Toronto Gets a Taste of Madagascar

Madagascar Slim uses his African music to unite people and educate them about the world.

Toronto Gets a Taste of Madagascar

People from Madagascar are few and far between here in Toronto, but they have a special representative known as Madagascar Slim. Born and raised in Madagascar, Slim was surrounded by traditional Malagasy music while also being influenced by guitarists Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King. Slim moved to Toronto in 1979 to get an education and learn English. He took a break from playing traditional Malagasy music and got involved in Toronto’s music scene but after seeing a Malagasy band perform, Slim wanted to return to his roots.

“I realized that it was in me and it wanted to come out. That’s how I really started delving into that Malagasy music again,” said Slim.

Slim’s music career has thrived in Toronto. He found that the best way to get his music recognized and connect with other like-minded musicians was playing at music festivals.

“Playing festivals allowed me to contact other musicians who are interested in the same beat and in the same style of music,” said Slim.

That is partly the reason Slim has been involved with Music Africa, a non-profit organization that promotes African music here in Toronto. They hold the music festival Afrofest annually. Slim has been part of it for several years, playing his music and collaborating with other musicians at the festival. He sees it as an important part of Toronto’s music scene. The festival is a great platform for African musicians and Slim thinks there should be more of its kind.

“We need it, Toronto needs it […]. We should put more resources in building something like Afrofest. We need to get people involved in doing that, being together, playing together, listening to each other, trying to live together,” Slim said.

He added that Afrofest is one of the largest festivals of its kind in North America and that it’s a great venue for African musicians to have their music heard by a variety of people.

Slim’s passion for music is obvious when he plays traditional music from his home country, where his guitar acts as a substitute for traditional Malagasy instruments. He brings a part of Madagascar to this side of the world. He is a multiple Juno award winner but remains appreciative and surprisingly down to earth.

“It validates what you’re doing, the years of practice. It’s very satisfying,” Slim said. “It makes you proud of yourself, and say, ‘Hey, I’ve done something that’s noteworthy.’”

Slim believes that music can unite people as well as educate about the world. But why should anyone listen to Malagasy music when there are so many other genres and pop artists to listen to? His answer is simple.

“It will open their minds. It’s a way people live their lives […] we’re all just people living on a big blue planet. We live differently […] but we’re just part of the whole thing, you know. We’re not the centre, we’re just the part.”

With a musician like Slim in the city, a little bit of Madagascar seeps through his music into the hearts and minds of Torontonians.

Action items

  • To hear Slim’s music visit his MySpace page:
  • Afrofest 2013 will be held July 6th and 7th in Woodbine Park. Admission is free and the festival will be on from 1 p.m. — 10 p.m. Further information can be found at
  • Want to travel to Madagascar? Visit Lonely Planet for more information.
Naomi Grosman

Naomi Grosman

Naomi Grosman is a multimedia journalist in Toronto.
Naomi Grosman

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