WALK TOGETHER CHILDREN
MARCH 4, 2023
ROOTS AND INTERSECTIONS was Denise Williams' latest collaboration with the Jubilate Singers for a concert featuring music from Toronto's African, Jewish and Muslim diasporas. Funded by the Ontario Arts Council.
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For this project, Denise graciously acknowledges the support of the Ontario Arts Council.
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WALK TOGETHER CHILDREN
BLACK, JEWISH, MUSLIM
MY VOICE, YOUR VOICE, OUR VOICES:
Dialogues with musicians of African Jewish and Muslim Diasporas in Toronto
Toronto is a fast growing multicultural mosaic and named the most diverse city in the world (Flack 2016). Cultures interweave historically, socially, politically, artistically the appreciation and practise of music can build cultural bridges. New music hybrids are formed and celebrated, yet often cultural interrelatedness is strained due to general racial sensitivities and misunderstandings within and without the cultural communities. As new music hybrids are formed and celebrated, the appreciation and practise of music can certainly build cultural bridges.
A Narrative Study
Taking the vantage point of myself, the researcher being of African descent and a classical musician in Toronto, my narrative study was to re-story the experiences and interactions of various established, Toronto based musicians (some connected to the 2018 WALK TOGETHER CHILDREN concert) as well as other music related artistic professionals, and community musicians of the African, Jewish, and Muslim Diasporas. The desire was to understand how they locate and identify themselves musically in relationship to their general cultural migrations, transnational and cross-cultural connections, as well as understand any effects of social, political, and racial unions/contentions/inequalities on their artistic work. I feel that these racially marginalized groups through centuries of oppression, persecution and forcible migrations, share common elements of understanding and expression.
This narrative approach was chosen as a poignant way to use a transformative framework in which the music and stories of some artistic racial minorities in Toronto’s multicultural mosaic can be given more of a voice
Through reviewing common themes from focused and individual interviews of 13 participants, I arrived at these key ideas from this research
Whose music is it anyway?
It turns out that The strong influence of colonial western music existed for generations beyond those of the participants and has interpenetrated with the indigenous music of their cultures (ie walls of cultural music divide have been fluid for centuries creating a situation of imprecise ownership)
If not by direct experience - either handed down or from lived-in experience (bone-knowledge), it then be important in music
Strive for an ‘authentic music practice’ vs ‘a historical performance practice’.
Do due diligence to get closest to the truth through proximity as well as length of time in the culture or subculture in question
The largest topic was the effect of racial marginalization, injustices, and stereotypic limitations that still exist very prominently in Toronto’s pluralistic society. In quotes from the group, Noam (Jewish) was wary of being asked to perform “Hava Nagila’ and Waleed (African) was wary of being asked to supply wild female dancers in grass regalia to bring up the energy. Carlos (Afro-Caribbean – Canadian R&B artist) is not comfortable presenting reggae and myself (of the same heritage as Carlos) am not comfortable presenting neither R&B, jazz nor gospel.
In essence how are we currently defining and sorting out ‘differences’ and the ‘other’ music?
My main question(s) are: How have you come to be involved in the music of a culture that is not your own? How do you appreciate it and present it with authenticity?
Singing the Story
My cross-cultural music initiatives were particularly sparked by Black and Jewish cultural tensions that arose in Toronto in the mid nineties from a major production that prioritized box office sales and limited cultural equality. Out of this as well as my sensitivity to marginalized cultural groups, arose my response, which was to build cultural bridges through exploration and music presentation of our cultural commonalities.
Learning the African-American spiritual, WALK TOGETHER CHILDREN, in a Jewish folk choir in the mid-nineties, I thought this title would be fitting for these cross-cultural concert presentations which began in 1995.
My 2018 presentation was entitled WALK TOGETHER CHILDREN: a cross-cultural concert presentation featuring the music of African, Jewish, and Muslim Diasporas. It featured song, dance, poetry, an ensemble, choirOne of the most poignant songs was a mash up of the Israeli-Palestinian song Bein Hachoshekh Laor (Between Darkness and Light) by Manal Hreb and Daphna Rosenberg and the Ghanaian song Woyaya (We are going) by the Afro-pop group Osibisa. You might say that this song presetnation thrusts us right at the borderlines of these cultures. It did its thing at the concert and delivered a most poignant message of peace, hope, and unity to the performers and audience.
ROOTS AND INTERSECTIONS -
THE MUSICAL INTERSECTIONS OF THE BLACK, JEWISH, AND MUSLIM DIASPORA
A FREE COMMUNITY MUSIC PRESENTATION
On Sunday February 19, 2023 we invite you to participate in a free musical forum. Dialogue, share, sing, get a sneak preview of the March 4th Jubilate Singers and Denise Williams ‘Roots and Resilience’ concert.
This will be a music and lecture presentation featuring music of the Black, Jewish, and Muslim diaspora by professional and representative artists. This presentation will serve as an enlightenment to the musical roots and offshoots of these cultures featuring old and new songs of these cultures. The presentation will be interactive and allow for a question and answer period with the artists and audience.
Toronto has been named the most multicultural city in the world in which a mosaic of cultures interact and mingle. It is not difficult to be immersed in the richness these cultures bring to our community. As a migrant African-Caribbean Canadian and a musician, I especially took interest in three forcibly migrant and racialized diasporic cultures that seemed to share historical, political, and artistic, commonalities; Black Jewish and Muslim. In engaging in the musical roots and offshoots of these cultures discovering ways in which they may intersect or have commonality in musical form, text, and other aspects, we hope to contribute to fostering more intercultural understanding and bridge gaps. Reference
ARTISTS (subject to modification)
Denise Williams (soprano), Ben MacDonald (tenor sax, woodwinds), Sam Donkoh (African percussion), Waleed Abdulhamid (multi-instrumentalist, vocalist), Babak Naseri (pianist), Isabel Bernaus (conductor of the Jubilate Singers), members of the Jubilate Singers
TIME: 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
DENISE WILLIAMS CAPSTONE VIDEO
DENISE WILLIAMS CAPSTONE VIDEO
A CROSS-CULTURAL CELEBRATION
WALK TOGETHER CHILDREN
SUNDAY OCTOBER 14, 2018, 3PM
GEORGE WESTON RECITAL HALL,
TORONTO CENTRE FOR THE ARTS
Musicians, dancers, and other artists from Toronto’s African, Jewish and Muslim diasporas unite in a joyful sharing of their cultural traditions.
Headlined by soprano Denise Williams, the event brings together some of our best known performers – pianists Brahm Goldhamer and Nina Shapilsky, percussionists Sam Donkoh and Daniel Barnes, clarinetist Ben MacDonald; members of the Toronto Ismaili Muslim Youth Choir, directed by Adrian Savin and Salima Dhanani; and Ismaili dancers. Guest artists include tenor Mitch Smolkin, dub poet Clifton Joseph, dancer Shakeil Rollock, and pianist Babak Naseri.
The program will include songs of inspiration, evocative melodies of yearning, lively dances from Africa, and joyous klezmer numbers, sung in many languages.
The afternoon will also honour Canada’s First Nations by having singer/songwriter Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone open the event.
The event dovetails with the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, and his aspiration for global pluralism: that the peoples of the world collaborate and learn from one another, and live together in peace.
Presented by the Children of Abraham Collective under the ageis of No Strings Theatre in partnership with North York Arts (NYA).
50% DISCOUNT ON REGULAR TICKETS
SEPTEMBER 13 - SEPTEMBER 16 (11:59PM)
PROMO CODE: NEWDAY
Family and Group rates also available
Your Donations toward this concert would be greatly appreciated.
Goal $6000 (total budget $18,000). Sponsored in part by No Strings Theatre.