Spiritual Songs of Sub-Saharan Africa: Feb 14, 2015

Batuki Music Society Presents: Spiritual Songs of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Batuki Music Society presents a special concert for Black History Month featuring traditional African music rooted in spiritualism, on Saturday February 14th, 2015 at the Alliance Francaise de Toronto Theatre, 24 Spadina Road, one block north of Bloor Street West at 8:00 p.m. This concert will portray the spiritual side of African music in its simplest form possible and a transition to today’s modern popular music influenced by western tradition and gospel. You will be treated to an evening of soulful music from Sub-Saharan Africa ranging from; Guinean griot, Ethiopian soul, Ghanaian highlife and gospel, South Sudanese spirituals, Congolese rumba, to Zimbabwean spirit music. The aim of this concert is to produce and present a show that attempts to describe the evolving nature of African music from its traditional roots to modern. Emphasis here is on the spiritual music of Africa versus the modern forms of popular music largely influenced by western tradition and gospel. The focus on Sub-Saharan Africa was not a deliberate act, rather the choice for the project was based on the rich talent pool available here in Toronto. The lineup already includes some of the finest female singers in the city such as; Blandine Mbiya, Griot Katenen ‘Cheka’ Dioubate, Ruth Mathiang, Evelyn Mukwedeya, Memory Makuri, Netsanet Mellesse, and Frederica Ackah, backed by an equally talented band consisting of Kofi Ackah on drums and percussion, Donne Roberts on guitar, Tichaona Maredza on rhythm guitar, Quandoe Harrison on bass guitar, Fantahun Shewankochew Mekonnen on acoustic krar, Misara on keyboards, Ruben Esguerra on congas and Amadou Kienou on djembe.

Evelyn Mukwedeya and Memory Makuri will perform songs of the Shona people using the mbira (thumb piano), hand clapping, shakers or hosho, and dancing. In Zimbabwe the mbira is the primary instrument for conducting healing ceremonies and other traditional rituals. Males usually played the mbira and its use to perform music was banned during colonial times, as it was associated with pagan rituals and rebellion. One of the first female mbira players and traditional healer is Stella Chiweshe, who did challenge the tradition of excluding females from practicing and has become a role model for younger females who have followed in her footsteps.

Congolese rumba is the popular music of the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is some Cuban influence as well as Christian choral music introduced by missionaries in the early 1900’s. Rumba is sung primarily in Lingala, the lingua franca of the Congo, and other languages such as Kikongo, Tshiluba, Swahili and also French. The success of the rumba is directly linked with the suppression of spiritual and indigenous music of the Congo, this time by Christian missionaries from Europe (Belgium and France).

Blandine Mbiya is a talented singer and songwriter who hails from the Kasai region in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her styles include gospel, pop, r&b, rumba and other African genres. Blandine Mbiya would be singing some gospel inspired rumba as well as spiritual music of the Congo.

Katenen ‘Cheka’ Dioubate is a praise singer or griot who hails from Guinea (Conakry). Praise singers are a very important component in the Manding traditions of West Africa. They are the keepers of the oral history and culture of the people, and in their singing there is a spiritual element that has a calming effect on an audience. The function of the griots in society is so extensive that it covers events such as, singing at a marriage ceremony, rites of passage for young men and women, funerals, etc. Dioubate will bring to the stage her powerful voice, commanding presence, and the spiritual music of the Manding people that has been passed down several generations.

The music of Ethiopia is very rich and complex indeed as it has more than 80 ethnic groups, distinct regions and climate. Traditional music of Ethiopia remains popular and sometimes uncorrupted by foreign influence since the country had little contact with the outside world except for a brief attempt by Italy to colonize it. Netsanet Mellesse is a popular singer who has produced many traditional, pop and gospel albums in Ethiopia. She will be accompanied on her set by one of Ethiopia’s finest acoustic krar players and composer, Fantahun Shewankochew Mekonnen.

Ruth Mathiang will represent South Sudan. Mathiang is a singer who honed her skills while growing up in neighboring Kenya. She will be performing some of the songs of the indigenous religion of the Nuer nation of Southern Sudan as well as popular music sung in Swahili or Arabic.

Frederica Ackah from Ghana is a guest artist who specializes in gospel music, she will add her voice to the group and will no doubt make a contribution to the ever-growing number of female artists in the city.

Most of the artists featured in this concert belong to individual bands and some are bandleaders. The lineup for this concert is truly impressive as it composes of mostly talented female artists who represent various musical traditions south of the Sahara, and all of them live in this beautiful city of Toronto.

Event: Spiritual Songs of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Date: Saturday, February 14th, 2015

Venue: Alliance Francaise de Toronto Theatre, 24 Spadina Road, Toronto

Time: Doors open 7:00 p.m. Concert starts 8:00 p.m.

Tickets: $20 advance, $25 at the door.

Advance tickets online:


And these locations:

Soundscapes – 572 College St.

African Drum & Art Crafts – 618 Dundas St. West

New Bilan Restaurant – 183 Dundas St. East

Hidden Thrifty Store – 26 Roncesvalles





Batuki Music Society gratefully acknowledges the support of the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, Canadian Heritage, Alliance Francaise de Toronto (AFT) and CIUT 89.5 FM.

Batuki Music Society, P.O. Box 68585, 360A Bloor St. W. Toronto, ON, M5S 1X0

info@batukimusic.com www.batukimusic.com

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    Songs Of My Mother: Dec 7, 2013

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    Sounds of Saba: Mar 7, 2015

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