February 2006

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Our Review of
Rhythm Was Born

Donné Roberts | Rhythm Was Born CD Release Party
Presented by Music Africa
February 11, 2006Harbourfront CentreToronto
Fireman on Guitar; Spirit man on Vocals
by Andy Frank with photos by Roger Humbert

We’ve all heard the term “Citizen of the World”, usually associated with a famous and welcomed traveller like Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a traveller who seeks to foster a greater understanding of one another through compassion, wisdom and shared experience. Donné Roberts deserves this title as well, for he blends his rich, unique life experience with powerful messages of understanding and respect in his fabulous new CD, Rhythm was Born, and, on occasions like Saturday night’s CD release party, he generously shares his insight through his phenomenal music.

Juno-Award-winning Rakotomamonjy Dieudonné Robert was born in Madagascar, and raised as the son of a diplomat in Russia (!), where he once acted as a television VJ. Lest we think, however, that Donné has led a charmed life and has only an idealist’s perspective on it, I am told he was also once a janitor working at the very complex where he staged this impressive February 11th concert. He is a humble, warm hunk of dreadlocked soul, with a musical gift that has the very real potential to touch and enrich all of us.

From the first Santana-like notes he plucked from his guitar, through the electrifying Kravitz-like solo near the end of the first set, Donné displayed a musical maturity and depth usually reserved for an elder statesman of the craft like B.B. King. His life experience is evident in every note he plays, never staying too long in one culture or another, offering us just tantalizing glimpses of Marley, Hendrix and a long list of world-musicians. His voice is smoky-smooth and easy to digest, a perfect complement to his extraordinary guitar work, and unselfish enough to lend itself splendidly to two (or more) part harmonies.

Oh, and those harmonies. The first song in the second set with percussionist Celina Carroll on backing vocals brought tears to my eyes, even though I didn’t understand a word of the ballad. The set continued with Donné on his acoustic guitar and I still can’t decide which of his guitars offered a more appealing sound.

Donné had also recorded the challenging bass rhythms on his CD, so for this evening, he handed the keys to drive the band’s engine to Ian DeSouza, and this was a stroke of genius. DeSouza, standing just behind Donné and beside drummer Kofi Ackah, was a leader on top of his game. He and Kofi were in constant eye contact, feeding off each other’s energies, smiling and laughing throughout the show. DeSouza often turned to face Kwanza (congas) and Carroll, matching, driving, all in perfect support of Donné, his guest vocalists Chasaya Sichilima, Mark Nadjiwan, David Deleary and guest sax-extraordinaire player Paul Lamoureux. Witnessing Kofi Ackah’s skill and passion for drumming was worth the price of admission alone.

A special mention here must go to multi-percussionist Celina Carroll, whose vocals (in particular) gave the presentation its final touch of excellence. She, in her humility, credited Donné Roberts with making it easy to create sensational harmonies with him throughout the evening, but my guess is it was the other way around.

She also honoured Donné with this beautiful and apt introduction at the conclusion of the evening, to the delight of the exhausted dancing audience: “The Fireman on the guitar; the spirit man on the vocals.”

Dieudonné. Indeed.

Donné Roberts

Ian DeSouza

Celina Carroll


Kofi Ackah
The band
Donné Roberts | guitars, lead and background vocals
Celina Carroll | percussions, background vocals
Ian DeSouza | bass
Kofi Ackah | drums
Kwanza | congas

Guest musicians
Chasaya Sichilima, Mark Nadjiwan, David Deleary | background vocals
Paul Lamoureux | sax


We welcome your comments and feedback
• • • • • •
Andy Frank
• •
Roger Humbert
The Live Music Report

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