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Yukon African Music Festival returns to in-person performances

“People want to enjoy the things which make them feel connected with the community.”
A group performs at the 2020 Yukon African Music Festival. This year’s event will be held Aug. 21 in Whitehorse and Aug. 22 in Dawson City. (Yukon African Music Festival/Submitted)

The annual Yukon African Music Festival is taking place on Aug. 21 in Whitehorse and Aug. 22 in Dawson City.

“People have been waiting for this. People have been asking when it’s happening, but we’ve been waiting for the right time. It wasn’t that hard to convince people. People are very familiar with our events, and always the event is amazing,” said organizer Leonard Boniface.

Boniface is the president of the Teenage Life and Young Adults International (TELIYA) organization, which has run the music event for the past eight years.

“People want to enjoy the things which make them feel connected with the community. So we have COVID but because there is a huge number of people who have been vaccinated in the Yukon, that gives us an opportunity by following the guidelines,” he said.

Normally the festival takes place in February during Black history month, but due to COVID-19 a virtual version was planned instead.

Now that vaccine uptake is so high, Boniface said TELIYA was finally able to put on an in-person event and invite performers from across Canada.

Boniface said the festival is now approaching a decade of being run in the North, and many people were asking when it would return. He said artists are always excited to be involved.

Boniface said he expects Melody Niemann to be popular with the younger crowd. Niemann is a DJ of German and South African descent based in Vancouver. She’s also an actress who played the character JoJo in the Sonic the Hedgehog movie.

“So that will be very, very creative for the youth and for the kids to get to meet one of the stars in the movie industry,” said Boniface.

Maju Maju Dladla, a singer-songwriter who lives in Vancouver and is originally from South Africa, has attended the festival for three years. She is a founding member of the Grammy-Award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir.

“People love her and we are looking forward to her performances,” Boniface said.

Other performers include jazz pianist Brian Quaye, Montreal musician Momo Soro and dancer and singer N’Nato Camara. There will also be bands from the Yukon performing, including Boniface’s own act.

He said as a performer, COVID-19 was a tough time.

“It’s hard. But also in life, sometimes things don’t always go the right way and we have to cope with that situation. It’s a global pandemic. So we accepted the situation, but also we have been praying for things to change. Now things are changing, and we hope it is going to be a COVID-free world at some point and then we can fully enjoy everything.

“It has been difficult. But I’m glad that we have the opportunity to present our festival,” he said.

The events are family-friendly, and include presentations, workshops, live music, crafts, drumming and dancing. Tickets for adults are $10 and kids are free.

Contact Haley Ritchie at