Music group brings ‘peace’ to Sarnia


When Jean Arsenault first connected with Sadio Sissokho, the two had what might be called a "communication gap."

"It was a week after he had arrived in Montreal and he (referring to his Sissokho, a native of Senegal) didn't speak French and only a bit of English. But we had a common language in music."
Indeed, that first encounter in 2004 has grown exponentially with their group, "Ouanani" in town last week and performing this Wednesday evening at the Sarnia Public Library Theatre.
Three of the five members of Ouanani will perform at the 7 p.m. concert, tickets for which are $5.50 and available at the door or through the Lawrence House Centre for the Performing Arts.
Joining Arsenault and Sissokho will be Patrice Agbokou, who was born in Ghana-Togo.
Until recently, Ouanani has performed mostly for French-speaking audiences in Alberta (Edmonton), Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick.
Sarnia is something of a departure from that, says Arsenault, who makes his living exclusively with Ouanani (the visit here is made possible by a grant secured by Lawrence House).
"Now, we are beginning to see the opportunity to perform to English audiences as well. It's something we'll likely do more and more, especially given the warm response we've had here in Sarnia."
That has included a number of workshops and performances, including a noon hour concert at SCITS on Monday.
Arsenault says most of the musicians who perform with Ouanani are "economic refugees" to Montreal.
"I come from Lac St. Jean, which is a small community of about 35,000," he adds. "There's no way I could make a living from my music but in Montreal, we (Ouanani) can all make a living in that bigger city."
As Sissokho sits down to perform on his kora, a traditional African stringed instrument that might be described as a combination of harp and guitar, Arsenault elaborates on the vision he and his fellow musicians have for the group.
"It's about promoting a culture of oneness," he says, nodding to Sissokho as he explains. "We are all one and we can live together in peace and harmony. That's our mission."

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  • Deborah

    These guys are fabulous! Their music is full of positive energy that makes you dance with a big smile on your face – it’s completely infectious. Can’t wait to see them again tonight at the Library Auditorium (7pm).

  • They have taken the Sarnia kids , youth and adults into a world of joyful celebration, jump up and dance music and a warm feeling of goodwill with all that meet them!

  • Sean

    I had the opportunity to mix these guys at the Trinity Lounge on Christina St this past Saturday. Definitely groovy and…family