Press Kit

About Basilissa

Basilissa is an ancient name which is the feminine form for king. The word represents strength, kindness, equality, and love. The trio of band members holds those values dear, and expresses them through their lives and their music. The group was formed with the shared ideal of creating music from a place of authenticity, benevolence and diversity.

Basilissa is a group of three long-time Vancouver-based musicians, who have a shared penchant for wandering the world and exploring varied musical traditions. Each brings their story of identity and fate to the group. As a collection of first- and second-generation Canadians with an inherited dissonance of what home means, each member is on a constant global journey to find the meaning of place.

At the heart of it all, Basilissa’s music is rooted in a style of bitter-sweet Portuguese folk music known as Fado, which literally translates as fate. Fado embodies a sensation called saudade; the complex co-mingling of longing, love, sadness and joy. Although touching on many musical cultures and traditions, Basilissa's music always returns to this uniquely Portuguese sound whose emotional tones speak to the pensive sensation of living in-between places.

Band Members


Christina Raquel Gaspar - Portuguese Guitarra / Vocals

Christina is a Portuguese-Canadian musician who has studied Fado singing and the 12-string Guitarra in Lisbon. Fado is closely tied to her background; her grandfather was a Fadista (Fado singer) who sang in rural villages along the west coast of Portugal. Christina began studying Fado to honour the traditions of her family and her people.

She has a Bachelors in Music and Theatre from UBC, and has performed jazz and world music for over a decade. She has studied and played with greats such as Celso Machado, Sal Ferreras, Bill Coon and Maestro Antonio Pereira. She currently is a Choral Director at the Sarah McLachlan School of Music.

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Sara Ciantar - Accordion / Guitar / Vocals

Always on the hunt for musical warmth and the richness of language, Sara draws from her years as a classical pianist/organist, her degree studying mostly world music traditions (including stints of Balinese Gamelan and Chinese Guzheng), and the creativity afforded by folk guitar traditions. The last decade has seen her travel the world as an accordionist and incorporate the instrument's unique sense of harmony into her song-writing.  The percussion of language and things that move the body move her as does music that seeks to connect and change-most of all stories.  Stories that draw from a farm girl's transition to big city and the search for home whether while living in her camper van or out of a book or her suitcase.

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Robin Layne - Percussion

Over the past eight years Robin has become a regular fixture on the B.C. festival circuit, collaborating with a wide spectrum of folk and world artists.  His recent touring engagements have led him to Europe, Mexico, China, the U.S. and Canada. He has followed his love of world music to Cuba, Guinea, Mali, and Mexico studying
under master drummers and marimbists of those respective traditions.  He currently performs with world music groups Locarno, Mazacote, Tambura Rasa and his own group Robin Layne + Friends and is in demand as a freelance percussionist for  recordings, performances and tours.  Recent highlights include working with Juno Award winning artists Quique Escamilla, The Paperboys, Donne Roberts (African Guitar Summit), Alpha Yaya Diallo, Celso Machado and Silk Road Music. 

Equally at home on a festival stage or in a classroom, Robin strongly believes that the gift of music should be accessible to everyone. He is the senior percussion instructor at the Sarah McLachlan School of Music and the Artistic Director of the Britannia World Rhythms for Youth Society. He also co-founded the Vancouver World Music Festival in 2015 with Tom Landa.


Arthur Pascau Smith - Guitar

Arthur is a musician, educator, and media-guy based in Vancouver, Canada. He is a Teaching Artist at the Sarah McLachlan School of Music and member of neo-soul outfit Tiny Havoc, modern jazz trio Simple City, and music-blender Last Ark Out. His musical projects perform regularly in Vancouver and have received funding and support from FACTOR, Creative BC, and the BC Arts Council. Arthur has pursued private studies abroad with guitarists such as Peter Bernstein, Matthew Stevens, and Gilad Hekselman.


Toga D’Hoore - Bass

Toga D’Hoore is a bassist, educator and composer based in Vancouver. In addition to playing with Basilissa, he can be seen with Vancouver future-soul outfit Tiny Havoc He is also a member of the teaching faculty at the Sarah McLachlan School of Music. Normally he smiles.