Nadine McNulty is the artistic director of the Batuki Music Society, a non-profit African arts organization based in Toronto. (The group’s slogan is “Nurturing and strengthening cultural diversity through the arts.”) McNulty also hosts and produces a great African music radio program called Karibuni, at CIUT 89.5 FM.

But that’s just McNulty's bare bones CV. It doesn’t tell you how dedicated she is to promoting African music and to the community of African-Canadian musicians. Check out her Batuki Music Society website to get the lowdown on some of the impressive work McNulty does. 

She tells us it was a very difficult choice to narrow it down to one artist, for our “Must Hear” series. But she chose the Kasai Allstars because she connected with them so strongly, from the very first moment she heard the band.

You may too, once you listen to this!

Q. What was it about this band that first struck you?

 A. Kasai Allstars is a collective of musicians from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I saw them perform in Sevilla at WOMEX [World Music Exposition] in 2007. From the first musical note, I felt possessed by the music, dance and imagery on the stage. This powerful trance music, ‘bazombo,’ was banned by the colonial government and shunned by the church, which believed that the music was a form of pagan ritual.

Q. Why is this band so important?

A. Kasai Allstars has revitalized this unique music from the Kasai region of Congo and helped to introduce it to the world. Some of the traditional instruments used by the musicians can now only be found in museums, because traditional craft-making is a dying tradition in the Congo. 

Q. What should people should listen for?

A. The hypnotic buzzing and distorted sounds of the instruments, the electrified likembes (thumb pianos), traditional drums, xylophones, electric guitars, driving poly-rhythms and soulful vocals – it’s addictive indeed.

Q. What’s your favourite live-music moment with Kasai Allstars?

A. While the band was playing live, the ensemble included a chief in regal costume who used his magical powers to revive a band member who was stricken by an evil spirit. The chief drove away the spirit, the musician got up and continued on with the show. The entire performance was mesmerizing.

Related links:

Must Hear: Baloji spits rhymes from Belgium to the Congo

Must hear: Cuban guitar great Eliades Ochoa

Must hear: groundbreaking Israeli musician Idan Raichel

posted by Li Robbins on Apr 09, 2012