Vancouver Folk Fest merges musical cultures in fun ways!

This year's Vancouver Folk Fest has some very interesting performers from around the world. 

Some of the performers present traditional music in different settings, or create entirely new forms. 

I dropped in on the festival on Saturday evening.  I had really wanted to see Namgar at 4pm, but was still finishing up after the Richmond Dragon Boat Festival.

While parking my bicycle in the special bike lot (it's a tradition to bike to the festival), I heard my name called, and turned around to see Spencer Herbert MLA for Vancouver West End.  Spencer is also arts critic for the BC NDP.  He has always been an amazing activist and arts supporter, since I heard his mother Donna Spencer speak so highly of his activities back in 2002.  Spencer had spent the day at the Festival, and told me he had also gone swimming in the ocean.  The Vancouver Folk Festival's proximity to English Bay, is such as wonderful environmental ascetic.

The performances at dusk and in the evening take on a different atmosphere as the stage lighting now begins to make an impact.  The lanterns from the Public Dreams Society are also gently paraded throughout the crowd.  I saw lanterns made in the designs of fish and stars and other shapes, all adding to the wonderful magical atmosphere.

Fortunately I was able to see Sarah Harmer, whom I have really enjoyed listening to since I discovered her “I am a Mountain” cd.  With her new pop sound, she really had the crowd moving.  Her recent activism in helping to bring attention to stop development on the Niagara escarpement has really endeared her to the environmental crowd.

Bettye Lavette brought a lot of Detroit soul to the folk festival.  Soul music and rhythm and blues are other forms of “people music”descended from the gospel chants of African Americans and merged with the origins of Rockabilly and country & western music.  I decided to leave the festival and end the evening on a high note, as Betteye was performing a real bluesey version Elton John's “Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

These are some of the performers that caught my eye from the lineup:

Pacific Curls (New Zealand)

Three gals from different backgrounds
find common cause in crafting a musical fusion that comes together like
it was waiting to be revealed. Pacific Curl members come from Scotland,
New Zealand’s Maori people and from a volcanic island 465 clicks north
of Fiji called Rotuma. Singing in Maori, Rotuman and English, Pacific
Curls play the fiddle, ukulele, traditional Maori and other instruments.
They’re sound incorporates the Celtic and the South Pacific in a
beautiful and spirited whole.

Elisapie Isaac (QC)

For Elisapie Isaac, the North is not at
the top of the world, it’s at the centre of her world. Born of an Inuk
mother and a Newfoundland father, she was adopted at birth by an Inuit
family and grew up in the community of Salluit, Nunavik. Elisapie sings
in English, Innu and French. Her music is an inspired combination of the
music and rhythms of her roots and more southerly folk and pop  – and
shows she has a deep respect for both the profound and the party.

Namgar (Moscow, Russia)

Namgar performs music steeped in
the ancient nomadic traditions of Southern Siberia and Mongolia. You’ll
hear the songs of the Burayts and Mongolians, dance songs and Mongol
legends about fairytale beauties, epic heroes, and powerful horse racers
hurling across the endless steppes. Namgar’s repertoire also includes
more contemporary compositions. Named after the group’s extraordinary
singer, Namgar Lhasaranova-Evgeniy Zolotarev, they perform on
traditional instruments such as the chanza, a 3-stringed Mongol
lute covered in snake skin, flutes and drums.

Eccodek (Ontario)

Weaving a multicultural tapestry of
sounds, these critically acclaimed “sonic architects” from Toronto are
grabbing the attention of the world music scene.  Their potent brew of
melody and afro-dub grooves serves up a diverse palate of hypnotising
rhythms. While they integrate elements of ancient Africa and the Middle
East into their music, the outcome is simply innovative, modern,
progressive.  Their performance is one the Huffington Post says, “You
just have to­ – and should – experience…for yourself”

Peatbog Faeries (Scotland)

Channelling Celtic tradition
through a passion for glorious experiment, the Peatbog Faeries meld a
whole heap of styles and influences into a musical spree of sounds. They
draw from rock, jazz, electronica, world and folk – but their main
influence is traditional Celtic music. Programmed effects go hand in
hand with traditional arrangements played on bagpipes, fiddles and
whistles. The six-member group have received “Best Live Act” honours
from the Scots Trad Music Awards (twice). For the dancers among us,
consider the Faeries your invitation.

Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Project

The Mississippi Sheiks were the most
popular blues artists of the 1930’s. Their repertoire drew upon all
facets of black and white rural music: hard-edged blues, pop music,
hokum, white country and traditional songs. The Sheiks’ legacy has
influenced legendary musicians like BB King and Bob Dylan among others.
It’s also been a major source of inspiration for our own Steve Dawson.
To pay them tribute, he pulled together a cast of great musicians to
record and perform their music. At the festival, as part of the
Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Project, Steve is joined by Jim Byrnes, Bob
Brozman and Alvin Youngblood Hart.

Watcha Clan (Marseille, France)

Watcha Clan’s music sings with the
spirit of traveling people. Powered by the riveting voice and stagecraft
of lead vocalist Sista K, they juggle rhythms acoustic and electro
rhythms and languages (French, Arabic, Hebrew, English) to the beat of
the memories they have and the people and the places they visit. Musical
nomads, their songs move from Eastern European melodies to the chaabi,
the traditional music of Algiers to hip hop kicks.

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