The sounds of sunshine will hit our fair city this August with the return of Calgary’s annual Afrikadey! Festival. For the past 21 years this jubilant celebration of African arts and culture in Canada has nurtured the imaginations of audiences and artists alike. Crowds can expect big names in African entertainment such as Alpha Yaya Diallo, Dele Sosimi, Oliver Mtukudzi and Omara “Bombino” Moctar to lend their considerable weight to this year’s impressive schedule.
Prefaced by a week’s worth of engaging events such as spoken word lectures along with drumming and dancing workshops, the little festival that could has developed into a multifaceted destination for exploring Afro-centric art which culminates in a full day of music and dance presented on the mainstage of Prince’s Island on Saturday, August 11.
“Afrikadey! started as two-day event at Olympic Plaza with multidisciplinary arts presentation,” says artistic director Tunde Dawodu. “The festival moved to Prince’s Island Park the second year for a daylong celebration. We started the weeklong event the third year to accommodate artists of various disciplines who were eager to showcase their creative works at the festival.”
According to organizers, the key to Afrikadey!’s continued success is the festival’s ability to remain current and in touch with our city’s constantly shifting demographics. Embracing change as an inevitable factor in the human experience, the largely volunteer-run festival has broadened its considerable scope to include everything from fashion shows to art gallery openings and film premières. The Afrikadey! Arts & Culture Society strives to address and expand Western Canada’s palate for the exotic sights and sounds of Mother Africa.
“The growth of Afrikadey! has been steady over the years. The high-quality programming every year helped promote the festival through word of mouth from people who have witnessed the high calibre of artists presented,” says Dawodu. “Favourite past performers include Sierra Maestro from Cuba, Boukman Eksperyans of Haiti, Soukous Stars from Congo, Lágbájá from Nigeria, Soul Brothers from South Africa, Salif Keita from Mali, Thomas Mapfumo of Zimbabwe, Angélique Kidjo of Benin and Nomfusi Gotyana of South Africa.
“New at Afrikadey! 2012 is the international fashion show that has attracted well-known designers like Romero Bryan, who has designed clothing for Michelle Obama, Destiny’s Child, Mariah Carey and other stars. Perhaps with increased funding the festival could have been a longer showcase of the multitude of international, national and local artists who are anxious to come to Afrikadey!”
Afrikadey! is a culture-trekker’s dream come true. Continuing its history of importing world-class performers, this year’s lineup is perhaps one of the strongest to date.
Dele Sosimi, who joined father of Afrobeat Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s band Egypt 80 at the tender age of 16, is one of the most respected keyboardists to emerge from those turbulent times. An integral member of (Fela’s son) Femi Kuti’s uplifting orchestra Positive Force, the British-born Nigerian is a gifted cultural ambassador and instructor at London Metropolitan University and his own Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Foundation. Also on the bill, noted African guitar master Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi will bring his tall and handsome rapport to this year’s proceedings. Roots-rapper and former child soldier Emmanuel Jal returns to the Afrikadey! stage this year. This soulful singer, who embodies the galvanizing sounds of the Southern Sudanese streets, recently announced that he’s moving to Canada on a permanent basis.
A prince-in-exile who caught the ear of filmmaker Ron Wyman (ZeroGravity), Omara “Bombino” Moctar is a sub-Saharan bluesman from Niger who parlays the caravan ballads of the Tuareg nomads into Jimi Hendrix-inspired rock revivals. Be sure to the catch the Afrikadey! première of Wyman’s biopic on Bombino’s remarkable life and music, Agadez: The Music and The Rebellion, on August 7 at The Plaza.
“This year’s theme of Deep Roots is a testament to our slow and steady growth in the city,” says Dawodu. “The theme is also inspired by Calgary’s declaration as the 2012 Canada Cultural Capital and our role in the city’s arts and cultural scene. Afrikadey! 2012 is about discovery. Audiences who might be adventurous enough to come to Prince’s Island Park on August 11 will discover a gem of a festival with deep roots at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.”