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Samite: Journey to the Soul of Africa

Multi-instrumentalist Samite was born in Uganda, spent five years in a refugee camp in Kenya and, after immigrating to the United States in 1987, made it his life's work to bring joy through music to those still living in distressed and war-torn Africa.

Twice a year, Samite travels to Africa to work in refugee camps and villages with orphans, former child soldiers and victims of war. Through Musicians for World Harmony, which he founded, Samite and others help bring healing by hosting performances, organizing local musicians and offering Music Heals workshops.

"They've been injured spiritually and physically, but when you bring music into their lives, you can see the healing progress," Samite says during a telephone interview from his home in Ithaca, N.Y.

Samite will share his own stories, show pictures from his work in Africa and perform his original music on native instruments, including kalimba, litungu, and Western and African flutes, at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, at the Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland. Percussionist Kelvin Underwood will accompany Samite for the entire program, and The Rogue World Ensemble also will join him for several songs.

"I think it'll be one of those concerts that people who didn't make it will hear about and wish they had gone," he says.

Samite's original compositions reflect Ugandan and Kenyan music traditions with some Western influences, particularly jazz.

"It's very uplifting, at least that's what I'm told, and usually my audiences end up dancing," he says.

In addition to traveling and performing worldwide, Samite has written soundtracks for multiple documentaries, including "Taking Root: the Vision of Wangari Maathai," "Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees," "Water First: Reaching the Millennium Development Goals," "Africa Shafted: Under One Roof," "War Dance," and, in 2011, "Addiction Incorporated," which inspired Samite's ninth recording, "Trust," released in 2012.

The instrumental album was produced by Samite, Charles Evans, Jr., director of "Addiction Incorporated," and multi-instrumentalist Tony Cedras, Paul Simon's keyboard player. "Trust" deviates from the heavy percussion, typically associated with African music, and instead explores East Africa's melodic roots. "Trust" is available at www.trustcd.org and all sales benefit Musicians for World Harmony.

Different from "Trust," Simate's 2010 release "My Music World" is highly percussive with songs sung in Luganda, his first language. The album will be available for purchase at the Unitarian.

Advance tickets to the show cost $20 and are available online at www.stclairevents.com, by calling 541-535-3562 or at Music Coop in Ashland. Tickets cost $22 at the door, $10 for youths ages 12 to 17, and are free for kids 11 and younger. Samite also will offer an African singing workshop from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Unitarian. The cost is $35.

Samite: Journey to the Soul of Africa