World, big and small
(from an article by Anya Wassenberg for Sway Magazine)
"I was born in Madagascar, I grew up in Russia, and now I'm in Canada," begins singer/songwriter and guitarist Donné Roberts. In a nutshell, it describes a journey that's been both physical and musical. "I was lucky enough to meet people from all over the world. For me, music is like love, there [are] no boundaries. If the love is there, things will work out perfectly."
Having picked up the guitar at an early age, a wide-ranging lifestyle and an open mind sparked a lifetime love of musical experimentation. "Starting from when I was in Russia," he explains. "I started mixing Russian music with Madgascar." He began his musical career in Russia and Western Europe in the 1980s.
After making Toronto his home, Donné quickly developed a reputation for his often lightning fast technique, along with introducing audiences to the beautiful harmonies that exemplify Madagasy music. In 2004, he was part of the CBC recording project African Guitar Summit that brought together some of the top African guitar players in the country. It united musicians from Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Burundi and Madagascar, and Donné describes a working process that was cooperative. "With African Guitar Summit, I had them do things on my song - but I didn't direct them," he says. Similarly, his additions became part of each of the others' compositions. The result was a 2005 Juno win for the group, and another nomination in 2007 for the follow up CD African Guitar Summit 2.
In between, Donné released his own CD Rhythm Was Born in 2006, resulting in another series of unique recordings and cross cultural mash ups. "I invited Marc and Dave to play on my first album," he remembers. On the song "Hira'N'Taolo" , he's accompanied by well known Aboriginal artists Marc Nadjiwan and David DeLeary. "I started to do things with Aboriginal people," he says, in his typically low key expression. It's a collaboration that has fueled a series of live performances in the style he calls "African Pow-Wow" that meld his shimmering guitar work with the insistent rhythm and distinctive harmonics of Marc's First Nations culture.
Even though it's become something of his stock in trade, blending divergent musical styles and cultures isn't the easiest way to make music. "It's still a lot of work," he says. "You have to know the person. You have to know how they sing. It's not like, you put an African and an Aboriginal together on stage and you work a miracle."
This performance was definitely a highlight at last year's Ness Creek Music Festival. Along with his excellent bandmates Donné wowed the Saturday night crowd and got almost everyone up off their blankets and lawn chairs to dance under the beautiful northern skies. This special outdoor music festival takes place in Saskatchewan's northern boreal forest, and it's truly an 'immersion experience' for the several thousand people who make the pilgrimage to the site from their homes around the province. This year marks their 20th anniversary.
Helen Mourre, until recently, lived on a farm at Sovereign, but has recently relocated to Rosetown where she writes, entertains her grandchildren, gardens, coffees, and goes for long walks. She has written two books of short fiction, Landlocked and What's Come Over Her both published by Thistledown Press, which were finalists in the Saskatchewan Book Awards. She is a former member of the University of Saskatchewan Senate and has served on the boards of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild and also the Sage Hill Board.
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Categories: Past Episodes
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