10 ways Canadian music fans can observe Black History Month

From Halifax to Victoria, music will play a big part in the month's events. We draw your attention to 10 of them.

From Halifax to Victoria, music will play a big part in the month's events

Sadé Awele performs at B.C.'s Let's Hear it Live!, a showcase for emerging musicians.
Sadé Awele performs at B.C.'s Let's Hear it Live!, a showcase for emerging musicians. (Submitted by Sadé Awele)

February is Black History Month, an opportunity to honour the legacy of Black Canadians and their communities — from their ongoing pursuit of equity and justice, to their contributions to our country's cultural richness.

Music has always played a central role during Black History Month. Below, we draw your attention to 10 events taking place in February 2023 — from Halifax to Victoria — that feature a range of genres sure to suit every taste: blues, reggae, jazz, Latin, gospel, R&B, Afrobeat and more.

Is there a performance happening near you during Black History Month that you're excited about? Let us know about it in the comments.

1. This poetry summit in Halifax

Poetry and music converge for an intriguing matinee at Halifax's Central Library on Feb. 12, part of the city's African Heritage Month activities. It's hosted by George Elliott Clarke, Canada's seventh poet laureate and self-described "Africadian exile." He welcomes five poets — Afua Cooper, Amatoritsero Ede, Sylvia Hamilton, El Jones and Monica Mutale — to read from their works and hear their poetry set to music by Nevawn Patrick and performed by vocalist Linda Carvery and pianist Holly Arsenault.

George Elliott Clarke is shown at the Halifax Central Library during an interview in February 2018. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

2. Also in Nova Scotia, this down-home blues concert

With a history that spans more than 400 years, African Nova Scotians have a legacy that has enriched the province's cultural life in myriad ways, music being foremost among them. ECMA Award-winning trio Ced, Marty & Dave continue this proud tradition with their down-home, soulful, Cajun-flavoured blues and heartfelt covers (not copies!) of songs by Howling Wolf, Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton and others. Catch their live set at Truro, Nova Scotia's Marigold Cultural Centre on Feb. 2.

3. This new chamber opera, premiering in Montreal

Montreal is home to Canada's largest Haitian community, and it's where composer David Bontemps and playwright Faubert Bolivar will unveil their new chamber opera, La flambeau, performed by an all-Black cast. They promise "a world of mystical melodies imbued with Afro-Haitian musical idioms," and a libretto that draws on West African mythology and Haitian Vodou traditions. A presentation of l'Orchestre classique de Montréal, the premiere of La flambeau will take place on Feb. 7 at Salle Pierre-Mercure.

4. This reggae extravaganza in Ottawa

With this concert, titled Reggae Roots, Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra aims to explore "the social, cultural, and spiritual importance of the magical musical genre that has shaped Jamaica and touched the world." More than a genre of music, reggae has been a global movement, and Jamaican-born, Halifax-based reggae ambassador Jah'Mila is one of its leading proponents in Canada. She joins conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser (host of CBC Music's Centre Stage) onstage at the NAC's Southam Hall for three performances: Feb. 23, 24 and 25.

5. This micro music festival in Toronto

Everbloom is a one-day festival showcasing several facets of Black creativity, including an array of drag kings and queens and a tantalizing lineup of musical acts: R&B singer Noiir, singer-songwriter Ahsia, soul artist Del Hartley and rapper B1GJuice, to name a few. There'll also be a vendors market, focusing on Black-owned businesses. It all goes down on Feb. 25 at the Great Hall in Toronto.

6. This dance workshop in Winnipeg

Head to Winnipeg's West End Cultural Centre on Feb. 5 for a workshop with Kevan Francis on traditional Jamaican folk dancing and African drum dancing. Francis believes music and dance can change the hearts and minds of youth today, and invites participants of all ages to work up a sweat moving to dancehall, Afro-Caribbean drum, Afrobeat, krump and hip-hop. "Energy and positive vibes — one love!" promise the workshop's organizers. Registration is free.

7. This Afro-Cuban symphonic concert in Regina

On the cover of his Grammy Award-winning album Mendó, Alex Cuba is pictured as an African prince. "I think that's what comes over me," he told CBC, reflecting on that depiction, "my roots, and my connection with Africa." In February, he'll take his music on a Canadian tour, and this stop in Regina, where he'll be backed by the Regina Symphony Orchestra under Lucas Waldin, looks especially promising. They'll heat up the Conexus Arts Centre on Feb. 18.

8. This gospel concert in Edmonton

The Edmonton chapter of the National Black Coalition of Canada invites you to the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium on Feb. 18 for an "evening of worship, praise and reflection [that] will leave you both connected and lifted." Unity is the theme of this annual concert bringing together a cross-denominational array of soloists, choirs, musicians and dancers. Be prepared for an amazing and blessed night. Can't attend in person? It'll be streaming live on NBCC Edmonton's YouTube channel.

The poster announcing NBCC Edmonton's 2023 gospel concert.
NBCC Edmonton's annual gospel concert takes place on Feb. 18, 2023, at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. (NBCC/YouTube)

9. This fundraising DJ party in Red Deer, Alta.

Here's your chance to dance to a vibrant mix of African and Caribbean music courtesy of DJ Mbakneu — and support a good cause while you're at it. Proceeds will go to the Education for Somali Girls and Boys Foundation. As a bonus, snacks are included in the price of admission: "Somali samosas, fabulous African donuts and amazing brownies," according to the event listing. The party, which takes place on Feb. 24 at Festival Hall in Red Deer, is a presentation of the African Caribbean Centre of Central Alberta and the Central Alberta Cameroon Community. "Please help our grassroots organizations enhance Black Canadians' lives in Central Alberta and educate young minds."

10. This double bill at Victoria's Belfry Theatre

The motto of the B.C. Black History Awareness Society is "our roots run deep," and for proof, look no further than this double bill it's presenting on Feb. 26 at the Belfry Theatre. The show begins with the quartet of saxophonist Noedy Hechavarria Duharte, who flavours his jazz with the Latin rhythms of his native Santiago de Cuba. Then, it's Sadé Awele, a singer-songwriter of Igbo and Yoruba descent whose music merges elements of gospel, R&B, jazz, Afro-fusion and Afrobeat. She'll be accompanied by the five-piece Serengeti band.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

Being Black in Canada logo with various colours of fists in the air
Being Black in Canada highlights stories about Black Canadians. (CBC)


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