March 13, 2021 marked a watershed moment for global connection as internationally acclaimed virtuoso balafón musician Fodé Lassana Diabaté prémièred Bala — a unique CD recorded at The Centre for Sound Communities, Cape Breton University — in a virtual concert from Mali, West Africa. The Grammy-nominated musician/composer/culture-bearer and descendant of a griot family of balafón masters in Guinea has made several visits to Cape Breton, collaborating with CSC Director Dr. Marcia Ostashewski to present a program of ANSA-funded performances and workshops through ‘Songs and Stories in Celebration of the International Decade of People of African Descent.’
The recording of Bala at the CSC symbolizes an important shift in Canadian music production, representing an important bridge between two continents with so much of their history intertwined. The first African settlers in Nova Scotia can be traced to the 1700s, over time forming communities that today contribute to the cultural diversity of an area that is an ocean away from their antecedents. Lassana first came to Cape Breton in 2014 as part of a project connecting local residents with global scholars and performers; his return visits solidify the link between countries and cultural heritage and represent optimism and appreciation across a geographic divide somehow made narrower by similarities and shared experience.
Inviting widespread participation, Bala is part of a larger project focusing on Black and Indigenous lives and musics to develop a new model for global music education during the pandemic; it is funded through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Engage COVID-19 Special Initiative which will soon include a pilot project with Whitney Pier Boys and Girls Club, to be expanded across Nova Scotia. Partnerships with African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaq community leaders, libraries and organizations are paving the way for upcoming lectures, workshops and instructional materials.
• Find out more about Bala and Lassana Diabaté, culture-bearer and founder of Association Foli-Lakana fostering the vitality of local musics, youth and communities in Mali — https://balafondiabate.ca
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