World Music Wednesday: OKAN
World Music Wednesday is a weekly segment on The North 103.3 FM. Every Wednesday at 4pm on Northland Afternoon, we will feature a brand-new release or a significantly important past work from our vast library of music from around the world.
Support for World Music Wednesday comes from Simply Ballroom in Duluth's Craft District.
Today’s World Music Wednesday spotlights the music of OKAN, an Afro-Cuban Jazz duo based out of Toronto, Canada. OKAN is composed of Magdelys Savigne and Elizabeth Rodriguez. Magdelys Savigne was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. She is classically trained in Orchestral Percussion and Piano; and graduated with honors from the University of Arts in Havana, Cuba. Savigne moved to Toronto, Canada in 2014 to record and tour with Jane Bunnett and the soon to be JUNO Award winning female jazz band Maqueque, winning the JUNO Award in 2015.
Elizabeth Rodriguez was born in Havana, Cuba. She is a classically trained violinist, and served as the concertmaster in Havana’s Youth Orchestra. In search of a freer life, Rodriguez immigrated to Toronto, Canada, originally not planning on staying, but ultimately changing her mind after meeting Mags Savigne. Rodriguez joined the Jane Bunnett and Maqueque band in March of 2016. Rodriguez on violin and vocals and Savigne on percussion.
Discovering their tight harmonies, jazz legend Bill King suggested they (Rodrigues and Savigne) form a band. In May of 2016 OKAN was formed. In August that same year, Mags Savigne proposed to Elizabeth Rodriguez and the couple got married the following year, as well as leaving Maqueque to focus on their work as OKAN.
OKAN released their first album Sombras in 2019, which was followed with another JUNO nomination for “World Music Album of the Year”. In October of 2020, OKAN released their second album Espiral with some fears that the pandemic, with the lack of tours, would affect sales for the album. However, Espiral won a JUNO in “World Music Album of the Year” in 2021.
In an interview with Afropop Worldwide, OKAN says that in their new album they are doing “whatever we want”. They wanted to take the listener on a journey starting with their roots, of playing a conga from Santiago, Cuba and mixing that with Rodriguez’s classical background of the violin. OKAN released their latest album Okantomi in November of 2023. The title track of their album Okantomi, means “ocean’s heart”, which also is Rodriguez’s religious name, this song discusses the gravity of being an immigrant in Canada.