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The African Nova Scotian Music Association continued its annual tradition of celebrating the artistic dedication and impassioned talent of its members with a broadcast version of the 23rd ANSMA Awards on Monday night.
Airing on Eastlink Community TV, and available to view at a later date via Eastlink On-Demand, the pre-taped production from Dartmouth’s Alderney Landing Theatre was a COVID-19-era substitute for a show that usually plays to a full house in Halifax venues with breathtaking live performances and tributes to new artists and community builders.
Hosted by Craig Smith, the two-hour awards show and artist showcase included performances by North Preston’s soul-stirring gospel group the Sanctified Brothers, Shane Colley, and R&B singers Vanassa (Asia) Symonds and Laviita Shanel.
Singer and songwriter Cyndi Cain also received a spotlight befitting her award presentation of the ANSMA Pioneer Award. Named Canada’s Soul Duchess, Cain was recognized for both her longstanding talent and her support of emerging artists through her We Been Here Music Education and Apparel company.
“It's such a blessing to have been given the opportunity to perform on international stages, and share stages with people one could only imagine or dream of,” said the Soul Food singer, who has shared bills with Sharon Jones, Lauryn Hill and Aretha Franklin. “I'm proud of who I am, and where I've been, and moreover, who I am becoming.
“My journey has been insightful, but its is far from being over.”
Strong female artists following Cain’s inspiring example were also featured, with Halifax-based Jamaican-raised reggae performer Jah’Mila named ANSMA’s emerging artist for 2021, and Halifax songwriter and performer Zamani receiving the artist of the year award for her confident and progressive blend of soul, pop and folk that continues to evolve with each new song.
“2020 was a particularly hard year for creatives, especially for singers and players of instruments,” said Jah’Mila in accepting her award. “On this note, we're really happy for organizations like ANSMA, like (Music Nova Scotia) for keeping our creativity alive. Together I believe we can move forward, stronger.”
Zamani, who previously received ANSMA's Portia White Youth Award in 2018, echoed Jah'Mila's sentiments, and praised the supportive music community for helping to keep the music flowing during a year full of doubt and disappointments.
“The fact that we were all able to put out music and get it to our followers,our supporters and our fanbases during these times makes us all winners," said the singer-songwriter, who thanked her family support team “with the power of soul, R&B, jazz and gospel, you name it."
The show also featured a stirring opening performance by songwriter, music director and Classified collaborator Owen (O’Sound) Lee, whose inspirational song Listen shared the single of the year category with North Preston musician Keonte Beals’ uplifting King, the title track to his most recent release.
Toronto-based Cherry Brook native Gary Beals was also recognized for his welcome return to the music scene in 2020 with his latest recording Bleed My Truth, which was named the album/EP of the year.
Top nominee and Nova Scotia Mass Choir alumnus Mark Riley was named the ANSMA Rising Star for his recent efforts with a variety of Annapolis Valley-based projects, including the groups Bluesmobile, Shoulder to Shoulder, the Mark Riley Quartet and the Mark Riley Project.
Previously announced honorary presentations included Heritage Award recipient Levi Smith, for his legacy as a musician with groups like the Gospel Heirs and the Sanctified Brothers, as well as his ongoing roles as a mentor to the youth of North Preston and a deacon and musician at Saint Thomas Baptist Church.
BBI - Industry Development Award recipient Tara Taylor was recognized for her roles with a wide range of Nova Scotia arts groups, including the Charles Taylor Theatre & Media Arts Association and the Emerging Lens Cultural Film Festival, as well as her work as a playwright, filmmaker, actor, mentor and multidisciplinary artist.
Much-missed Nova Scotia Mass Choir singer and actor Lorraine (Novalee) Buchan received a posthumous ANSMA Delmore (Buddy) Daye Learning Institute Lifetime Achievement Award for her role as an inspiration to performers from all backgrounds as well as a cultural ambassador who performed globally and sang for Queen Elizabeth II.
Continuing to support up-and-coming talent, ANSMA presented Citadel High student and Saint Thomas Baptist Church choir and youth fellowship member Adina Fraser with the CASEM Portia White Youth Award, for both her musical talent as well as her devotion to community and social justice causes.