Tunde Dawodu aims to present a full kaleidoscope of African culture.
Tunde Dawodu founded the Afrikadey festival in 1991 with the desire to showcase African culture and music. While this may have been seen as a bold decision more than two decades ago, it proved to be the right one.
Afrikadey is perennially one of the most popular festivals in Calgary, featuring African food, clothes, music, and artwork — exposing Calgarians to the best of Africa.
The Calgary Journal’s Zarif Alibhai met with Dawodu at the festival, which was held on Aug.9, to discuss the purpose of Afrikadey, the importance of drums within African culture and the future of the festival.
ZA: What is the purpose of Afrikadey?
TD: Well, Afrikadey is a very colourful event. Afrikadey uses the forum for music, arts, (and)
Photo by Zarif Alibhai dance to illustrate the kaleidoscope of African culture. So Afrikadey is sort of a mirror that reflects your own image to you, because every culture has music. Every culture has dance. The only difference is the way it’s done! Ultimately as human beings we have so much in common than those minute things that we tend to disagree about. The idea of Afrikadey is to make Calgary a very vibrant city and to make it a cultural mosaic and allow the segments of this (African) community to celebrate who they are, and ultimately empower them to be full participants in the city.
ZA: Talk about the role drums play in this festival?
TD: Well drums (are a) very important instrument in Africa. It’s a means of communication. A drum has the tendency to go through your body because drums are made with skin and once somebody beats it, you feel it in your body. You don’t even have to move because the drum is appealing to your spirit. Sprit tends to move around. What the drum does it tends to want to keep the spirit standing still. There’s no way drums can actually make it happen. In essence the spirit is trying to move and the drum is trying to make sure that it’s stationary. Drums are very spiritual because it appeals to your inner self.
ZA: How do you hope this festival can inspire people?
TD: I’ve seen so many Africans performing today and I can see the enthusiasm that they have the chance to be on stage and actually showcase themselves to the general public. To me that’s very empowering it goes along way out of this realm for them to say, “Oh yeah! I was at Afrikadey and I performed!” It shows that they have been accepted in the city in terms of what they can offer and that will encourage them to do more.
ZA: Can you talk about how you view African culture’s presence in Canada?
TD: First of all I wouldn’t say African culture is necessarily new, except it’s not recognized as African culture. Most of the modern music that we listen to have African roots in it. So Africa has been around, but we do not recognize it. I personally see Canada as a united nation because Canada promotes multiculturalism. You are encouraged to keep your culture. I think that’s something that Canadians should be proud of. The more that we can do this, it will be better for the whole community. You are being informed and educated when you come to Afrikadey and I believe that the best way to know me is through my culture. So, once you know me through my culture it’s not about what you’ve been told! It’s about what you know and that empowers you in terms of how you deal with me.
ZA: What are your hopes with Afrikadey going forward?
TD: We like to keep it going and people like it and as much as people accept this festival we will keep doing it!
Calgary Journal Editor’s note: Take a look at the images taken by Journal reporter Zarif Alibhai in this photo gallery of Afrikadey: http://www.calgaryjournal.ca/index.php/the-lens/afrikadey-2014