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Yukon African Music Festival gets audiences grooving

Musician Alpha Yaya Diallo said its “wonderful” to see African culture celebrated in Canada’s North

“It’s a privilege to be here,” multi-Juno Award winner Alpha Yaya Diallo told the News following his Feb. 16 performance in Whitehorse.

“You know, as a musician, I love to discover new things, new festivals — all the talent.”

Guinea-born Canadian musician Diallo, now based in Vancouver, was in the Yukon’s capital for the 2024 edition of the Yukon African Music Festival.

The festival showcased the talents of a diverse group of performers specializing in various musical styles — afrobeat, hip hop, folk. It was held at the Sternwheeler Hotel & Conference Centre in downtown Whitehorse on Feb. 16 and 17.

Diallo performed on both nights of the festival alongside keyboardist Brian Quaye, drummer Momo Soro and bassist Emmanuel Pelé. He said he was impressed by the turnout and audience reception to his music.

“They were very excited. Everybody was dancing, moving,” Diallo said.

Throughout much of Diallo’s performance — and those of other acts on the evening of Feb. 16, when the News was in attendance, enthusiastic audience members came to the front to move their feet and sing along to the tunes.

Having previously visited the Yukon for the now-defunct Frostbite Music Festival, Diallo is no stranger to performing north of 60. He said he enjoys visiting the more remote parts of Canada because it’s a good reminder that there is more to the country than the metropolises of the South.

“I like it here, because in Africa, as an African, when they talk about Canada they talk about the big cities. They talk about Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. But this part of Canada [the Yukon] is beautiful,” Diallo said.

He added, “When I go to Africa, I take out the map and say, ‘You guys, I came to Whitehorse, Yukon. That’s another part of Canada.’”

Diallo also noted that it’s “wonderful” to see African culture celebrated in this part of Canada.

This year’s Yukon African Music Festival featured several other performers besides Diallo, Quaye, Soro and Pelé, including South Africa’s Jessica Mbangeni and the Yukon’s very own community fiddle group, The Fiddleheads.

In addition to live music, festival attendees could check out Black History Month displays and shop for handicrafts and art.

According to organizer Leonard Boniface, this was the 11th year the festival has taken place and several hundred attendees joined in the festivities.

Contact Matthew Bossons at