Celebrating Hamilton's Diversity with Music in Gage Park

From July 11 to 13, Matapa Music and Arts will present The Hamilton World Music Festival, a free, family friendly, outdoor festival in Gage Park.

By Shiona Mackenzie
Published June 27, 2014

"Why not Hamilton?" Filimone Mabjaia smiles. "This is an amazing city with a lot going on, but people sometimes live in isolated pockets and don't have the chance to get to know each other.

"I appreciate connecting with people from different backgrounds and walks of life. At the same time, it's nice to re-connect with my own heritage. Personally, I don't want to have to go to Toronto to enjoy these things. And I know I'm not alone feeling this way."

Filimone Mabjaia in Gage Park with members of Scantily Plaid and Riddim Riders.
Filimone Mabjaia in Gage Park with members of Scantily Plaid and Riddim Riders.

Born in Mozambique, Mabjaia, along with a group of like-minded supporters, founded Matapa Music and Arts, a non-profit organization celebrating cultural diversity through the presentation of world music and arts festivals and education, after coming to Hamilton in 2010.

"Matapa helps local artists connect with international artists by creating possibilities for exchange. This is a long-term project. If, five years from now, people are saying 'Oh, did you hear the music from that country? I love it!', then I'll feel we achieved something."

From July 11 to 13, Matapa will present The Hamilton World Music Festival, a free, family friendly, outdoor festival in Gage Park.

"Gage Park has a great history in terms of the music scene and it's an east Hamilton oasis with beautiful natural greenery and playgrounds for children," Mabjaia explains. "Local people are looking forward to something new there and we're happy to serve the community. The music will reflect different ethnicities."

The Hamilton World Music Festival will feature international artists such as Kongero (Sweden), Frank Yamma and David Bridie (Australia), Kakana (Mozambique) and the Jaime Rodriguez Band (Colombia/Netherlands). There will be more than 20 acts altogether, including First Nations performers Cheri Maracle and Shauit.

Hamilton based musicians Scantily Plaid, a Celtic-Roots fusion band (Ruth Sutherland; Allan Eaton; Stephen Fuller; Doug Feaver) and Riddim Riders, a reggae band (Mike Rajczak; Franklin Joseph; Kaz Egashira; Brian Griffiths) will also participate.

Mabjaia says his top criterion for inviting artists to perform in the Festival is musical excellence, but he also considered how they innovate based on traditional forms of music by blending in contemporary sound to make it modern.

"Another aspect I thought about was that the performers should be professional, but I recognized that it can be hard to make a living as a musician," he added. "We need to understand why that is and give homegrown talent a chance."

Mabjaia understands that surviving in any challenging environment can be daunting, but connecting with others is a source of comfort.

"To be a newcomer with limited access to people from the same background or language can make a person feel left out. How can we help build trust and make our community the best place to be?

"Music can bring hope to those who are not yet connected," adds Mabjaia. "With music from many different cultures in one place, diverse people can gather and say 'Hello. How are you?' A festival gives people something to strike up a conversation about. People can find others who understand their native language. People can take pride in their heritage."

Sue Crowe Connolly, founder of Hamilton Sings! Community Choir, a mixed group that sings world music on Saturday mornings at St. Peter's HARRRP, concurs: "Hamiltonians come from all over the world. Singing the songs we bring from our various heritages provides a wonderful opportunity to learn about and from each other, deepening our understanding of what is unique and what we have in common."

As a boy, Mabjaia struggled to learn to sing and gave up. "I don't sing well or play an instrument, but listening to music makes me happy," he says.

"I believe music can inspire others to enjoy life just as much as I do today."

For details about the Hamilton World Music Festival, see

A version of this story was first published in The Point community newspaper.

Shiona Mackenzie is a communications professional with 17 years of international experience and a lifelong love of music.


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By jason (registered) | Posted June 27, 2014 at 09:55:13

Sounds great.

lets hope this event doesn't get too big or it'll need to move to a cow pasture and sell lots of beer.

Comment edited by jason on 2014-06-27 09:55:41

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 30, 2014 at 18:58:58 in reply to Comment 102904

Yeah, it'd be a shame if it got too big. rolls eyes

Stop with the jaded comments. They're tired and old.

I think this sounds fantastic and hope it gets huge like the other downtown festivals we have (no Jason, they can't all be downtown, some do need to be out in other areas of city, where you might have to ... gasp ... rely on transit or even worse, drive there!

Oh, the humanity!

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By z jones (registered) | Posted July 01, 2014 at 16:01:46 in reply to Comment 102941

Sorry but you don't get to complain about "jaded comments" right after posting this bullshit. You are the most jaded and cynical commenter on this forum and you sound ridiculous when you complain that someone else is being frustrated.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted July 01, 2014 at 18:35:54 in reply to Comment 102952

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted July 03, 2014 at 09:39:47 in reply to Comment 102953

Please, please let that mean that you're leaving for good.

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By SammySwansonite (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2014 at 23:56:49

insult spam deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-06-28 19:41:55

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted July 02, 2014 at 09:05:06

Although not mentioned for whatever reason, Tom Wilson and his band Lee Harvey Osmond and Ian Thomas and his band were fabulous. A wonderful festival, absolutely love Gage Park and where it's located.

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By Over Rated (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2014 at 14:48:23

Looks like a terrific event with international flavour at its winds. Gage Park is the perfect venue for it. Great to see it filling the void.

I will say that Tom Wilson is simply over-rated. It's what happens when bad loud mouth musicians with attitudes happen to good bands.

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