Special to The Record
It would be difficult to name an instrument that has shaped modern music more than the guitar.
What we now know as the modern European guitar styles or the creation of styles such as the American blues or Cuban Son can all be traced back to Africa.
From deep down trance blues like John Lee Hooker to more celebratory summer dance music to the improvisational sounds leading to jazz, they can all be traced back to the motherland of Africa.
Enter the African Guitar Summit. This group was originally put together in Toronto in 2004 to participate in a unique project for CBC Radio’s On Stage program.
In three days they created a band, rehearsing and arranging, sharing stories and experiences. On the fourth day the group debuted in a concert at CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio. It was a magical evening that will be long remembered by everyone who was there, full of dazzling individual showcases and electrifying collaborations.
African Guitar Summit was released on CBC Records in November 2004, and went on to win the Juno for World Music Album of the Year. Their second album, African Guitar Summit II, garnered a 2007 Juno award nomination in the same category.
This star-studded collective currently unites the talents of five musicians, each an expert in their individual style and together creating musical magic.
The Summit features African blues guitar master Madagascar Slim; from Guinea, the smooth fire of Juno Award winner Alpha YaYa Diallo; from Madagascar, the thoughtful composer, powerful vocalist and sublime guitar player Donné Roberts; master balafon player Naby Kamara; and from Ghana, the heartbeat of drummer Kofi Ackah.
If you look at the bios of each one of these master musicians, you discover each one is worthy of their own story.
A modern slant has been applied to Malagasy music by guitar and valiha (bamboo zither) player and vocalist Madagascar Slim (born Randriamananjara Radofa Besata Jean Longin). As equally inspired by B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix as the music of his homeland, Slim has created his own distinct sound.
Alpha YaYa Diallo, who performed this past summer at Comox Valley MusicFest as part of the WorldBeat at Home Collaboration, has carved a niche for himself beside such West African luminaries as Salif Keita, Baaba Maal, Youssou N’Dour, and Ismael Lo.
Donné Roberts performs mainly in Malagasy, his mother tongue from his birthplace of Madagascar. Donné was raised and educated in Moscow, Russia and now lives in Toronto.
In Moscow, he was the first black VJ on MTV Russia.
Touring Canada, he introduces his music to new fans that might be unfamiliar with the kinds of rhythms his music conveys and his fusion of seemingly dissimilar sounds.
There is no live experience quite like this superb achievement for African music; the mix of musicians who are distinct in cultural backgrounds and languages yet sharing stories and singing each other’s praises, the inspiration of these skilled hands and voices joined in common to reach the summit.
Indulge in the sounds of the finest Canadian guitarists of African origin on Friday, Aug. 28 at the Sid Williams Theatre.
Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show can be purchased at the Sid William box office (Cliffe Ave., Fifth St.), by phone at 250-338-2430, or online at sidwilliamstheatre.com/