Cultural exchange at deCoste for African Heritage Month

There are a few days left of African Heritage Month and a special show entitled Under African Skies hopes to share a unique glimpse into the culture and music of a large portion of the continent.

Headlined by MioKal — an African-fusion band out of Moncton but comprised of members from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and the Ivory Coast — the show will also feature Buhle Dlamini and family, formerly of South Africa and now of Pictou, as well as mbira musician George Maringapasi of Zimbabwe but now living in New Glasgow.

Buhle’s wife, Stacey, who is originally from Hopewell, said the idea of putting on a heritage concert in Pictou came about when she saw MioKal perform; she was won over by their sound and energy.

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So she reached out to the Town of Pictou, where she now lives with her family. “They were very supportive from the get go and agreed to sponsor the concert.”

For Buhle, the concert is a chance to present a showcase of African culture and heritage.

“We wanted it to be in Pictou particularly because we are residents of Pictou and we felt it would be a great opportunity for us to share our culture with the rest of the residents of the town,” he said. “But not just the town — the whole community. We’re really hoping that we can get people as far away as Antigonish and Truro and other places to come.”

They see it as a chance to share the music and culture of Africa.

While not placing his musicianship on the level of Ladysmith Black Mambazo — a group known to western listeners for the work on Paul Simon’s Graceland album — Buhle said the group’s sound is typical of South African music. He will be performing on guitar and trumpet, along with piano and drumming provided by his family and said the songs will be “traditional music with a gospel feel to it.”

In addition to performing Zulu language traditionals, Buhle will also be emceeing the event.

New Glasgow resident George Maringapasi will be performing traditional music in the Shona language and accompanying himself on the mbira — an instrument known in layman’s terms as the finger piano.

Maringapasi’s songs — even the history and context that’s required to truly appreciate them — will come with a bit of storytelling, which is fitting as even his instrument is rich with backstory.

“If you go online you’d be so surprised how popular the instrument is all over the world,” Maringapasi said. “But I’m a traditionalist when it comes to it. I like the old, old songs. Those are the ones I play.”

The musicians said that music plays its biggest roles in African life in funerals and weddings, where the band or performer only leads and the crowd is expected to join in. Music, they said, also plays a huge role in the political landscape of the continent and is used to give hope and talk about the things to come.

Under African Skies will take place on February 23 at 7 p.m. at the deCoste Performing Arts Centre.

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Aaron Cameron has been a staff reporter with the Advocate since 2011. Aaron Cameron does not "do" bios due to an overwhelming fear of writing in the third person