10 ways Canadian music fans can observe Black History Month
February is Black History Month, an opportunity to honor the legacy of black Canadians and their communities – from their ongoing pursuit of equality and justice to their contributions to our nation’s cultural richness.
Music has always played a central role in Black History Month. Below we bring to your attention 10 events taking place in February 2023 – from Halifax to Vancouver – featuring a range of genres that are sure to cater to all tastes: Blues, Reggae, Jazz, Latin, Gospel, R&B, Afrobeat and more.
Is there a performance near you during Black History Month that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.
1. This poetry summit in Halifax
Poetry and music merge for a mesmerizing matinee at Halifax Central Library on February 12, as part of the city’s African Heritage Month activities. Host is George Elliott Clarke, Canada’s seventh Poet Laureate and self-proclaimed “African exile”. He welcomes five poets – Afua Cooper, Amatoritsero Ede, Sylvia Hamilton, El Jones and Monica Mutale – to read from their works and hear their poetry, set to music by Nevawn Patrick and performed by singer Linda Carvery and pianist Holly Arsenault .
George Elliott Clarke is shown at the Halifax Central Library during an interview in February 2018. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)2. Also in Nova Scotia this down-to-earth blues concert
With a history spanning more than 400 years, African Nova Scotians have a legacy that has enriched the province’s cultural life in many ways, with music foremost. ECMA award-winning trio Ced, Marty & Dave continue that proud tradition with their down-to-earth, soulful Cajun-flavoured blues and heartfelt covers (not copies!) of songs by Howling Wolf, Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton and more. Check out their live set on February 2nd at Truro, Nova Scotia’s Marigold Cultural Center.
3. This new chamber opera premiering in Montreal
Montreal is home to Canada’s largest Haitian community, and it is here that composer David Bontemps and playwright Faubert Bolivar will unveil their new chamber opera La flambeau, performed by an all-black cast. They promise “a world of mystical melodies steeped in Afro-Haitian musical idioms” and a libretto drawing on West African mythology and Haitian vodou traditions. A presentation by l’Orchestre classique de Montréal, the premiere of La flambeau will take place on February 7th at the Salle Pierre-Mercure.
A Belle Capsule Sur Notre Production d’Opéra de Chambre LA FLAMBEAU le 7 février prochain à la Salle Pierre-Mercure en Premiere Mondiale. Avez vous vos billets ? Ils envolent ! https://t.co/IVcVYwsXIb#BlackHistoryMonth #blackexcellence @DavidBontempsMu @Flotht< /a> pic.twitter.com/Lpvo76UV86
–@orchestre_ca4. This reggae extravaganza in Ottawa
With this concert, titled Reggae Roots, Canada’s National Arts Center Orchestra aims to “explore the social, cultural and spiritual significance of the magical genre of music that shaped Jamaica and touched the world.” More than a music genre, reggae is a global movement, and Jamaican-born, Halifax-based reggae ambassador Jah’Mila is one of its leading advocates in Canada. She joins conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser (CBC Music’s Center Stage host) on stage for three performances at the NAC’s Southam Hall: February 23, 24 and 25.
5. This micro music festival in Toronto
Everbloom is a day-long festival showcasing diverse facets of black creativity, including a cast of drag kings and queens and an enticing lineup of musical acts: R&B singer Noiir, singer-songwriter Ahsia, soul artist Del Hartley and rapper B1GJuice, um just to name a few. There will also be a sellers’ market focused on black-owned businesses. Everything takes place on February 25th at the Great Hall in Toronto.
6. This dance workshop in Winnipeg
Visit the West End Cultural Center in Winnipeg on February 5th for a workshop with Kevan Francis on traditional Jamaican folk dance and African drum dance. Francis believes music and dance can change the hearts and minds of today’s youth and invites participants of all ages to break a sweat to dancehall, afro-caribbean drum, afrobeat, krump and hip-hop. “Energy and positive vibrations – one love!” promise the organizers of the workshop. Registration is free.
7. This Afro-Cuban symphony concert in Regina
Alex Cuba is depicted as an African prince on the cover of his Grammy Award-winning album Mendó. “I think that’s what comes over me,” he told CBC, reflecting on the portrayal, “my roots and my connection to Africa.” He’ll be touring Canada with his music in February, and this stop in Regina, where he will be joined by the Regina Symphony Orchestra under Lucas Waldin, looks particularly promising. They will be heating up the Conexus Arts Center on February 18th.
8. This gospel concert in Edmonton
The Edmonton Chapter of the National Black Coalition of Canada invites you to an “Evening of Worship, Praise and Reflection” on February 18th in the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium [that] will leave you both connected and exalted.” Unity is the theme of this annual concert, which brings together a cross-denominational lineup of soloists, choirs, musicians and dancers. Prepare for an amazing and blessed night. Can’t attend in person? will be streamed live on the NBCC Edmonton YouTube channel.
The NBCC Edmonton Annual Gospel Concert will be held on February 18, 2023 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. (NBCC/YouTube)9. This benefit DJ party in Red Deer, Alta.
Here’s your chance to dance to a lively mix of African and Caribbean music courtesy of DJ Mbakneu – while supporting a good cause. Proceeds go to the Education for Somali Girls and Boys Foundation. As a bonus, snacks are included in the price of admission: “Somali samosas, fabulous African donuts and amazing brownies,” according to the event listing. The party, taking place on February 24th at the Festival Hall in Red Deer, is a presentation of the African Caribbean Center of Central Alberta and the Central Alberta Cameroon Community. “Please help our grassroots organizations improve the lives of black Canadians in central Alberta and educate young minds.”
10. This double performance at Victoria’s Belfry Theatre
The motto of the BC Black History Awareness Society is “our roots run deep,” and for proof of that look no further than this double bill they are presenting at the Belfry Theater on February 26th. The show begins with the quartet of saxophonist Noedy Hechavarria Duharte, who spices up his jazz with the Latin American rhythms of his native Santiago de Cuba. Then it’s Sadé Awele, an Igbo and Yoruba singer-songwriter whose music blends elements of gospel, R&B, jazz, Afro-fusion and Afrobeat. She will be accompanied by the five piece Serengeti Band.
For more stories about Black Canadians’ experiences—from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community—see Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
Being Black in Canada highlights stories about black Canadians. (CBC)