– By Bill Robertson
AFRICAN ROOTS MEETS CANADIAN ROOTS with an original sound that fuses World music with Folk music. CANADAFRICA creates a place for the complex interlocking rhythms of Africa to meet with the soulful and rich tunes of Blues.
Mike Stevens and Okaidja Afroso, two passionate musicians from very different backgrounds, bring their talents together with their debut album, “Where is the One?” This innovative record reveals how beautifully the sounds of the harmonica complements Ghanaian melodies. Mike Stevens and Okaidja Afroso have both been pioneers in their respective genres for decades. With “Where is the One?” they have joined their diverse influences and experiences together to craft an album that is as distinct as the cultures that they were raised in. Here you will encounter the essence of Ghana’s Gold Coast intertwined with the deep roots of Folk and Blues music of North America.
The Toronto Blues Society
Where’s The One? (Borealis Records)
Sub-titled ‘Canadian Roots Meets African Roots’, this latest entry into the cross culture recordings list features just Mike Stevens virtuoso harmonica and Ghanaian Okaidja Afroso on voice and various, mostly African, instruments. What strikes one immediately is the proficiency of both, no matter the style: Afroso sings like Bukka White on “Mercurochrome Blues” while playing a type of drum called a cajón and Stevens’ harp sounds completely appropriate on any of the African songs. That Afroso can sing in English is a definite plus and his Mississippi John Hurt singing style on “You Ain’t No Good” a delight. “Like A Little Bird” could go immediately into the Ken Whiteley songbook, although all the songs here are by the duo. “Just A Boy” is a major work–written through the eyes of an African boy soldier, it features Afroso on acoustic guitar. “Where’s The One?” answers the musical question with a masterful display of shifting time signatures, Afroso playing a gourd. Two songs feature a Ghanaian instrument known as a gyil, a wooden xylophone. The combination with the harmonica is most attractive. What Stevens is able to accomplish with his harmonica is worth the price of the disc all by itself and what CanadAfrica is able to do together is simply astounding. The CD release party is at the Lula Lounge, Wednesday, December 11 @ 8pm with the Whiteley Brothers opening. Should be quite a night! The web site is www.borealisrecords.com. Before closing, congratulations go to Mike Stevens, who has just received the prestigious Estelle Klein Award for his contributions to our Folk Music community.
Penguin Egg Magazine
– By Nicholas Jennings
Where’s the One? (Borealis Records)
What do you get when you pair a versatile harmonica player from Sarnia, Ontario with a gifted singer and multi-instrumentalist from Ghana? The spirited duo known as CanadAfrica. On their first album together, Stevens, a Son House devotee who’s married blues harp with bluegrass, and Okaidja, a former member of the Ghana Dance Ensemble who emigrated to Portland, Oregon to work with master drummer Obo Addy, cook up a tasty roots stew. There are folk and bluegrass flavors on Like a Little Bird and You Ain’t No Good, and numbers like Abifao and Dagarti benefit from the African spice of Okaidja’s percussive workouts. Some are message songs: Just a Boy, which has the hypnotic pull of Ali Farka Touré’s Malian blues, and Colour Blind, featuring Okaidja’s scat vocals and Stevens’ wailing harp, espouse racial tolerance. But there’s also humor in Keeping the Mosquitoes Away, which conjures up visions of madly swatting at buzzing hoards. Together, Stevens and Okaidja create an infectious fusion.