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Let Freedom Singer ring

Khari Wendell McClelland channels his ancestors through songs in Freedom Singer.



Freedom Singer
Friday, February 24, 8pm
The Music Room, 6181 Lady Hammond Road

Soul, gospel and contemporary musician Khari Wendell McClelland says he became increasingly interested in his heritage after getting off stage one day at a folk festival in Lunenburg and receiving a book by author Karolyn Smardz Frost. The narrative examined Black people escaping slavery from the United States to southern Ontario, a journey parallel to his ancestors.

"I wrote Canada Council and basically said 'I have this idea to try and find the music that would have accompanied my great-great- great grandmother when she was escaping from slavery,'" he says. He received a grant for his project for Black History Month, to tour to seven Canadian cities, including Halifax.

"I'm really excited to come to Halifax and connect with community there. I have fond memories of my time there researching the music," he says. McClelland, a native of Detroit, says his family came to Canada through the underground railroads in the 1800s. He explains that his curiosity led him to the Nova Scotia Archives, because Black people also arrived in the province through the underground railroads in the 1700s.

Unlike his performances in Calgary, Regina and Toronto, for his performance at The Music Room on Friday he will not be using theatrics. "When doing theatre, it requires a lot more infrastructure and a lot more deeper planning," he says. He clarifies that funding was not received in time to mount a full production here, though he hopes that there will be other opportunities to bring theatre to Halifax.

The singer will be performing alongside this year's Juno-nominated soul and rhythm and blues singer Tanika Charles. "I'll be sharing quite a few of the songs that are part of the Freedom Singer production, the theatrical production," he says. "We'll be singing songs, songs that are old, songs that have a more contemporary feel."

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