What do you get when you pair a versatile harmonica player from Sarnia, Ontario with a gifted singer and multi-instrumentalist from Ghana? The spirited duo known as Canadafrica. On their first album together, Stevens, a Son House devotee who’s married blues harp with bluegrass, and Okaidja, a former member of the Ghana Dance Ensemble who emigrated to Portland, Oregon to work with master drummer Obo Addy, cook up a tasty roots stew. There are folk and bluegrass flavors on Like a Little Bird and You Ain’t No Good, and numbers like Abifao and Dagarti benefit from the African spice of Okaidja’s percussive workouts. Some are message songs: Just a Boy, which has the hypnotic pull of Ali Farka Touré’s Malian blues, and Colour Blind, featuring Okaidja’s scat vocals and Stevens’ wailing harp, espouse racial tolerance. But there’s also humor in Keeping the Mosquitoes Away, which conjures up visions of madly swatting at buzzing hoards. Together, Stevens and Okaidja create an infectious fusion.
Originally published in Penguin Eggs Winter 2013