African Chamber Music

African music is well-known for its exciting drumming, dances and energy; its quieter and more contemplative characteristics are not as well known. This project aims to change that by presenting said repertoire in a “chamber” setting, utilizing a string quartet as accompanying instruments, and highlighting the voice to expand the notion of African music and how it can be perceived. At the same time, there is an urge to decolonize the string quartet and Western classical music. What its history and performance context has historically represented in relation to non-Western musical traditions is intertwined with the colonial enterprise and mindset. This needs to be addressed and acknowledged.

The repertoire features the mbira songs of the Shona of Zimbabwe and the enchanting vocal music of the Ewe of Ghana, performed by Vancouver based masters of those traditions, Kurai Mubaiwa (mbira, voice, percussion/Zimbabwe) and Kofi Gbolonyo (voice, percussion/Ghana). These tradition bearers have led extensive careers on local and international stages through numerous concerts, collaborations and recordings. This music is arranged for percussion, voice and string quartet by Curtis Andrews (percussion, voice), a long-time friend of Mubaiwa and Gbolonyo who has been studying and playing these musics for over 20 years and a well-known fixture in Vancouver’s intercultural music circles. The concert also features Meredith Bates (violin), Peggy Lee (cello), Joshua Zubot (violin) and Sarah Kwok (viola).

Dr. Kofi Gbolonyo, a Ghanaian musician, composer, educator, ethnomusicologist and multi-instrumentalist grew up along the Ghana-Togo border in West Africa where he learned the traditional pedagogy, music, and dances of the Ewe and Western music. He is now a Visiting Assistant Professor of Music and the Director of UBC African Music and Dance Program at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in ethnomusicology and African music and an artist-in-residence at Capilano University. He is also the co-founder/co-director of Adanu Habobo.

Kurai Blessing Mubaiwa is from the Shona people of Zimbabwe. With an exceptional interest as a young child he began playing mbira (thumb piano) at the age of six and soon he began his journey as a young child singing, dancing, playing mbira and drums in traditional ceremonies and other village gatherings. After moving to the city at the age of 18, Mubaiwa soon traveled the world with his mbira as an actor and a musician. Kurai currently teaches singing, marimba, mbira and drumming workshops to children and adults. In his solo performance he sings, dances and plays mbira, marimba, drums and other percussion instruments. Kurai also continues to perform as the lead musician with the groups Zimbamoto and Zhambai Trio, collaborates with Jacky Yenga, is a member of the BC World Music Collective, and is perhaps the most accomplished and original mbira player in Canada.

Dr. Curtis Andrews is a Canadian musician with global persuasions, who specializes in South Indian percussion, West African drum/dance, drumset, and mbira. A percussionist, composer, teacher who creates music that is informed by his many years of experience with these traditions yet transcends most categories. His personal musical journeys over the years have extended to villages and metropolises of Ghana, India, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and he has developed a deep knowledge of the history and performance of music from these areas. He has released two critically-acclaimed albums of original music with his own ensemble The Offering of Curtis Andrews, plays mbira, drums and marimba with Zimbabwean groups Zhambai Trio and Zimbamoto, is co-leader/founder of West African drum/dance ensemble Adanu Habobo explores South Indian classical Carnatic music with vocalist Vidyasagar Vankayala, co-founded, composes for and performs with the intercultural Naadaleela Ensemble, regularly collaborates with local Bharatanatyam performers Sujit Vaidya and Arno Kamolika, and is a regular collaborator with various world music and jazz musicians in and around Vancouver, BC. 

A talented improvisor and performer, award-winning violinist Meredith Bates is known for her elegant and virtuosic sound. She has spent most of the past twenty years recording and performing around the world in celebrated ensembles, such as Pugs and Crows (JUNO winner 2013, WCMA 2016), Gentle Party, and projects led by Vancouver music icons Tony Wilson, Ford Pier, Leah Abramson, and Peggy Lee. She is the artistic director of the Vancouver Improvised Arts Society (VIAS), a non-profit organization aimed at supporting the creation and presentation of improvised works by womxn, BIPOC, and LGBTQ2S+ artists.

Before relocating to Vancouver in 2017, violinist/violist Joshua Zubot was a fixture in Montréal’s vibrant music community for over a decade, working with Patrick Watson, Sam Shalabi, Ratchet Orchestra, and The Barr Brothers. He’s now made himself at home in the genre-defying West Coast improv scene, where his omnivorous, idiosyncratic talent alights on jazz, classical, bluegrass, folk, musique actuelle, and the avant-garde’s back-40. His Strings project harnesses conviction, emotion, and power with Meredith Bates violin, Jesse Zubot violin/viola, Peggy Lee cello, and James Meger bass.

Isabelle Reynaud, piano/vocals,Peter Mitchell, vibraphone,Peggy Lee, cello,Shawn Rompre, electronic drums,Daniel McNamara, bass,Sarah Elizabeth, vocals,

Cellist, improviser, composer Peggy Lee makes her home in Vancouver, BC where she is part of a rich creative music community. In addition to her work with Standing Wave and the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, Peggy leads or co-leads a number of musical projects: The Peggy Lee Band, Film in Music, Waxwing (with Tony Wilson and Jon Bentley), Handmade Blade (with Aram Bajakian and JP Carter), The Sands (with Julie McGeer) and Beautiful Tool (with Mary Margaret Ohara). She has also collaborated extensively in theatre and dance with companies and artists such as the Electric Company, Ruby Slippers, Rumble Theatre, Presentation House, David Hudgins, Kokoro Dance, Peter Bingham, Delia Brett and Ziyian Kwan. In 2013 Peggy was the recipient of the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for music.

Elysian Trio, Banff Centre 2019, Promo Session

Born and raised in Vancouver, Sarah Kwok is an active freelancer, she performs with the Vancouver Symphony, the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, the Vancouver Island Symphony and the Okanagan Symphony, and has played in concerts presented by the Chutzpah Festival, Sonic Boom Festival, and Music on Main. Sarah has also appeared with Turning Point Ensemble, Allegra Chamber Orchestra, and the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra, and participated in the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute. She is a member of the Elysian trio (viola, flute, and harp) as well as Dúo Mala Yunta, an Argentine tango ensemble, and teaches at the St. James  Music Academy.