Afrikana Soul Sister fuses the distinct sound production of Jean-François Lemieux with the untamed percussions works of Joannie Labelle and Fa Cissokho as well as Djely Tapa‘s voice. This quartet delivers a refresh organic-electro-afro-house sound where polychrome ambiances are artfully welded together on laptop with authentic African musical roots.
An eponymous album was released in April 2017. It garnered the band two nominations: ADISQ – World Album of the Year; GAMIQ – Album/EP World.
It is a known universal truth that music brings people together. It builds relationships and creates connections regardless of sex, ethnicity, creed or colour. Montreal based Afrikana Soul Sister holds this truth to be self evident. It is a musical voyage from Africa to America, where deep rooted traditions meet modern sounds.
This adventure is guided by Jean-François Lemieux’s arrangement of electronic beats and basslines. He is joined by Djely Tapa on vocals, Joannie Labelle and Fa Cissokho on percussions. “In today’s divided world, it’s important for us to carry the message that no matter what our differences may be, we are all human beings sharing similar values” explains Lemieux, who has collaborated with some of Quebec’s biggest names in music including: Daniel Bélanger, Jean Leloup, Kevin Parent and Ariane Moffatt.
Lemieux, who has been involved in the music industry since he was 15, explains: “I wanted to put together a musical project with a deeper spiritual dimension”. A trip in Western Africa as well as a collaboration with world renowned musician Youssou N’Dour, inspired Lemieux to take a deeper interest in African music. He discovered that beneath it’s hypnotic cadence, there are traditions thousands of years old. «In the African-griot culture, music plays a social role that transcends the concept of the star system found in North America.”
Back in Montreal, he sought out musicians of the African diaspora to better understand the hidden meanings beneath the traditional rhythms. During this journey he met vocalist Djely Tapa, a seventh generation Malian griote looking to modernize her art. “In African society, the child of a griot is destined to be the ears, counsellor, mediator and the collective memory of a community. Through music and dance the traditions is kept alive. However, one must adapt to today’s realities in order to reach the people”, she explains.
Thus, Afrikana Soul Sister manages to achieve a balance between openness and tradition without distorting the message. The Music then becomes a medium of exchange between two worlds. “Our songs touch on a variety of subjects, such as: our relationship with nature, the importance of hard work and the beauty of life. Values often neglected in modern society” says Lemieux.
The result is a hard driving mix of unbridled rhythms, palpable energy, an obvious complicity between band-members and an omnipresent message of social responsibility. This is a successful formula for the band. Their self-titled first album released in 2017, found itself on French CBC’s ICI Musique’s top 50 best albums of the year. The group was also nominated at the ADISQ and GAMIQ galas.
Afrikana Soul Sister’s live performances is where the magic happens. “Audience members can really feel the band’s essence during the shows, says Djely Tapa. “We believe our message can be understood beyond the songs’ words and dialects. It’s a privileged moment that allows us to free ourselves of prejudices, in order to live a positive and communal experience” adds the griot.
It’s no wonder that Afrikana Soul Sister has set so many festival stages ablaze throughout Quebec. The band is now ready to conquer the rest of the world. To be continued!
The album Afrikana Soul Sister is available on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify and Bandcamp.
GAMIQ – Nomination : Album/WP World
ADISQ – Nomination : Album de l’année – Musique du monde
« Le quatuor mené par Djely Tapa et Jean-François Lemieux nous ont balancé un electro-house festif et ensoleillé qui n’a pas tardé à faire danser la poignée de festivaliers déjà présents et plus qu’heureux de se délier les jambes (en attendant Jain?). On a apprécié l’énergie déployée par la troupe, les pas de danse de Tapa et les riches textures qui enveloppaient la rythmique endiablée. À revoir plus longuement! » – Jacques Boivin – Écoutedonc.ca – July 9. 2018
« Tout au long du spectacle, il a été question de la fusion entre musique africaine, entendue malienne et traditionnelle, et l’electro moderne et occidental, notament via leur album Afrikana Soul Sister. Tapa a chanté, dansé, fait l’éloge des enfants, du Québec et du public. Ce dernier le lui a rendu.
Que vouloir de plus? » – Touki Montréal – July 3, 2018
« On imagine très bien entendre cet album dans une boîte de nuit tellement ses 11 morceaux arrivent à installer une ambiance endiablée dès Mayébo, la première pièce. Même en tentant d’en faire une écoute passive, il est impossible de ne pas se laisser entraîner par les musiques métissées d’Afrikana Soul Sister. En somme, il s’agit d’un solide disque où les irrésistibles rythmes groovy font vibrer tout le corps et ne nous quittent… peut-être jamais. » – François Marchesseault – Ici Musique
Jean-François Lemieux (production)
Fa Cissokho (percussions/dance)
Joannie Labelle (djembe, congas, bongos, darbouka)
Djely Tapa (vocals/dance)