Wednesday February 01, 2017

Khari Wendell McClelland traces his ancestors' path to freedom through music

Musician Khari Wendell McClelland's new play, Freedom Singer, opens on Feb. 1, 2017 in Toronto, Ont.

Musician Khari Wendell McClelland's new play, Freedom Singer, opens on Feb. 1, 2017 in Toronto, Ont. (Red Eye Media)

Listen 16:46

A few years ago, musician Khari Wendell McClelland went on a journey across Canada, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia. 

On this trip, McClelland learned how his family journeyed along the Underground Railroad, a series of routes and safe houses created in the 1800s to help slaves escape to Canada. After conversations with elders and historians, and pouring over archives, McClelland couldn't gather many facts but what he did get was music. Songs that had been a part of the journey his ancestors took. 

These songs became a concert, and that concert became a play called Freedom Singer. It opens today in Toronto.

Through this process, McClelland found parallels between himself and his great, great, great-grandmother, and more importantly, these themes of escaping painful situations and finding truth are more timely than ever. "It's very clear that we need to support music that is hopeful in the face of great challenge," McClelland notes.  

Below are all the upcoming tour dates for Khari Wendell McClelland's Freedom Singer

Toronto: Crowsnest, Feb. 1-11
Regina: presented by Regina Folk Fest, venue: The Artesian, Feb. 14
Calgary: presented by Calgary Folk Fest, venue: Festival Hall, Feb. 17-19
Winnipeg: presented by West End Cultural Centre, Feb. 22
Halifax: The Music Room, Feb. 24
Montreal: Le Balcon, Feb. 26
Ottawa: Arts Court, Feb. 28

— Produced by Cora Nijhawan