Muhtadi Thomas

Percussionist / Founder / Artistic Director, Muhtadi Drumming Festival, Toronto, ON. Born: Trinidad & Tobago.

Muhtadi Thomas immigrated to Canada from Trinidad and Tobago in 1974. As one of Canada’s premier percussionists, Muhtadi plays djembe, bongos, congas, timbales, steel pan, and a wide assortment of other percussion instruments. He has performed extensively, both nationally and internationally; however, much of his career has been devoted to teaching the art of drumming in community arts programs, schools, and community centres.

Muhtadi is also well-known as the founder and artistic director of the highly successful three-day annual Muhtadi International Drumming Festival, which celebrates the drum, its universality as an art form, and its presence in all cultures. The festival features drumming groups that display the diverse cultural traditions and drumming styles from all over the world.

Almost as soon as he arrived in Toronto, Muhtadi began teaching percussion at the Black Education Project, then at the Harriet Tubman Centre, and Black Theatre Canada. Later, he started teaching the drum to at-risk children, and in June 2004, received commendations from the 12 Division Community Police Liaison Committee for his work with a group of young people from Ontario’s York region. His young students have had opportunities to travel and perform in places they’ve never seen before. Drumming teaches them team-building, cooperation, and discipline.

Muhtadi’s performances have included the Queen’s Jubilee, the Lion Dance Festival, Winterfest, the Yonge Street Festival, and numerous jazz festivals. And in early 2011, he performed at the Sony Centre in Toronto with a group of musicians visiting from China to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Other: Music judge for Caribana, as well as for the Kiwanis Music Festival and the City of Toronto subway musicians.

Honours: Has also received awards from Music Africa, and the Town of Markham for his contribution to the community; received the Black Business and Professional Association (BPPA) Harry Jerome Award in the entertainment category for his work with at-risk youth in the Black community (March 2011); has the distinguished honour of being the only artist to work with Art Starts Neighbourhood Cultural Centre (from their inception in 1992).

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