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Big Soul Choir with director Roxanne Goodman and house band Deep Groove. Photograph by Jake Morrison,

Gig Pick: Big Soul Project at Southminster United Church—04.07.18

By Lana Crossman on April 4, 2018




Big Soul, global reach.

This time of year, we Ottawans are winter-weary – our souls crusted over like a gravel-pocked snowbank the sun forgot. But even the iciest hearts can be warmed by the stirring groove of soul music – and Big Soul Project’s upcoming concert may be what it takes to lift you up into spring.

With some 150 members, Big Soul is Ottawa’s largest community choir. For over 20 years, it has been serving up generous portions of roots, R&B, Gospel and Motown music.

Led by director Roxanne Goodman, the choir is accompanied by house band Deep Groove. It has been featured at Bluesfest’s Gospel Stage, Westfest and Grass Roots, as well as local venues such as the Rainbow Bistro and the Black Sheep Inn. It has even sung back-up to Barbra Streisand and Coco Love Alcorn.

Committed to making a difference, Big Soul has performed at many local fundraisers, including an annual Christmas concert where last they raised $15,000 for the Ottawa Food Bank.

On April 7, they are hosting One Voice Benefit Concert, with all proceeds going to an Ottawa-based charity called TEMBO that funds programs for women and children in northern Tanzania. The concert will feature solo performances by soprano Chipo Shambare and Djembe drummer Hamid Ayoub, accompanied by Deep Groove. A chorus of Tanzanian girls participating in TEMBO will also join Big Soul via video.

Photo courtesy of TEMBO

TEMBO, Tanzania Education and Micro-Business Opportunity, is a non-denominational charity run by a dedicated group of volunteers based in Ottawa, who work directly with local NGOs and community leaders on a number of projects in the Longido District of Tanzania. The name TEMBO also refers to the Swahili word for elephant—a symbol of wisdom, intellect and female leadership.

One of TEMBO’s main projects funds a secondary school that serves young girls ages 12-19. Some 300 girls who would not have otherwise been able to continue their education have benefited from this project over its 15 years.

Another TEMBO project provides low-interest micro-loans to local women to start businesses. It has funded 130 women the equivalent of $150-$200 Canadian to offer services like hairdressing, sewing, yogourt-making – even a small pharmacy. The businesses provide some financial independence – and empowerment – to the women.

Photo courtesy of TEMBO

TEMBO also funded the construction of the Longido District Learning Centre and supports a Tanzanian NGO to run education programs at the centre for all members of the community.

According to TEMBO Treasurer Virginia Taylor, “what makes us different is that we spend time in the community, building relationships with local leaders and elders, working with respect for the Maasai culture.” Virginia, a former Carleton University professor of cross-cultural communications, spends several months at a time each year in Longido. With virtually no overhead and administrative costs, contributions go directly to the work in Tanzania. For more information about TEMBO, visit them online.

Project Tembo Big Soul Benefit Concert will take place April 7 at 7:30pm at Southminster United Church (15 Aylmer Avenue, Ottawa). Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite.