About

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are a group of musicians dedicated to playing contemplative and inspirational music.
Since mid-nineties Garo Altinian has been composing music inspired by the Sufi and meditative spiritual traditions in the western pop/folk style. Over the years many talented and versatile musicians from different cultural backgrounds have accompanied him to present his songs to small and large audiences. Different musicians were part of various projects, like CD's or concerts, and they have become known as ‘Friends’ of Garo and thus Garo and Friends was established as the name of the group.

Until 2011, while living in Toronto, Garo has been accompanied by musicians like Amir Rahbar (piano, keyboard) Agah Ecevit (ney – Turkish reed flute), Ergun Gulbay (Turkish qanun), Mahsa Ghassami (cello), Fatih Tandogan (percussion), Golrokh Aminian (vocals) and Lisbeth Helgesen (vocals). With them, he produced his first CD ‘Rumi Remembered – Inspiration’ and launched it at a concert, sharing the stage with preeminent Rumi interpreter Coleman Barks.

After moving to Ottawa in 2011, new group of musician have joined Garo on a more permanent basis. Cellist Joan Harrison, bassist Lucas Lacerda, Yves Saint-Pierre on piano and keyboard formed the core of the band. Later Kerem Eker (keys, violin, and guitar) Ahmet Gul (ney) and Murat Kucuk (percussion) joined the group. After several concerts Garo produced his second album with the participation of the Ottawa group, again dedicated it to Rumi called ‘Rumi Remembered – Come to the Orchard’. The CD was launched at a concert in November 2018.

Making unity, peace within and without and love without boundaries their ideal, Garo and Friends combine Western and Eastern -particularly Turkish- instruments in their music that produces unique, meditative, and contemplative melodies. Their repertoire consists of original compositions sung mostly in English and some in Turkish.

Garo Altinian

Garo Altinian
Born in Turkey of Armenian origin, Garo has made Canada his home for more than fifty years. He lived in Toronto for the most part and has also lived in Montreal and Vancouver. He now resides in Ottawa with his wife Rouba. Garo has been composing, singing and playing inspirational and sacred music for more than twenty years. His music has roots in western folk/pop music genre as well as in the Sufi and Vedic Chant traditions.
Although he has not been through any formal music training, music nonetheless has been part of Garo's life from teenage years on. The desire to express his feelings through the poetry he had written, lead him to learn to compose and play the guitar. For many years he preferred to play solo to express himself as freely and without boundaries as he could. The real desire to play with other musicians came when he was introduced to the Sufi spirituality in his forties and, by then he had composed dozens of songs for which he was privileged to have like-minded musicians to be part of his journey.
Garo’s most profound experiences with music came when he started concentrating on the writings and teachings of Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi. Inspired by the ageless wisdom of the great master, Garo has turned a number of Rumi poems into music.

Joan Harrison

Joan Harrison
Joan Harrison, MM (Yale School of Music), PhD (Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa) is a cellist, educator, and entrepreneur. Her performances as principal cellist have included the New York City Opera, and the Toronto Chamber Orchestra. Joan has taught at the Perlman Music Program, United Nations International School, University of Ottawa, and Carleton University. Currently she serves as the Artistic Director of the Capital Strings and Voices Collective, where she coaches an intergenerational orchestra and co-ordinates multi-disciplinary research.
Joan regularly performs in the Amberwood Duo with pianist Elaine Keillor. Their CDs When Music Sounds: Canadian works for cello and piano (NAXOS), Narratives on Life (Marquis), and A Little Knight Music: Selected works of General Sir Maurice Grove Taylor (Enterprising Rabbit have earned international praise as “brilliant”, “fascinating, delightful, and exemplary throughout”. Joan’s recording of the Taylor Violin Concerto (on cello) with Symphonova (UK) is due out this spring

Lucas Lacerda

Lucas Lacerda
Lucas Lacerda is a versatile musician, bassist, and sound designer. With a Master's in music improvisation, Lucas's influences include jazz, funk, and rock with American, African and Brazilian roots. He has performed as a bass player in studio records and live shows. Lucas also works as a sound specialist providing consultancy in the areas of acoustics, audio branding and user interface sounds. As a bass player in Garo and Friends, he contributes a solid presence and very intuitive feel for music. When not jamming, Lucas is recording music and experimenting with sounds in his home studio.

Yves Saint-Pierre (Hadi)

Yves Saint-Pierre
Yves' musical fluency comes from listening and trying to recreate solo the music of many styles and parts of the world. Various instruments graced different periods of life (piano, plucked cello, trumpet, harmonium, accordion, guitar and percussion) and his work with voice took him through most of the Bach chorales, to a five-day training with Bobby McFerrin and to study Indian classical music with Saïd Musfhiq Hashimi. The meeting of cultures sometimes requires translation and Yves recently translated and sang 15 jazz standards into French, and adapted Attar's Conference of the Birds into modern stories and songs. "Someday, music will be the way to expressing universal religion. There will come a day when music and its philosophy will become the religion of humanity." (Hazrat Inayat Khan)

Chris MacLean

Chris MacLean
Chris MacLean is an award-winning songwriter; Voice Movement Therapy (VMT) practitioner; Circle Singing facilitator and leader of the Song Kitchen Community Choirs in Ottawa and Wakefield, QC. She also co-facilitates ‘LifeSong’ with Barclay McMillan. Her choirs and workshops are all about using the voice as a vehicle of self-expression; and enjoying the physical, mental and emotional benefits of singing with others. Chris is a studies Vocal Improv and Circle Singing with Rhiannon and Bobby McFerrin. She has 3 solo recordings, and currently performs in the acoustic trio, Paugan Dames.

Kerem Eker

Kerem Eker
Kerem Eker is a musician and a mixing engineer. He plays the guitar, the keyboard and the violin in a variety of genres. He is experienced in composing and producing albums, writing music for shows and plays. Most of his performance and productions took place in Istanbul before moving to Ottawa in 2017. He has been involved in several musical venues since then.

Ahmet Gul

Ahmet Gul
Born in a small village near the black sea in Turkey, Ahmet learned Sufi music, particularly music pertaining to the Mevlevi Order of Sufis (followers of Rumi’s teachings). He launched his ‘Complains of Separation’ project based on Rumi’s writings with Ney (reed flute) as the "neyzen (Ney Player)" in 1995 in Istanbul. He completed academic studies in the field of Sufi Music and has a Masters Degree. Over the years Ahmet has performed his own compositions as well as those of others to different audiences and at various venues. He joined Garo and Friends in 2018 as the neyzen. It has been his most exhilarating step of his career in Canada

Murat Kucuk

Murat Kucuk
Murat Kucuk is a musician and DJ. He started his musical career with percussion. He applies his rhyhmic knowledge to a large veriety of music from western to middle eastern. He plays Cajon, Bendir, Darbuka and variety of percussion, as well as Ney and acoustic guitar. He has performed in Toronto, Calgary, and Istanbul with different musicians and bands who mostly play sacred, and spiritual, and Sufi music. He is lives in Ottawa.