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Black History Month Profile: Lorraine Klaasen


  • By Mongezi Ntaka


ShArE


Black History Month Profile: Lorraine Klaasen

Lorraine Klaasen is a South African-born classic Township singer and actress. She is the daughter of the late legendary African Jazz singer Thandi Klaasen and has lived in London, Ontario for four years. Klaasen has won a JUNO Award and a Forest City London Music Award, earning her fans around the world.

“I am so much looking forward to creating even more musically memories here in London,” she says. “But of course, now we are all taking a little pause to reflect and figuring out how we can go about finding joy despite what’s happening.”

The pandemic has kept musicians and audiences apart. Like many others, Klaasen is making virtual connections. There are two virtual hits for her this month. One is on February 13th hosted by the Embassy Cultural House team that has “adopted her,” she says. It doubles as a ceremony honouring her 2020 Forest City London Music Award win. The second event takes place February 20th and celebrates a performance in Montreal, her base for many years. (Registration details can be found at the end of this article. Both events are free to attend)

“It is a wonderful honour, in recognition of the award that I received here in London,” she says of the February 13th event. “It’s a wonderful way to connect with friends and show one or two of my videos and get some laughter, just 'a good feeling afternoon' to share. A lot of people have been writing me — ‘What are you doing in London? What’s happening in London? … I get to reintroduce myself to the London community here.”

Expected to be part of the afternoon Zoom fun is Klaasen’s music director Mongezi Ntaka, who is based in Washington, D.C. “Mongezi is a wonderful producer. He’s a musician, artist, composer, director,” she says. They have worked together for about seven years.

Klaasen, who turns 64 in May, has dedicated her career to uniting people of all races through music and art. Since immigrating to Canada about four decades ago, Lorraine has recorded and performed around the world. She has given memorable performances at the Montreal Jazz Festival and Carnegie Hall. Her 2013 ‘Tribute to Miriam Makeba’ CD (Justin Time Records) earned her a JUNO Award. She participated in a documentary called the ‘Legends of Madiba’ that pays tribute to prominent South African female singers.

Her latest collaboration is a song called Lesedi (light) that she sings in four African Bantu languages — Swahili, seSotho, isiZulu and Chichewa. It is part of a new project called Seven Chapters of Mystery by Ngoma Zethu, a Pan African Cultural Revolution featuring seven artists from Africa.

One of the highlights of Lorraine’s career came when she toured in the United States in 2016 performing and leading cultural and musical workshops to underserved communities. During the workshops, Klaasen and Ntaka worked to increase the awareness of indigenous South African and African culture in communities in need of diversity and racial inclusiveness. As a speaker and singer of more than six languages, Lorraine has entertained and inspired audiences throughout Africa, Canada, United States and the Caribbean.

“You don’t have to leave your living room now to see culture,” she says of the virtual events that for now have replaced that live connection. But it is still not the same for her.

“They have asked me to perform, which I have of course declined several times before because it’s just not quite the same doing anything on Zoom … I want to perform live. It will come again.” she says.

When that happens, expect TD Sunfest to be involved. London’s world-class world beat festival team has championed Klaasen by providing her with hometown venues at Victoria Park and Aeolian Hall. Expect her to continue to honour the music of her late mother and other South African music royalty.

Along with Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, Thandi Klaasen was instrumental in creating the genre of which Lorraine is a current ambassador.

Thandi Klaasen entertained and inspired Nelson Mandela and his fellow activists during the South African liberation struggle against apartheid. Lorraine was one of the people chosen as the ‘welcoming party’ to greet Nelson Mandela on his visit to Canada after being incarcerated for 27 years because of his anti-apartheid activities. Lorraine’s musical performance during Mandela’s welcoming rally in 1990 prompted Nelson Mandela to admire the great artistic and physical resemblance between Lorraine and her mother.

“That’s always a reminder where I’m coming from. I like to keep that rhythm of the Township Music. People love it.”

 

          — Lorraine Klaasen interview files from FCLMA steering committee

 

There are two free virtual events for Lorraine Klaasen during Black History Month 2020. Visit www.lorraineklaasen.com for artist information

A Celebration via Zoom for Lorraine Klaasen in recognition of her 2020 Forest City London Music Award. Hosted by Embassy Cultural House on Saturday February 13th at 1:30pm REGISTER HERE 

A Revisit via Facebook to a 2017 performance by Lorraine Klaasen at an iconic Montreal music festival. This event is hosted by Fade To Black festival Fondu Au Noir on Saturday February 20th at 8pm. EVENT LINK



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