Black History Month is striking a (musical) chord with Calgarians, no matter what their ethnic background is.

Although artist Earl Klatzel isn’t of African descent, he connects with African-American history and culture through blues music.

“Man, the power in that music, the feeling,” he said. “These people were slaves, these people were tortured. They had a tough life. There’s just so much feeling to it, and that’s what I try to relate in my paintings.”

Klatzel’s paintings depict the Great Depression in the southern United States as well as famous blues musicians, typically from the same era. They provide insight into the changes that took place in the lives of African Americans after slavery ended.

His latest painting is of Dave “Honeyboy” Edwards, a 93-year-old blues musician still touring today. After meeting him at Calgary’s Red Onion two years ago, Klatzel knew Edwards had to be his next portrait.

“The guy was just so unbelievable to talk to,” he said. “The stories he had — amazing. After that I was just so inspired.”

Another element of African-American music is inspiring a performance at the EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts tomorrow.

A sampling of “train” songs from over 250 years will be played by gospel singer Paul Gardener, popular bassist and guitarist Mojo Williams, keyboardist and singer Craig Hayes and rising young star Dallas Hayes-Sparks.

“It’s a part of our creative communities program dedicated to both enhancing community and celebrating the various communities within our city, ethnic and otherwise,” said Anna Blaxley with the EPCOR Centre.

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