Donné Roberts
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Donné Roberts

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Aug
01
Donné Roberts @ The Gladstone Hotel

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Donne Roberts is a guitarist who hails from Madagascar, and was a member of Juno-winning, Live 8 performing African Guitar Summit. He has taken an unusual path to his first solo album, spending many years working and living in Russia and France, absorbing different styles into his musical vocabulary. His Malagasy Soul approach starts with Malagasy’s salegy, then blends Central African bass lines and Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar strokes into a unique pop-friendly blend. “Malahelo” starts with a near-bossa melody before breaking into a gentle but pulsating acoustic guitar driven soukous groove. “Mahareza” is about as low down as it gets on this disc — none of the tunes on Rhythm Was Born are furiously funky, but their versatile arrangements ensure they don’t descend into cloying and bland world beat. Another plus is the strong backing vocals of former Mother Tongue vocalist Celina Carroll, who brings a luminous energy to the disc. Unusual instrumentation also makes difference: Indian udus, Bajan junkanoo drum, and liberal amounts of electronics further Roberts’ sound. This is a very pan-Afro-Canadian sound with above average production, you wouldn’t hear an Afro-pop recording quite like this come from anywhere else in the world. (Independent)


- David Dacks from EXCLAIM



Though he grew up in Russia, Donné Roberts is associated with Malagasy Soul, and is often described as a strong musical spirit who is deeply in tune with his acoustic and electric environment. Considered “a natural” by many of his peers, Donné has been credited with “pulling that extra little bit of feeling out of every note”.
“That’s what it’s all about,” says Wayne Charles, who plays with him occasionally in Toronto’s barrelhouse music group Chain Gang. “It’s not about the mechanics of it, it’s about how turned on you are when you do it. BB King will make you cry with just one note – he can play with soul, with heart. That’s the kind of player Donné is.”
Donné Roberts is a member of the African Guitar Summit, which won the 2005 Juno Award for World Music Album of the Year. His own band Donné Roberts was a staple of the Afrofest pre-launch party held at the Lula Lounge in June 2005. Referring to him as an immense talent who “breathes” the music, Madagascar Slim points to his unique and proficient finger picking guitar style and the intricacy of his playing. Slim is the other half of the formerly “Slim et Donné” duo project.
“He’s got the Malagasitude,” Slim tells me. “Mala what?” I ask. “Malagasitude,” he declares cheerfully. “I just made that up. He’s got that Malagasy groove.”
“There is never a dull moment working with Donné,” he tells me. “He’s a melting pot of ideas, rhythm and influences. He’s very gifted; always re-inventing himself. Give him any good, funky groove – rock, funk, jazz, soukous, salegy – and he’s there. Once he latches on to it, he’s tighter than a bull’s ass in fly time! He can go on for hours.”
According to most of the people I spoke to, he also really knows how to tell a story with the guitar. Julian Fauth, another Chain Gang member, says that even in rehearsal Donné is never just noodling around. “You hear in his solos the progression, the building of tension, the climax – all the elements of a good story. He has a superb imagination.” “He’s an original,” Julian tells me. “He’s capable of inventing music on the spot that sounds like he’s been laboring on for years. He can catch any groove and make something new out of it.” Wayne agrees heartily. “You never get any tired, hackneyed riffs with Donné. There are so many players out there who will settle for sounding like everyone else, just to be on stage. But not Donné. He always brings something fresh, something different.”
Michael Clifton, a music writer, percussionist and drummer for Chain Gang, knows a thing or two about the industry. “Donné has a knack for cracking the code; for taking two completely disparate art forms and bringing them together somehow. He can bridge the sensibilities of African and blues music very effectively. He makes the innate connection between North American Black music and African, as well.” But it’s more than that. He goes on: “I’ve worked in many different aspects of the music business. I can tell looking at a guitarist when it’s all about them or what they can show off with. But with Donné, there’s no fanfare, no attitude. It’s all about the music”

Written by Jesse Mendes
African Drum - version October 2005,
Donné Roberts’ Malagasy Soul

- Music Africa news letter -


Discography

Rhythm Was Born - 2006

Photos

Bio

Juno Award Winner 2005 & Juno Award Nominee 2007
Member of African Guitar Summit
Singer songwriter and guitarist
His full name Dieudonné Roberts means God given and Roberts natural talents are obviously that to anyone who hears him play His gifts have been shaped by an eclectic and courageous set of life experiences. He was born on the legendary island of Madagascar and moved with his diplomat parents to Russia at age 7 where he would live for the next two decades In 1997 Roberts produced Mama Africa, one of the largest and most important African festivals in the history of Russian culture The following year, he became the first African to host a show on MTV Russia the hour-long program Mambassa. Also in 1998 he was chosen to organize backup vocalists for a tour with Swedish pop legends Ace of Base
In 1999 this most cosmopolitan of artists came to call Canada home. He quickly established a reputation in Toronto’s thriving world-music community In 2003 he was invited to be part of African Guitar Summit conceived by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation producer Todd Fraracci African Guitar Summit would go on to win the 2005 Juno Award Canada’s highest distinction for Best World Music Album; and the band received the honour of performing at the Live 8 concert at Park Place in Barrie Ontario. African Guitar Summit II was released to critical acclaim in September of 2006 Amongst this supremely-talented collective, it is Roberts who is seen by many knowledgeable listeners as having the greatest potential appeal amongst the widest range of audiences, outside the African and world-music scenes.