regard Persan. 2023 will see the 9th edition of the event (nine! And I bet you’ve never heard of it!) with 9 concerts. All musicians of the highest possible level, masters and mistresses of their instruments, and all Montrealers (most of them by adoption).

Some we know a little better: Monica Freire and Syrian oud master Nazih Borish (August 15), Didem Basar on kanun (July 16), Vincent Lauzer on recorder (July 18). But for many others, it will be an opportunity to plunge into highly embodied sound worlds, with Maryam Tazhdeh on tar (in duet with Didem Basar on July 16), Zizhou Wang on guzheng (a Chinese plucked string table instrument, on July 13), Anjana Srinivasan on traditional Carnatic violin (from South India, August 10), the “Gangster Yiddish” ensemble Orkestar Kriminal (July 20), Alex Tibbits on “bionic harp” (August 8), LiKouri en chanson (tonight, July 11) and Ziya himself on percussion (August 17). 

Interview with founder and artistic programmer Ziya Tabassian.

PAN M 360: Everyone has an idea of what garage music is. But you take the idea elsewhere…

Ziya Tabassian: Yes, indeed. I came up with the idea in 2013. Me and some friends wanted to play for fun, and my garage was an accessible space. So we did it. We liked it, several people came to see, and I decided to continue the adventure. The principle is simple: it’s a 5 to 7 formula. People arrive at 5 (5pm), the music starts at 6 (6pm) and it lasts about an hour. I offer treats and herbal teas, which I make myself! We enter at 5226 Clark Street (that’s my place!), but it’s in the back, in the garage overlooking the courtyard and alley. It’s not very big, but it’s super friendly.

PAN M 360: Are all the artists present friends of yours?

Ziya Tabassian: Not all of them, although they do become so! I know several of them, but others I discover on the web. For example, the guzheng player, Zizhou Wang, I discovered in a video on Facebook, contacted her, and voilà! She was a great performer of her instrument in China. In Montreal, she needs to make a name for herself now. The same goes for Maryam Tazhdeh, a virtuoso on the tar (an Iranian stringed instrument). She’s a great artist in Iran, but in Montreal, she’s not known. There’s also Anjana Srinivasan, an Indian Carnatic violin teacher who studied with the best in India! My idea is to allow all kinds of Montreal musicians of a very professional level to shine a little, to be heard a little. And at the same time, it stimulates encounters! That’s how it happened for Regard Persan and me: we met, enjoyed each other’s company and formed a trio.

PAN M 360: In the garage and in the courtyard next to the alley… Is there enough space?

Ziya Tabassian: We’ve sometimes had a hundred people, and that’s fine! We have good neighbours, who are often there too.

PAN M 360: Well, if ever many people are stimulated by this interview on PAN M 360, you’ll have a happy problem…

Ziya Tabassian: Yes, it’s possible! I want to move the project forward and take it to another level, to make it grow. I wouldn’t want to go into a space that’s too conventional; I’d like it to stay in an accessible, ordinary place like the garage, but just more spacious. We’ll see.

PAN M 360: What does that tell you about the Montreal scene?

Ziya Tabassian: It’s very good. And above all, it’s very interconnected. People talk to each other and rub shoulders. I didn’t feel that at all in Toronto, for example. Strangely enough. On the other hand, I’d like to bring in more international artists. It’s a challenge, of course. It’s hard to get someone to come for a single concert, given the cost of plane tickets, hotels and so on. But it can be arranged. I’m planning to invite an excellent Indian musician and tabla virtuoso in September, so we can play together. I’ll also be taking advantage of the opportunity to play another part with Regard Persan and Aditya Verma, a great sarod master who lives here in Montreal. And I’d love to bring over an Armenian duduk player, Emmanuel Hovhannisyan, with whom I’ve just recorded a piece for my next album, due out in the autumn. We’ll see, but we might.

PAN M 360: Any other gems?

Ziya Tabassian: Oh, there’s an exceptional Uzbek maqam singer, Nâdira Pirmatova! That would be great, yes. 

PAN M 360: You tickle our ear buds… Thank you so much for what you do. It’s little initiatives like yours that make Montreal even more alive and exciting. 

Ziya Tabassian: Thank you for welcoming me, that’s important too.

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