Okavango African Orchestra
2020 JUNO Award nominee for their new album – Africa Without Borders
Winners of the 2017 JUNO Award for best world music album
“It’s obvious that Okavango respects the continent’s myriad musical traditions. It’s in the glorious mix of rhythms in their songs,” Errol Nazareth, Toronto Sun
Okavango African Orchestra is an ambitious musical ensemble created by Batuki Music Society, a non-profit African arts organization based in Toronto. Artistic Director Nadine McNulty assembled a cast of eight accomplished African-born musicians who now live in Toronto and Montreal: Daniel Nebiat (krar, vocals), Kofi Ackah (percussion, vocals), Tichaona Maredza (nyunga-nyunga, guitar, hosho, vocals), Sadio Sissokho (kora, tama, djembe, vocals), Ebenezer Agyekum (bass guitar, vocals), Aron NItunga (guitar, vocals) Assane Seck (guitar, vocals) and Mabinty Sylla (dance).
The orchestra takes its name from the Okavango Delta, a basin in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, where many different animal species come together to feed and find water. Predators and prey are forced to coexist and share the meagre resources because of the harsh environment around them. 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 have created a common meeting place for these disparate cultures, and a new musical language that harmonizes their different tuning systems, rhythms, and timbres. The musicians and instruments of Okavango represent a continuum of traditions and cultures from time immemorial to the present day. The multicultural spirit of modern-day Canada bridges ancient African solitudes.
Okavango African Orchestra has performed in some of Ontario’s most prestigious venues including Glenn Gould Studio, Koerner Hall (Royal Conservatory of Music), Harbourfront Centre, Kingston City Hall, Isabel Bader Performing Arts Centre, Alliance Francaise Toronto, and the Aga Khan Museum. They have also participated in the Toronto Jazz Festival, Francophonie-en-Fête, Afrofest, Hot & Spicy Festival, and Canada Day celebrations.
Okavango African Orchestra revisited the site of its triumphant debut, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for the recording of the group’s self-titled album of ten original songs released in February 2016. Okavango African Orchestra was awarded the 2017 JUNO for World Music Album of the Year for their debut album. The group released their second album of new compositions titled Africa Without Borders on November 1, 2019.
Okavango African Orchestra looks ahead on its continuing journey to an “Africa without borders… before the borders were created.”