Canada Council Digital Originals

AfrotoniX streams roof-top performance at the top in Montreal

“I wanted to put Montreal at the centre of my creation, to make a declaration of love for the city. It’s my chosen city, the city of my heart, and I wanted the whole world to see it,” explains AfrotoniX, real name Caleb Rimtobaye.
AfrontiX at the top of Place Ville-Marie on Sept. 29, 2020. (Courtesy AfrontiX )

This story is translated from Radio-Canada's French-language coverage of selected works from the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Originals grant. À lire en français sur le site de Radio-Canada.

The last rays of the sun lit up the city sky at the end of a long summer day, a Montreal specialty. Perched on the terrace of Les Enfants Terribles restaurant at the top of Place Ville-Marie, AfrotoniX made his frenzied music resound among the downtown skyscrapers. 

"I wanted to put Montreal at the centre of my creation, to make a declaration of love for the city. It's my chosen city, the city of my heart, and I wanted the whole world to see it," explains AfrotoniX, real name Caleb Rimtobaye.

More than 1,300 music lovers attended this exclusive live show, and the aerial images captured by drones have now been viewed more than 100,000 times. Wearing an impressive helmet inspired by traditional headgear of the Saras, the tribe of his parents, the musician was able to offer his music to a small audience who had to remain seated, "which was weird because normally everyone is standing at my concerts!"

AfrotoniX was not expecting such a success. Performing a show broadcast on a digital platform is not normally part of the routine for the musician from Chad, who spent seven months abroad in 2019 and took 86 flights.

"Frankly, I was really at my limit, and I didn't know how to slow down. The quarantine allowed me to stop, to spend time with family and to prepare my new album," recounts the musician, who first developed musically within the group H'SAO, before plunging into his solo project.

AfrotoniX's new work is based on Afrofuturism, where the DJ, guitarist and singer imagine a generation coming of age in the 2150s who decide to reconnect with the past.

DJ AfrotoniX webcast his concert on the roof of Place Ville-Marie in September. (Courtesy AfrotoniX)

"I always imagine a future based on ancestral African values and a universality of languages. I do this by mixing languages and rhythms that never meet, like Chadian voices accompanied by electro," said AfrotoniX.

For the musician, this digital concert signals a new area of possibilities. He hopes to reduce his travels by a quarter next year by developing filmed concerts with European partners like France24.

More time in the city would mean more opportunities to collaborate with local artists, which AfrotoniX can't find enough time to do. "I've been working alone in my universe for months. I really have to get out of my basement to meet people," he says, laughing.

Music lovers from abroad will not be left out; with a performance captured under the dome at the SAT and several remote concerts planned at festivals in South America and Africa, the planet will certainly be vibrating to the rhythm of AfrotoniX in the upcoming months.

You can read more about AfrotoniX here.

This story is part of Digital Originals, an initiative of the Canada Council for the Arts. Artists were offered a $5,000 micro-grant to either adapt their existing work or create new work for the digital world during the COVID-19 pandemic. CBC Arts has partnered with Canada Council to feature a selection of these projects. This story is translated from Radio-Canada's French-language Digital Originals coverage. You can see more of these projects here.

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