by Tokunbo Ojo
According to 17th century English dramatist, William Congreve, music hath charms to soothe a savage breast.
For thirteen good years Ernest Family Singers(EFS) has been using music to reconcile people of different ethnic backgrounds in Montreal and Toronto. Though at the outset the primary aims of EFS was to reach out to the violent and drug addicted black youths in Montreal and be an example of happy family, but today EFS has reached out to both young and old people from different cultural backgrounds in Montreal. And it has changed the perception of many a man about the black community in Montreal through its gospel music ministry.
More important, EFS’ vision today is to let people realize that rich cultural diversity is a reflection of God being the creator of all people. "I have learnt that the family of God is huge and that colour, language and culture does not matter," said Murielle Swift, the vice-president of Concordia Christian Fellowship, who has seen many performances of EFS since 1996 when she came in contact with the band. " People are not so different from one another. … For me, it (EFS) brings the whole world closer to home." Perhaps Adolf Hitler would not had killed the Jews if EFS had been around some decades ago.
EFS, like the famous Jackson five of the late 70s, is made of three girls and two boys- Ketsia, Achlai, Thirtsa, Medad and Rehuel. Their ages range from 17 to 22 years. Their parents, Gesner and Lamercie, who are Haitians by birth, morally and financially support them in their musical career. In fact the story of these young folks started with their parents in 1986 in the metropolitan city, Toronto.
"My mother first had this vision in Toronto to make a difference in the lives of broken youths, " said twenty year-old Achlai Ernest, who is the leading vocalist of the team. " And she started making us to sing. The first church we ever sang at in 1986 was a multicultural church assembly, Nazarene Assembly in Ontario. "
Often at the beginning, she added, " my father, who is an evangelist, would preach and then we would sing. … As the years went by, God was so good to us and led us to live in Montreal where we’ve continued the ministry in full force." Ernest family has been living in Montreal since 1987.
Since their first public performance in 1986, the anointed children of Gesner and Lamercie have never looked back in their musical career. They sing as if tomorrow will never come in conferences, weddings, funerals, evangelistically gatherings, youth festivals and concerts. They sing in English, French and Creole.
In 1989 EFS produced its first album, "Sing to His Majesty." More to the point, the family since 1990 has been organizing yearly bilingual musical concerts. The vision of EFS is always ground in multiculturalism and reconciliation. And the theme for this year concert, which will be held at Evangel Pentecostal Church, Atwater, on June 5, is "ministry of reconciliation." This year musical concerts will feature EFS, Sans Compromis (Hip Hop Rap Group), Innocent Blood (Alternative Rock Band) and other musical teams.
In addition, EFS uses the power of music to unite youths from all walks of life at Lord’s feet every first Friday of the month in the Salvation Army Citadel on Drummond Street in the heart of downtown Montreal. The citadel, which has about 1000 seating capacity, is always filled to brim by youths that ignore the usual Friday parties and clubs to praise God in songs with EFS.
To be candid, "EFS has a very powerful ministry
which reaches far into various milieus. They are very cross-cultural, which
is a great strength in Montreal. They serve as a witness to the power of
gospel," said Swift.
.**Tokunbo Ojo is a second year journalism and English literature student at Concordia University, Montreal.