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Juno world music winners OKAN dig deeper into their roots at Club SAW – Apartment613

todayNovember 25, 2023 4

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Magdelys Savign and Elizabeth Rodriguez delve deep into their roots, emotions, and motherhood with third album Okantomi. Photo: Ksenija Hotic.

After winning a Juno Award for best world music album for their Afro-Cuban album Espiral in 2021, Elizabeth Rodriguez and Magdelys Savign of OKAN say they have learned a lot, especially about the music-making process. Rodriguez says it’s helped her narrow in on the sounds she wants to bring to life and to create an even better third album.

“It puts some pressure, but also you’re supposed to evolve as a human being and we feel that we have grown,” Rodriguez tells Apt613. “It’s not the same when you make music in your 20s and when you make music in your 30s, and the pandemic actually changed our lives too, right?”

Winning their Juno during the pandemic was somewhat disappointing, Rodriquez says, mostly because the pair were unable to share their accomplishment publicly. She adds that it means a lot though, especially since OKAN have been in Canada for less than a decade. However, the challenges of the pandemic also saw Rodriguez and Savign delve deeper into their emotions over the past three years when they were making their latest work, Okantomi.

Okantomi is OKAN’s third album: a unique fusion of Rodriguez and Savign’s classical training paired with their Afro-Cuban roots music. It’s rhythmically driven with soaring vocals and violin. They strived to make an album that musically sounds happy, despite its lyrics taking on a more serious tone. Art reflects life with this project, since the pandemic’s incubation period translates to more curated selections from the pair, while also reflecting their journeys into motherhood.

Similarly, the album’s name translates to “Oshun’s heart.” Oshun is the Santerian river goddess of motherhood, love, and fertility. OKAN invokes Oshun for protection and to showcase the music of their homeland, as well as the struggles that immigrants face in Canada.

“We go into a little bit more depth of our inheritance of Cuban music and we’re still doing basically the same thing of traveling throughout the island because we have so much culture and so many different genres, and there’s so much to explore, and to rescue because it doesn’t get played that much anymore,” the band members said.

The duo invited many guests to help them make Okantomi, including Toronto pianist Jeremy Ledbetter, Cuban bassist Roberto Riverón, and other longtime friends. You’ll hear everything from flute to electric guitar on this project. And on top of the beautiful vocals, Okantomi is spectacularly produced—smooth like their beats.

Since their roots are such a big part of what they do, some songs on the album touch on Cuban freedom. The track “No Volvi” includes contributions from many artists and explores the Cuban protests of July 2020. Next year, OKAN will put out a documentary to visually accompany the song and act as an educational exposition of Cuban history.

For their Ottawa show on Saturday, OKAN will be playing a pared-down version of songs from all three of their albums.

“We’re going to have a concert without the drum, because we wanted to go more into the roots … so there’s going to be a lot more percussion from Magdelys and she’s just fantastic,” Rodriguez says.


OKAN play Club SAW on November 25 at 8:30pm. Tickets are $20 and are available online.

All doors at SAW Video have accessibility buttons. Accessible entry is through 2 Daly Ave at the Arts Court main entrance or the Ottawa Art Gallery. Elevator access is available through the Ottawa Art Gallery main entrance at 10 Daly Ave. Accessible gendered washrooms are located immediately outside of SAW. Larger, wheelchair accessible, gender-neutral bathrooms are available down the hall. 



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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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