News / Calgary

Freedom Singer remixes Canadian-African folk to tell it's tale

Coming to Calgary: Khari McClelland digs into his great-great-great grandmother's past in the underground railroad

Khari Wendell McClelland uses remixed songs of the underground railroad to tell the story of his great-great-great grandmother.

Courtesy Rupinder Sidhu

Khari Wendell McClelland uses remixed songs of the underground railroad to tell the story of his great-great-great grandmother.

Part concert, part journalism, Khari Wendell McClelland theatrical concert Freedom Singer delves into his own unrecorded past.

Specifically, McClelland retraced the footsteps of his great-great-great grandmother Kizzy, and her role in the underground railroad, which helped thousands of former slaves escape to Canada.

He remixes the rhythms and folklore of early African-Canadians ¬– the songs of the underground railroad – with contemporary sounds, to weave his story.

“I wanted to have the music feel authentic to me and my experience, and relatable to a generation of people who didn’t live in the 1850s, but can relate to those themes,” he said.

“It’s incredibly moving. It’s a powerful feeling (to sing these songs). I think I would describe this show as a live podcast, it’s a huge amount of story telling – it’s a theatre experience.”

McClelland has been touring the show across Canada as part of local Black History Month programming.

Freedom Singer is supported by the work of journalist Jodie Martinson, and features soul singer Tanika Charles with guitarist Noah Walker.

The show goes up at Festival Hall from Feb. 17 to 19. For more information, visit www.projecthumanity.ca.