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 2015.

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)

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.

Agah Ecevit

Agah Ecevit
Agah began his music studies in 1997 under the scrutiny and careful guidance of master Ney'zen (ney player) Ilyas Celikoglu who is the last student to have studied under the discipline of the great poet and neyzen Tevfik in the late 40's. In 1999 Agah continued to pursue studying ney under the new auspices of the esteemed Hakan Alvan, a directing musician at the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Between 1999 and 2002, Agah participated in various Turkish classical chorus based concertos presented by the Ministry. He has been playing live since then in professional music performaces as leading ney and clarinet player.

Fatih Tandogan

Fatih Tandogan
Fatih was born in Zug, Switzerland. He moved to Istanbul, Turkey at the age of 12. After living 14 years in Istanbul and finishing his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Masters in Statistics, he immigrated to Toronto, Canada. The first instrument he played was the xylophone at age eight in primary school. He was introduced to the piano at age 10 after which he began playing the guitar during his University years in Istanbul. Once in Toronto, he enjoyed playing the frame drum (bendir) and Turkish dumbek (darbuka). He has been actively playing the darbuka since 2001. He joined the Turkish band Bosphorus Project in 2005.