Hear this: An African pow-wow

North American pow-wow singing reminds Donné Roberts of songs he heard growing up in Madagascar, the island nation off southeast Africa.


"In the villages they have that way of singing, a kind of chant," he says. "It's not so popular because it's an old style, but it exists."

Lately, Roberts has been reconnecting with those sounds. A versatile electric guitarist, he began his career playing embassy shows as a child of a diplomat in Moscow, and later toured with a Swedish pop band the Ace of Bace.


On arriving in Toronto 10 years ago, he reconnected with his roots. He formed a duo with fellow guitarist Madagascar Slim, joined Canadian supergroup African Guitar Summit, and founded a band under his own name.


It was for his first CD Rhythm Was Born that he decided to try adding local pow-wow singers to a one track, "Hira'n'Taolo."

"When they got to the studio they totally felt it," Roberts said this week of Mark and David" The tempo, the rhythm – there is a connection."


Tomorrow, Donné Roberts Band with special guests such as Jani Lauzon, Gabriel is one the member from the Morningstar River drum and dance troupe and others will play at Hugh's Room with a show they call "Africa Meets First Nations."

ARTICLE by Andrew Craig (CBC)

Donné Roberts is a passionate performer.  When he hits the stage he carries with him an energy that immediately exhilarates the crowd - even if they've never heard his music before.  Donné  performs mainly in Malagasy his mother tongue from his birthplace of Madagascar. 

Yet this never proves to be a barrier to the audience, providing living proof that music truly does transcend language.


A member of the Juno award winning collective the African Guitar Summit, Donné has made his home in Toronto for a little over a decade.  Prior to that his journeys took him from Madagascar to Moscow with his diplomat parents.  He remained there for 20 years before making his way to Canada by way of France. 


Donné is truly a man of the world - speaking Malagasy, French, Russian, and English. This performance was definitely a highlight at this year's Ness Creek Music Festival.  Along with his excellent band mates Donné wowed the Saturday night crowd and got almost everyone up off their blankets and lawn chairs to dance under the beautiful northern skies.


This special outdoor music festival takes place in Saskatchewan's northern boreal forest, and it's truly an ‘immersion experience' for the several thousand people who make the pilgrimage to the site from their homes around the province. This year marks their 20th anniversary.


Donne Roberts is a guitarist who hails from Madagascar, and is a member of Juno-winning, Live 8 performing African Guitar Summit. He has taken an unusual path to his first solo album, spending many years working and living in Russia and France, absorbing different styles into his musical vocabulary.


His Malagasy Soul approach starts with Malagasy’s salegy, then blends Central African bass lines and Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar strokes into a unique pop-friendly blend.


“Malahelo” starts with a near-bossa melody before breaking into a gentle but pulsating acoustic guitar driven soukous groove. 

“Mahareza” is about as low down as it gets on this disc — none of the tunes on Rhythm Was Born are furiously funky, but their versatile arrangements ensure they don’t descend into cloying and bland world beat.


Another plus is the strong backing vocals of former Mother Tongue vocalist Celina Carroll, who brings a luminous energy to the disc.

Unusual instrumentation also makes difference: Indian udus, Bajan junkanoo drum, and liberal amounts of electronics further Roberts’ sound.


This is a very pan-Afro-Canadian sound with above average production, you wouldn’t hear an Afro-pop recording quite like this come from anywhere else in the world. (Independent)

A lot of people missed Donne Roberts’ Wavelength debut last May, and that was too bad, since the guitarist and his band took us all to school.


It’s easy to forget how much indie rock undervalues, well, musicianship until you hear a band that can really play. But it’s not just about technicality, Roberts’ “Malagasy soul” music fluidly fuses folk, funk, blues and rock into irresistibly danceable forms that reflect his roots in Madagascar, Russia and Canada.


Also a member of the African Guitar Summit, Donné is very likely the only Wavelength alumnus to have performed at Live 8. And won a Juno. Okay, we get it, this guy is good.

The lone act of the night devoid of signifiers like "indie" and "punk rock," Donné Roberts was invigorating. The prolific and eclectic musician presented a unique amalgam of funk and calypso that had an unsuspecting audience swaying in appreciation of his Afro-tinged, multicultural musical stew. Roberts's band was bouncy and bubbly, deftly supporting his torrent of eye-popping guitar playing and good vibes, leading the audience through foreign-tongued singalongs and handclaps.


Donné Roberts 2020