7 Black Canadian roots/world artists to celebrate for Black History Month
It’s always a debate here at Roots Music Canada: do we mark occasions like Black History Month and National Indigenous People’s Day by making a list of Black artists or Indigenous artists that we think people should check out – which can come off as tokenistic? Or do we stick to what we always do around here, which is make sure we’re raising up talented Black artists whenever we discover them?
But honestly, when we think about it, why not have another excuse to showcase some of the incredible music that Black Canadian artists have released the last couple of years?
We love these songs and albums. If you haven’t heard them yet, you’ll be so glad you took the time to check them out. If you have, you’re probably happy to listen again too, right?
Already well-known to many as a member of Po’Girl and Birds of Chicago, Allison made her solo debut last year with the autobiographical tour de force, Outside Child, which is currently nominated for three Grammys.
Kaia has earned praise from Rolling Stone and been long-listed for the Polaris Music Prize for music that draws inspiration from Appalachian folk and, more recently, jazz. Her newest single, “Parallels,” manages to be both understated and incredibly catchy.
Tania released her debut EP in 2013 and finally followed it up last year with I Will Stand, produced by the in-demand Hill Kourkoutis and featuring the powerful track “Planks and Marietta,” a fundraiser for Black Lives Matter.
AHI debuted in 2016 and earned a Stingray Rising Star Award from Folk Music Ontario. He followed that up with a Juno nod for his sophomore album, In Our Time. He’s now promoting his soulful third release, The Prospect.
It’s hard to believe that Julian was named one of the top new discoveries of 2021 in the Penguin Eggs critics’ poll – not because he doesn’t deserve to be there but because Julian’s been performing since 1996! But there’s no question that his Juno-nominated, CFMA-winning album The Ridge has raised his profile significantly, so I guess we can forgive some of the critics for being late to the party.
Zal earned a Juno nomination and a Felix Award for his latest album, Kora Flamenca, a breathtaking collaboration with flamenco guitarist Caroline Planté. His 20-odd-year career in Canada has also seen him perform with Cirque du Soleil, compose for film and perform with artists such as les Frères Diouf.
Malian-Canadian artist Djely won the 2020 Juno Award for World Music Album of the Year for her solo debut, Barokan, after previously singing with Afrikana Soul Sister. Djely, who comes from a long line of griots, originally came to Canada to study sciences and was named a Révelation Radio Canada in 2019.