Artists perform at the 2020 Yukon African Music Festival. This year’s event will be online only. (Submitted/Yukon African Music Festival)

Artists perform at the 2020 Yukon African Music Festival. This year’s event will be online only. (Submitted/Yukon African Music Festival)

Yukon African Music Festival goes online

Line-up includes Grammy-winning musicians

This year’s virtual Yukon African Music Festival will feature players performing from South Africa and across Canada.

“To accommodate people from different places and share with us, as we celebrate Black History Month in the Yukon, is a great thing,” said Leonard Boniface, event organizer.

The free festival will take place on Feb. 20 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., with event registration open on Eventbrite. The concert will be streamed live on Zoom.

Approximately 10 performers will contribute to a mixed catalogue of entertainment and education. Jessica Mbangeni, a praise poet and musician famous in South Africa, and Maju Maju Dladla, a South African musician based in Vancouver, are part of the lineup.

“These are Grammy winners, so we have reason to appreciate that Yukon can have an opportunity to have these individuals performing in our festival,” Boniface said.

This is Dladla’s third year performing for Yukoners, she told the News.

“I just love the Yukon, it’s like home to me, I really love it and it’s a blessing,” Dladla said.

Dladla is a singer and a former founding member of the Soweto Gospel Choir. The choir, based in Soweto, South Africa, has toured internationally and won numerous awards. Her festival performance will incorporate song, drums and storytelling, she said.

“I teach people about African culture, especially Zulu,” Dladla said.

“In South Africa, we have 11 languages, so I belong to the Zulu Nation, and each and every tribe has different culture, different language. So it’s very important to teach your audience about the specific culture you belong in.”

Dladla emigrated from South Africa to Vancouver in 2012.

“When I compare the life in South Africa to life in Canada … in my culture, we treat each other as brothers and sisters; it is in us to take care of one another,” Dladla said.

“I always say that since I came to Canada, people are not as close as we are in Africa. In Africa, our doors are open, even for people when they’re hungry, it doesn’t matter whether you know them.”

When Dladla performs, she teaches those cultural values of unity. She also teaches about cultural costumes, which often feature beading and animal skins, not unlike traditional First Nations garments, she explained.

The festival takes place during Black History Month. Dladla said the month provides the opportunity to acknowledge the stories of Black people in North America.

“As an African person I feel we are connected to each other. When you go to the history of slavery, we are connected because most slaves came from Africa and were brought to Western countries, so it is a connection,” Dladla said.

“(Black History Month) teaches about the struggle that African people have gone through — 400 years of slavery (in the United States), and we are still going through issues now. … To remember what African people have been through plays a big part in it for myself, and other people too. It teaches other cultures about who we are.”

Boniface said he hopes the educational and musical aspects of the festival will be helpful to people in the middle of a pandemic winter.

“In a challenging time like this, it’s good to learn something, and good to be entertained,” he said.

“We’re going to display the history of Black people in the Yukon. We have been here for many many years, generations, so we are not guests, we are part of the community, we belong to Canada.”

Paige Galette, a local activist, will speak about Black History Month during the festival.

“She’s a sensational speaker, you know, and we’re very, very lucky to have her here in the Yukon,” Boniface said.

Brian Quaye, a Ghanian Afro-Jazz musician, will also perform.

“Brian is a Black producer in Canada and he has helped a lot of young people produce music and having him in our festival, this may be his fifth time attending, so that’s incredible,” Boniface said.

The festival will also feature Yoro Noukoussi, a multi-instrumentalist from North Benin. Noukoussi teaches West African rhythm drumming in Vancouver and is a master of donga (talking drum), kokomba (congas) and djembe (a goblet-shaped drum particular to West Africa).

Yukon-based performers on the docket include Kongo King, Augustus & Band and Roxx Hunter.

The virtual platform has allowed for more musicians and spectators across the globe to take part in the festival, Boniface said. About 100 people have already registered online, and he is hoping this year will attract a wide audience.

“When you talk about African culture in Black History Month, there’s a lot of interest and people want to share,” Boniface said.

“With COVID, people also want to get together in different ways … there’s so many people around the world, so many people around the country who are connected to the Yukon in so many ways…. It will have an impact to share in a broad range.”

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at gabrielle.plonka@yukon-news.com

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