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Okavango African Orchestra

by Okavango African Orchestra

Winner of the 2017 JUNO Award for World Music Album of the Year, sounds like Somali jazz, Tigrinya folk music, Malagasy ballads and salegy, hybrid sounds of Shona folk and popular music of Zimbabwe, Ghanaian highlife and Griot music of West Africa
Genre: World: African
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Bilan
4:29 $0.99
2. Na
5:18 $0.99
3. Africa Yauya
3:46 $0.99
4. Yohanna
5:45 $0.99
5. Dieu Est Grand
4:31 $0.99
6. Qaraami
3:28 $0.99
7. Hadar Gerki
4:59 $0.99
8. Vaivavy Tozoro Zoly
4:12 $0.99
9. Zvemimhanzi
4:07 $0.99
10. Africa Bolo
5:08 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Okavango African Orchestra - 12 instruments, 10 languages, 7 countries…one special concert.

Okavango African Orchestra
12 instruments, 10 languages, 7 countries…

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 has assembled a cast of nine accomplished Africa-born musicians who now live in Toronto and Montreal: Daniel Nebiat (Eritrea), Tichaona Maredza (Zimbabwe), Donné Roberts (Madagascar), Sadio Sissokho (Senegal), Nuudi “Kooshin” Mohamud (Somalia), Kofi Ackah (Ghana), Aron Nitunga (Burundi), Ebenezer Agyekum (Ghana), and Nicolas Simbananiye (Burundi).

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. Okavango is the coming together of old and new – using traditional instruments to revive these traditions and bring them to light by mixing with modern instruments as a way of re-introducing them to a new audience. Making these instruments relevant in today’s African music.

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…

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.

Okavango African Orchestra looks ahead on its continuing journey to an “Africa without borders… before the borders were created”.

Nadine McNulty, Artistic Director, Batuki Music Society

Okavango African Orchestra Liner Notes

1. Bilan – The Name of a Beautiful Girl 4:29
Composer: Nuudi ‘Kooshin’ Mohamud
Language: Somali
This song is about a man who dreams of pursuing a beautiful girl called Bilan, and yet is unable to win her love. This is explained in a Somali parable that likens an elephant wandering in the middle of the night looking for grass to eat but failing to find any but keeps looking anyway.

2. Na – Mother 5:18
Composer: Sadio Sissokho
Languages: Wolof, Bambara
Na is a song dedicated to the African mother that plays a significant role in the family as well as society. Na (mother) represents life as she is the bearer of children and nurtures them through life.

3. Africa Yauya – Africa has Arrived 3:46
Composer: Tichaona Maredza
Language: Shona
This song celebrates the many gifts that the African continent has contributed in the form of culture, music and art. In many African traditions when somebody visits a home they usually bring some gifts for the host. Africa Yauya is our gift of sweet music to the world.

4. Yohanna – Congratulations 5:45
Composer: Daniel Nebiat
Language: Tigrinya
Yohanna acknowledges the resilience, sacrifice and success of the Eritrean people.

5. Dieu est Grand – God is Great 4:31
Composer: Donné Roberts
Languages: Malagasy, French
Dieu est Grand is about a young man going through hard times and feels hopeless. A village elder counsels him that he should always be hopeful, to learn to appreciate what he has and to work hard towards his dreams, and also to respect others, animals and nature. Any good deed will be rewarded threefold, the same goes for bad deeds.

6. Qaraami – Somali roots music 3:28
Composer: Nuudi “Kooshin” Mohamud
Language: Somali
Qaraami is a genre of music that is deeply ingrained in the Somali folklore. The song is about an anguished lover who has been hurt by a partner, it expresses the pain of breaking up and the hurt that doesn’t seem to go away.

7. Hadar Gerki – You Got Married 4:59
Composer: Yemane Ghebremichael
Arranged by: Daniel Nebiat
Language: Tigrinya
A lover heard a rumour that his love got married to another man. This song expresses his pain and heartache about the loss.

8. Vaivavy Tozoro Zoly – Women are Wonderful 4:12
Composer: Donné Roberts
Language: Malagasy
Without a woman, a man is nothing. Vaivavy Tozoro Zoly describes the female as the best advisor, negotiator, companion and teacher. A woman is like a wonder medicine for all ailments in life.

9. Zvemimhanzi – About Music 4:07
Composer: Tichaona Maredza
Language: Shona
This song is a musicians’ reflection that in the early days of their careers, usually in-laws, relatives and friends dismissed their ambitions as time wasting (Hurombe). But we have come to celebrate our successes despite the criticism. Zvemimhanzi was inspired by the creation of the Okavango African Orchestra.

10. Africa Bollo – Africa Unite 5:08
Composer: Sadio Sissokho
Languages: Wolof, Bambara, French
Africa Bollo talks about celebrating and uniting all of Africa. The song reflects the diversity and unity of Okavango African Orchestra and is a message for all of Africa to unite.

Okavango African Orchestra:
Donné Roberts: lead/rhythm guitar, vocals
Tichaona Maredza: nyunga-nyunga mbira, marimba, acoustic guitar, hosho, vocals
Daniel Nebiat: krar, vocals
Sadio Sissokho: kora, djembe, tama, vocals
Nuudi ‘Kooshin” Mohamud aka Dr. Love: kaban, vocals
Kofi Ackah: drums, congas, tabla, shakers, back vocals
Aron Nitunga: rhythm/lead guitar, back vocals
Ebenezer Agyekum: bass guitar
Nicolas Simbananiye: back vocals
Artistic Director: Nadine McNulty

Okavango African Orchestra Album Credits:
Producer: Aron Nitunga
Executive Producer: Nadine McNulty
Recorded and mixed at: Studio 211/Studio 210, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
Engineer and Mix: Doug Doctor
Assistant Engineers: Adam Tune, John Maclean
Mastering: Andy Krehm, Silverbirch Productions
Original artwork: Jose Ortega
Photography: Nadine McNulty
Special thanks to all of the musicians for their belief and dedication in the Okavango African Orchestra. Many thanks to Otimoi Oyemu, Hussein Adani, James Tay, Joan Piloya, Thierno Soumare, Todd Fraracci, Malcolm Gould, Ann MacKeigan, John Goddard, Derek Andrews, Arlene Cieslewiecz, Ken Stowar, Virginia Brooks, Julio Benitez, Pasi Gunguwo, Walter Maclean, Waleed Abdulhamid, Tim Brow, CIUT 89.5 FM, CBC Radio.

(P) © Batuki Music Society 2013
Made in Canada
All rights reserved

Okavango African Orchestra Artist Bios

Tichaona Maredza – marimba, nyunga-nyunga mbira, hosho, congas, vocals, composer
Swooping down from the vast Zimbabwean plains, Tichaona Daniel Maredza, a guitar in one hand, a drum in the other, and an mbira in his teeth, arrived in Toronto in 2008. Singer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, he quickly formed a group in December 2009 called the Tich Maredza Band. Tichaona's music, while rooted in Zimbabwean traditional styles, has a contemporary flair with vital drive and melodic intelligence. Narrated and sung in Shona and English, his music chronicles the struggles and triumphs of his journey, in music and life. While presently working on honing material for a new album entitled The Journey, Tichaona has released two previous albums, Eternity Music Volume One, recorded in Australia, and Ndinzweiwo, recorded in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Tichaona has shared the stage with and opened for Oliver Mtukudzi and the late Samson Mtukudzi several times in the U.S. and Canada. He draws inspiration from their leadership and music.

Donne Roberts – guitar, vocals, composer
Donné came to wider recognition after he released his first album “Rhythm Was Born” and for his contribution as one of the members of the African Guitar Summit project, which won a JUNO in 2005 and was nominated for another one in 2007. Donné Roberts was born in Madagascar, 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, who might be unfamiliar with the kinds of rhythms his music conveys and his fusion of seemingly dissimilar sounds. For his new record INTERNATION, Donné Roberts immerses himself in Egyptian, Nigerian, North American Aboriginal, Japanese, Russian and Celtic music. With friends and collaborators, he makes something entirely original and uniquely Canadian that is imbued with a Donné Roberts sound. Collaboration on his new album “INTERNATION” included musicians who are well loved and respected in their own recording and performing projects: Maryem Tollar, Jani Lauzon, David Woodhead, Drew Jurecka, Rich Howse aka I-Sax, Walter Maclean and The Great Bob Scott.

Sadio Sissokho – kora, tama, djembe, vocals, composer
Born into a griot family, Sadio learned to play Senegalese traditional rhythms and instruments at a young age with his family group Bannaya, a ballet troupe well known in Senegal. Sadio attended l’Ecole Nationale des Arts de Dakar and received a traditional music studies certificate for his studies. He is a singer and multi-instrumentalist and has mastered the kora (21-stringed traditional instrument), along with the djembe, sabar, doun doun and tama drums. Soon after his arrival in Quebec in 2003, Sadio joined the group, Taafe Fanga. He is a founding member of the group, Kabakuwo, formed to explore Mandinka culture and perform traditional music and original compositions that draw from Senegal, Mali, Guinea and Gambia. The group was the 2007 winner of the Syli d-or Musique du Monde. Sadio’s talent, flexibility and his unique presence on stage brings him to perform with different artists including Alpha Yaya Diallo, Wilfred Lebouthillier (Bala de l’ADISQ2003), Ouanani (winner of Prix du Public, Festival de la Chanson de Granby 2004) and Annie Ebene.

Ebenezer Agyekum – bass
Ebenezer Agyekum is a bassist in high demand from many of the top players of African music in Toronto. He has performed with popular artists including Lorraine Klaasen, Donne Roberts, Culture Force, Jewel Ackah, Yinka Farinde and Fantahun Shewankochew. He is a member of the JUNO winning African Guitar Summit and the Ghanaian palm wine and highlife group, Afrafranto. Ebenezer has performed a wide array of music styles from East, West, South and Central Africa.

Nuudi Kooshin Mohamud – kaban, vocals, composer
Nuudi “Kooshin” Mohamud is one of the most popular performers of traditional and contemporary Somali music in Toronto. He is a master of the kaban (oud) and plays other instruments including the guitar, keyboards and drums. Kooshin composes and arranges his own songs and has recorded many cassettes and CDs over the past fifteen years, as well as, compose music for other popular artists. Singing in various languages including Somali and Arabic, Kooshin has performed in the Somali communities’ traditional ceremonies, wedding and events in Canada and the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. Kooshin has performed with many of the legendary Somalian artists and played kaban on the song Hoobale, that he recorded on K’naan’s award winning album, The Dusty Foot Philosopher.

Daniel Nebiat – krar, vocals, composer
Daniel Nebiat was born in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. He picked up the krar at an early age, performing traditional songs and singing in his language Tigrigna. (The krar is a 5 or 6-string instrument from Ethiopia and Eritrea). As a youth, not only was he immersed in traditional and contemporary music from his home, but he also listened to American pop, country and blues music. Nebiat’s early music talents were evident during the Hoya Hoye celebrations held around the New Year. During this celebration, children go door to door to perform a song and people give blessings and money in return. He took part, and with the money he collected, was able to buy his first krar at the age of 12. His mother, however, had different plans and after finding his krar at home she proceeded to break it into pieces and use it for firewood for cooking. The idea of him becoming a musician was not acceptable and she wanted him to choose a different profession. Nebiat emigrated to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, at the age of 17. He completed his schooling and learned to play the krar from skilled players. Right from the start, while learning the proper tuning of the krar, Nebiat proved to his teachers that he had a natural gift for music. His first large public performance was in Nairobi, Kenya at the celebrations for the Eritrean referendum on independence from Ethiopia in 1994. Since he came to Canada in 1996, Nebiat performs regularly at community events, weddings, festival and nightclubs. He performed in 2006 at Glenn Gould Studio for CBC Radio’s Horn of Africa concert and at Afrofest, Afrikadey, Eritrean Day and Bana y’Afrique. In 2007 Nebiat was the opening act for Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 at Harbourfront Centre. He has taken his music to a diverse audience performing for the Wavelength Series at Sneaky Dee’s, Lula Lounge and at the Gladstone Hotel. Nebiat has released 2 albums, Hakimey in 2008 and Sealitya Adey in 2012, featuring original songs, sung in the Tigrinya language.

Kofi Ackah – percussion
Master percussionist Kofi Ackah, son of Jewel Ackah, was born into a musical family in the town of Ema, Ghana. His father is known as the King of Highlife in Ghana, one of the best Highlife musicians in the world. His father was his mentor. The first band he played with was his father’s, known as The Butterfly Six band. Kofi formally studied music in school and obtained a music degree from the National Academy of Music in Accra, Ghana. After that Kofi moved to Canada in 1992 and joined The Highlife Stars with Pat Thomas and Theo Yaw Boakye. He has performed and recorded with some of the most prominent African groups, such as the African Guitar Summit, Alpha Yaya Diallo, Tarig Abubakar & the AfroNubians, Tikisa, Mighty Popo and Donne Roberts, as well as world music outfits such as Kiran Aluwahlia, Luciano, the Wailers and Leroy Sibbles. Kofi Ackah plays with his band Afrafranto playing highlife and palm wine music in festival, clubs and events. Kofi is the percussionist and drummer for the African Guitar Summit, and has contributed in their recordings (African Guitar Summit I awarded a Juno for Best World Music Recording), and on their tours across Canada, and parts of the U.S. Kofi is also involved in school programs, teaching traditional Ghanian hand drumming, and singing.

Aron Nitunga – Burundi – guitar, vocals
Aron Nitunga is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and award-winning producer with a long career touring and recording with many international and national artists in Canada and abroad. He has been producing albums and hits with different musicians among them: late Jean-Christophe Matata’s “Amaso akunda”, Emmanuel Sekimonyo’s “Umwana w’ umunyarwanda”, “Urabaruta” for André Sebanani, Byumvuhore’s “Fagitire”, David Nikiza’s “Urihe Ncuti”, Nicolas Peks (Akantu K’Umutse), Kemer Yousef (Nanawe), Africa Nova (Iyizire), Lizzy Mahashe (Africa) as well as his own releases (Africa Night, Africa Belongs to Me). His reputation goes beyond the borders of Canada to the U.S., Europe and Africa where he plays guitar, the bass or keyboards.

Nicolas Simbananiye – Burundi – vocals
Nicolas Simbananiye, also called Nicolas Peks, is a singer, composer, multi-talented musician, DJ and actor. Nicolas's DJ career started in 1995 in Burundi, his home country, followed by a very successful singing career that started in 1999 by a series of concerts in the East African region. After a European concert tour that led him to countries such as Belgium and Switzerland, Nicolas immigrated to Canada in 2007 where he started performing in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. As a singer, he has shared the stage with artists such as the Mighty Popo (JUNO award winner), South African internationally renowned singer and humanitarian Yvonne Chaka Chaka, the award winning Congolese singer/songwriter Lokua Kanza, and other artists including JUNO winning Ghanaian musician and producer Kofi Ackah, Kidum (Best East African male artist of the year 2010-2011), the multi-instrumentalist, arranger and producer Aron Nitunga (Best producer in the African Great Lakes region) and Shakura S`Aida, a Toronto based jazz and blues singer. Nicolas has also performed at Dundas Square in Toronto, Kigali UP festival in Rwanda, the ACTRA award ceremonies, various Black History Month celebrations, community events and concerts. In 2005, Nicolas was featured in a documentary called “L'école de la Vie” directed by a young east African journalist living in France, and TFO (Toronto's French TV) did a report on his singing career in 2008. Nicolas's acting career started in Burundi in 2001 while he was part of a group called “La Marre au Pilipili” which produced a series of plays well known in Burundi. In 2008 in Toronto, Nicolas has also performed in a play called “Noah’s great rainbow”. In April 2009 Nicolas took part in a documentary with VIA TVA from "Productions Rivard" , talking about his music career. His mix tape “Akantu Kumutse” released in summer 2011 was produced by Aron Nitunga and Kofi Ackah and co-produced by Popo Murigande. He is a graduate of the sound engineering and audio recording program at Trebas Institute for the Arts.



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