Okavango Orchestra, the brainchild of artistic director/promoter/broadcaster/programmer extraordinaire, Nadine McNulty, is one of the most exciting musical ensembles brewing in Toronto right now.  Music infused with 12 instruments and 10 languages by 8 gifted artists from 7 African countries, this is special indeed.  On Sunday, September 1, 2013 they put on an exceptional show at Harbourfront Centre.

The music blended beautifully in spite of differences in instruments and artists, which is no easy feat.    On stage were Daniel Nebiat (Eritrean Krar), Tichaona Maredza (Zimbabwean marimba/nunga-nunga player), Donne Roberts (Malagasy guitarist), Kooshin (Somali kaban player), Ebenezer Agyekum (Ghanaian bassist), Sadio Sissokho (Senegalese kora/percussion player), Aron Nitunga (Burundi guitarist), Nicolas Simbananiye (Burundi vocalist) and Kofi Ackah (Ghanaian percussionist).   Nicolas stood in as MC as well as singing and dancing.  He is a natural at this with his wonderful smile and sense of humour.

But then everyone in the crowd and on stage that night was in a very good mood, and why not?  Where else would you find a kora and a kaban (oud) tangling with electric guitar, marimba and drums on a hot summer evening by the lake?  The space on either side of the seating area was quickly filled with dancers anxious to express their delight.

The commitment of these artists is obvious and their comradery and patience with each other is inspiring.  Having just completed their first recording at the CBC studio they are clearly anxious to put this unique music out there and to start touring.  McNulty is busy preparing for this for 2014. To this end, she went to the European world music expo, WOMEX 2013 in Wales to promote the eclectic ensemble and next they will showcase at Mundial Montreal, the annual world music conference and festival running from Nov. 19 -22, 2013.

Watch for updates in the next issue of TWAS!

Lise Watson

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