Donné Roberts
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Donné Roberts

Band World Singer/Songwriter


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Donné Roberts @ 292 Brunswick Avenue

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


Plus près de nous, Donné Roberts occupe la scène world – et, à ses heures, la scène blues – depuis son arrivée sur nos rives en 1999. Mais le cheminement du guitariste malgache remonte très loin et vaut d’être relaté: entre une enfance bercée par les rythmes du salegy, entre autres idiomes de son île, et son émergence sur la scène canadienne, il y a eu une longue et fascinante parenthèse moscovite, où Roberts (de son vrai nom Rakotomamonjy Dieudonné Roberts) a notamment monté un vaste festival pan-africain tout en animant une émission sur les ondes de MTV Russia.

Riche de cette expérience et de sa récente participation au African Guitar Summit (Juno de l’album de musiques du monde en 2005), Donné a fait de Rhythm Was Born (Autoproduction) un ambitieux condensé d’influences. Lui-même qualifie sa musique de «soul malgache», mais son utilisation de la pédale wah-wah n’est pas sans évoquer le Jimi Hendrix des dernières années, et l’irrésistible Malahelo suggère que son auteur a attentivement écouté le Paul Simon de Graceland, ce qui, en soi, constitue un ironique retour des choses.

Quant à Hira’N’Taolo, Roberts y orchestre, avec un succès mitigé, la rencontre entre les idiomes africains et autochtones, en sollicitant les services du chanteur pow-wow David Deleary.

Il serait superflu d’énumérer toutes les surprises que nous réserve cet album aux grooves hypnotisants. Une chose est certaine: c’est sur scène que la musique de Donné Roberts prend littéralement son envol, faisant corps avec un public irrésistiblement appelé à la danse, comme nous pourrons en témoigner ce samedi 11 février à la Salle Brigantine de Harbourfront.
- Dominique Denis - L’Express

Rhythm is central to Donné Roberts’ musical expression. This is clearly apparent in Rhythm Was Born, his first solo CD since he arrived in Canada in 1999. He believes that all instruments in his band should contribute to and fit within the rhythm. Donné is a guitarist with very fine soloing abilities, but he always falls back to resume his part in the intricate weave of rhythm.
Born in Madagascar to a diplomat father, Donné Roberts spent much of his life in Russia. He came to the attention of a wider audience after earning a Juno Award for his contribution to the African Guitar Summit project. That CD featured two of Donné’s compositions
In Rhythm Was Born, Donné Roberts offers us eight new original compositions as well as new arrangements of “Malembo” and “Sadebake”. The listener familiar with these two titles — first heard on the African Guitar Summit recording — will be struck by the solid new treatment they receive on Rhythm Was Born. With this CD, Donné Roberts proves that, as well as being a talented guitarist, he is also a sophisticated composer and arranger.
Produced and mixed by Todd Fraracci, Rhythm Was Born has an impeccable sound — full and crisp — a real pleasure. The music owes much of its richness to the band members Donné was able to bring together for this project. Three percussionists: Celina Carroll, Kofi Ackah, and Rakesh Tewari, together give form to the solid and ever present rhythmic core. Sean Donnelly on trumpet, samples, and loops rounds out the combo.
The music on Rhythm Was Born is firmly rooted in Donné’s Malagasy heritage. The people of Madagascar trace their lineage back to Indonesia by way of Africa and Australia. This journey spanned several centuries and shaped their rich cultural tradition.
In the course of his own journeying, Donné Roberts came in contact with many musical idioms: rock, blues, Russian folklore, aboriginal chants, reggae and funk. These all have found their way into Rhythm Was Born; often not in obvious ways.
One of the tracks, “Hira’N’Taolo”, features vocals by David Deleary (pow-wow vocal) and Nadjiwan (background chant). North American aboriginal chanting on a CD from a musician of African origins! — how intriguing! I know this is Toronto, a city rich in diverse ethnicities, but… In a recent conversation I asked Donné where he got the notion.
“When I was a boy in Madagascar” he explained “I listened to a radio program that often featured folk songs from Ampitambe, a village on the east coast of Madagascar, and I was fascinated with the peculiar chanting style I heard. This chanting stayed with me, haunting me. Later in my life, while listening to some Australian aboriginal chants, it flashed on me — the similarities! My people once inhabited the Australian continent and this form of chanting is part of the baggage they carried with them when they departed. Now I live in Canada and once again I find very similar chants in the North-American aboriginal culture. So using the local aboriginal chanting rather than Malagasy chants I heard in my youth was not such a great leap. It feels like I am following a line, closing a circle.”
Throughout the CD, Donné sprinkles the music with some lovely, sophisticated Wawa pedal work. He admits that he learned much about this classic distortion pedal by listening to Junior Marvin of The Wailers. He asked me “Do you know Bob Marley’s Babylon By Bus?” I nodded. “Well, I transcribed and learned to play all of Marvins’ solos from that double LP”... Indeed.
In the final track of the CD, “Las”, a gentle ballad with flavours of old European folklore, we can hear some very fine fingerpicking by Donné on the acoustic guitar. Listening to this pretty song will also make you realize how impressive his vocal range is — from sharp tipped falsetto to deep cavernous tones.
I could not conclude this review better than by passing on to you some comments about the title track I received from a musician who has collaborated with Donné Roberts:
From: Paul Lamoureux, Producer, Musical Director, and Saxophonist
When Donné approached me to write out some bass lines for his new album for rehearsal purposes, I thought I knew what to expect, since I had prepared some basic chord charts for my band to play when we accompanied him on CBC French radio’s fundraising “Radiothon” in Toronto in November of last year (2005). Then I sat down and listened to “Rhythm Was Born”. That’s when I began to appreciate the subtle complexities of Donné’s music.
Different rhythms playing at the same time (polyrhythms), changes in tempo and meter that flowed from one to another while keeping the groove going, and melodic counterpoint that had me singing different parts in my sleep! He executes most of these devices on the guitar while singing a completely different part in one of many languages! I don’t know whether this kind of elegant musical multi-tasking is a result of his Madagascar roots, his general African origins, or his travels in Russia and - Roger Humbert - The Live Music Report

Les 8 et 9 juillet prochains, Queen’s Park accueillera la 18e édition de l’AfroFest. Une réunion majeure pour la culture musicale torontoise et canadienne, puisque plusieurs dizaines de milliers de festivaliers fouleront les pelouses du parc torontois en un week-end. À l’affiche cette année, de grands noms, comme Salif Keita ou Donné Roberts, mais surtout, un grand nombre d’artistes francophones venus des quatre coins de l’Afrique, sous l’impulsion de l’association Music Africa.

- Yann Buxeda - L'Express


"Moli" - released in 1999; recorded at Red Rose Studio in Moscow Russia
"Rhythm Was Born" - released in 2006; recorded at CBC Studio 211 in Toronto Canada


Feeling a bit camera shy


Donné Roberts
Juno Award Winner 2005 and Juno Award Nominee 2007.
Member of African Guitar Summit / performed at Live Aid 2005

If the immortal sounds of Fela Kuti, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Peter Gabriel and Richie Havens were to come together as one, their torchbearer might very well be Madagascar-born, Russian-raised and now Toronto-based guitarist Donné Roberts. Effortlessly combining polyrhythmic African and European folk & groove and blazing North American funk, rock and blues influences, Roberts and his 5- or 6-piece band deliver a remarkably diverse, infectiously joyful and utterly unique live music experience.
His full name, Dieudonné (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, the groundbreaking collaboration of Canada’s finest African-born musicians; conceived by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) 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.
His first solo album, Rhythm Was Born (released in February 2006 at Toronto’s foremost world-music venue Harbourfront Centre) is testament to those possibilities, a 10-song journey of songs inspired from his homeland that frequently venture into North American and European rock, funk & blues territory. Roberts’ original music and live performances continue to evolve more in this cosmopolitan groove direction. His stellar band is also comprised of: Celina Carroll (vocals and percussion), Kofi Ackah (drum kit and vocals), Kwanza Msingwana (percussion), Tom Sertsis and Ebenezer Agyekum (electric basses), and Paul Lamoureux (vocals, keyboard, saxophone and flute). Together, they have toured across the United States and Canada, including: (Montreal International Jazz Festival, Dawson City Music Festival, Harbourfront Centre, Dundas Square Toronto etc.). Roberts is also gearing up to reveal yet another side of his dynamic musical character to worldwide audiences – a solo guitar-and-electronica performance that can also integrate a percussionist.
This is a man to whom Rhythm was indeed Born. And it seems clear that his already remarkable journey and career are about to take on a new life of their own.

Donné Roberts on the Web: