Song Of The Agitator - Khari Wendall McClelland
We travel to one of my favourite cities the wonderful Vancouver to meet our next LCM featured artist Khari Wendell McClelland. Khari is about to release an excellent and very powerful new album project on the 27th April entitled 'Freedom Singer' which is a celebration of black history, A collection of rare and forgotten songs that the that Khari interprets through the many styles and genres that helped to shape him. Utilising folk, gospel, country, hip hop and soul to reinvigorate these songs, he builds a bridge from the 1800's to the present. Our LCM #SongOfTheDay is the inspiring 'Song Of The Agitator' which gives a new voice to Khari's family and fellow victims of slavery, who escaped from the US and traveled to Canada at great personal cost. The new album it has a similar power, resonance, moving and thought provoking themes as Rhiannon Gidden's award winning 'Freedom Highway'.
‘Freedom Singer’ is the culmination of a research project that began for Khari McClelland in 2015 when he met the Canadian historian and writer Karolyn Smardz Frost. Through reading her work, he was sparked by the childhood stories of his great-great-great grandmother Kizzy who escaped US slavery via The Underground Railroad secret network, arriving in Canada in the mid-1800's. This prompted McClelland to begin researching the songs that might have accompanied her on this journey as well as her family history. He also collaborated with the celebrated theatre director Andrew Kushnir to create a touring theatre production that received great reviews. The natural culmination of the project is the ‘Freedom Singer’ album, which consists of seven songs co-produced by McClelland with John Raham (The Be Good Tanyas, The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer, Jasper Sloan Yip) and employing an array of instrumentation and guest singers.
Khari Wendell McClelland is a diversely talented and ever-evolving artist. Originally from Detroit, he has become a darling on the Canadian music scene with reviewers lauding his performances as a clever mix of soul and gospel. His songwriting crosses genres and generations, joyfully invoking the spirit of his ancestors who straddled the US-Canadian border in their efforts to escape slavery and discrimination. His music draws from this rich history, integrating the rhythms and folklore of early African-Americans with contemporary sounds and stories of struggle. He also performs with the Roots Gospel group 'The Sojourners'. Whether on stage or in the studio, his passion for community, equality and justice is palpable, as is his belief in the redemptive power of music.