The simplicity of the show, John & Waleed (which could be seen merely as a show about two men and their music), belies the virtuosity and artistry of these two musicians. Ostensibly, this show is about John Millard and Waleed Abdulhamid’s own lives (variously growing up in Southern Ontario and the Sudan), and their progression towards music, happiness, and, for lack of a better term, their ‘bromance’.
However, the deeper narrative thread is what I call the ‘colonialism’ thread, represented by the migration of people, and their music. Some of the connections are more overt. For example, the city of Kitchener (where John spent some of his childhood), is named after the British General who invaded Khartoum (the capital of Sudan). A funny coincidence, considering the two men onstage and their kinship. As well, the banjo was originally an African instrument, which travelled to America via the slave trade. Eventually, it was absorbed into minstrel shows, and now is clearly an instrument connected to the folk music of the American South. And yet, John on banjo supporting an African children’s song taught to him by Waleed, is both unexpected, and utterly right.
In many ways, the piece presents our shared colonialism without judgement; it simply was. In Canada, we all, whether we like it or not, are also a product of our collective histories. Both John and Waleed, through migration (though John’s family was from a little further back) brought them to Canada, then Ontario and eventually to Toronto. The same could be said of the music they carry with them, from the traditional, to their own compositions, the songs tell a migratory tale of their own. All that history conspires to bring John & Waleed to a time and place where they are able to engage in each other’s music and luckily for us, share it with us through our show. I hope you get a chance to experience the magic of their friendship with us.
All photos of John Millard and Waleed Abdulhamid by Dahlia Katz Photography.