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NOTE (Apr. 2012)
I have not posted many photos for the last couple of years. Someday, again, I hope... (I'm still taking them).
Links & notes to most of the photos posted are below.  I've also posted a few concerts in 2010:

Photo gallery is at

Music Photos: 2009 (Updated: Dec. 28, 2009)
These photos are from 2009. For older pictures, click: 2008, 2007, 20062005. or 2002-2004 
Click here for a full list of all artists' photos


All photographs are © John Leeson.
Contact me for permission to re-use or to obtain higher resolution copies.

To view pictures:
Inside each album, you can click on individual photos, or click the "slideshow" link in the upper right.

Right below the "slideshow" link, you'll see other links that take you up a level, e.g. from an individual show album to the album grouping all the shows that month (or months).


Dec. 25: MAHMOUD AHMED at the Lithuanian Hall

In what I hope is becoming a Toronto tradition, the great Ethiopian singer helped celebrate Christmas with a great, late night concert.

In the writeup for his 2007 BBC Radio 3 World Music Award for Africa, the BBC compared the effect his classic 1970's recordings had on the world music audience when re-released on the Ethiopiques series of CD's to that of the 1950's and 60's LP packaging of Robert Johnson's 1930's blues singles. A key difference of course is that Mahmoud is still alive, and still a wonderful performer.

Photo: My photos from his 2007 and 2003 concerts


  • a few short clips from his 2007 Toronto concert
  • some shaky video from France (2006), but it captures the energy and excitement he can present.
  • Undated, but relatively recent (and better quality video) performing his classic "Ere Mela Mela
  • Some undated, but vintage Mahmoud here.

Audio:his 2005 WOMAD concert (click "listen to this gig"); Some of his great songs

Dec. 6: CHOCLA Y LA ORGÍA CÓSMICA at the Lula Lounge

This was the second show in the "Africa Meets First Nations" series presented by Batuki Music. (The first featured Donné Roberts, Marc Nadjiwan and others). This group, headed by  is a mix of Ecuadorian, African and Canadian musicians. Headed by  the "Ecuadorian Blues Man", Dave West, it also includes Sudanese multi-instrumentalist Waleed Abdulhamid, Walter Maclean from Ghana, Ian De Souza (Uganda), Mauricio Estevez (Ecuador) and Emily Adler (Toronto). The show also featured dancer Saba Alemayehu.

An excellent show that impressed everyone I've spoken with. Watch for them.

Nov. 15: OLIVER MTUKUDZI at the Phoenix

Always great to see Tuku return to Toronto to perform in front of a huge and passionate Zimbabwean audience. On this tour, he's joined by 21 year old son Sam.

Some video:

And my photos from his 2007 and 2005 Toronto concerts.

Oct. 3: IRIS DEMENT at Hugh's Room

A moving and unique singer and songwriter who has toured infrequently played a sold-out solo show. Her recordings have been infrequent as well: her last CD (a gospel album) was xx; her last album of new material, xx was released in xx, so fans are looking forward to the expected new CD next year.

Read a review of her Montreal show a week later, by Carl Wilson of the Globe and Mail.

A couple of video tastes of Iris:
- singing her "Our Town" with Emmylou Harris
- talking about -- and singing -- her passionate and angry "Wasteland of the Free" (Note: this was recorded over 4 years before Bush was elected!)

Sep. 27: MADAGSCAR SLIM at Hugh's Room

The three-time Juno winner (solo, and with the African Guitar Summit and Tri-Continental) released his first CD -- Good Life, Good Living -- in 10 years! Excellent recording, and a fine show, also featuring the Malagasy dancers, Kintana Gasy.

Sep. 13: GETATCHEW MEKURIA & THE EX at the Polish Combatants Hall

One of my 2009 concert highlights.

The legendary Ethiopian sax player, now in his 70's has been recording and touring with the Dutch punk/art group, The Ex for a few years now. They played two shows marking Ethiopian New Year's as part of the Wavelength series. One of the high points of the show was the amazing Ethiopian dancer, Melaku Belay.

Read NOW's account of the show -- and watch the video here.

Photos to come of the opening act, Canaille


The first annual Brazilian Day featured glorious weather, and a jammed Yonge-Dundas Square. Carlinhos Brown closed the event with a powerful show. Also on the bill, Brazilian superstar Elba Ramalho, and Canadian acts Batucada Carioca e Cibele Iglesias, Donna Lolla, Salviana Pessoa.

Sep. 6: IRMA THOMAS at Harbourfront

The great New Orleans singer is marking her 50th anniversary in show business with a tour and a 50th anniversary CD.

A treasure.

Photos to come


Photos to come

Jul. 11-12: AFROFEST

Some highlights from the 21st annual Afrofest: 2 days of great African music, food, etc. all free. (See Music Africa for more on the festival).

  • Saturday highlights: Matumba & Ozzie from Masaisai, Valu David, Madagascar Slim -- with Malgasy dancers -- Lorraine Klaasen, Idy Oulo & Faylia Boendi
  • Sunday: Achilla Orru, Fojeba, Kemer Yousef, Bwana Moto, Saba, Naby Camara
  • Oumou Sangaré (photo)

Watch a documentary (10:12) on the 2009 Afrofest here. (Made by Bernard Musoni)

More photos to come.

Jul. 4: FEMI KUTI at Harbourfront Centre

The son of Fela closed out an amazing four hour Nigerian double bill (King Sunny Adé opened) at an absolutely packed Harbourfront show.

Photos to come Jul. 4: KING SUNNY ADÉ at Harbourfront Centre

The first two hours of the best double-bill of the year featured the King of Nigerian Juju music.

Photos to come

Jun. 26: MASAISAI at the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom

A great show: one of the year's best, fuelled by the mbira-based, Chimurenga sounds and great energy of the Zimbabwean group, the dance floor was often jammed and jumping.

I recommend checking them out when you can. You'll feel better! See their MySpace & Facebook pages, and my photos of their Feb. show in the Gladstone's Melody Bar.

Photos to come Jun. 19: NJACKO BACKO & KALIMBA KALIMBA at the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom

CD release for Ou Est l'Amour, Njacko's 10th CD.

Jun. 12: GRUPO VOCAL DESANDANN CD Release at Ellington's

The great acapella group from Camaguey, Cuba -- all descended from Haitian ancestry. This was the CD release of Light the Flame, their second CD and first in 10 years.

Jun. 7: "THE WORLD OF SLIDE GUITAR": Luminato Festival at Yonge-Dundas Square

An amazingly good, free concert, indeed featuring a "world" of slide guitar. Opening with Debashish Bhattacharya from Calcutta with his own customized slide guitars, influenced by the sitar. Also featuring Don Rooke with the Henrys playing his Hawaiian guitar; Jerry Douglas on dobro; Kevin Breit; the superb Louisiana slide guitarist, Sonny Landreth (with guest Cindy Cashdollar on lap steel). Then the Campbell brothers with their "Sacred Steel" rocked the whole square. (The night ended with the Derek Trucks band -- not photographed)

Jun. 6: ANACONA at the Distillery District

The 16-piece, all-women's Cuban orchestra, known as "Las Mulatissimas del Sabor", was originally founded in 1932. This concert (part of the Art of Jazz festival) held in the Fermenting Cellar was its Canadian debut. They'll return to town for two nights (Jul. 17-18) at the Lula Lounge. For more info, see Cuba in Toronto


Photos to come Jun. 6: "TRAVELLING BLUES": Luminato Festival at Metro Square


The show and band developed out of Donné Roberts' musical exploration of the connection he heard between traditional Malagasy chanting of his native Madagascar and native Canadian chants. This night brought him together with Native singer Marc Nadjewan and other First Nations musicans, along with Ethiopian dancer Saba Alemayehu for a true Canadian-international feel.

The volume and the energy was turned way up, the dance floor was filled, the music and the temperature were hot. Watch for more shows from the group.

Photos to come May 22: GRUPO VOCAL DESANDANN at the Lula Lounge


Photos to come Apr.  23: ELIZA GILKYSON & MARY GAUTHIER at Hugh's Room


Photos to come Apr. 19: DOBET G'NAHORE & KGOMOTSO “KG” TSATSI  at the Lula Lounge


Photos to come Apr. 10: JIM LAUDERDALE at the Station Inn, Nashville


Anania Ngoglia with Béla

Toumani Diabaté

Apr. 8: "BÉLA FLECK'S AFRICA PROJECT" at the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville

It's just over 3 months into the year, but there's no doubt that this will be one of my top concerts of the year.

The highly eclectic banjo master, Béla Fleck, took his instrument "back" to Africa in 2005 to play and record with musicians, both well known and not, in four countries. He has just completed a documentary of that trip and produced a CD, recorded both there and in the U.S. (both are entitled Throw Down Your Heart), and has begun touring North America with some African musicians.

This concert, in the beautiful and historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, featured an amazing lineup: the great Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté, the finger-picking guitarist D'Gary from Madagascar, South African singer and activist Vusi Mahlasela, along with Tanzanian ilimba ("thumb piano") player Anania Ngoglia

For more information on the concert, CD & film, see this page.

Mar. 27: SAYON CAMARA at 25 Cecil St.

A ridiculously small audience for an amazingly powerful singer from Guinea, with some excellent live backing (two guitars, dancer and djembe) ...and machine. But it didn't matter -- the great performances overcame everything. Get a sense of her power from this music video.

Photos to come Mar. 27: FOJEBA at the Tranzac



Mar. 26: HABIB KOITÉ at the Revival

The great Malian guitarist/singer made a very rare Toronto appearance, which helped explain the sold-out and very enthusiastic audience.  Excellent show... and his band featured master balafon player Kéletigue Diabaté.

Photos to come Mar. 26: SALAAM at the Revival


Ruth Mathiang
Feb. 27: MIRIAM MAKEBA TRIBUTE at the Gladstone Hotel

An amazingly good night to close out Music Africa's Black History Month series, put on with the Gladstone. The ballroom theme was "African Divas: A Tribute to Miriam Makeba", and featured performances by some of Toronto's top African women singers: Katenen "Cheka" Dioubaté, Ruth Mathiang, Lizzy Mahashe and Zaki Ibrahim, along with Jabulani.

Three hours, five singers, three bands, ten bucks -- a great deal. And that's not including the free event opening the night across the way in the Melody Bar. (below)

Feb. 27: MASAISAI at the Gladstone Hotel

A new Toronto group performing Zimbabwean music and dance, they put on a great, high-energy, hard-working show. The Melody Bar at the Gladstone was jumping, dancing, and yelling encouragement. Catch them when you can -- no doubt they'll be noticed. (


The group, from Rajasthan -- the original home of the gypsies located in north-west India -- had a big Revival crowd energized with powerful singing, and dramatic dance.

Feb. 21: MISSIA SARAN at 25 Cecil St.

The Guinean griot with a superb and powerful voice put on a great show late on a Saturday night. A snow storm kept the audience small; but those who were there had a real treat.

Photos to come Feb. 7: KEMER YOUSEF & DANIEL NEBIAT at Harbourfront Centre




Balllaké Sissoko, the great kora master from Mali, made a very rare local appearance (he said it was his first in Canada) before a disappointingly small crowd at York University. But those who were there were treated to a gorgeous solo performance. He was joined on the last few songs by local Guinean griot, Katenen "Cheka" Dioubaté. (Note: photography was not allowed during the show; the photos here were taken backstage).

Later in the month, former Sudanese child soldier, Emmanuel Jal spoke movingly at the University of Toronto about his experiences. His 2005 CD, Ceasefire, made with

See also:

2008 photos
2007 photos
2006 photos
2005 photos
2002-2004 photos