New twist on a successful series: Edo Mor looks to bring international music to Valley based on the Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares model 

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 04-21-2023 3:41 PM

When he and his wife moved to the Valley in 2005, Edo Mor says he found much to his liking: good bread, good bicycling country, nature and more. But for some time, the kind of eclectic music he liked, from North African guitar sounds to Middle Eastern rhythms, was harder to find.

But over the last several years, Mor worked with Laudable Productions, the Easthampton music producers who also run the Bombyx Center for Arts & Integrity in Florence, to bring just those kinds of varied artists to the Valley, from Niger/Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar to Pakistani singer and songwriter Arooj Aftab, the first Pakistani artist to win a Grammy Award.

Now Mor, who runs a jewelry making business with his wife, Rosario Torres, at their home in Haydenville, is developing his own concert series to bring more of these international musicians to the region — and he’s building on the model that jazz producer Glenn Siegel previously introduced to fund his independent music series, Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares (PVJS).

For what he calls Secret Planet, Mor has developed a crowdfunding program that invites people to buy shares in the season, purchasing tickets in advance to ensure enough funds — and an audience base — to bring artists from overseas and from Mexico and Central and South America to the area. The campaign runs through May 15.

That kind of community-supported music is in turn based on the CSA model for agriculture, in which people buy advance shares in a community farm to support the planting and harvesting of crops, after which they typically receive a weekly supply of produce from summer into fall.

“Glenn built a really successful model for curating specific shows and artists and developing an audience for them,” Mor said during a recent phone call. After talking with Siegel about PVJS, Mor says he became convinced that a similar model could be used for his series.

“Others have wanted to do this [in the Valley],” he said. “I’m really excited about using my experience with Laudable to try and make it happen.”

Finding a catch-all phrase to describe the kind of music he wants to bring here isn’t easy, or maybe simply not possible — which is why Mor is emphatic about not calling it “world music.”

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“That term needs to be permanently retired,” said Mor, who was born in Israel and came to the U.S. at age 9. His wife is originally from Argentina; the couple met in Spain.

On his crowdfunding page, Mor describes the Secret Planet sound as “borderless, diverse and underground,” music that has little to do with Western pop and is strongly based on danceable rhythms, and which may also merge widely used instruments such as the guitar with percussion and other instruments native to a particular country or region.

His plan is to offer six to nine concerts, beginning in fall, at venues around the region. Five groups have already been confirmed, he notes, including L’Eclair (psychedelic groove rock from Geneva, Switzerland), El Khat (Yemeni street funk featuring trash-built instruments), and La Perla (politically charged percussion and vocal trio of women from Bogota, Colombia).

Making it work

Mor’s initial goal has been to raise $10,000 — an amount the campaign surpassed this week — which he says should provide a “firm base” for meeting the basic economic and logistical requirements of Secret Planet.

Among those requirements are securing visas for international musicians and making sure there’s a full house for the players at their shows. It’s already a big expense for bands to come to the U.S. from another country, Mor notes, and poorly attended concerts can be economically and psychologically ruinous.

“A band that has that kind of experience will probably never come back to the U.S.,” he said.

Given that, raising $15,000 for Secret Planet “is where I’d be surprised and happy to see this campaign finish,” Mor notes on the Secret Planet crowdfunding website.

He feels confident he can make the venture work after making connections with many artists outside the U.S. through his work with Laudable. He met Laudable’s principals, Kyle Homstead and Casandra Holden, in 2017 and was impressed with their interest in bringing different sounds to the region.

By 2018 he had become a talent buyer for Laudable, which has produced events such as Millpond Live, the late summer concert series in Easthampton built around diverse, danceable music. Mor says he also played a central role in creating Barbès in the Woods, a Laudable festival with connections to an eclectic music club in Brooklyn, New York.

Barbès “has kind of been my baby,” he said.

“I learned so much from Kyle and Casandra,” added Mor, who worked with the couple to bring music to Florence after they opened the Bombyx Center in the fall of 2021 in the town’s historic Congregational Church.

He’s continuing to collaborate with them on events such as ColliderFest, a two-day festival in May at Bombyx that offers “powerful doses of diasporic musical creativity,” as the center calls it. He’s also still involved in programming for Millpond Live.

But he says he’s working on his own series now both to bring more balance to his life and to focus on the music that most appeals to him.

One other plan: He says he’s developed connections with like-minded music producers in some Northeastern and Eastern cities, including New Haven, Brooklyn, and Washington, D.C., to see if the Secret Planet model can be used elsewhere to expand touring possibilities for international artists.

“This really is different model for music, where you create relationships between artists and audiences that are built on trust and community,” he said.

Tickets for Secret Planet shows are $20 and can be purchased in blocks of three, six or nine, good for any of the concerts in the series. More details are at secretplanet.live, which also links to the crowdfunding site.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

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