Notes: Mapfumo, Bombino, Ragovoy, Congotronics &…

Shows at the Lula last week
As noted in another post, Thomas Mapfumo closed out Afrofest, but because some of his band members didn’t get visas for Canada, filled in with some local musicians (including guitarist Larry Lewis & Tich Maredza on bass).  Mapfumo wasn’t happy with the struggles to get the tightness he wanted, but those who were at both shows agreed that the whole band was much better with another day under their belts on the Monday night at the Lula, and the dance floor was busy.

The next night, Bombino (Omara Moctar), the Tuareg guitarist/singer and his band knocked out the audience at the same club. The only bad side of that night was the small crowd.

Everyone I spoke to agreed it was one of the year’s highlights. It’s too bad they didn’t play Afrofest: they would have knocked out the whole park!

Click here for more about him and his music.

Update (Jul 25): See for some videos of the two shows.


RIP,  Jerry Ragovoy
Songwriter Jerry Ragovoy (“Time is on my side”, “Piece of my heart”) & producer (Miriam Makeba’s “Pata Pata”) died this week. Listen to a good NPR appreciation. Obituary from The Guardian here.


Video: “Congotronics vs Rockers


Blues CD: “Peyton on Patton”
A new tribute CD to Mississippi Delta blues creator Charlie Patton by Reverend Peyton (of Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band).

Review & video on No Depression website



Event notes for this weekend


Some events to consider this weekend:  See more

Jul. 22: Sexteto Tabala at the Lula
Last weekend, Harbourfront held the Colombian Diaspora Festival (see Harbourfront blog for some video & photos)

Friday night, the Lula hosts the Toronto debut of Sexteto Tabala, from San Basilio de Palenque (“the first free town in America”). The Lula describes their music as “a unique mixture of Cuban son with Afro-Colombian rhythms such as bullerengue, porros, cumbia and funeral rituals.” A chance to catch some unique music (I plan to).

Details, links & video on the Lula website

Note: NVOZ, a Columbian acapella group was also originally scheduled to perform that night at Mel Lastman Square as part of the free weekly Cultura Festival, but that show has
been cancelled, and Elizabeth Shepherd will perform instead.


Jul. 21-24: Tirgan Iranian Festival at Harbourfront
What better place to stay cool then by the lake?
Details here


Jul. 23-24: Bana Y’Afrique
The annual free African music festival will be on Sat & Sun at David Pecault Square (Metro Square) at King & John. Performers include Blaise Bamba from the Congo, Njacko Backo, Afrafranto, Anastasio & Zalang (Equatorial Guinea), Tamsir Seck & numerous others. Details here


Jul. 23-24: Hillside  Festival
A truly eclectic festival, this year’s world & roots performers include Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, Tuareg musicians Etran Finatawa (there will even be a performance with them and Egypt 80!), Maracatu Mar Aberto, Serena Ryder, One Hundred Dollars, Emmanuel Jal and Old Man Luedecke.


Jul. 23-24. Last weekend of Beaches Jazz Festival


Jul. 24: Brazilian music
Brazilfest at Earlscourt Park
& Luanda Jones in the evening at the Lula


Afrofest replay: audio & video

A strange bout of flu made me miss my first Afrofest in years, but whether you were there or not, you can catch some of its performances.

CIUT FM, as always, broadcast most of the two day festival, and has archived all the performances it broadcast. Listen here

I talked to many people who were at Afrofest, and the one performance everybody raved about was the Canadian debut of South African Dizu Plaatjies and Ibuyambo.  While I listened to their concert on CIUT, I missed out on the visual impact of their show, something everyone commented on.

Fortunately, Peter Mykusz of Tribute Video captured it on HD video.



Afrofest schedule

The 2011 Afrofest schedule and a map of the site is here. Three stages, vendors, food, a Children’s Village and of course a beer garden.

This year Wellesley St to the south and one lane of Queen’s Park Crescent to the east will be closed to traffic, expanding the size of the festival area and easing the pressure on the park and its grass — one of the areas of contention with the city. It’s not certain if Afrofest will be able to return to its traditional home next year, so come out to enjoy this year’s Afrofest in the Park.

Details and more info at

Download this file

“Summer kicks off”: Upcoming highlights

Event listings have been updated. Check out for information on numerous shows through the summer.

July this year keeps up its tradition of great music. Some shows to check out in the next couple of weeks: Details on the event listings page.


Fri. Jun. 30:

Kabakuwo at the Lula
Mandingue music, featuring dual koras. Among the players: Sadio Sissoko whom many have seen recently wiith Okavango African Orchestra plus Dieli Mori Tounkara, nephew of the great Super Rail Band guitarist Djelimady Tounkara.

Bela Fleck & the Flecktones at the Toronto Jazz Festival

“Hispanic Extravaganza” at the Living Arts Centre, Mississauga


Jul. 1: Sonia “Aimy” Aimiuwu at the Gladstone
Nigerian singer with a remarkable vioice. Backed by some great local African musicians including Pa Joe, & Kwame on drums. Free show, 7-10pm at the Melody Bar


Jul. 3: David Bromberg at Hugh’s Room
guitar, dombro etc master


Jul. 7-10: Sunfest in London, Ont
A massive lineup for the four-day free festival


Jul. 8-10: Corazon de Mexico festival at Harbourfront


Jul. 9-10: Afrofest in Queen’s Park
Needs no introduction. Headliners this year: Thomas Mapfumo & Dizu Plaatjies from South Africa. Many more acts including JP Buse, Femi Abosede, Ruth Mathiang, Tich Maredza Band. Three stages, food, and lots more. All free. What’s not to love about this weekend?


Jul. 11: Thomas Mapfumo again! ... This time at the Lula Lounge

Jul. 12: Omara “Bombino: Moctar at the Lula
Rising young Tuareg guitarist and singer. Remarkable music & life.


Some other shows posted on the events page include:
– Free noontime concerts Wednesdays & Thursdays at Nathan Phillips Square
– Free Friday night world music concerts at Mel Lastman Square
– Columbian, Iranian festivals at Harbourfront
– Jane Bunnett & Hilario Duran CD Release at Hugh’s Room
– Bana Y’Afrique Festival, Jul. 23-24. (details TBA)
– Art of Jazz’s “Brampton Global Jazz & Blues Festival”, Aug 11-14, including “From Mardi Gras to Mambo”, a concert exploring the connection between New Orleans & Cuban music with Dr John & Jane Bunnett

Also, if you’re thinking of Montreal next month, check out Nuits d’Afrique, Jul 12-24: dozens of African concerts including Manu Dibango, Oumou Sangare, Soukous All Stars


And, much, much later this year: Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba are back. Late November. Details TBA

Afrofest in Queen’s Park 3 weeks away

Email announcement from Music Africa:


Afrofest, a free celebration of the richness and diversity of African culture, is set for Queen’s Park in Toronto on Saturday July 9th and Sunday July 10th.  Featuring world-renowned African musicians and top African groups based in Canada, an African marketplace, food and craft vendors, artistic displays, music workshops, and organized activities for youth and children. Afrofest is THE cultural event of the summer.

Discover Africa in the Heart of Toronto!

African music legend Thomas Mapfumo will be a feature act of Afrofest 2011. “The Lion of Zimbabwe” is considered both the Bob Dylan and the Bob Marley of Southern Africa for the immense impact his songs and life example have made on the music and culture of his homeland.  The “Chimurenga” music he created was the soundtrack of the revolution in Zimbabwe.  A titan of African recording, Mapfumo, with more than 20 albums of outstanding original music to his name, has been performing his songs of love, freedom and justice for more than 40 years. 

Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited will also be performing an ‘Afterfest’ concert at the Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas Street West, on Monday, July 11. Admission is $20 at the door, $15 in advance – Tickets available at Afrofest and other locations to be announced.  

South Africa’s Dizu Plaatjies and Ibuyambowill make their Canadian debut performance at Afrofest 2011. Dizu led his band Amampondo in wowing the crowd at Nelson Mandela’s famous birthday concert at Wembley Stadium in 1988. They were later made official ambassadors of South African music, and their 2000 show at Afrofest stands as one of the festival’s finest ever performances. A startingly original act, not to be missed!

The Afrofest headliners will be supported by some of the top African groups based in Canada, including JP Buse (Zaire), Femi Abosede & Culture Force (Nigeria), Zekuhl (Cameroon), Ruth Mathiang (Sudan),Ijo Vudu (Nigeria), Soukous Tchatcho (Congo), The Tich Maredza Band (Zimbabwe), Anastasio & Zalang (Equatorial Guinea), Amoudou (Guinea), Beyond Sound (various Africa), Justine CanAfric (Ivory Coast) and Symphonix (Trinidad). More acts will be announced very soon. For more information on Afrofest and stage performers go to

Music Africa gratefully acknowledges the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Ontario Trillium Foundation,  the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council.  Many thanks also to media partner CIUT 89.5 FM and media supporters Planet Africa, Amet-TV and CBC Radio 99.1 FM.

For more information see, call 416-469-5336, or email



Afrofest 2011.doc
Download this file

Yemen Blues, and other event and musical notes

Event notes:
(See for full details of these and other upcoming shows & events)

Luminato Festival is now in full swing, with events all over the map (figuratively and literally), including free concerts nightly at Metro Square (now David Pecault Square) at King & John, including Art of Time Ensemble, Delhi 2 Dublin with Malkit Singh, kd lang, and closing with a double bill of Tasa & Nitin Sawhney.

Two highlights for me:

  • Yemen Blues: Tue. June 14. Free, 8pm
    By all accounts, the show might be one of the highlights of the year — at least for those of us who missed their February Toronto concert. Everything I’ve heard: on world music lists, from people who’ve seen them says don’t miss this group.

    For a taste, see the band’s You Tube channel or some audio on MySpace Also see John Goddard’s June 10 Toronto Star article about the group. The story also mentions some of the other Luminato world music acts, and makes the argument that Luminato has now replaced Harbourfront as Toronto’s top world music venue. Significantly, for the last two years, Luminato hired Derek Andrews, the former Harbourfront music programmer.

    Sultans of String open.

  • A day of Arabic music, Sat. Jun. 18 including Natacha Atlas, Hakim, “the Lion of Egypt” with Minor Empire & George Sawa. Two shows: 2 & 4pm. Details here
  • I also have a note posted about some of the varied musical and other events at Luminato relating to Arabic and Middle Eastern culture and politics posted on my Libyan blog


Lots more  in June of course, including, as noted previously:

  • This weekend: Taste of Little Italy Festival has a number of live bands & also check out the Beach BBQ & Brews Festival: blues Friday, rock Saturday & reggae Sunday.
  • Jun 24-Jul 3: Toronto Jazz Festival with hundreds of acts starts off with a free concert by Aretha Franklin on Jun 24, conflicting concerts with Youssou n’Dour and Randy Weston, both on Jun. 26; and many many more.
  • Jun. 25: Congolese soukous from Werrason (formerly of Wenge Musica BCBG)
  • Also, note Franco-Fete at Harboufront, Jun. 24-16:  Some performers include: Kyessi Wète from Paris (pop, blues, reggae, soul & rumba); Ben L’Oncle Soul; Mamaku (French Bohemian meets South Pacifica dub & eastern sounds); Ouanani from Montreal featuring musicians from Canada, Senegal, Mozambique, Ghana & Togo. Details here
  • Jun. 30: Kabakuwo at the Lula: traditional Mandinka music featuring dual koras. Mark this one down.
  • Canada Day, Jul. 1:Sonia “Aimy’ Aimiuwu in a free Melody Bar show (7pm). Originally from Nigeria, she has a great voice and will be backed by some top Toronto African musicians including Pa Joe, Ebenezer Agyekum, Suleiman Juma and Kwame on drums.


A few other notes:

  • “The Day the Music Died”: Disappearing college radio in the US: New York Times ariticle, June 12
  • Appropriate to that article, CKLN here in Toronto which recently lost its radio license, is in fact still broadcasting — online. Supporters of the station are working on an appeal. More details, including notice of a special meeting on June 29, plus a Listen Live link at
  • Les Paul: Anyone who Googled on June 9, found “the coolest doodle ever” honouring the birthday of the late guitar innovator Les Paul’s birthday. Paul is the only person who’s a member of the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame!

    Here’s a nice clip of him and Mary Ford with their classic, “How High the Moon”. And here’s a 10 minute YouTube excerpt from an award-winning full-length documentary about him

  • Another innovator of a different sort was the late Texan musician and singer Doug Sahm. My favourite quote about him was by writer Chet Flippo who described Sahm as “the lonely guy standing at the crossroad where Highway 61 intersected Route 66, where all of American popular music came riding by”.(See my 2009 appreciation on the 10th anniversary of Sahm’s death).
    A new collection of Sahm’s singles — on his own and as the Sir Douglas Quintet — has been released recently. Read a good review here

Desandann: Receiving long-deserved recognition

Sometime in the late 90’s, I first saw Grupo Vocal Desandann, a 10-member vocal group of Haitian descendants living in Camaguey Cuba. They played that night at Harbourfront, and I fell in love with their music.  However, commercial success and wider critical notice has been sadly a long time in coming.

Despite their alliance with Jane Bunnett and Larry Cramer, and periodic appearances in the Toronto area and around Canada, they were little known. The effective ban on Cuban musicians in the US did not help. In 2009, Bunnett and Cramer recorded what was only the group’s second CD (Pwan Dife), but never seemed to actually put it on sale anywhere.

In 2009 however, they played some shows in the UK, including WOMAD and the Edinburgh Festival. Among those impressed with the group was Peter Gabriel who recorded a CD, Tande-la, them for his Real World label. The group now toured and recorded under another name, Creole Choir of Cuba.

This past weekend, they performed in New York City at the Si Cuba festival, and — not surprisingly — received raves.


New York Times review of the group’s “exhilerating United States debut” Elsewhere, a couple of mini-reviews on Twitter:

  • “Best thing I’ve seen in forever. This is passionate and gorgeous”
  • “Never seen as many standing ovations as I did tonight for Creole Choir of Cuba at BAM Brooklyn. Phenomenal show!!

I look forward to them returning soon to Toronto.

(Photo taken at Nov. 2007 concert at Holy Trinity Church, Toronto)

Harboufront Centre summer music announced

One of the treats of summer: great music by the lake.

Today, Harbourfront announced the lineups for the 2011 “Hot Spot Summer” music lineup.

Lots of interesting and unique performers coming; details are in a press release posted here, and the main festival webpage is here.

The theme weekends are:

  • NXNE, Jun. 11-12
  • Franco-Fête, Jun 24-26
  • Canada Day, Jul. 1
    Luke Doucet & The White Falcon
  • On the Pulse, Jul. 2
  • Corazon de México, Jul. 8-10
  • Colombian Colours, Jul. 15-17
  • Tirgan Iranian Festival, Jul 21-24
  • Calypso Stars Showcase, Jul 27
  • Island Soul, Jul 29-Aug 1
  • What’s Classical, Aug 5-7
  • Fortune Cooking Food Festival, Aug 12-14
  • Masala! Mehndi! Masti! Aug 19-21
  • TELUS Taiwanfest, Aug 26-28
  • Hot & Spicy Food Festival, Sep. 2-5


May 21: “An Evening (and afternoon) for Bazou”

On Saturday, May 21, Njacko Backo & Valery Woloshyn are hosting their second benefit for École St. Albert Le Grand, the school Njacko attended as a child in Bazou Cameroon.

The money raised from last year’s event provided some urgently needed infrastructure repairs to the school, and also funded the purchase of some traditional African instruments.

This year’s event will help provide sanitation facilities including the rebuilding of latrines and construction of a handwashing station.

This year, there are two different events. The afternoon (3-5pm) is a children’s event with  Soli & Rob with Alistair Ant!, Marni’s Move-in Music, Bellwoods Trinity plus stories & music from Njacko. As well, Njacko will be selling copies of his first children’s storybook, Baki and the Magic Egg.

The evening features a diverse lineup:
Njacko Backo & Kalimba Kalimba, roots music legend Ken Whiteley, jazz duo Hannah Burgé & Paco Luviano, opera star Sahara Sloan with “Men Without Hats” Colin Doroschuk, Muhtadi & The World Drummers, plus The Marni Levitt Collective (with Terri Segal & Valery Woloshyn).

Video from last year’s event.
A great event to attend and support. Njacko is someone who has always been supportive of a wide variety of great causes that help make the world a better place (and he’s a great children’s entertainer as well) — and this day is a great way to provide some real help to some children who need it. Another small contribution to making the world just a tiny bit better..

Plus of course, some great kids entertainment — and terrific music for everyone. An excellent & diverse lineup in the venerable Gladstone Ballroom.

All moneys raised from donations go to the project. For more background, see

Afternoon: 3-5pm; Evening 8pm.  Suggested donation: $25 or pay what you can.  Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, 1214 Queen St. W. (Note: for anyone driving, the Gardiner will be closed over the weekend)