Multiple instruments, ten languages, and seven countries define Okavango African Orchestra, winners of the 2017 JUNO Award for World Music Album and 2020 JUNO Award nominee for their new album – Africa Without Borders.
Okavango African Orchestra is an ambitious musical ensemble created by Batuki Music Society, a non-profit African arts organization based in Toronto. Artistic Director Nadine McNulty assembled a cast of accomplished African-born musicians who now live in Toronto and Montreal: Daniel Nebiat (krar, vocals), Kofi Ackah (percussion, vocals), Tichaona Maredza (nyunga-nyunga, guitar, hosho, vocals), Sadio Sissokho (kora, tama, djembe, vocals), Ebenezer Agyekum (bass guitar, vocals), Assane Seck (guitar, vocals), Aron Nitunga (guitar, vocals) and Mabinty Sylla (dance).
The orchestra takes its name from the Okavango Delta, a basin in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, where many different animal species come together to feed and find water. Predators and prey are forced to coexist and share the meager resources because of the harsh environment around them. Similarly, Okavango: An African Orchestra brings together the traditional music and instruments of several major African cultures that historically have had little or no interaction. The musicians of Okavango have created a common meeting place for these disparate cultures, and a new musical language that harmonizes their different tuning systems, rhythms, and timbres. The musicians and instruments of Okavango represent a continuum of traditions and cultures from time immemorial to the present day. The multicultural spirit of modern-day Canada bridges ancient African solitudes.
Okavango African Orchestra revisited the site of its triumphant debut, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to record the group’s debut, self-titled album of ten songs, released in February 2016, which was awarded the 2017 JUNO for World Music Album of the Year. The group recently released their second album, titled “Africa Without Borders” and in February 2020, the album was nominated for a 2020 JUNO Award for World Music Album of the Year.
Okavango African Orchestra has performed for many presenters and festivals including Glenn Gould Studio, Koerner Hall (Royal Conservatory of Music), Alliance Francaise, Beanfield Centre, Harbourfront Centre, River Run Centre, Kingston City Hall, Lincoln Alexander Centre, Isabel Bader Performing Arts Centre, Alliance Francaise Toronto, Toronto Jazz Festival, Francophonie-en-Fete, Canada Day, Afrofest, Hot & Spicy Festival, City of Toronto, Randolph Performing Arts Theatre, Markham Flato Theatre, Aga Khan Museum, David Pecaut Square, Mel Lastman Square, Aga Khan Museum, Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts, Sherbrooke World Festival and more.
Okavango African Orchestra looks ahead on its continuing journey to an “Africa without borders… before the borders were created”.