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Toronto’s OKAN not only won the hearts of Sunfesters this past summer, but also won the 2019 Stingray Rising Stars Award at TD Sunfest ‘19. Prior to that, they took home two Independent Music Awards for their debut (2018) EP Laberinto.
The band (whose name means heart or soul in the Afro-Cuban religion Santeria) fuses Afro-Cuban and other global roots rhythms with jazz, folk and classical forms. Embracing genres and roles that have historically been dominated by men, co-leaders, composers and multi-instrumentalists Elizabeth Rodriguez and Magdelys Savigne bring freshness and sophistication to their compositions through powerful vocals, incredible musicianship and potent lyrical content. WBEZ Chicago’s Catalina Maria Johnson raves, “OKAN has a sound all its own…they’ve got it all”
Rodriguez is a classically trained violinist from Havana, Cuba. She was concertmaster of her city’s youth orchestra and, since moving to Canada in 2013, has been pursuing a career as a singer and violinist.
Savigne was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba and graduated with honours from Havana’s University of Arts, where she was classically trained in orchestral percussion. Both Elizabeth and Magdelys are Grammy nominees for their contributions to the band Jane Bunnett & Maqueque, and JUNO nominees for their work with Battle of Santiago. OKAN’s first full-length album, Sombras (on the Lulaworld label), is now available digitally and a follow-up, titled Espiral, is scheduled for release at the end of 2019,
Living and collaborating in the intensely multicultural city of Toronto has enriched the ensemble’s work with influences from Brazil, Spain and New Orleans. In the spirit of TD Sunfest, OKAN welcomes every culture as its own. This premier women-led Afro-Cuban roots duo is often backed by some of Canada’s finest jazz and Latin players, such as Ottawa pianist Miguel de Armas. OKAN recently completed their first international tour.