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Unyielding roots: Halifax musical performance showcases cultural fusion and resilience

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HALIFAX, N.S. — By Somya Lohia

New Canadian Media

Pianist Rashaan Rori Allwood is on a mission to weave his rich cultural heritage into every melody he plays.

For the 28-year-old, who’ll be performing on Friday, Feb. 2, at Pier 21 in Halifax as part of African Heritage Month celebrations, music is more than just notes on a page.

It is a journey of resilience and exploration, reflecting the vibrant rhythms of the Caribbean and the echoes of generations past.

The Halifax performance, called Celebrations and Revelations 2024: Unyielding Roots, is the first stop of a three-city tour that promises to take concert-goers on a rich musical journey with pieces that reflect elements of the Caribbean immigrant and African diaspora experience.

Seeking better opportunities

Allwood’s journey has not been without its challenges. As the child of immigrants, he knows all too well the sacrifices and hardships endured in pursuit of a better life.

“My parents came here from Jamaica in search of better opportunities,” he said, adding that the resilience instilled by his parents served as a guiding light, propelling Allwood forward in the face of adversity.

“You really have to find a way through it, even when it seems really, really hard,” he reflects.

Pianist Rashaan Rori Allwood says as the child of immigrants, he knows all too well the sacrifices and hardships endured in pursuit of a better life. - Contributed
Pianist Rashaan Rori Allwood says as the child of immigrants, he knows all too well the sacrifices and hardships endured in pursuit of a better life. – Contributed

‘Reflection and creative exploration’

Allwood will be joined on stage by loop pedal violist Kathryn Patricia Cobbler and singer Nadine Anyan.

The trio will perform original ambient jazz, folk, and classical compositions against a background film of images and events from life in the Caribbean and in Canada.

With each note played on stage, Allwood says he pays homage to his ancestors, whose footsteps echo through the lush landscapes of Jamaica and the bustling streets of Toronto.

The three-city tour’s mission is to amplify the voices of Black Canadians, shedding light on their experiences and triumphs, he said.

“This show is a culmination of years of reflection and creative exploration,” Allwood says. “It represents a fusion of classical elegance and Afrocentric rhythms — a testament to the vibrant mosaic of our cultural tapestry.”

Loop pedal violist Kathryn Patricia Cobbler will join pianist Rashaan Rori Allwood on stage at Pier 21. - Contributed
Loop pedal violist Kathryn Patricia Cobbler will join pianist Rashaan Rori Allwood on stage at Pier 21. – Contributed

Passion for music

Allwood said his passion for music was kindled by his father’s love for classical melodies. Allwood has a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from the University of Toronto, a master’s degree in organ performance from McGill University, and he’s currently pursuing a PhD in composition at Western University.

A multiple award-winner in composition, Allwood also directs music at St. Ansgar Lutheran Church in Toronto, where he regularly debuts his new works and organizes performances for choir and instrumentalists.

Maintaining connections

Talking about his experience as a second-generation immigrant in Canada, Allwood recognizes the importance of maintaining connections with his community while embracing the diversity of Canada.

“It is definitely related to this kind of drive to always work hard. In this process, we miss family connections,” he said.

“This is something I learn more about when we visit Jamaica and see the family there. The whole concept of a really tight-knit family and a big, loving supporting group of people and community, … that’s something which is not as prominent here in Canada. Sometimes, it’s a little bit more individualistic here.”

Pursuit of success

For Allwood and countless others like him, the pursuit of success is not merely a goal but a testament to the sacrifices made by their forebears.

Allwood emphasizes the importance of maintaining connections with one’s community while embracing diversity for immigrants.

“It’s about finding balance,” he says. “Knowing that you have your community and also embracing the diverse community that Canada offers.”

Through his music, Allwood aims to inspire others to embrace their own stories and journeys. His concerts are not just performances but invitations to introspection, encouraging audiences to find beauty in their own narratives.

“We want people to realize that they all have a really amazing story to tell,” he says. “It’s about encouraging people to look inward and find the beauty in their own journey.”


Story and photos produced in partnership between New Canadian Media and SaltWire.


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