By ANTHONY WRIGHT
The Muhtadi International Drumming Festival is renowned for showcasing the talent of drummers from around the world. It is the only festival in North America that celebrates the diverse range of the drum and its universality as an art form. Now in its 14th year, the family-friendly event unites people of all races and cultures to dance and have fun to the rhythmic beat of the drum.
This year’s festival will be held over two days and will feature over 50 master drummers and drum groups on two stages, including Alexis Von Kraven, Amadou Kienou (Burkina Faso), Green Sky Project (Bulgaria/Iran), Impact Percussion, Maracatu Mar Aberto (Afro Brazilian), Professor Trichy Sankaran (India), Samba Squad and more. The festival will feature arts, crafts and drum booths, a children’s area, drum clinics, two beer gardens and over 20 international food trucks and vendors.
The fun will begin with an opening ceremony and performance by festival founder and artistic director, Muhtadi Thomas and the World Drummers. Muhtadi, who immigrated to Canada from Trinidad & Tobago in 1974, is renowned for his skills at playing djembe, bongos, congas, timbales, steel pan and a wide assortment of other percussion instruments. Although he has earned critical acclaim for his performances, Muhtadi has devoted much of his career to teaching the art of drumming in community arts programs, schools and community centres.
The festival will also feature the Long & McQuade Drum Zone, an interactive area for drum lovers of all ages. Hand drums and percussion instruments from around the world will be on display and available for all to use in drum circles and percussion jams. The drum zone will also feature a workshop conducted by master drummer, Amara Kante. Born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, of Malinké origin, Kante began playing the drums when he was five years old and was asked to play with the legendary Ballet Koteba in Abidjan at age seven. He has mastered a wide range of instruments, such as dunduns, bara, n’tama and krin. Kante’s encyclopedic memory of rhythms and exceptional djembe techniques have earned him international acclaim. His extensive professional experience has attracted artistes such as Mory Kante and Peter Gabriel. In 1998, Kante set up the KAWAFOLI school of Manding percussions in Marseille, France, where he taught the djembe, dunun and krin.
“I’m someone for whom the djembe is a living, structured voice that goes back to the dawn of time,” said Kante. “Through the rhythms I play, I share this concept with modesty and respect just as I was taught to do by the great percussion masters Mamadou Camara, Sékou ‘Cobra’ Camara, Mamady n’Toman Keita, Famadou Konate, Issa Balo, Soungalo Coulibaly, Mansa Camio and Souleymane Koly (the artistic director of the KOTEBA D’ABIDJAN group).
“The word ‘lenke’, the name of the sacred wood used to make the djembe, contains the word ‘ke’, meaning inheritance. This is passed on through the skin of the djembe – its mouth – to the ear of the learner. To understand the language spoken by the djembe we have to first learn its alphabet. It can then teach us about tradition. The first letter is the ‘KON’ from which come all nine Malinké rhythms, the Bolokonondo poly-rhythms. All other words are built from this letter.”
The Muhtadi International Drumming Festival will be held this Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9 at Woodbine Park, northeast corner of Lakeshore Blvd. E. and Coxwell Ave. Admission is free.
For more information, including the schedule of events, visit www.muhtadidrumfest.com/performers or call 416-848-3838.