Okavango Orchestra: Musical Guests
Okavango African Orchestra – 12 instruments, 10 languages, 7 countries…one special concert.
Okavango African Orchestra is an ambitious musical project that could happen only in a great multicultural city like Toronto. Batuki Music Society Artistic Director Nadine McNulty assembled a cast of eight accomplished African-born musicians who now live in Toronto and Montreal: Daniel Nebiat (krar, vocals-Eritrea), Tichaona Maredza (marimba, nyunga- nyunga, hosho, vocals-Zimbabwe), Donne Roberts (guitar, vocals-Madagascar), Kooshin (kaban, vocals-Somalia), Ebenezer Agyekum (bass-Ghana), Sadio Sissokho (kora, tama, djembe, vocals-Senegal), Nicolas Simbananiye (vocals-Burundi), Aron Nitunga (guitar, vocals-Burundi) and Kofi Ackah (percussion-Ghana).
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.
The origin of this orchestra also comes from a desire to create something that had never been attempted before. The orchestra is a reflection of the varied music that originates from the African continent, specifically the local traditional instruments that are actually the catalyst for forming the orchestra. The music is a derivative of the instruments themselves and players in the orchestra. Sounds like Somali jazz, Tigrinya folk music, Malagasy ballads and salegy, hybrid sounds of Shona folk and popular music of Zimbabwe, Griot music of West Africa and oral history, Ghanaian highlife elements…
The music is not static, it’s an experimentation with the traditional and modern instruments trying to find a medium where they all co-exist on a single stage. Okavango is continuously evolving through its’ introduction of other traditional instruments found throughout Africa.