Published May 15, 2008As the music industry carries on convulsing and bloodletting at its presently dissipating margin lines while gallons of ink is spilled pronouncing its apocalyptic demise, it gets harder and harder to view music as anything but another consumable product created to turn a buck. Fortunately, youll still find artists to remind you that it can be so much more than that, and for the last ten years, outspoken Toronto-based electronic unit Lal has held that sentiment as an unspoken mantra.
Their music an increasingly multicultural blend of down-tempo soul, meaty bass lines and dynamic, cross-continental rhythms has always served as a sound-bed for singer Rosina Kazis social concerns and the many causes surrounding them. But what stands out even more from Lals decade-long history is the trios tireless generosity and desire to build up the people around them, be they friends, political groups, or fellow artists looking for a break. The development of a community ideal has sparked the growth of so many integrants of their own close knit scene and has, in turn, helped to boost the groups own development in a way that big payoffs alone could never have managed.
"I think [reaching out] is important to us because, along with the music that gets written and made in this band, I think theres a kind of manifesto of a bigger thing underneath it, and thats just a likeness of mind with the things that we espouse and believe in, explains bass player and co-producer Ian de Souza. "Part of that is helping other people get their word out in whichever way that is, whether its music, or spoken word, or film, so its just part and parcel of our whole concept.
The benefits of a decades worth of genuine connections are revealed in spades on Deportation, Lals third and most inspired disc to date. The record sees the groups long established tight moods are carried to new heights by an expansive pallet of relatively disparate sonic ingredients, from kathak and flamenco foot taps, Wurlitzer tones and Portuguese vocals, to the subtle shades of horns and cellos. The varied influences unite to deliver a decidedly intimate listen and offer a somewhat cinematic touch to the migrant issues that occupy Kazis lyrical tales, issues that are becoming more and more prevalent in Canadian news and politics these days.
"We had some friends that were deported back to Columbia a few years ago, and [since then] weve been doing a lot of stuff with No One Is Illegal in Toronto and Montreal, and Solidarity Across Borders just learning more about non-status peoples and migrant experiences, Rosina says of the albums theme. "This record talks about all those sort of issues and our own experiences growing up here, or coming from somewhere else and seeing all this stuff happening, even with people working jobs who arent legally here. I began to see a whole other group of people that I wasnt really aware of until my friend was deported, so it shook me out of my privilege of having Canadian citizenship.
But all of their many noble efforts aside, Rosina admits that, at the end of the day, it really comes down to a group of artists and friends making the most of what their surrounding community has to offer.
"Its not just us helping other people, she says. "I think, just growing up in a city like Toronto thats so diverse culturally, if youre a music lover its just a great city to explore in. So its more that the other music, other culture, other people have helped us, not just as musicians, but I think as people.