Okavango African Orchestra concert at Alliance Francaise Theatre on Friday June 14 at 9 PM

Okavango African Orchestra will perform at the Alliance Francaise Theatre on Friday June 14, 2019 at 9 PM. Multiple instruments, ten languages, and seven countries define Okavango African Orchestra, winners of the 2017 JUNO Award for World Music Album of the Year.

This special performance will feature songs from their 2017 JUNO winning album along with new compositions to be released this year. Okavango African Orchestra looks ahead on its continuing journey to an “Africa without borders… before the borders were created”.

The Orchestra takes its name from the Okavango Delta, a basin in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, where different animals, predators and prey, coexist and share meager resources. Similarly, Okavango African Orchestra brings together the traditional music and instruments of several major African cultures that historically have had little or no interaction. The musicians of Okavango create a common meeting place for these disparate cultures, and a new musical language that harmonizes different tuning systems, rhythms, and timbres.

Friday June 14, 2019
Okavango African Orchestra

Alliance Francaise Theatre, 24 Spadina Rd. Toronto

Doors: 8 PM / Concert 9 PM
Tickets: $20 advance / $25 door

Okavango African Orchestra gratefully acknowledges the support of Canada Council for the Arts | Conseil des Arts du Canada and Batuki Music Society.

Batuki Music Society
P.O. Box 68585
360A Bloor St. W.
Toronto, ON
M5S 1X0

“nurturing and strengthening cultural diversity through music and the arts.” 

Batuki Music Society Presents: Habari Africa Festival At Harbourfront Centre.

habafrica-cardBatuki Music Society presents the second annual Habari Africa Festival at the Harbourfront Centre from Friday August 14 – 16, 2015.  This year’s curatorial theme is a focus on ‘New Voices:  A view of African music from a Canadian perspective’.  The artistic works will explore the changing styles of music, dance, and other art forms as practiced by African artists living in Canada as well as their non-African counterparts.

The artists featured will represent an array of music genres and dance styles from; Congolese rumba and ‘bazombo’, afro-roots reggae, ethio-jazz, afrobeat, morna, batuque, traditional and contemporary West African sounds, North African shaabi and Andalusian fusion, African gospel, to the new afro-house music from South Africa.  The festival will also have activities for children of all ages, workshops, films, visual arts, vendors with African crafts, as well as delicious cuisine from the World Café.  This multi-disciplinary festival is co-presented with Harbourfront Centre.

A sample of some of the music acts this year include the following artists:

Ethio Zema Band – A new group formed by Fantahun Shewankochew, an accomplished composer, arranger, vocalist, and acoustic krar player.  This is ethio-jazz at its best.

Awa Sangho – This Malian belle who is described to have a radiant voice represents a variety of sounds that emanate from West Africa, built on a delicate balance between the sounds of the kora, ngoni, flute, and the electronic sounds of modern instruments.

Rocky Dawuni – International music star and humanitarian Rocky Dawuni straddles the musical boundaries between Africa, the Caribbean and the U.S. to create an appealing “Afro-Roots” sound that unites generations and cultures.
Moto de Kapia – The music of the region of Kasai in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is varied, and one of the forms practiced by this band is ‘bazombo’, a type that is hypnotizing and popularized by recordings from groups like ‘Kasai All Stars’ and ‘Konono No. 1’.  The band blends acrobatic moves with their dances usually accompanied by the beats of the ‘ngoma’, an upright drum from the Kasai region and modern guitars and bass.

Asiko Afrobeat Ensemble – Foly Kolade who hails from Ogidi, a small village in Nigeria, had migrated to New York where he had established himself as a performer of afrobeat for almost 9 years.  Kolade has performed alongside afrobeat stars such as; Seun Kuti, Antibalas, as well as other artists like Zap Mama, Madagascar Slim, etc.  Asiko Afrobeat Ensemble now calls Toronto home and the band continues to wow crowds with their music.

Mi Casa – Mi Casa’s sound incorporates soulful vocals, guitar picks, keyboards, and sweet trumpet sounds blended together by a talented trio of Dr, Duda, J’Something, and Mo-T.  This is South Africa’s hottest Afro-house group.  This is a late night performance at the Brigantine Room and is a co-presentation with Moonraiser Entertainment as a ticketed show.

We are also very excited to be featuring the work of world-renowned visual artist, David Kibuuka, at the Marilyn Brewer Community Space.  Kibuuka’s art is influenced by the work of European art masters, traditional African artistry, and of course his older brother and mentor.  Kibuuka is also credited with creating the technique of fragmentation, a unique method of painting vivid images through a mosaic of colour and form.

Three films would be screened at the festival namely: Bi Kidude: As Old As My Tongue, Omo Child: The River And The Bush, and Timbuktu.  Bi Kidude is a biographical film about the life of Zanzibar’s Queen of ‘taarab’ and ‘unyago’.  This enigmatic woman entertained sultans and sailors with her music for a very long time.  She even continued performances at festivals well into her nineties.
Omo Child is a documentary of a young Ethiopian man’s journey of ending the ages old practice of ‘mingi’ in the Omo Valley by the Kara tribe.  ‘Mingi’ means curse, and children born out of wedlock are considered a curse and are usually thrown in the raging Omo River or abandoned to die in the bush.
Timbuktu is the 2015 Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.  This film depicts the arrival of the Jihadists (Islamic Fundamentalists) in the quiet town of Kidane in Northern Mali.  The Islamists terrorized the citizens by imposing harsh Islamic laws (Sha’ariah), banning music, alcohol, cigarette smoking, etc.  Floggings and summary executions became the norm, shattering a once beautiful and peaceful community.

Habari Africa Festival
Venue: Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto, M5J 2G8
Dates/Times: Friday August 14: 7:00pm – 11:00pm
Saturday, August 15: 12:00pm – 11:00pm
Saturday August 15: 10:30pm – 3:00 am Ticketed late night concert with Mi Casa $25-30
Sunday, August 16: 12:00pm – 6:00pm

All performances and activities are free to the public except the late night ticketed show with Mi Casa.

For additional information and complete event listings please visit:

Batuki Music Society gratefully acknowledges funding from the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council and Canadian Heritage.  We are very grateful for the tremendous contributions from Harbourfront Centre, its staff and dedicated volunteers for making this happen.

Nadine McNulty
Batuki Music Society
Tel: 416-948-4132

“Nurturing and strengthening cultural diversity through music and the arts”


Sounds of Saba

MainssabaBatuki Music Society presents the Sounds of Saba featuring Fantahun Shewankochew with guest Netsanet Mellesse at the Alliance Francaise de Toronto Theatre on Saturday March 7th, 2015 at 8:00 pm. Doors open at 7:00 pm.

Tickets $20 advance / $25 at the door

Fantahun Shewankochew is Toronto-based musician who is an acoustic krar player (five or six-string harp), vocalist, composer, arranger and instrumentalist. He started his musical career at a young age often singing at school performances where he imitated older established singers like Muluken Melese and his idol Tilahun Gessesse. The latter is one of the finest and most beloved singers that Ethiopia has ever produced, and whose career spans over 50 years. A graduate of the Yared School of Music in Addis Ababa, Shewankochew is well experienced in the unique tunings of Ethiopian music. Before moving to Toronto he worked as the music department coordinator of the Ethiopian National Theatre in Addis Ababa. Shewankochew has toured widely in Africa, Europe, Asia, South and North America with various bands such as the Medina Band and the Sounds of Saba.

Shewankochew has released various albums while in Ethiopia and also collaborated with many musicians on projects and tours. Since his arrival in Toronto in 2011, he has performed at Harbourfront Centre, the Music Gallery, Gladstone Hotel, and most notably with an all-star collective at the Glenn Gould Studio for CBC’s Canada Live and the Luminato Festival. Currently he is working on a recording and plans to release an album later this year. Fantahun Shewankochew is regarded as one of Ethiopia’s finest acoustic krar player, vocalist and composer.

Netsanet Mellesse is a talented Ethiopian vocalist whose repertoire covers many genres that include traditional, gospel, Ethio-jazz and contemporary music. She grew up in a religious family and therefore, part of her upbringing involved taking part in church activities such as singing in a choir, a practice that helped to hone her skills as a singer. Mellesse had a chance appearance on a radio show run by her older sister where she sang on a Sunday show. Her melodious voice was heard by many including the ‘Walias Band’, a popular group at the time who invited her to perform with them at the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa. She has shared the stage and recorded with various popular Ethiopian groups as well as toured with Aster Aweke. Netsanet Mellesse has recorded and released more than five albums since her debut hit album “Yelal Doju in 1983.

The music of Ethiopia is very diverse as it has more than 80 ethnic groups, distinct regions and climate. Traditional music of Ethiopia remains popular and sometimes uncorrupted by foreign influence since the country had little contact with the outside world except for a brief attempt by Italy to colonize it. Ethiopia’s music uses an essential modal system (pentatonic scale), which is called “qenet.” There are four main modes of qenet; tezeta, bati, ambassel and anchihoy.

The Sounds of Sheba ensemble is led by vocalist Fantahun Shewankochew on acoustic krar, Daniel Barnes on drums, Tom Juhas on guitar, Simeon Abbott on piano, Tyler Emond on bass guitar, John Maclean on saxophone, Steve Dyte on trumpet, Paul Turosov on trombone and guest vocalist Netsanet Mellesse. Be ready to be impressed by this band, which would no doubt win you over to the complex, diverse and yet beautiful music of Ethiopia.

Event: Sounds of Saba
Date: Saturday March 7th, 2015
Location: Alliance Francaise de Toronto
24 Spadina Road, Toronto
Time: Doors open 7:00 pm. / Show at 8:00 pm.
Tickets: $20 advance, $25 at the door

Advance tickets online:

And at these locations:
Soundscapes – 572 College St.
African Drum & Art Crafts – 618 Dundas St. West
New Bilan Restaurant – 183 Dundas St. East


Batuki Music Society gratefully acknowledges the support of Canadian Heritage, the Ontario Arts Council and Alliance Francaise de Toronto (AFT). Thanks to the Royal Conservatory of Music and CIUT 89.5 FM for promotional support.

African Spirituals

hsfdisdsfdfdsyfsdygsdfgyufdsuBatuki Music Society presents a special concert for Black History Month featuring traditional African music rooted in spiritualism, on Saturday February 14th, 2015 at the Alliance Francaise de Toronto Theatre, 24 Spadina Road, one block north of Bloor Street West at 8:00 p.m. This concert will portray the spiritual side of African music in its simplest form possible and a transition to today’s modern popular music influenced by western tradition and gospel. You will be treated to an evening of soulful music from Sub-Saharan Africa ranging from; Guinean griot, Ethiopian soul, Ghanaian highlife and gospel, South Sudanese spirituals, Congolese rumba, to Zimbabwean spirit music.

The aim of this concert is to produce and present a show that attempts to describe the evolving nature of African music from its traditional roots to modern. Emphasis here is on the spiritual music of Africa versus the modern forms of popular music largely influenced by western tradition and gospel. The focus on Sub-
Saharan Africa was not a deliberate act, rather the choice for the project was based on the rich talent pool available here in Toronto. The lineup already includes some of the finest female singers in the city such as; Blandine Mbiya, Griot Katenen ‘Cheka’ Dioubate, Ruth Mathiang, Evelyn Mukwedeya, Memory Makuri, Netsanet Mellesse, and Frederica Ackah, backed by an equally talented band consisting of Kofi Ackah on drums and percussion, Donne Roberts on guitar, Tichaona Maredza on rhythm guitar, Quandoe Harrison on bass guitar, Fantahun Shewankochew Mekonnen on acoustic krar, Misara on keyboards, Ruben Esguerra on congas and Amadou Kienou on djembe.

Evelyn Mukwedeya and Memory Makuri will perform songs of the Shona people using the mbira (thumb piano), hand clapping, shakers or hosho, and dancing. In Zimbabwe the mbira is the primary instrument for conducting healing ceremonies and other traditional rituals. Males usually played the mbira and its use to perform music was banned during colonial times, as it was associated with pagan rituals and rebellion. One f the first female mbira players and traditional healer is Stella Chiweshe, who did challenge the tradition of excluding females from practicing and has become a role model for younger females who have followed in her footsteps.

Congolese rumba is the popular music of the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is some Cuban influence as well as Christian choral music introduced by missionaries in the early 1900’s. Rumba is sung primarily in Lingala, the lingua franca of the Congo, and other languages such as Kikongo, Tshiluba, Swahili and also French. The success of the rumba is directly linked with the suppression of spiritual and indigenous music of the Congo, this time by Christian missionaries from Europe (Belgium and France).

Blandine Mbiya is a talented singer and songwriter who hails from the Kasai region in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her styles include gospel, pop, r&b, rumba and other African genres. Blandine Mbiya would be singing some gospel inspired rumba as well as spiritual music of the Congo.

Katenen ‘Cheka’ Dioubate is a praise singer or griot who hails from Guinea (Conakry). Praise singers are a very important component in the Manding traditions of West Africa. They are the keepers of the oral history and culture of the people, and in their singing there is a spiritual element that has a calming effect on an audience. The function of the griots in society is so extensive that it covers events such as, singing at a marriage ceremony, rites of passage for young men and women, funerals, etc. Dioubate will bring to the stage her powerful voice, commanding presence, and the spiritual music of the Manding people that has been passed down several generations.

The music of Ethiopia is very rich and complex indeed as it has more than 80 ethnic groups, distinct regions and climate. Traditional music of Ethiopia remains popular and sometimes uncorrupted by foreign influence since the country had little contact with the outside world except for a brief attempt by Italy to colonize it. Netsanet Mellesse is a popular singer who has produced many traditional, pop and gospel albums in Ethiopia. She will be accompanied on her set by one of Ethiopia’s finest acoustic krar playersand composer, Fantahun Shewankochew Mekonnen.
Ruth Mathiang will represent South Sudan. Mathiang is a singer who honed her skills while growing up in neighbouring Kenya. She will be performing some of the songs of the indigenous religion of the Nuer nation of Southern Sudan as well as popular music sung in Swahili or Arabic.

Frederica Ackah from Ghana is a guest artist who specializes in gospel music, she will add her voice to the group and will no doubt make a contribution to the ever-growing number of female artists in the city. Most of the artists featured in this concert belong to individual bands and some are bandleaders.

The lineup for this concert is truly impressive as it composes of mostly talented female artists who represent various musical traditions south of the Sahara, and all of them live in this beautiful city of Toronto.

Event: Spiritual Songs of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Date: Saturday, February 14th, 2015

Venue: Alliance Francaise de Toronto Theatre, 24 Spadina Road, Toronto

Time: Doors open 7:00 p.m. Concert starts 8:00 p.m.

Tickets: $20 advance, $25 at the door.

Advance tickets online:

And these locations:

Soundscapes – 572 College St.

African Drum & Art Crafts – 618 Dundas St. West

New Bilan Restaurant – 183 Dundas St. East

Hidden Thrifty Store – 26 Roncesvalles


Batuki Music Society gratefully acknowledges the support of the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts

Council, Canadian Heritage, Alliance Francaise de Toronto (AFT) and CIUT 89.5 FM.

Batuki Music Society, P.O. Box 68585, 360A Bloor St. W. Toronto, ON, M5S 1X0