Obo Addy and Kukrudu
We are always trying to broaden the musical scope of the Festival and this year we think we have succeeded as never before. One of the most exciting newcomers to the Festival is Obo Addy and Kukrudu. Obo comes from Ghana where his father was a priest and medicine man. His up-bringing was failed with traditional ceremonies and rituals of his native Ga tribe. In his youth he developed an interest in and understanding of traditional song and dance which encompassed a number of Ghanaian musical cultures. This was broadened in the 1960s when he began studying to become a master drummer. In Kukrudu Obo has assembled an all-star cast of Ghanaian and North American musicians who play many instruments from traditional African percussion and flutes to North American standards such as guitars and keyboards. Amon Kotey and Teddy Addo Kpakpo on woodwinds, horns and percussion; Israel Nii Annoh and Bruce Smith on drums, percussion and vocals; Mark Bjorkland and Michael Denny on guitars, percussion and vocals, together with Obo on African drums, percussion and lead vocals play a mixture of traditional and original, more contemporary compositions. We think that Obo Addy and Kukrudu are going to significantly expand the cultural horizons of the Festival audience and make a real contribution to the continued growth of what we do.
About two years ago we received a letter asking us if we were interested in a group called Ar Log who played traditional Welsh music. The Vancouver Folk Music Festival has had a lot of music from the British Isles, but never from Wales. Although totally ignorant about what traditional Welsh music was, we promptly replied with our characteristic bravado, sure. Now, two years later, we are very excited that this group of fine musicians whose records we’ve become dedicated fans of, will actually be appearing at this year’s Festival. The group is composed of brothers Dafydd and Gwyndaf Roberts who play triple harp (the most traditional of Welsh instruments), knee harp, clarsach harp and flutes as well as sing in Welsh; Graham Pritchard on violin, mandolin and vocals; and Geraint Glynne Davies on guitar and lead vocals. While the group’s instrumental efforts bear an obvious relationship to Celtic music from Ireland and Scotland as well as Brittany, there is something very distinct about it which, once you’ve heard it, allows you to recognize its individuality. The songs that the group sings in Welsh sound like absolutely nothing else we’ve ever heard, and Ar Log lives up to the international reputation the Welsh have for singing. We are pleased to be able to add Welsh music to this year’s bill and we encourage you to enjoy Ar Log.
We first heard of Ed Balchowsky in an extraordinarily beautiful song written by Utah Phillips called “Eddy’s Song”. Its chorus, One hand on the keyboard, moonlight fills the room/One hand on the Ebro, no regrets/One hand on tomorrow reaching for the sun/ One hand on the sun that never sets, ran through our heads for a couple of years before Utah suggested, Why don’t you get Eddie to the Festival?” Why, indeed, not? Ed Balchowsky is a gifted, classically trained pianist and singer who began his piano studies at the age of four. His plans for a concert hall career were halted when, at the age of 2l, he went to Spain to fight against the fascists in the civil war and lost his arm participating in the Ebro offensive. Over the years Ed Balchowsky retrained himself to play the piano using only his left hand and has written arrangements for left-handed piano of everything from Bach to the revolutionary songs he learned in Spain. He is not a professional musician in the sense we generally understand the term, but occasionally he plays concerts and gives recitations of the poetry he has written. We are honoured that he will be among us at this Festival.
Tony Bird and Morris Goldberg
Tony Bird needs no introduction for anyone who was at either the 1979 or 1980 Festivals. For those of you who weren’t, or have never been at one of Tony’s concerts in Vancouver, you are in for a treat. Tony grew up in Malawi where he assimilated the musical cultures of southern Africa. When he began writing songs this unusual influence produced a vocal and instrumental style which, we believe, is absolutely unique. Tony has written a number of powerful and moving songs about Africa as well as many equally impressive songs about things in general. He’s a brilliant performer whose rapport with the audience has won him an almost fanatical following in these parts. A few years ago we had the opportunity of hearing Tony play with Morris Goldberg who appeared on Tony’s second album, Bird of Paradise. Morris is a South African saxophonist and tin whistle player now living in New York. He has an extensive jazz background and his phenomenally sensitive accompaniment adds a whole new dimension to Tony’s songs. When Tony Bird and Morris Goldberg play this weekend, we think they are going to add a lot of new fans to their already loyal ones.
The Bluegrass Band
You either have to be real good or real arrogant to call yourselves The Bluegrass Band. In this case it’s the former. The Bluegrass Band is composed of some of the most talented of the younger bluegrass musicians who have come out of the bands formed by the founders of the idiom. In a sense it is the first bluegrass super group. The various members of The Bluegrass Band have played with Bill Munroe, Jim and Jesse, Wilma Lee Cooper, Jimmie Skinner, Hazel Dickens, Norman Blake and the Osborne Brothers to name just a few. With credentials like that you can see where the name came from. The group is firmly committed to the maintenance of their traditional bluegrass musical heritage. Each member is a virtuoso and together they produce exceptional music. The Bluegrass Band is Butch Robins on the banjo; Alan O’Bryant on guitar and lead vocals; Blame Sprouse on fiddle; David Sebring on bass; and Ed Dye on dobro and bones.
Eric Bogle and John Munro
We had never heard Eric Bogle’s name when we heard June Tabor’s recording of “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, one of the best antiwar songs that has ever been written. As the final notes died away we wrenched the album off the turntable, muttering, who wrote that??!! There it was: Eric Bogle. Eric who? We’ve got to get him to the Festival was our next thought. Well, it’s been a few years, but finally we’ll get to hear the author of “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” and a number of other songs we’ve come to love since then. Eric hails from Scotland which he left in 1969 for Australia in the grand Scottish tradition; it was here that he wrote most of his songs. He is a songwriter of deep commitment covering such topics as ecology and the stupidity of war. Aside from his topical material he’s also a writer of moving love songs and sharply satirical ditties. In a fit of ecstasy, Melody Maker once exclaimed, “. . .most of the best contemporary folk songs of the ’70s were written by Eric Bogle”. We’re lucky to have Eric at the Festival and even luckier he will be accompanied here by John Munro, one of Australia’s finest guitar and mandolin players.
One of the saddest features of the ’70s and ’80s for lovers of traditional music has been the passing of almost all of the great rural or country blues performers. For those of us who were lucky enough to hear Mississippi John Hurt, Gary Davis, Bukka White and a host of others, it is a terrible realization that they are no more. We are fortunate, however, that the music they created has not disappeared with them, but is being kept alive and is reaching new audiences as well as old in the form of people like Roy Bookbinder. Roy stole the show in the blues workshop at the first Vancouver Folk Music Festival. Roy learned much of the music he plays, not from records, but from the men who invented it, including Reverend Gary Davis and Pink Anderson. In a sense Roy is a true inheritor of that tradition. He’s an exceptional guitar player, although never flashy, and infuses the blues and ragtime songs and tunes he performs with humour and compassion. Lately he’s been rubbing shoulders with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and BB King, and recently appeared on the Grand Ole Opry. He’s taken it all in his stride which has made him one of the most relaxed musicians we have ever met as well as a true + of good coffee and bass fishing. We welcome him back.
Boys of the Lough
For almost 10 years the Boys of the Lough have been the forerunners of traditional music. One of the things that makes them different from many other groups performing traditional Celtic music is the diversity of their backgrounds and the music they play. While many groups specialize in the music of their particular country, the Boys of the Laugh, by combining musicians from Ireland, the Shetland Islands and Northumberland (the north-em most part of Britain) are able to play music from all these areas. Thus, they play Celtic music rather than music from one specific geographical location. They were the first of the Celtic traditional bands to work on a fully professional basis and have released almost a dozen albums. Cathal McConnell comes from County Fermanagh in Ireland and is a fourth-generation flute player. He’s also an all Ireland champion on both flute and tin whistle. Aly Bain, from the Shetland Islands, was a student of Tom Anderson, the expert of Shetland fiddle players. Dave Richardson and his brother, Tich, have been playing traditional music from their native Northumberland since their early teens. Dave plays mandolin, tenor banjo, citern and concertina while Tich is an accomplished guitar player whose work with the band has brought a new colour to their performances. Although they have toured North America extensively and performed several concerts in Vancouver, this is their first visit to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival; the first of many, we hope.
Bright Morning Star
At an antinuclear concert in Madison, Wisconsin. a few years ago, Pete Seeger remarked, listening to Bright Morning Star, “They’re doing just exactly what Woody Guthrie and I tried to do when we came here to Wisconsin 40 years ago-exactly.” Now that’s praise. The troupe, comprised of George Fulginit-Shakar, Marcia Taylor, Charlie King, Cheryl Fox, Ken Giles and Court Dorsey, are singers, songwriters, storytellers and musicians with backgrounds that span classical music to rock-and-roll, and anything else you can stick in between. Their instruments range from washboard to tambourine and their music is equally diverse. They perform traditional hymns, gay men’s music, anti-nuke songs and children’s song, and are dedicated in using their musical abilities to reach an audience with a message of social and political change. They’ve played at demonstrations, they’ve played in concert halls; they’ve played for a few dozen people, they’ve played for tens of thousands. Their reputation has preceded them in the form of raves from a number of folks we know and respect, and we think Vancouver is going to enjoy Bright Morning Star.
Chautauqua ’82 is an outgrowth of Chautauqua ’81 which passed this way last year. It combines the tradition of the old Chautauqua tent shows of the 1920s with the renaissance of vaudeville artistry taking place in the 1980s through the work of a variety of groups and individuals interested in talking about available alternative life styles. It is both educational and entertaining. We have devoted a couple of pages elsewhere in this programme book to describe exactly what they have in store for you this year. We’re happy to welcome back the Flying Karamazov Brothers, Avner the Eccentric and all their friends, and suggest that you take in at least some of this intriguing feature at the Festival.
To say Meg Christian was a hit at last year’s Festival is to understate the case. As we stood backstage listening to 8,000 people sing the chorus to one of Meg’s songs we knew that, as the phrase in the old Bogart movie goes, this was going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Originally from North Carolina, Meg Christian has been called the founding mother of feminist music and certainly she was one of the very first women to perform women’s music on a full-time basis. She is also the founder of Olivia Records which broke new ground in the music business, producing most of the albums of women’s music now available from Mary Watkins to Cris Williamson. She’s been at it for almost 10 years and has seen her audiences grow from a few people in obscure clubs and women’s centres to thousands of people at festivals and concerts. She’s sold over a hundred thousand records and has been one of the key figures in bringing feminist music to the large diverse audience it now enjoys. Meg is a very talented songwriter whose songs transcend any one audience and speak to something in all of us; we’ve included in this programme book one of the songs she’s recently written. We are proud and happy that she accepted our invitation to return to this year’s Festival.
Beverly Cotten can sing, dance and play the banjo all at the same time. Think that’s easy? Just try it. She first came to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival a few years ago as a member of the Green Grass Cloggers. She sings a cappella and accompanies herself on the banjo. Her repertoire embraces everything from gospel to Carter family and she’s truly an excellent performer of traditional Appalachian clogging, sometimes known as buck dancing. You can’t really describe what Beverly Cotten does; as they say, it’s in the visuals. Make sure you don’t miss her at the Festival and if you’re so inclined, get her to teach you some of the clogging steps she has mastered.
We first met Darcie Deaville when she was playing with the Cathy Fink-Duck Donald Band. She looked like she was about 13 years old, but could flat pick a guitar like nobody’s business. Needless to say, she astonished everyone. Aside from being an ace guitar player, Darcie is an accomplished fiddler and both a lead and harmony vocalist. She knows piles of great country songs and has lately, we were informed, taken up songwriting herself. She’s been making her living playing music for about eight years, and arranged and played the music for a theatre production called Artichoke in Winnipeg. For the last year or so she’s been touring the land playing with a country rock band, Danny Mack and Alberta Crude. In telephone conversations from a string of motels and gas stations, Darcie informs us she is anxiously waiting to get back to folkiedom, and we are anxiously looking forward to her return.
A momentous event in the history of American guitar happened one night in 1959 at Martin’s Esso Service Station in Langly, Maryland. The night manager, John Fahey, was, as usual, sitting around playing guitar when an old friend drove in for gas. After hearing John play, she suggested he make a record. He borrowed $300, rented a tape recorder and recorded his first album, Blind Joe Death. That record gave birth to what is sometimes called the contemporary finger picking guitar style, and 20 years after its release Fahey remains an authority in the field of American guitar. Giving up the petroleum industry for the shady groves of academia, John moved to Berkeley in the early ’60s to establish Takoma Records and obtain a master’s degree in folklore and mythology. He also found time to make field trips to the south where he discovered blues legends Bukko White and Skip James and brought them buck to public view; he’s also the fellow responsible for the discovery of Leo Kottke. John Fahey has had a major impact on the development of folk music and guitar playing for the last couple of decades, and we figured it was high time to invite him to the Festival.
John Faulkner, Dolores Keane and Reel Union
John Faulkner, Dolores Keane and Reel Union are a multi talented group of individuals from Ireland, Northern Ireland and England who have dedicated themselves to the performance of traditional Irish music, both vocally and instrumentally. John Faulkner came to the British folk song revival in the early ’60s as one of Ewan McColl’s study groups. He began playing fiddle in the late 1960s and also plays guitar, bazouki and hurdy-gurdy. In addition to Irish music, he has a vast repertoire of English and Scots’ songs. Dolores Keane was raised in a musical family in Galway and is regarded as one of the very finest traditional singers in Ireland as well as being an expert flute player. She worked with De Danann and recorded the vocals on the Chieftains’ album, Bonaparte’s Retreat. Reel Union comprises Sean Keane, Dolores’s brother, a talented flute player and a sensitive singer in both English and Irish; Eamonn Curran, an extraordinary pipe player; and Martin O’Connor, one of the leading exponents of the two-row button accordion. With all this talent there’s no wonder that Reel Union has mastered all the different instrumental and vocal components of traditional Irish music.
The last time Ferron appeared at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival was in 1980. She was, at that point, more or less a local wonder. Since then her audiences have grown immensely as have the number of places she has performed. She’s appeared at all the major folk music festivals in Canada, at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival, and has just completed a tour through the United States from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles. Her third album, Testimony, has been released in the United States to acclaim from such periodicals as the Washington Post which called her songs, “… original enough to make all comparisons seem irrelevant”. Not bad, eh? Ferron is a songwriter of impressive ability. She’s able to treat the oldest of all songwriting topics, human relations, with originality and incisiveness. Her songs are never maudlin and are often instilled with humour and just enough skepticism to make it all very real. For most of the audience at this Festival, Ferron is no stranger. For those of you who don’t know what we’re talking about, make sure that you don’t miss her.
Starting from a career playing Montreal subways Cathy has, through persistence and charm, clawed her way up the ladder of success to such prestigious venues like the Vancouver Folk Music Festival and Johnson City, Tennessee. Cathy plays a wide variety of old-timey and country and western music on banjo, fiddle and a couple of other things. After spending about five years in Canada as half of Cathy Fink and Duck Donald, she returned to the United States to live in Washington, D.C. There she has been doing some work with the Smithsonian Institution, touring the United States with periodic incursions into Canada and working on a new record. She’s also been expanding an already large collection of tunes and songs that include Patsy Montana’s, Bessie Smith’s and some self-penned creations. Lately she’s been conducting workshops in working women’s music and playing for children. Each time we get to hear Cathy play we’re astounded at how fast she’s changing and developing her music. We’re looking forward to having her back here.
The Robin Flower Band
Robin Flower and her cohorts are doing something that very few other bands, if any, have attempted. They’re blending traditional old-timey and bluegrass music with very contemporary material known as women’s music. That, which at first seems to be a contradiction, has produced a versatile and successful combination which we and thousands of others who have heard them find very exciting. Instrumentally the band is hot. They can play fiddle tunes, jigs and reels with the best of them, but they can move with ease from hot picking music to jazzy improvisations, traditional country tunes, songs from the women’s movement and Robin’s own compositions. Robin came to the 1980 Folk Music Festival as leader of the band backing Holly Near. This year Robin’s returning with her own band composed of Barbara Higbie, Jan Martinelli and Ellen Robinson. We think that those of you who heard her a couple of years ago are going to be amazed at what the last two years of hard work have wrought. We think The Robin Flower Band is one of the ones to watch.
Every so often we sit around bemoaning the lack of new songwriters in this country; new meaning ones that we don’t know about. Then somebody comes along to pleasantly surprise us and we go happily on our way convinced that there is yet hope. This year it was Don Freed that made our day. From Alberta came word via returning folkies that there was this songwriter there who was blowing everybody off the stage. Then came a promo package in the form of a comic book. Then came a record, not a great record, but a record with some great songs. Then came Don Freed himself, a fairly ordinary fellow on the face of it. But what songs! It makes sense in that Don Freed has been writing songs for a long time, but only recently has he recovered from an early experience with the hamburger grinder of the music business and begun to seek a wider audience. Don is at his best as a topical songwriter. He has written songs about uranium in Saskatchewan, the perils of postering and a nice send-up of folk festivals that we have published in the programme book. We guarantee that before this Festival is over, Don Freed will have succeeded in both offending and delighting most of you.
Gayap Rhythm Drummers
The realities of the international economy are such that there’s been a large influx of immigrants from the Caribbean to Canada over the last decade. The realities of Canadian society is such that these immigrants have not found paradise here, but rather have had to confront the same racism and economic exploitation that they suffered at home. The Gayap Rhythm Drummers have brought from their various home countries in the Caribbean their native music and a sharp political eye. Those elements along with instrumental talent and strong songwriting skills produce a most powerful group. By and large the Gayap Rhythm Drummers have been playing at political-cultural events such as a tribute to Malcolm X and at concerts in solidarity with El Salvador. They have definitely been influenced by reggae music both in their musical style and content, but much more than that, they base their music on the rich traditional rhythms of Africa that came to the Caribbean in the slave ships. Most of their instruments are traditional African percussion by which this group performs music that is very different from any we have previously presented at the Festival. Their motto is “collective efforts for collective success” and we can’t think of a better motto for this Festival. We are pleased that Bert Smith (lead vocals), Earl St. Aubyn (rhythm drums, vocals), Wesley Cason (Jaribu on flute), Joseph Charles (Akil on lead talking drum), Jessie I. Daniel (bass drum, vocals, steelpan) and Rostant John (Rico on steelpan, percussion) are here this year.
The Harmony Sisters
The Harmony Sisters do so many things that it’s hard to know where to begin. They perform cajun music, gospel tunes, old-timey dance music, country blues, bluegrass tunes, blues, and they do it all well. Their instrumentation includes guitar, banjo, auto harp, fiddle, mandolin and dulcimer. Alice Gerrard, Irene Herrmann and Jeanie McLerie span all the varied forms of traditional music that exist in our neighbour to the south. Alice Gerrard is probably the most well-known member of the group to folk music audiences. She was half of Hazel and Alice, one of the best contemporary country duos to come out of the folk music revival. Irene Herrmann is a classically trained cellist and pianist. Since discovering folk music, she’s been playing Swedish fiddle tunes, Italian mandolin music, ’20s and ’30s jazz and ragtime. Jeanie McLerie is a hard-core folkie having paid her dues street singing in Paris and in folk clubs all over Britain. With all this experience and versatility you’ll find The Harmony Sisters, as individual performers or as a group, playing in many workshops this weekend.
Hunt Family Fort Rupert Damcers
One of the weaknesses that this Festival had was the lack of any representation of the rich folk tradition of the indigenous inhabitants of this area. This year we are honoured to have at the Festival the Hunt Family Fort Rupert Dancers. They carry on the traditions of the Kwagiutl culture of coastal British Columbia and will be presenting a series of dances and ceremonies which Chief Mah-qwila-gilis (Tony Hunt) inherited from his family before him. The singers and dancers will include Tony Hunt, Emma Hunt, Mary Hunt, Frank Nelson, Calvin Hunt, Marie Nelson, Henry Hunt, John Livingstone, Richard Hunt, Debbie Hunt, Emily Baker and perhaps several junior Hunts. We have included elsewhere in this book some information on the programme they will perform.
Santiago Jimenez Jr. y su conjunto norteño
For years we’ve been trying to represent norteño or Tex-Mex music at the Festival. Finally our wish has come true and we don’t think anybody is going to forget it. Tex-Mex music is a fusion of the music of Mexican settlers of south Texas who found themselves Americans in the second half of the nineteenth century, with the music brought over by waves of immigration from Central Europe that occurred in the 1890s and first decade of this century. Thus, within one body of music we find traditional Mexican corridos side by side with polkas that seemed to have come straight out of a Bavarian beer hall. We don’t think there’s anybody more qualified to introduce Tex-Mex music to Vancouver than Santiago Jimenez, Jr. Santiago is the son of Santiago Jimenez, Sr., probably the undisputed king of the norteño accordion players of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s; he more or less wrote the book. Santiago Jr. lives in San Antonio, Texas which is the centre of the TexMex music scene. There, norteño is very much alive and has begun to reach wider and wider audiences through the work of people like Ry Cooder who worked extensively with Santiago’s brother, Flaco Jimenez. Santiago is a virtuoso accordion player and will be accompanied here by Juan Garcia on bajo sexto and guitar and Jesus Castillo on bass. Bievenido.
Bengt Jonsson, Gunnar Östergards and Thomas Westling
Swedish music is another first at this year’s Festival. We are fortunate in having two groups representing music from two very distinct regions of that country. Bengt Jonnson, Gunnar Östergards and Thomas Westling come from the district of Salsingland, a gold mine for a folk fiddler. Here, there are hundreds of different songs: waltzes, polkas, marches, schottis and polska, a unique dance in Sweden and Norway with a beat of three quarter time, yet unlike a waltz or mazurka. The traditional folk music of Sweden is ceremonial; it was used at weddings, for dancing, when marching, etc. Sweden, like many other countries, has seen a revival in interest of traditional folk music over the last 10 years and we are happy to present these talented fiddlers this year. We’re sure they’re going to inject the Festival with lots of new musical ideas and vitality. Recently, Bengt wrote to us, “The assumption for Swedish folk fiddling on a stage in Vancouver is quite different from what we are used to from the dance barns in the midsummer sun, but we’ll do our best to present a music that is a big part of our lives.”
Monique Jutras and Gilles Losier
Monique Jutras comes from Montreal where, from a young age, she studied piano, guitar and classical voice. Since 1976 she has been collecting and performing traditional music of Québecois and French origins. She has found and accumulated more than 500 songs from books, various archives and on field trips around Quebec, and has taken them on extensive tours through Europe and her native Quebec. In addition to giving concerts for adults, Monique has performed in many schools to bring the traditional songs to children. In 1980 she began working with Gilles Losier. A brilliant fiddler in his own right, Gilles is well known as an accompanist to Jean Carignan, the greatest of all Quebec fiddlers. Gilles comes from Acadia and has been very active in preserving the rich heritage of French Acadian music. Together, Monique Jutras and Gilles Losier express the beauty, humour and life of the traditional music of Quebec and Acadia.
Taiko music is rooted in the history of rural farming and fishing communities throughout Japan. First used in ancient times in pagan rites to ward off evil spirits harmful to crops, to induce rain in times of drought and to give thanks to the gods for a bountiful harvest or catch, the taiko drum has long been considered a sacred instrument to the Japanese people. Along with the evolution of traditional rural life styles, the use of taiko in the daily lives of the people diminished. The drum became a mere showpiece, a relic from days past. Recently, however, there has been a revitalization of many Japanese folk arts, taiko amongst them. In the fall of 1979, a group of men and women from the Japanese community of Vancouver, influenced by the San Jose Taiko Group, formed Katari Taiko with the aim of developing a form of Asian-Canadian culture that incorporates the discipline, physical strength and grace, non-sexism and musical creativity. They have amazed everyone who has heard them, and we’re constantly running into people who ask us, Are those the Japanese drummers coming to the Festival; they’re fantastic.” We agree and are very pleased that the Japanese community in Vancouver will be represented at the Festival by Katari Taiko.
Koerner, Ray and Glover
Anybody listening to folk music in the mid 1 960s knows who Koerner, Ray and Glover are. Along with Dave Van Ronk and a few others, they defined the so called blues revival. They were the quintessential white boys lost in the blues and even today, if you move in the right circles, you will find a worn copy of Blues, Rags and Hollers in a place of honour in record cabinets all over the land. They totally immersed themselves in country blues and brought it to hundreds of concert and festival stages. Then as the ’60s drew to a close they seemed to vanish from sight, though one heard the occasional rumour that one or the other had done a concert here or there. Once in a while you could read a piece by Tony Glover in Rolling Stone. But there were no new records, and that seemed to be that. What joy it brought to our hearts when we began to hear that John Koerner was touring again, when we saw a new Dave Ray album had been released, and then finally the news that year that Koemer, Ray and Glover were back and had given a concert together in their home town of Minneapolis. We must have them at our Festival, we vowed. Times have changed and Koerner, Ray and Glover have changed with them. We re not expecting the old songs, although we won’t be unhappy if we hear a few, but rather we’re interested in seeing where the incredible creativity of these three musicians has taken them.
La Bottine Souriante
Quebec is probably the part of what Ottawa likes to call Canada that is most rich in traditional music. Quebecois culture is a unique merging of traditional French and Celtic music and song which has produced a host of superb groups and individuals who have brought this music to other parts of North America and Europe. One of the most outstanding of these groups is La Bottine Souriante composed of five musicians who have in common a love of the music of their ancestors. They specialize in the songs and tunes of the region of Quebec known as Lanaudiere (Joliette). In this region settled Acadians who were driven from their homes by the British, later joined by Irish settlers in the 1830s. This mix produced a fusion of the two cultures which musically makes it distinct. La Bottine Souriante plays the dance tunes, jigs, reels, hornpipes and the songs of this area. All the members of La Bottine Souriante sing with Guy Bouchard on guitar and violin; Yves Lambert on accordion and harmonica; Martin Racine on violin; Andre Marchand on guitar and clogging; and Mario Forest on harmonica and spoons.
We came across Eli Lahav at a concert of Jewish music in San Francisco. We couldn’t believe our ears. Where had this incredible voice and energy been hiding. Well, it turned out that Eli was not really a professional musician, but rather a Cantor (the person who chants the music of the Jewish religious service). In this he follows the tradition of his father and his fathers before him. Eli was born in Jerusalem in 1945 where his family has lived for seven generations. He came to the United States to get a B.A. in accounting, and today works as the Cantor at Temple Magain David in San Francisco. Eli sings in Hebrew and accompanies himself on the Israeli drum (tot). His repertoire includes folk songs, popular songs and songs with an Oriental (Sephardic) flavour. Many of those who have heard him sing have praised his enthusiasm and his ability to transmit his deep feelings for his rich cultural heritage. Count us among the many and you soon will be, too.
Alain Lamontagne and Esther Larose
A poet, harmonica player and clogger extraordinaire, when Alain Lamontagne played at the first Vancouver Folk Music Festival in 1978 he took the audience by storm. It ain’t so much what you do, but how you do it. All he really does is to play the harmonica, sing a little bit and tap his feet. This is a bit like saying all that Picasso did was dob bits of paint on canvas. We’ve never heard anyone else do what Alain does. He’s a superb harmonica player influenced much more by blues than by music from his native Quebec. It is the combination of his harmonica playing with distinct writing underlined by his clogging that somehow produces the effect that what you are listening to is a whole band and what you are seeing is a multimedia performance. In the past Alain has performed alone, but he’s now working with talented accordion player, Esther Larose. We’re sure you’ll share our excitement at having him back.
Don Lange is a pretty easy-going fellow, unassuming and you might figure one more folkie, but when you begin listening to him play you realize that beneath that calm exterior is a songwriter and performer of passion, vision and profound ability. Don has written a song about his grandfather “Here’s to You Rounders” which has made more than two or three people we know wipe tears from their eyes, one of the most powerful antinuclear songs ever written “Take the Children and Run” and a really amusing country and western parody about the Burpee seed catalogue. He also plays the blues with more than a little expertise and wins awards for his poetry. And like we said at the beginning, he does it all with an approach that takes you totally unawares. A former member of the Chicago folk mafia, Don now dwells in sunnier climes on the California coast. We’re looking forward to hearing him again.
Usually when we have had performers at this Festival from the British Isles they have fallen into the category of: a) a band; b) a topical singer; or c) a traditional singer. Dougie MacLean is none of the above. Although he first became known as a fiddler working with The Tannahill Weavers and later spent some time fiddling with Silly Wizard, Dougie comes to us as a singer-songwriter and an excellent fiddler. We find this quite refreshing as it challenges certain stereotypes. This is not to say Dougie isn’t a fine performer of traditional material or that he won’t be found joining one of the Celtic sessions that take place at the Festival. However, we encourage you to listen to Dougie in one of the workshops singing his own songs which sound quite unlike what we are accustomed to hearing. Take advantage of an opportunity to hear a performer whose experience with various types of music has allowed him to develop a very special musical personality.
Rose Maddox is a genuine country music legend. She has been called the finest female singer in bluegrass and has played or recorded with everyone from Bill Munroe to Johnny Cash. Her professional career spans close to half a century, from her work with her brothers as the Maddox Brothers and Rose to her continuing work as a solo artist. She was one of the first women to reach a large audience in country music and blazed a trail that many hundreds of women have followed since. Country music stars like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn got their start as young girls listening to Rose on the radio or records, trying to imitate her distinctive sound. Janis Joplin once stated in an interview that she had followed Rose all over Texas, learning how to sing from her. From the Grand Ole Opry to concerts in Japan and Europe, Rose has amassed hundreds of traditional and contemporary country songs. Although we had heard her historic recordings of the late ’40s and early ’50s, we were delighted to find that Rose was still singing and performing as much as ever and, intact, lived in Oregon. Naturally, we lost no time in inviting her to the Festival. For the many in our audience who have just recently discovered the joys of bluegrass and country music, this will be your chance to hear one of the people who created it.
One of those performers who seemed to pick Minneapolis as his home base (good place for it; we remember the 1934 Teamster strike), Charlie Maguire carries on the tradition of Woody Guthrie, Cisco Huston and others who produced a music which has its roots deep in the best American tradition. His songs run the gamut from children’s songs to contemporary political compositions to a diversified collection of traditional American folk songs. As a songwriter he looks for inspiration outside in the real world. He does not spend much time dwelling on his deepest innermost sensitive thoughts and gives short shrift to songwriters of a certain type who “talk about nothing but themselves, usually the most boring mundane, embarrassing things people wouldn’t even tell their best friends”. Rather, Charlie writes about ships, strikes in the Mesabi iron range, farmers, history and various people whose lives we’d do well to emulate. We think this is a good thing and that’s why we’ve invited Charlie to Vancouver this year.
The Appalachian area of the United States is a treasure trove of traditional music of every type, and it is through the work of a number of performers who, though not native to that region, moved there and integrated themselves in its life to bring much of its music to audiences all over the world. John McCutcheon is one of these. For the last 10 years he has lived in the southwest Virginia mountains, learning tunes, finding old musicians, organizing music festivals, teaching school, calling square dances and playing in living-rooms, parking lots, bars and Harlan County picket lines as well as in the odd concert hall. John plays lots of instruments like the fiddle, hammered dulcimer and banjo, and sings songs from Scared Harp gospel tunes to traditional love songs to compositions by contemporary songwriters like Si Kahn. We can think of very few people who can present such an incredible variety of material as John McCutcheon does, and figured it was about time we got him to Vancouver.
Country Joe McDonald
Country Joe McDonald left an indelible mark on the generation that came of age in the middle and late 1960s. If the only thing he came up with was the “Fixin’ to Die Rag” his place in history would be secure, but Joe McDonald is more than just a jingle writer. Over the years we have been impressed by his interpretations of traditional country songs including an album of Woody Gutherie’s material that remains one of our favourites. Joe has dealt with a number of contentious issues in his music, including various aspects of sexual liberation and feminism, years earlier than it was fashionable. Lately, Country Joe has been very involved in benefit concerts for Viet Nam veterans’ organizations. In a period of time when we have lived to see many of the most articulate voices of the radical movements of the ’60s de-politicize, find Jesus or money and make their peace with the established order, it causes us no small amount of gratification to find that Joe McDonald is still infused with the dream of a better day coming which we share. We’re very pleased to welcome him to the Festival.
Can a Nashville songwriter who entered the music business writing hits for folks like Barbara Mandrell and Ronnie Milsap give it all up and find happiness as a men’s lib singer, working coffee houses, campuses and gatherings such as the Northwest Regional Conference on Men and Masculinity? Well, the answer it seems, is a resounding yes! Geof Morgan is one of the exponents of a type of music that we think is really exciting. Although for over a decade women have been writing songs dealing with the kind of socialization of human beings that has gotten us into the mess we’re in, it’s only recently that there’s come into being something called men’s music. “In effect both myself and the men’s movement haven’t come out of the closet. We’re nurturing ourselves now, developing our skills as cultural workers.” Well, we think that Geof’s skills are quite considerable. His songs range from a humourous look at male stereotyping, “It Comes with the Plumbing,,, to songs like “The Matador” and “Stop It” which deal with male violence and wife beating, to a song called “Homophobia” about the fear of homosexuality. Geof also sings fine country songs and songs about almost everything else. We find Geof’s songwriting skills sharpened in music city, together with his politics an unbeatable combination.
Holly Near with Ronnie Gilbert, Adrienne Torf and Carrie Barton
For nearly a decade Holly Near has been in the forefront of artists capable of fusing commitment to political and social change through her outstanding ability as a songwriter. From her early work with the Free the Army show which toured the United States and part of Asia presenting antiwar material to American soldiers, to her most recent albums of feminist material which have made her, perhaps, the most popular of the feminist songwriters, to her beautiful songs about women who have disappeared in Chile, Holly addresses many issues in her music without producing songs that descent to clichés or maudlin rhetoric. This, we think, is the very essence of a political artist. This is what was so good about Bertolt Brecht; we think that Holly Near carries on that kind of tradition in very different surroundings. We were very happy when Holly came to the Festival in 1980 and we’re looking forward to her return. However, this return promises to be even more exciting with the news that, not only will Holly be accompanied by Adrienne Torf, a brilliant pianist who has worked with Holly for several years, and Carrie Barton playing wonderful bass, but that Ronnie Gilbert will also be joining Holly in some of her performances here. Ronnie Gilbert is one of the founding members of The Weavers. For those of you who don’t know, The Weavers were the quintessence of folk music groups of the late ’40s and early ’50s, having had more impact on the direction of folk music than any other group in North America before or since. Ronnie Gilbert and Holly Near performing together is an incomparable event: to see two musicians of two generations whose work has in common the struggle for survival and progress of the human race.
The New Prairie Ramblers
When Peter Ostroushko informed us a few years ago that he had put together a band, we knew it would be hot. We had first heard Peter play with Robin and Linda Williams and he impressed the living daylights out of us. A little later came a record which was predictably excellent. Last summer we got a chance to hear the band live and decided then and there that we could not hold the Festival this year without inviting the New Prairie Ramblers. But can they play? Peter Ostroushko is one of the best fiddlers and mandolin players on the planet if not in the universe; Tim Hennessy on lead guitar and vocals has been around the block a few times; Bob Douglas is the principal mandolin player with the Ramblers who also doubles on guitar, fiddle and tenor banjo as well as being an ace square-dance caller; John Foster has played bass everywhere from bars to symphony halls. Together, they move through an eclectic body of work from bluegrass to Scandinavian polkas to traditional Irish melodies. But don’t take our word for it. Make sure that you catch them over the weekend. It’s a long way from Minnesota to Vancouver and you wouldn’t want to miss a rare opportunity to hear some of the best.
When our Swedish friend, Staffan, started telling us about these friends of his who were in some group in Sweden, we figured, fine, everybody’s got friends and it seems most of them play music. Besides, we thought, these people live in Sweden! Well, Staffan lent us a few albums and we couldn’t believe what we were hearing: great instrumentals and vocals from nice-sounding voices with words that Staffan told us were good. So… how are they going to get here? Through various funding organizations Norrlåtar managed to come up with the air fares and in doing so are helping us present something new, different and exciting at this year’s Festival. The Vancouver audiences are about to find out that there’s more to European folk music than what they hear from the British Isles. Norrlåtar started as a group in 1974 and have since toured Scandinavia and France. They’ve also collected lots of traditional Swedish folk music as well as some Norwegian and Finnish tunes, and have recently begun to compose their own songs based on traditional forms. Three of their records have been chosen by the Swedish press as best folk album of the year. They play many instruments including fiddle, guitar, accordion, flute, bass, mandolin and percussion as well as the nyckelharpa and strakharpa, uniquely Swedish instruments which we will not attempt to describe here. Norrlåtar is Janne Oloffson, Hans Sandin, Mikael Segerstrom and Hans Alatalo.
U. Utah Phillips
Utah Phillips has become so much a part of what passes for the folk music scene of North America that it is hard to know what to say about him that hasn’t already been worked to death. Yeah, he’s a Wobbly, knows lots of songs about trains, tells terrible jokes and carries so much personae around with him you’d think he’d need a valet. Maybe what some people don’t know is that he cares more about every performance he gives than anyone else we’ve met, thinks more about the implications of every song he sings, and works incredibly hard at making what he does seem off-the-cuff and easily accessible. Utah Phillips has also written some of the most beautiful and personal love songs around. His music is part and parcel of who he is, and he is somebody pretty special. Whether he’s singing about hobos, coal miners, lumberjacks, kids, old people or half forgotten personalities of western folklore, he does it on a level that makes you feel like you know the people he’s singing about. He also gave us a valuable piece of advice about how to put together a folk music festival that we’ve followed and which says a lot about what he does at festivals like this one: “never give the audience what they want; give them what you think they need.”
Queen Ida and The Bon Temps Zydeco Band
Zydeco is a unique creation of the creole, black and cajun communities of Louisiana. The waltzes and two-steps of the original cajun music have been influenced from many other sources: reggae out of Jamaica, calypso from Trinidad, country, and western swing. Zydeco also weaves in Dixieland jazz, blues, rock and Latin music, providing a distinctive zig-zag beat against the joyful driving Acadian French melodies. Queen Ida is the first female band leader in the Zydeco tradition: she leads the band on vocals and also plays a mean button accordion. Zydeco music is just about guaranteed to get you up on your feet; it has even been known to lead to dancing. In a year where we’ve brought together quite a bit of French music from different parts of North America, it seemed the right time to introduce this unusual black French tradition to the Festival. Ida Guillory on accordion and lead vocals, Lisa Haley on fiddle, Dennis Calloway on bass and vocals, Pepe Depew on drums, Willy Lewis on percussion and Doug Dayson on guitar will do just that.
Chris Rawlings is a man of diverse musical tastes. There are few people who could send you a tape with a powerful song about the Regina massacre (that’s when the RCMP opened fire on the striking relief camp workers in the 1930s) in the same package with an album of recorder compositions. Chris has been around for a long time, writing songs, playing guitar, flute and other instruments. His songs are often humourous, but also often poetic He makes his home in Montreal and sings in both English and French. Last year he researched, arranged, adapted and recorded music for five National Film Board filmstrips about Canadian labour history; we are particularly interested in what he’s come up with from that work. Chris was last at this Festival in 1979 and we look forward to renewing our acquaintance with him.
Red Clay Ramblers
From deepest darkest North Carolina we welcome back to Vancouver a bunch of guys who have become something of favourites around the old Folk Music Festival office. We have a short attention span and must be constantly supplied with variety, and that the Red Clay Ramblers serve up with versatility, virtuosity and verisimilitude. They play old-timey tunes which their home state is famous for, early jazz by such lost geniuses as Turk Murphy, traditional Irish tunes, unaccompanied gospel numbers and creations by various members of the band, especially Tommy Thompson and Mike Craver, who is one of the more unusual songwriters we have come across. Instrumentally, the band shines. Basically what the Red Clay Ramblers give us is a rich mixture of lots of different American music that comes from almost every style and touches almost every subject. They seem to get out here fairly frequently and we always enjoy them immensely. The Ramblers also includes Jack Herrick, Jim Watson and Clay Buckner.
For years Stan Rogers has been gaining an ever increasing following of his music. At first people thought of Stan as a Nova Scotia songwriter; even though his roots are there in form of family and friends, Stan lives just outside of Toronto. Therefore, as he has developed over the last few years, Stan has been writing more and more songs that are not specific in their location, but rather take up general themes and deal with other parts of Canada. Lately, Stan’s been performing in the United States where he has been greeted with great acclaim. It’s about time. Stan is certainly one of the talented songwriters in this country in any area of music. He’s able to write songs that are artfully crafted while at the same time pack an emotional wallop, and delivers his material with great ability. Stan’s fairly well known in these parts, but if you’re new to folk music or come from south of the border, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you miss Stan Rogers. As usual Stan will be accompanied by his brother, Garnet, on fiddle and guitar and James Morrison on bass.
Besty Rose and Carthy Winter
Betsy and Cathy call what they do women’s songs for humankind. They are two of a number of women who came from different musical backgrounds to the women’s music milieu and are now reaching audiences that go far beyond the women’s movement with material that addresses a variety of concerns. In a letter they sent to us recently, they tell us that they have been working on new compositions dealing with the threat of nuclear war, the military build-up in the United States and the corresponding budget cuts. For a while they have been writing songs based on various historical personages and they say they have some new songs in that field as well. They’re also strengthening as solo performers. As individuals or together they are able to make an audience feel comfortable and create an intimacy that breaks down the traditional performer-audience barrier. Don’t go to see them just one time; catch at least a couple of their performances reflecting their different strengths.
Kelly Russell, Rufus Guinchard and Jim Payne
Newfoundland is a treasury of folk tradition, both instrumental and vocal. Given that, constant wonder why so little of it reaches the mainland. Maybe they don’t want to spoil a good thing. But this year, we’re fortunate to hear it by way of Kelly Russell, Rufus Guinchard and Jim Payne. Kelly and Jim are both young musicians, singers, songwriters and folklore collectors with a good grounding in traditional Newfoundland music. Kelly is a founding member of Figgy Duff, a group which created quite a stir when it began touring the country, introducing audiences to traditional Newfoundland music. He’s worked in a variety of theatre productions as well as radio and television shows. He’s been funded by the Canada Council to collect traditional fiddle music of Newfoundland and started a record label to produce records of traditional fiddlers, accordion players, singers and storytellers from Newfoundland. He plays fiddle, bazouki and concertina amongst other things. Jim Payne was most recently in Vancouver with Codco’s production of Terms de Bacalhau. He’s worked in many theatrical productions and has done a lot of touring as a musician and singer. His repertoire consists largely of traditional songs, but he also does a number of contemporary songs about current conditions in Newfoundland. Coming with Kelly and Jim to Vancouver is Rufus Guinchard. Rufus is an 82 year old fiddler from the northern peninsula of Newfoundland. He’s kind of a human archive of the wealth of the island’s instrumental tradition and is a bridge between the older musicians and the young folks who are carrying on that music. We consider ourselves extremely lucky to be able to have Rufus at the Festival; it allows us to get from the horse’s mouth the wonderful music of Newfoundland.
When one of our merry band was down in San Francisco on vacation a while ago he dropped in to visit Barbara Higbie who last year played at one of our concerts with Robin Flower. Well, it seems that Darol Anger, Barb’s true love, and Mike Marshall, their next door neighbour who plays with Darol in the David Grisman group, wandered in and the three of them started to jam. It must have been something because when our intrepid traveller returned to work and started talking about it, a look came into his eyes which led us to wonder whether he had been saved while he was away. So, naturally, we decided that if they could do that to a hard-bitten cyncial member of our staff, this was what Vancouver needed. This is Saheeb. Darol and Barbara and Mike play, along with Dave Balakrishnan and Rob Wasserman, what we like to call new-timey string band music. It’s a kind of mix of jazz, bluegrass, swing and old-timey, all thrown together and turned upside down. They do things like four-part fiddle tunes and versions of Charlie Parker’s compositions which have been described by the San Francisco Examiner as unbelievable”. So prepare yourselves for Saheeb.
Marc Savoy, Anne Savoy and Mike Doucet
History plays strange tricks on music and cajun music is certainly a product of one of these. When the Acadians were deprived of their homes by the British victory over France, the result was the cajun culture of Louisiana which has, thankfully, endured and flourished. Marc Savoy, Anne Savoy and Mike Doucet are reasons why it has. Marc and Anne live in Eunice, Louisiana where Marc runs an accordion factory and music store. He is regarded as an expert accordion maker and one of the most talented accordionists around. Mike Doucet, also from those parts, is an extraordinary fiddler while Anne Savoy rounds it out with her voice and guitar. As a trio they are accomplished performers of the traditional music of their culture whether it be dance tunes or some of the great songs. We wanted to invite them up a few years ago, but the birth of Marc and Anne’s child made it impossible. We patiently waited and now we are about to get our reward: the first time for cajun music at the Festival introduced by three of the best.
It has been a long time since Claudia Schmidt graced this Festival with her incredible voice and equally incredible songs. Claudia comes from the Midwest giving us another reason to think about Green Bay other than the home of football players. We used to consider Claudia as a singer more of other people’s material and traditional songs rather than her own. The last few years have changed that, however, and Claudia’s most recent album as well as her performances have come to include more and more original compositions. Some of these songs are unique, you could say. She’s the only person we know who has written a sympathetic portrayal of a peeping tom; another song starts out “1 was walking through the broken glass last night and thought of you”. Claudia’s also a superb dulcimer player doing things with this instrument that are all her own as well as being perhaps the world’s most dedicated pianolin virtuoso. Those of you who saw Claudia at the second Festival in 1979 will be impressed by how much her music has advanced; those of you who have not witnessed her are going to be quietly amazed.
David Sereda doesn’t think what he does is folk music, but we know better. David studied classical theatre in Edmonton and worked professionally as an actor before he decided to embrace a life of poverty in the music business. Fortunately, he’s also a classically trained piano player. His performing style is assured and dynamic; his roots in theatre have made him feel at home on the stage whether singing unaccompanied or with piano or dulcimer back up. His songs are romantic and topical, reflecting his diverse musical tastes and experiences. David is one of the first singers we have heard who deals explicitly with gay male subject matter in his music in a confident manner rather than apologetically or without making such a big deal of it that the audience is left feeling like a train had just run over them. We’ve heard a story about last year’s Festival that when one of the feminist singers got home, she was asked if she had heard any interesting women at the Festival; she was said to have replied she had heard a man that was quite incredible and that was David Sereda. Whether it be his jazzy tunes or a traditional Acadian number, David does it with talent and a great deal of style.
Silly Wizard describes what they do as wild and beautiful music from Scotland. What else can we say? They knocked out Vancouver audiences when they were here two years ago. They’re capable of the fast-paced dance tunes that most people identify with Celtic music, but also have a repertoire of beautiful traditional songs sung mainly by Andy Stewart on lead vocals accompanied by Johnny Cunningham on fiddle and mandolin, Phil Cunningham, a real wizard on accordion, with Martin Hadden and Gordon Jones completing the group on bass and guitar. They take one on a tour through the music of Scotland as they perform the songs of the Great Rebellion, love songs, instrumental pieces and compositions of their own. We can think of no better representatives of Scottish traditional and contemporary music as we welcome back Silly Wizard to Vancouver.
Alan Stivell is probably more responsible than anyone else for the revival of traditional Celtic music. He is a legend whose music has had a powerful impact on the cultural sensibilities of anyone who has heard his recordings. His album, The Renaissance of the Celtic Harp, introduced literally hundreds of thousands of people to Celtic music and his experiments with folk rock have pushed the frontiers of this music in new directions. He is one of the world’s greatest harpists and also a virtuoso on the bagpipes, bombard and fiddle amongst other things. He’s made a dozen albums ranging from traditional Breton, Irish and Scottish tunes to a Celtic symphony, and an amazing album that traces the sad history of the oppression of his native Brittany and Breton culture. Over the years Stivell has become one of the astounding performers of folk music in any tradition in any country. Alan visited Vancouver earlier this year. His concert at the Queen Elizabeth Playhouse sold out weeks in advance. We are happy to tell those of you who didn’t manage to see him then that there will be no shortage of seats at the Festival. Alan will be accompanied by Bernard Coutelan and Padrig Kerre.
If there is one group who has come to personify Canadian folk music it would be Stringband. For almost a dozen years they have been collecting and writing songs and tunes that reflect the reality of this country from one end to the other, and have taken this music to just about every corner of the land. Their recent touring has included Baker Lake in the Northwest Territories, Parliament Hill on July 1st, a fund-raising concert for the food co-op in Terrace, B.C., and the huge antinuclear demonstration in Vancouver this past April. The material that Stringband has accumulated over the years covers just about every facet of human existence, from grandparents to nuclear energy to pets to John Diefenbaker. Their repertoire has expanded as of late to include harp playing (Bob Bossin), theatrical recitations (Marie-Lynn Hammond) and a new fiddle player (Calvin Cairns) with Dennis Nichol resolutely holding up the bass end. The group is now more or less based in the west so we have an opportunity to hear Stringband more frequently. However, this has merely whetted our appetite.
Just after last year’s Festival Themba Tana walked into our office with a bunch of clippings from African newspapers, mentioning he was thinking of moving here and promptly disappeared for a number of months. The next time we saw him we got a phone number and shortly after that, a tape of some of his music. We were astounded and delighted that such a reservoir of traditional African music lives right here in Vancouver. (Being able to present this kind of music usually destroys our travel budget.) Themba comes from one of Capetown, South Africa’s three African townships, Langa. He is one of the few traditional African performers who was able to rise above the frustrations and handicaps which daunt most of those unfortunate to be born under the racist Pretoria regime. He’s spent much time studying the different South African ethnic groups’ cultures. As well Themba’s spent time in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, recording music, collecting instruments and attending various spiritual ceremonies. We think his music will have a lasting impact on everyone who hears him.
Los Trovadores de la Costa
Los Trovadores de la Costa was formed September 1979 by Artemio Posadas for the purpose of exposing in North America the jarocho and huasteca musical styles of Mexico. Jarocho music comes from the state of Veracruz and features the Mexican harp as well as the requinto jarocho, a small four string guitar which plays the melodies and the jarana jarocho to play the rhythm. Huastecan music comes from a region in Mexico located in the northeastern part of the country encompassing the states of Hidalgo, Veracruz and San Luis Potosi. Huastecan instruments include the violin, the jarana huasteca and the huapanguera, both modifications of the guitar. The lyrics are sung in a falsetto. These styles are two of the most popular of the many regional folk musics. Artemio inherited his love for music from his father, a musician who played at many dances in his home state of San Luis Potosi, and has spent much of his life studying both classical and folkloric music in various parts of Mexico. When he moved to the United States he put together Los Trovadores de la Costa. As well as himself the group consists of Russell Rodriguez who has been studying Mexican folk music since the age of 11 and specializes in guitar and its Mexican variants; Noe Motova playing a number of instruments and learning the Veracruz harp, and whose experience goes back to working with El Teatro Campesino, a well known Chicano theatre company from California, and with the United Farm Workers Union in the mid 1970s; and Ricardo Mendoza who has been active for over a decade in studying and performing Mexican folk music and has made a number of trips to different regions in Mexico to research their musics and dances. As well as being musicians, the members of the group are also accomplished folk dancers and perform the dances that traditionally accompany the music they play. Mexican music is another first for the Festival and we think that after you’ve heard Los Trovadores de la Costa you will never be able to get enough.
One of the problems that occurs when one reaches a certain level of success is that the expectations set up for that person are impossible to meet. With Valdy this took the form of everybody predicting that he was going to be the next Canadian rock star and then deciding he had failed somehow when he didn’t do what the public wanted him to do. Well, in our view, Valdy has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams by avoiding the very pitfalls that some people call success. He lives a saner life than most people exposed on AM radio and continues to develop his style of songwriting, performing before audiences who are there to hear what he has to say. Valdy was one of the pioneers and maybe the leading exponent of the kind of acoustic folk rock that stresses content more than form. His songs about his life and the people around him are both personal and universal. He is capable of writing a powerful anti-nuke song and then turning around and singing songs for children. On stage his presence draws you in and is never pretentious. We enthusiastically welcome him back to this year’s Festival.
Peter Paul Van Camp
Peter Paul Van Camp is an indescribably different poet and performer from Coshoctin, Ohio. He makes his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba where for the last few years he has become involved in children’s theatre. There are few who have heard his haunting poem “A Milkman at Heart” with its unforgettable refrain “Dairy Products!” and have not been touched to the heart by Peter’s incisive analysis of the vicissitudes of twentieth century North American life. Anyone who has heard his inspired readings such as “Casey at the Bat” will also realize the depth of Peter Paul Van Camp’s understanding of this and other masterpieces of English literature. We like to think that Peter Paul Van Camp captures the essence of what it would be like to be in the presence of Walt Whitman or Carl Sandburg at a peyote ceremony. Try it; you’ll like it.
Dave Van Ronk
He is a jazz singer, blues singer, folksinger, raconteur, student and extraordinary performer of the works of Bertholt Brecht and, God forbid, Dave Van Ronk is something of a musical legend. For well over 25 years he’s been performing traditional American music, mostly black. Unlike most of his contemporaries of the late ’50s and early ’60s Van Ronk is far better now than he was at the height of the great folk scare of the early ’60s. He can breathe so much life into an overworked tune that it’s positively frightening. He’s been more responsible than anyone else for the fact that rural blues have survived and gains new adherence. He’s been credited with almost single-handedly creating the boom in ragtime guitar playing with his record of’ “St. Louis Tickle”. As much as anyone Dave Van Ronk has created the conditions for festivals like this one to exist. Don’t blame us: blame him.
Townes Van Zandt
One of the problems of folk festivals like this is that you never really get to hear enough of some people. We and a good chunk of the audience felt that way last year about Townes Van Zandt. What could we do? Invite him back, that’s what. Townes Van Zandt is not the most dynamic performer in the world, to say the least. He just sits there and does it; no flashy stage act. But the songs he writes and the number of them he has written are almost too good to be true. Ever since last year’s Festival, it’s almost impossible to find any of Townes’s albums in a record store within 500 miles of here. For years Townes was a kind of legend heard of, but seldom heard. Then his songs started to be recorded by people like Emmylou Harris (“Poncho and Lefty” and “If I Needed You”). Townes’s songs are enigmatic and elusive. Some are narrative ballads and others are pure poetry; some sound like commercial country songs stripped to the bone with images often apocalyptic. Townes lives in Austin now and tours this way only irregularly. Better catch him while you can.
Robin and Linda Williams
Taking a variety of musical styles as a point of departure, Robin and Linda Williams have added their own singing and songwriting talents and their irrepressible energy. The result is a musical style which is strongly based in American southern traditions and yet very contemporary. Robin and Linda’s sound draws from a potpourri of influences including bluegrass, old-time, country-western, blues and white and black gospel music. Using their versatile vocal skills and their instrumental talents on guitars, banjo and mouth harp, the Williams produce as much sound as can be found issuing from many full-sized bands. Their originality is enhanced by the songs they’ve penned themselves, many of which have made it into the repertoires of other performers. They live in the beautiful country of rural Virginia and produce the kind of harmony singing that only seems to come out of the south. Their music is straight to the point, honest and clean as a mountain stream.
The Vancouver Folk Music Festival announces with deep regret the fact that Cris Williamson will not be able to attend this year’s Festival because of medical reasons. Each year, it seems, fate intervenes and somebody whom we were all looking forward to having at the Festival, cannot join us; we suppose that it is impossible to bring together almost 200 people without this happening. We are sorry that those of you for whom Cris’ attendance at the Festival was something special will be disappointed. We are also sad that those not familiar with her music will not get the opportunity to hear her this weekend. We will be presenting Cris in concert at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre this September and hope that she will be able to come to next year’s Festival.
Privileged to have Takeo Yamashiro with us to make the introduction. Takeo was trained in the traditional Japanese style, studying seven years with Master Shuzan Yamashita in Kyoto. His instrument is the shakuhachi, the Japanese bamboo flute. In 1971 he was promoted to Uchideshi (protege and successor of Master Kofu Kikusui). Shortly after this, Takeo took some time off to travel and decided to settle in Vancouver. For 10 years he has performed traditional Japanese music in a number of settings in Canada and the United States. He’s also worked with various theatre groups and composed and performed the soundtracks for two films. We are told by people who know that Takeo Yamashiro is one of the finest shakuhachi players anywhere. Takeo will be joined at the Festival by Minoru Sumimoto (Master of the Kinko School). We are eagerly looking forward to having these superlative Japanese musicians share with us a beautiful and powerful music.