CD Review: From Here On

From Here On Cover (2)




“My story is bigger than status…  What is your status in Canada? What do I have to do to get the right status? I can’t change my mother tongue; I can’t change where I come from…  Everyone deserves dignity.” Lishai Peel


It was 1988 when Lillian Allen first slammed Toronto with her revolutionary Revolutionary Tea Party album which, amongst other things, exposed and railed against unfair immigration policies in Canada.  Now, 26 years later, Lishai Peel and Waleed Abdulhamid renew her call for justice with From Here On. Sadly, little has changed since Allen burst on the scene, and in many instances, the situation for would-be immigrants from the non-white and developing worlds has worsened.

From Here On is an ambitious project, several years in the making, and Lishai, Waleed and the many others involved can be proud of the wonderful end product.

Waleed came to Canada over twenty years ago from Sudan by way of several Scandinavian countries.   Lishai lived in England and Israel before coming to Canada and has Indian heritage in her background.  Their immigration experiences have informed their art for years. This expression of a shared vision of a more just Canada comes naturally to both.

Together they have explored diasporic stories from within themselves and those around them.  Lishai’s brilliant poetry and Waleed’s inspired musical instincts make for a potent brew.  Add to the mix a multitude of equally talented young voices, and the concoction gets sweeter and spicier.

From Here On has a beautiful sense of balance.   Powerful tracks such as Status and Letter to Immigration Minister demand that we face the harsh realities of refugees, migrant workers, and exploited temporary workers, and Canada’s First Nations.  Flame calls upon us to remember that we live on stolen land, Aboriginal land.  Body and Riverbend speak to the immigrant desire to return to one’s roots. Lishai’s love and respect for India are unmistakable.  Sing to Me, Home and Toronto celebrate the positivity of the culturally diverse life in Canada.

All tracks are meaty, with plenty to savour and digest.  The rhythms and melodies are precious gems to behold.

My personal favourites include Home and Sing To Me.  Home is a moving collection of expressions of home.   The tone and rhythm of Quentin VerCetty’s voice is irresistibly seductive.  A place of belonging where the birds be singing, and the honey is combing, where Moon and Sun hides so no one sees them kissing…a dough of dumpling be frying golden brown..the sizzling sound, the aroma, has my senses bound, reminding me that home is nourishing, cherishing, for home is, for home is.”  Marvellously punctuated with Muhubo Mohamed’s Somali phrases, and Cory Sitek’s mournful saxophone, this is absolutely gorgeous.

It’s impossible to listen to Catherine Hernandez’ plaintive cry of a Filipina caregiver missing the children she was forced to leave back home, without goose bumps forming on one’s arms and eyes becoming damp.  And David Delisca’s repeated phrase “I swear my heart is not a house, but I call it home” will haunt you.

The final voice on Home is the dazzling Lishai herself.  “Home is always two steps ahead of me… Don’t be afraid to use your wings, if you’ve got lungs filled with sky.  How many times I searched for home, dreamed of home, I keep my windows open to the world, come in, welcome, this is your home too.”  We need her words and sentiment more than ever.

Sing To Me is a joyful soukous-laced celebration of World Music. Waleed’s unique vocals are a perfect match for this Congolese genre.  “Sing to me in the language that sounds like home…Music cannot be contained in suitcases. Dance with me for the revolution, with the rhythm of freedom” Along with the song Toronto, this song dares you to sit still – it’s impossible!

The diversity of cultures and musical styles colliding in this recording is remarkable, Sudanese, Congolese, Filipino, Indian, Caribbean, Thai, Vietnamese and Somali.  There is nothing else like this anywhere.  Waleed’s musical versatility is nothing short of astonishing, and he does bird calls and other nature sounds too, who knew?

As the song says, “Toronto – you give me a thousand things to be grateful for… Toronto, let’s dance.”



*other artists included on From Here On include Enuma Messam, Britta B., Samidha Jogelkar, Ellie, Grace,KillaBeatz, Komi Olaf, and Erik Flowchild













Copyright © 2018 TWAS – Toronto World Arts Scene. Icons by Wefunction. Designed by Woo Themes