With a spotlight on Black heritage, Canada’s founding cultures are highlighted in Juba’lee Legacy, a musical celebration streaming on-demand online at Jubalee.ca and broadcasting on Eastlink Community TV throughout the Maritimes every Saturday in March.
“Juba’Lee Legacy is a cultural journey of history and diversity … with a spotlight on Black heritage,” says Russell Grosse, executive director of the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia. “Nova Scotia has a unique history with Black communities that dates back well over 400 years when Nova Scotia held a promise of a better life; these early Black settlers became the fabric of the nation prior to Canada’s confederation.”
But while there may be a focus on Black heritage in Juba’lee Legacy, Grosse says it is also a celebration of Mi’kmaq, Acadian, Celtic and newer immigrant cultures.
“This artistic journey spans centuries of history and addresses the current climate of race base issues facing diverse communities today,” says Grosse.
In a somewhat ironic nod to the popular Don Messer’s Jubilee, which ran on CBC television from 1957 until 1969, Juba’Lee Legacy takes its name from the original Juba’Lee show mounted in 2000 as part of the Halifax Millennium Celebrations and the Province of Nova Scotia’s Year of Music. It also takes inspiration from another local production from co-producers, Brookes Diamond Productions.
“DRUM! is a guiding force for Juba’Lee Legacy as it is a cornerstone of sharing history and culture in an effective way,” says Grosse of the musical production, which also draws on Indigenous, Black, Celtic and Acadian traditions.
“When we look at our culture and heritage as Canadians, it includes some aspects that we might not be proud of, or shall I say, includes some difficult stories,” continues Grosse. “But truth be told, those adverse issues created diverse communities and cultures that overcame adversity to be here today. DRUM! weaves this narrative in an educating and informative way using artistic performances and visuals. It is on that basis we felt it had to be a strong part of the DNA of Juba’Lee Legacy.”
Originally conceived as a hybrid of both in-person and limited livestream audiences, the pandemic forced Juba’lee Legacy to entirely virtual production.
“This was a true challenge, as Juba’Lee Legacy was developed to educate, invoke emotion and help be a conduit to start important discussions of diverse issues,” says Grosse. “We chose African Heritage Month because of its importance to the Black Community and that it would be refreshing to not only focus on Black culture and heritage but that of Nova Scotia and the diversity those early settlers brought to Canada’s development.”
Filmed at Dartmouth’s Alderney Landing Theatre, Juba’lee Legacy draws on Nova Scotia’s diverse talent pool with a 20-strong cast led by music director Doris Mason. Among the artists featured in the show are Jeremiah Sparks, Reeny Smith, Mahalia Smith, Dutch Robinson, Hubert Frances and spoken word poets Allysa Flint and Damini Awoyiga. It also features background images from Mi’kmaq artist Alan Syliboy.
Grosse concludes by saying Juba’lee Legacy will appeal to those seeking a greater understanding of Canada’s founding cultures and the importance of the Black community.
Juba’lee Legacy is streaming now at Jubalee.ca for a limited time and broadcasts on Eastlink Community TV throughout the Maritimes every Saturday in March (check your local listings).