Los De Abajo – Mexico
Starting off in 1992 and considered by the Mexican music industry to have little commercial potential, Los De Abajo took it to the streets themselves. They put out two albums on cassette and travelled around the country playing where they could and arousing passion along the way.
Having heard about the Luaka Bop label and its simpatico relationship with Latino music of the left, the band sent off their tapes. David Byrne liked what he heard so much that he got personally involved in mixing their album and with its design. The 1998 release of their self-titled CD increased their international profile.
Performing in other countries opened LOA’s ears. What began as a four-member Latin ska group expanded into eight musicians bringing salsa, reggae, and cumbia into their sound. Returning full circle, the band increasingly found inspiration in their Mexican roots, adding Vera Cruz son jarocho and banda sinaloense regional styles to the mix. Their next album, Cybertropic Chilanga Power, won the BBC 3 World Music Award for the Americas.
They have been strong supporters of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in Chiapas, Mexico, fighting for the rights of Mexico’s indigenous people. Their latest video, Resistencia, features Zapatista Commander Esther. Pouring out their strong brew into benefit performances for the movement. Los De Abajo say they “mix the global with the local.”
Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara – United Kingdom/Gambia
The blues compass has been pointing to West Africa for decades, with musicians seeking to trace their back to ancient music. Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara sound like they’ve uncovered music that’s been playing forever just beyond our hearing. We’ve never heard it before but instantly recognize it.
Adams spent years playing with Jah Wobble’s Invaders of the Heart and was encouraged to follow his own heart toward Middle Eastern and North African music. The son of a diplomat, Adams says he was “nostalgic for my childhood in Arabic countries.” While working as a producer and sideman with Billy Bragg and Natacha Atlas, he was also developing his own solo CD, Desert Road. This led to producing albums for heavy Sahara rockers Tinariwen and an invitation from Robert Plant to tour and record with his band, Strange Sensation. Relentlessly exploring all kinds of music, Adams describes how he felt on seeing a video of three Gambian riti (one string fiddle) players, one of whom turned out to be Juldeh Camara. lt sounded like “the missing link between The Velvet Underground, Fela Kuti, and the Clash.”
Juldeh Camara was born in Basse, Gambia, and is a member of the Fula nationality. Regarded as one of the finest riti players in West Africa, he also makes the instrument and composes for it. Juldeh sings both traditional songs and ones he has composed. First recording in 1990, he began touring Europe half a dozen years ago.
Together Adams and Camara have fashioned a blend of African music and bJues with undertones of Celtic, reggae, and surf guitar to boot. Camara’s riti scratches thrqugh the sliding intonations of wailing blues, and his singing is pure R&B, rough-edged, seductive, and solid. Adams’ guitarbridges Bo Diddley and traditional Manding music.
Their collaboration resulted in the album Soul Science, which received the BBC Radio 3 Culture Crossing Award in 2008. The duo’s second album, Tell No Lies; has just been released to equally exuberant response. Their original sound has made them one of the most acclaimed of the new African cross cultural partnerships.
Matt Anderson – New Brunswick
From Great Big Sea to the Rankin Family, Rita MacNeil, and bad boy Ashley Maclsaac, the Maritimes have given us a disproportionate amount of amazing music over the years. Maybe it’s some old country, bred-in the-bone DNA thing that sees them reflexively reach for the rosin or tune up the D string every chance they get. Then again it could just be the love of a good, rowdy kitchen party.
New Brunswick’s Matt Andersen came out of that tradition, with a grandfather who played fiddle and a mother who treadled the organ at Sunday church services. Nevertheless, young Matt didn’t pick up a guitar until he was 14. He was away at school for a year in London, Ontario, when he first heard a live blues band and was blown away by the power and energy of the music. Back home a job making pizza pockets and cakes at the sprawling McCain Foods plant just couldn’t keep his attention: he opted for music full time.
Over seven years he developed an enviable reputation as a solo artist playing area clubs and gatherings, belting out his signature classic roots and vintage blues covers. In the past couple of years he’s released two original CDs to great acclaim that have sent him on busy tours headlining major festivals, clubs, and theatres all over North America. Matt has shared the stage and toured with Randy Bachman, America, the late Bo Diddley, Little Feat. and a host of others.
Matt Andersen is a very real, rare, raw talent and career artist, a charismatic personality whose stage presence has earned him a fervent and steadfast audience wherever he goes. His sprawling blues, roots, and rock musical hybrid coupled with his soulful voice have sparked a phenomenal buzz on Canada’s East Coast. That grass roots word of mouth cannot be contained any longer.
Darol Anger, Mike Marshall with Vasen – United States/Sweden
Let’s just say you need a scorecard to keep track of violinist Darol Anger and mandolin-meister Mike Marshall’s careers. The pair came to prominence in David Grisman’s genre-bending 1970s quintet forging what was called “newgrass” and “dawg.” lt was a folk jazz-bluegrass hybrid of dizzying improvisational virtuosity where all that was important was blowing up boundaries. In 1981 they debuted at this festival in an ensemble called Saheeb that soon became the award-winning Montreaux Band. Darol went on to create the Turtle Island String Quartet, while Mike formed his own Modern Mandolin group. They teamed up again to form the “nu grass” band Psychograss, ever-explorative synthesizers of jazz, rock, classical, and whatever else happened to ·pop up. The dawn of the 21st century saw them back on the road with their long-lived Anger-Marshall Duo.
Sweden’s Vasen provides a perfect complement to Anger and MarshalI. This eclectic, acoustic, and musically irreverent trio features Roger Tallroth on a 12-string guitar (tuned to a downright odd A-D-A-D-A-D), Mikael Marin on violin, and Olov Johansson on the nyckelharpa, a bowed instrument with antecedents to the hurdy-gurdy-a kind of “keyed fiddle” that makes an amazing sound.
Johanssen and Marin started playing together as teenagers and during the early ’80s made a point of finding and learning from older, more accomplished local players. In 1989 at a music gathering in Roros, Norway, Johansson met Tallroth and invited him to jam. Tallroth was much more interested in taking a shower but, fortunately, the stalls were all occupied, so the three spent the night making music. The next morning one listener offered to start a label for them if they stayed together. They did.
Vasen was very much aware and admiring of Anger and Marshal! and vice versa. They finally met at the Lotus World Music Festival in Bloomington, Indiana, in 2004, where a jam was hastily arranged, a stage found, and results were magical. The next obvious step was to take the show on the road. Now we’re the winners as we get to listen to this unique combination of artists who have made “unlikely” their motto.
Arrested Development – United States
The rap of pimps, guns and bling this ain’t. Founded in the late 80s, Arrested Development took the light, funky sound of the early Native Tongues school of hip-hop, blended in the folk-blues instrumentation of their native American South, including harmonica and acoustic guitars, added uplifting, gospel-tinged lyrics, and became one of the most successful crossover acts in rap. For more than 15 years, this progressive music collective has been nudging audiences toward spiritual evolution and social responsibility. They are about consciousness, the earth, African self-determination, and love.
Self-defined as hip-hop artists, Arrested Development are also dancers, vocalists, turntablists, drummers, and everything in between. They have always been a communal music project with any number of talented members on board. Front man Speech may be the most known member of the group that includes Dionne Farris, Eshe (Black Life), Rasa Don (Raz), Baba Oje (the elder), Nicha, and others contributing much to this kaleidoscope of image and sound.
Mr. Wendal, their biggest hit to date, humanizes the homeless on our streets; the National Coalition for the Homeless received half the royalties. They were the first African-American artists to donate money to Nelson Mandela and the ANC to help their sisters and brothers in South Africa. When they won audience favourite oi1 NBC’s Hit Me, Baby, One More Time in 2005, they donated $20,000 to UNICEF for Sudan relief. True activists, yes-and great artists too.
Their Tennessee won the MTV Award for Best Rap Single in 1992, while People Everyday, a funky treatment of the immortal Sly Stone anthem Everyday People, won them a 1992 MTV video award. The same year they won two Grammys: Best New Artist and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
After a lengthy hiatus, Arrested Development reformed to again shake the booties, hearts, and minds of listeners across the planet. With rockin’ samples, live instruments, bold scratching, and organic sounds, they’re still bringing the heat and still building the bridges.
Bellowhead – United Kingdom
It all began when the British duo of John Spiers on meoldenon and Jon Boden on fiddle and vocals had a thought, a vision of something much, much grander than what they do just by themselves. The plan was to gather a talented collective of disparate musicians into a group capable of playing many styles, idioms, and textures from all over the globe-big band to soul to jazz-funk to classical strings-always retaining at heart a deep sensitivity for the essence of traditional English music. And so was born and first unleashed on an unsuspecting audience at the Oxford Festival in April 2004, Bellowhead.
From the get-go the 11-piece group, combining bellows, all sorts of brass, percussion, and everything from bouzouki and fiddle to cello and pipes, were a riotous success and almost immediately voted Best Live Group at the 2005 BBC Folk Awards. They put together a five-track demo strictly meant for promoters, but when it was leaked to the public the band was forced to release it. Mojo Magazine gave it a five-star review.
Their first full album, Burlesque, was released in 2006 to universal critical acclaim, garnering awards and plaudits everywhere due to “its flowing stream of humour, intelligence, meticulous research, and free-ranging imagination,” leaving fans and reviewers searching for ever-greater superlatives. Come 2007 they had won both Best Group and Best Live Band at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and launched a tour through Europe, including stops at the Big Chill and Glastonbury.
When Bellowhead’s on stage you hear everything from ceilidh tunes and morris dance to military bands, shanties, ballads and New Orleans jazz, with a dash of Kurt Weill. Boden’s splendid vocals recount colourful tales of cholera, whiskey and nefarious deeds on the high seas.
Now three-time winners of the BBC Folk Awards, Bellowhead has released Matachin and is crossing the Atlantic and the continent to bring its unique blend of theatricality and musicianship to this festival. Get ready for some rip-roaring, musical exuberant, gleefully anarchic, brilliant culturally criss-crossing big band folk.
Geoff Berner – British Columbia
Every artist has a goal. Geoff expresses his succinctly: “Iwant to drag klezmer music kicking and screaming back into the bars I want to make original klezmer music that’s drunk, dirty, political, and passionate. As a Jew of eastern European descent, I feel I have a calling to make this music live, not just preserve it under glass like something in a museum.” And that is what he has done.
Since he first recorded and started performing around his Vancouver hometown in 2001, Geoff has startled the unwary and delighted the more perceptive with his aggressive voice, accordion, and thoroughly original collection of songs. One of them, Light Enough to Travel, was an honest-to-God hit in the hands of the Be Good Tanyas, selling over 100,000 copies. His growing reputation as the half wunderkind, half enfant terrible of folk has allowed him to tour non-stop, performing hundreds of shows across Canada and Europe from the North Cape of Norway to Vienna.
With the 2005 release of his third CD, Whiskey Rabbi, Geoff embraced a consistent style: klezmer informed with the anarchic energy and passion of punk. Whiskey Rabbi was the first of a trilogy, followed by The Wedding ‘Dance of the Widow Bride and, in January of this year, Klezmer Mongrels. This last effort, as its title implies, contains several hymns to miscegenation:Luck in Exile celebrats what happens when a Swedish girl and Somali boy get their “backfields in motion,” while Half-German Girlfrend is a Bavarian-style description of Geoff’s home life. Other new songs describe the efforts of the rich to evade the current crisis (High Ground) and the life and death of Odessa’s best-knownJewish crime boss (King of the Gangsters). it is an epic effort that establishes Geoff Berner as a contender in both song writing and performance categories.
Throughout Geoff’s musical travels he has been accompanied by Diona Davies on Violin and Wayne Adams on percussion. They have become an organic part of Geoff’s sound and will join him at this year’s festival.
Mark Berube and the Patriotic Few – Quebec
A powerful and innovative songwriter, Mark Berube spent some of his formative years living in Swaziland. When nine-year-old Mark heard the South African pop star, Brenda Fassie, perform at teh Somhlolo Soccer Stadium during a match, he had an epiphany of sorts. In an era when apartheid’s crushing grip sill held sway in neighbouring South Africa, the stadium concert reverberated with young Mark.
When this life-defining experience is added to Mark’s Manitoban-Quebecois roots, together with a stylistically diverse repertoire that eagerly lends itself to his modern, indie folk sound and a voice that disarms audiences, the result is multifaceted and amazing.
Mark resides in Montreal while maintaining a strong connection with his former home and musical collaborators in Vancouver. He visits the festival to play piano and guitar with a new list of band mates. The Patriotic Few are an eclectic group of musicians and powerhouses in their own domains. Jesson Moen plays bass, mandolin, and melodica; Patrick Dugas is on drums and percussion; Dina Cindric adds accordion and piano; and Kristina Koropecki plays cello. They all contribute their vocal abilities to the mix.
Berube has released four CDs. What the River Gave the Boat came out in 2007and offers an insightful, personal statement defined by rhythmic and lyrical twists and turns. Mark often uses string arrangements to bring a sweet classical element to his songs. Last year M.ark released a companion piece, What the Boat Gave the River.Playing over a hundred nights a year in Canada, the United States, and Europe for the past few years has honed Mark Berube’s performance chops to a fine point. Now backed by a new band, he is cutting a fresh wake.
The Blue Voodoo – British Columbia
This polished and versatile blues quartet mixes a bit of country acoustic blues with a whole lot of big city R&B. With their interpretations of the classics and their original songs, The Blue Voodoo have wowed fans in nearly every blues venue from Vancouver to Halifax. After nearly 10 years on the road, they have evolved into a tight unit that can deliver a dark and gritty Mississippi Delta sound on one tune, come back with a driving guitar solo that transports you to a Texas honky-tonk the next, then ease into a soulful melody featuring sublime slide guitar.
The band formed in the Lower Mainland when Chris Weekes (drums), Rick Dagararo (guitar), and Ted Tosoff (guitar) met through playing at local blues jams. They released their first recording three years later and then went on a roll with another five since then: Sparkle and Shine and Red Hot Blues (2004), The Storm (2005), and Hot Wire and Back to the Shack (2007).
Three years ago Gerry Berg (bass guitar) and Kelly Stodola (drums) replaced founding member Weekes. Without missing a beat, Blue Voodoo went on to become one of Canada’s most popular blues outfits, winning numerous accolades from both the Western Canadian Music Awards and the Toronto Blues Society.
Bars, clubs and honky-tonks have always been a home for the blues. That’s where working people go to unwind, flirt, and hear some live music: sometimes they want to dance and sometimes just sit and contemplate life. Blues is a perfects music for either emotion, and successful bands can read an audience’s mood, either going with a mellow flow or sending a jolt of energy that gets them on their feet. The Blue Voodoo are masters at this, and they’ll be sure to have the festival folks in the park swaying to the rhythms, pondering the times they’ve been done wrong, or dancing up a dust storm.
Bop Ensemble – Alberta/British Columbia
Question: What happens when two veteran singer songwriters combine forces with a new-on-the scene singing, dancing bass player from a group calledLily’s on Mars? Answer: Bop Ensemble.
Bill Bourne’s and Wyckham Porteous’s eyes may have widened a tad when Edmonton’s Jasmine “Jas” Ohlhauser brought her hoop dancing into the mix to raise the energy of their music and launch them into the world of performance art. The grit of Bourne, warmth of Porteous, and energetic devilment of Jas adds up to the equivalent of catching lightening in a bottle.
No stranger to festival audiences, or to unusual musicalcollaborations, Edmonton’s Bill Bourne is cut from classic troubadour cloth. In 1990 he won a Juno Award for his consummate album Dance and Celebrate, recorded with piper Alan Macleod. In 2000 Bill repeated with another Juno for Tricontinental, his wonderful partnership with Lester Quitzau and Madagascar Slim. He recently teamed up with Farce Island singer Eiv0r Palsdottir on Eivor to win Song Album of the Year for Fol.k at the 2006 Danish Music Awards.
Wyckham Porteous, who has made his home in East Vancouver for many years, matches Bourne’s nearly legendary status. Wyckham has been described as “Leonard Cohen meets Harry Dean Stanton: a warm, warm performer whose voice is like a bottle of wine who has matured into a friend.” He started recording in 1989 and released his latest album, 3 AM, in 2007. His work has garnered multiple award nominations. Porteous also composes, performs, and enjoys success as a poet and playwright.
From Edmonton and the wild card of the trio, newly minted singer-songwriter, bassist, and dancer Jas Ohlhauser hurls a youthful exuberance and fire into the musical amalgamation.
When these three diverse powers of nature join their talents and imagination on stage as Bap Ensemble, expect some spectacular lightening that likely won’t stay confined for long.
The Breakmen – British Columbia
The Breakmen are playing a leading role in the new generation of talented acoustic musicians currently flourishing on our West Coast. They play working folks’ music – honest and pure. A little time in their presence will do your soul some serious good.
When Archie Pateman (banjo, guitar), Mat hew Lawson (bass), Ben Rogalsky (mandolin, guitar, harmonic, banjo), and Lee Watson (guitar, mandolin) got together in 2005 to work on each other’s songs, one thing led to another. Before long they had banded together as The Breakmen, found an enthusiastic audience, and began playing to sold-out houses.
Released in 2006, the band’s self-titled debut album became a hit across Canada and remained on The Roots Music Review Top 50 chart for nine months. lt was rare to turn on CBC, or any roots music radio station anywhere in the country, and not hear their songs.
With a few hundred performances under their belts, the band has matured into a distinctive voice in Canadian roots music, with a potent blend of b\uegrass, old-time folk, and vintage country influences. Known for tight vocal harmonies, creative instrumental work, and contagious stage energy, The Breakmen have also attracted international attention.
The band went back to the studio last fall and released new tunes on When You Leave Town in October. Its 10 original tracks and two great cover songs, Bruce Springsteen’s Racing in the Street and I Belong to the Band by Rev. Gary Davis, have only added to the band’s ever-growing reputation for pure excellence.
For some soul-satisfying tunes, find a spot and throw your blanket down in front of The Breakmen. With musical influences that run the gamut from Bill Monroe to Willie P. Bennett, Nina Simone, and vintage Hank Williams, fine listening is guaranteed.
Basia Bulat – Ontario
“I love songs that I can sing along to,” Basia Bulat says and then corrects herself, “no, songs that youwant to sing along to.” In the three short years since she released her first EP, it’s apparent that this increasingly popular singer and songwriter is inspiring an ever-growing number of fans who do want to sing along with her. Among them are the folks who decide the nominees for the prestigious $20,000 Polaris Music Prize. Basia’s first full-length album, Oh My Darling, made it to their shortlist.
Born in Toronto, Basia began her musical training at age three when she and her music-teacher mother would sit at the piano picking out tunes. The family radio was glued to the “oldies” station, and she grew up listening as the songs of the Motown and Stax legends, The Beatles, Beach Boys, and Sam Cooke worked their way into her DNA. Basia continued her musical training through high school and along the way learned to play a small orchestra’s worth of instruments: guitar, auto harp, banjo, ukulele, upright bass, sax, and flute.
Her breakthrough came while attending university in London, Ontario. Basia decided to move to Montreal for the summer of 2006, where she met record producer Howard Bilerman, cashed some student loans, and went into the studio to make a demo. Even though Basia’s voice gave out partway through the session, when Geoff Travis of England’s Rough Trade records heard her recordings he recognized the magical songwriting hooks and heartfelt performances that have been drawing listeners into Bulat’s world ever since. These demos formed the songs that eventually became Oh, My Darling.
Basia’s beautiful soulful voice embodies her earliest musical influences. Her innovative arrangements and catchy melodies combined with a hot July weekend at Jericho Beach will surely make Bulat’s festival performances the stuff of legend. And, if we’re lucky, Basia will sing Touch the Hem of his Garment, the old Sam Cooke song she recently recorded to bring her influences full circle.
CaneFire – Ontario
In the lands where sugar cane grows, a cane fire is known for its dynamism and intensity, sweeping all behind nitrate-rich ash, before it. Cane fires also leave an organic fertilizer that works to prepare the fields for future growth without artificial additives. So it is with Toronto’s CaneFire-dynamic, intense, and fertile-creating a new music fashioned out of a myriad of Caribbean traditions, jazz, and the original vision of bandleader, founder, pianist, and composer Jeremy Ledbetter.
One of the unique things about Canefire is the role of the steel pan, better known in these parts as the steel drum, Trinidad’s contribution to the world’s instruments and the only petroleum by-product that is good for you. Under the hands of Marc Mosca, the pan plays a leading role in Canefire, along with Ledbetter’s keyboards, Max Senitt’s drums, percussion by Albert Suarez, Alexis Bar6’s trumpet, saxophone by Braxton Hicks, and the bass of Yoser Rodriguez.
Jeremy, who cut his chops as musical director for calypso legend David Rudder, formed CaneFire in 2005. He wanted to shatter the stereotypes associated with Caribbean music, so don’t expect to hear Hot Hot Hot or Yellow Bird. CaneFire plays music that blends the Latin and African folk traditions of the Caribbean with Trinidadian carnival and not so straight ahead jazz: French Caribbean zouk, Puerto Rican plena, Brazilian samba and olodun, a variety of Cuban rhythms from songo to chachalokefun, blues, and all of it smothered in Trinidadian calypso and steel band.
The tunes are an intriguing mixture of influences from everywhere, and the solos draw on the deep roots of the players, with the steelpan always bringing it all home. The band members hail from Canada, Cuba, and Trinidad. Their accumulated training and performance credits are as impressive as they are diverse: from Percy Sledge to the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. They’ve played festivals from Trinidad to Halifax, but this is their first trip to Vancouver and sure to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship with Canada’s West Coast.
Eliana Cuevas – Ontario
Eliana Cuevas came to Canada from Venezuela to study at the University of Toronto and stayed to introduce Canadian audiences to a unique repertoire of original songs that transcends all boundaries.
A performer of Latin jazz, for lack of a better term, Eliana is first and foremost a singer and songwriter. The vehicle for her songs is a heady brew concocted from a multiplicity of Latin American musical traditions stretching from Cuba to Brazil to Peru to her native Venezuela, where there’s lots of jazz and also rumba, samba, and more. Some of this Eliana picked up in her home country and then learned more in her adopted country as she performed for years with some of Toronto’s top Latin ensembles.
While singing the songs of others, Eliana was writing her own, and when she stepped forward to lead her own band she had a body of work of startling originality. Her writing embraces the many facets of human existence. There is humorous speculation of what life would be like if the day had 30 hours and a tribute to women who survive through living hope-esperanza viva. She breaks our hearts with a song about a homeless man on a winter street in 20 Degrees Below Zero and lifts them with Cualidad Sgarada (Sacred Quality), a love song about honesty.
Her songs cover the full experience of life, served up with an often deceptively jaunty musical style. To do the serving,Eliana has assembled a brilliant cast drawn from Toronto’s seemingly endless pool of great musicians. To this festival she brings pianist Jeremy Ledbetter, here with his own CaneFire; Luis Orbegoso, a stellar percussionist who has been part of her ensemble since its creation; award-winning Cuban percussionist Diego de las Heras; and Ross MacIntyre, one of Canada’s finest bassists.
Eliana’s work was recently rewarded by her election as Latin Jazz Artist of the Year in the National Jazz Awards poll. She tours widely across Canada and has performed in BC numerous times. This is her first appearance at this festival
The Ebony Hillbillies – United States
The Mississippi Sheiks were a widely popular guitar and fiddle string band from Jackson, Mississippi, in the mid-1920s. Riding a wave of real fame well into the ’30s, they left behind a rich tradition and repertoire all but forgotten in the 21st century.
When fiddler and singer Henrique Prince met banjo player and singer Norris Bennett at an audition for a New York bluegrass band, they eventually repaired to Grand Central Station, where they spontaneously started in on their own take of Shenendoah. Then and there The Ebony Hillbillies were born, inspired by the Mississippi Sheiks and others from that earlier era.
Already an institution on the streets of Manhattan and on numerous concert and festival stages worldwide, The Ebony Hillbillies have maintained their grassroots credibility with a nothing’s-off-limits repertoire that pays homage to tradition and keeps an eye and ear on the present and future. They play a mix of tasty originals and unique renditions of classics we know and love-Cotton Eyed Joe, Shenandoah, Liza lane, Oh Susanna, Cluck 01′ Hen, Jericho-and wonderfully unexpected contemporary pop and soul songs like Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing.
“These songs are part of Americana,” Prince says, “but because of the directions commercial music has pushed everyone into and the fact that in black communities, mainly because of the banjo, the music was maligned because of its association with Jim Crow and other unpleasant things, the art form has been somewhat forgotten. Old time string band music is important because the roots of the modern jazz and blues, including the first evidence of syncopation, can be found there.”
The Ebony Hillbillies have played for the working stiffs headed for the Long Island Line and the swells at Carnegie Hall. As one of the last black string bands in the United States-the only one currently based in New York City-the Hillbillies keep an important legacy alive wherever they pluck their strings. Led by Prince (fiddle, vocals) and Bennett (banjo, mountain dulcimer, guitar, vocals), the band currently features William “Salty Bill” Salter on acoustic bass and A. R. on washboard and percussion.
Jonathan Edwards – United States
For 25-year-old Jonathan Edwards from flyover Aitkin, Minnesota, 1971 was a very good year indeed. From cars and kitchens and stereo receivers the size of apple crates, everywhere you turned, Atlantic to Pacific, his song Sunshine was playing.
You know it: “Sunshine go away today, don’t feel much like dancing/Some man’s gone he’s tried to run my life, don’t know what he’s asking.”
Interestingly, that song only got on the radio by the flightiest of serendipity. In the studio the recording engineer accidentally erased the last tune on the master tape of Edwards’ debut album -they spent hours looking for it-and finally had to find a quick substitution. Sunshine got on air. The engineer got fired.
Born in Minnesota, Edwards grew up in Virginia and only started playing guitar and making up songs while attending military school. He blew off college, moved to the then music rich Boston area, put together a band and started playing “6-40” gigs evenings working six 40 minute sets-all over the New England area. One band morphed into another, Headstone Circus to Finite Minds to Sugar Creek, until it was time to go solo. He worked the colleges in New England, just setting up in dorm lobbies, and pretty soon developed a following.
Eventually he was booked to open for acts like the Allman Brothers Band and B. B. King, and landed a deal with Capricorn Records. And like a bolt from the heavens he had himself a hit, his own anti-Viet Nam protest. Post Sunshine, Edwards went on to explore country music, recorded an album for kids among other projects, backed Emmylou Harris on her sophomore Elite Hotel album and later teamed with ace bluegrassers the Seldom Scene.
In the years since, this versatile and ever evolving artist has turned his hand to musical theatre, acting, narrating, and scoring music for soundtracks in addition to recording a new Jive CD. His First Annual Farewell Tour in 2001 proved prophetic, and he’s often on the road. Wherever his explorations take him, the voice, storytelling, and wit of Jonathan Edwards mark him as an Americana original.
Joel Fafard – British Columbia
Joel Fafard is one of a rare breed of instrumentalists: the kind whose appeal reaches far beyond the realm of serious guitar enthusiasts. He’s a fine songwriter and singer who has also become known as a gifted and funny raconteur, and, with that guitar and slide in his hands, the man is blazingly good. When he sinks his chops into a number like Face Down in the Rhubarb, let’s just say that serious guitar enthusiasts aren’t disappointed either.
Fafard was raised in Pense, Saskatchewan, a village of some 500 souls, where the stars are diamond clear and the roads remain unpaved. In his world a life devoted to the arts wasn’t such an odd aspiration-his father, Joe Fafard, is one of Canada’s premier sculptors and a recipient of the Order of Canada.
Fafard Jr. started on the guitar at age 15 and was lucky enough to get introductory lessons from Jack Semple, now one of the country’s finest multi-genre players. Joel later came out this way to study at Capilano College (now University) and makes his home on the Sunshine Coast.
He’s released three CDs, most recently Three Hens Escape Oblivion, and has been nominated for and won numerous awards, including a Western Canadian Music Awards win in 2006 and a 2007 Juno nomination. In 2008 Regina’s Globe Theatre commissioned Fafard to write a one-person show of tunes and stories; his music was featured in the TV shows Alice, I Think and Road Trip Nation; and he co-scored the Middle of Somewhere TV series with Jason Plumb.
In the last year and a half, Fafard also found time to tour across Canada and New Zealand as well as Europe and twice to the West Coast of the United States. He has also appeared with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and was honoured to have his tune Megan and the Wascana Cyclone included in Mel Bay’s Master Anthology of Fingerstyle Guitar Solos, Volume 3.
A Prairie boy transplanted to the Pacific coast guitarist and entertainer Joel Fafard is definitely out here making some waves.
Roy Forbes – British Columbia
“It’s only two blocks long,” says Roy Forbes, as though that makes any difference, as though that’s going to diminish the fact that in June 2007 the guy actually had a street named after him in hometown Dawson Creek, BC; Roy Forbes Drive. His mother can even see it from her kitchen window.
There wasn’t much happening in early 1950s Dawson Creek when young Roy came along. There were still wooden sidewalks, and the local Co-Op was the big store in town. Nobody had N yet, just radio. You bought your records at the Dawson Music Shop, especially the new little 45s, and lucky little Ray had a passel of older sisters who brought home all the rockin’ platters. The baby of the family, they called him Bim.
Fast forward a decade or two, and Bim became his professional name when he alighted in Vancouver. Over the next three decades, he would forge a significant Canadian music career playing his acoustic Gurian with the grit and aggro of a rock and roller. He was preternaturally blessed with a unique voice: part Hank, part Billie Holiday, part Robert Plant, and startlingly soulful.
From the early albums, Kid Full of Dreams and Raincheck on Misery. through the career-spanning compilation Almost Overnight and the latest, Some Tunes for That Mother of Mine, there would be nine solo albums plus two collaboration CDs with Bill Henderson and Shari Ulrich as UHF. Punctuating innumerable concert tours and festival performances were a couple of Juno nominations and a nice handful of West Coast Music Awards, not to mention production credits on the likes of Connie Kaldor recordings.
These days Forbes also finds time to produce a weekly radio show called Roy’s Record Room, featuring his extensive vinyl collection for Alberta’s mighty CKUA Radio Network. Radio host to producer to performing songwriter, Roy Forbes has been an indispensable musical force in these parts for almost 40 years.
Fito Garcia Afro-Cuban Bass Ensemble – British Columbia
Fito Garcia has appeared at this festival five times before – this time he leads his own group. Fito came to Canada from Guatemala in the early ’80s. He joined the refugee new music based on Guatemalan traditions and touring to build solidarity with the struggle against the military regime then ruling his homeland. In the early ’90s, he joined Ancient Cultures, a pan-Latin American group that helped pioneer the acceptance of Canadian “world music” and won a Juno in the bargain. Both these groups have performed at past Vancouver Folk Music Festivals.
To this year’s festival Garcia brings a unique ensemble of his own creation, one that will turn a few heads and stimulate more than a few feet. An accomplished bassist, Fito really loves the instrument. The concept of an ensemble that combines this love with his attachment to Afro-Cuban music makes perfect sense. However, no one has ever put together a Latih band to feature the bass as the lead instrument-not just one bass but several.
At the concert for the release of their CD Mi Bajo Rumbero, Fito and three more of Vancouver’s best bassists were accompanied on stage by Marlin Ramazzini – one of BC’s finest Latin singers and Fito’s wife-other vocalists, and a brilliant percussion section. In the Fito Garcia Afro-Cuban Bass Ensemble, the bass takes the lead.
Fito has created a repertoire of mainly original compositions, all designed to feature the surprisingly diverse possibilities of the electric bass. Rather than acting as the rhythmic foundation, Fito performs solos with joyous and passionate abandon before falling back to provide a rock solid foundation for the voices and percussion. This group takes both the bass and the Afro-Cuban beat “further” with their music. It’s a celebration of a rich tradition, an excursion past the borders of the known musical universe into uncharted territory, and a sonic victory for Fito Garcia a quarter century after his arrival in Vancouver.
Amos Garrett Acoustic Trio with Doug Cox – Alberta and British Columbia
For years and years, successive generations of guitar players have listened in awe to the soaring lyricism of Amos Garrett’s instrumental solo midway through Maria Muldaur’s 1974 hit Midnight at the Oasis, and asked “How the hell does he do that?”
It’s 38 seconds of pure guitar wizardry. And as to how he did it, well, something about bending strings. That’s it. After that you’re on your own. Garrett’s technique and stunning taste have landed him in the guitar chair on more than 200 albums with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder, and Paul Butterfield. He’s a master of understated guitar licks that sound simple but need 40 years of hard work to pull off. On his own recordings and in performance he also emerges as a wonderfully soulful singer.
Born in Detroit, Garrett moved to Canada with his family when he was four. After playing with various local groups in Montreal and Toronto and following a half-hearted stab at university, he chose music. His first professional gig was with ’60s JFK impersonator Vaughn Meador at, amazingly, Carnegie Hall.
Garrett was on Anne Murray’s Snowbird session, played in Ian and Sylvia’s Great Speckled Bird, and, following the Midnight at the Oasis recording, was Maria Muldaur’s bandleader for six years. He was also a member of Paul Butterfield’s legendary band Better Days and won a Juno for his work on a classic Stony Plain album called The Return of the Formerly Brothers.
These days Garrett’s schedule appears non-stop, touring Britain, Europe, places in Canada, and a 14-date trip to Japan in the last year or so alone. His latest recording, Get Way Back: A Tribute to Percy Mayfield, “the poet laureate of the blues,” was his tenth on the Stony Plain label.
Garrett’s six strings, four decades of know-how, rich baritone, and dry wit add up to one of the finest artists you’re likely to see on a stage. Together with his band mates and master musician Doug Cox on dobro and whatever else you have with strings, this is a must-see ensemble.
Doug Cox – British Columbia
Hot on the heels and fresh off the ferry from the wildly successful Vancouver Island MusicFest (July 10-12 in Courtney) where he serves as artistic director, Doug Cox – composer and virtuoso multi-instrumentalist-is clearly a multi-tasker extraordinaire. At our festival he’s wearing his musician hat. You’ll find him performing as a featured guest with Amos Garrett and company as well as in a workshop on his own. Primarily regarded as one of the finest dobro players around, he also spends time on guitar, Weissenborn, National mandolin, and other slidey instruments. He’s known as a musician’s musician, widely recognized for his incredible technique and mastery of a wide variety of roots music. Doug’s concerts with Amos Garrett are a must-see festival appointment, and his participation in any workshop is guaranteed to deliver some musical surprises.
Liza Garza – United States
Liza Garza is a Mexican-American from Flint, Michigan, northwest of Detroit-the troubled city that was a focus of Michael Moore’s documentary Roger & Me and one with a history of urban violence. Garza’s gritty environment greatly affected her outlook, prompting her to become a poet and vocalist dedicated to promoting social change in the community. “I witnessed so much being born and raised in Flint, and a lot of my writings touch on motherhood and urban life,” she has said. “Regarding influences, I’m severely touched by sincerity, truth, reflection, and discourse with the self.”
Music and a strong family environment were the ingredients that enabled Garza to flourish. With her mother playing guitar and her father on drums, music was a part of family gatherings, though Liza is the first in the family to make a career in the arts.
She has emerged as a rare soul, a poet and vocalist who possesses the uncommon ability to keep listeners captivated while provoking social action in the community. She was featured on HBO’s audacious, uncensored late-night series Russel Simmons Presents Def Poetry. You Never Knew Until I Spoke, her first book of poetry, was published in 2005. The release of her debut album BloomBeautiful followed in October 2006.
Infused with the spirit of hip hop, BloomBeautiful is a tapestry of poems and ballads reminiscent of Mexican folk tunes and displays Liza’s diversity through song and spoken word. As recognition for her work grows, she has been invited to share the stage with many respected musicians and luminaries including Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, Amir Sulaiman, and Jill Scott.
With a degree in performance activism from the University of Michigan, Flint, Liza is a sought-after speaker at colleges, universities, and conferences on topics related to women, hip hop, and culture. “If you can be brave enough to be truly sincere, then it doesn’t matter what you express, or even how you express your ideas, your passions, your pains, or your joys. It transcends words.”
Dick Gaughan – United Kingdom
Possessing a voice resplendent with all the linguistic lilt of his homeland, Scots singer Dick Gaughan is an unforgettable artist able to change the way you think and feel through the power of song and music. One moment he sings tender traditional ballads that capture your heart and the next stirs the fires of the spirit with his uncompromising commentary on social injustice.
Growing up in Leith, a seaport adjacent to Edinburgh, within a family of many traditional singers and musicians, Gaughan naturally took up the trade. He joined the venerable Scots, Irish, Shetland combo The Boys of the Lough on a couple of albums and then recorded a series of excellent solo albums, notably Coppers and Brass and No More Forever. Later he led the brilliant Scots folk-rock outfit Five Hand Reel before he returned to solo work, this time much more politically oriented and featuring some stirring renditions of traditional Scots ballads. Gaughan in 1980 and Handful of Earth in 1982 are widely regarded as landmark recordings; readers and critics of UK magazine Folk Roots (now fRoots) voted the latter Album of the Decade.
After recovering from throat problems that sidelined his singing for a time, he recorded a marvelous live album in Edinburgh-on his comeback night. Gaughan continues to record and write wonderful songs of hope, defiance, and celebration of his Celtic heritage. Live at the Trades Club, a brilliant showcase of his latest songs, pays tribute to one of his favourite venues, a workers’ club in Yorkshire where he always starts his tours. On this most recent CD, he also makes a welcome return to the amazing guitar medleys that were once his trademark.
Whether singing his very popular Tom Paine’s Bones about the famous 18th century political activist who helped draw up the American Declaration of Independence, or a traditional Gaelic tune, Dick Gaughan is the definitive folk musician: a real troubadour, passionate fighter for social justice, incredible guitarist, and one of the most soulful singers around.
Great Lake Swimmers – Ontario
Ambient Zen Americana is how Mojo Magazine has described them, a phrase that perfectly captures the essence of Tony Dekker and his Great Lake Swimmers. That said, they are also quintessentially Ontarian, a musical embodiment of the gorgeous, quiet, and oddly mysterious Niagara Escarpment region where Dekker grew up. When he sings, “I was lost in the lakes and the shapes that your body makes” in Your Rocky Spine, the meaning resonates deep down in your bones.
With four releases since 2005, the Great Lake Swimmers have won over the likes of Feist and Robert Plant who have handpicked the band to open shows and whole tours. Both NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams and cyclist Lance Armstrong have raved about them on their personal websites. The group has also shared bills with Bela Fleck and The Sparrow Quartet, Hayden, Goldfrapp, and Bill Callahan of Smog.
All of this says light is being shed on a band that has always dwelled in shadows, telling tales of hidden histories, singing of “mining for light in the dark wells,” of being “tuned to an instrument of greater and unknown design.”
The chief instrument here is Tony Dekker’s singular, plaintive voice, one that summons ghosts from times past. lt’s a voice that is capable of conveying heartache and comfort all in the space of a single phrase. Though his supporting cast has changed over the years-with the exception of long-time, right-hand man Erik Arnesen-Dekker has always surrounded himself with sympathetic players who value spacious arrangements that frame his vocals.
It’s all there to support those amazingly evocative songs that sound like they’ve been ripening for generations, as timeless and yellowed and telling as newspaper obituaries folded into the family Bible. Tony Dekker and the Great Lake Swimmers may be based out of Toronto these days, but something of the vast Canadian Shield beyond whistles through every song they perform.
HAPA – United States
Like the history of the Hawaiian Islands, HAPA’s music reflects a mixture of pan-Polynesian influences with those from further away. The ancient rhythms and chants passed down through the oral traditions of the original settlers on the island meld in their music with later forms introduced through successive waves of immigration. The ballads of Portuguese fishers, the guitars and songs of Spanish cowboys, and the melodies and harmonies of the church choirs introduced by 19th-century missionaries are all here. And while their music is rooted in traditional textures and rhythms, it incorporates modern elements of pop, world beat, and jazz.
Also like the islands, at the core of the trio’s musical expression are the qualities of beauty and serenity as presented in the majestic tones of the ‘oli (chant), mele (song), and the elegant movements of the sacred dance known as hula.
New Jersey ex-pat Barry Flanagan (guitar, vocals) had moved to the Hawaiian Islands to explore the art of poetic song composition and kiho alu, or slack-key guitar, an art form created by Hawaiians in the 1800s. The traditional form combines altered tunings and a method of self accompaniment (thumb plays rhythm, while fingers play melody) to make sweet and soothing music. Discovering Hawaii to be an “eternal spring of inspiration,” Flanagan founded HAPA in Maui in 1983. O’ahu-born Charles Ka’upu’s expertise in the ancient art of ‘oli brought him to the group ten years later. Honolulu’s talented multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Nathan Aweau joined in 2003. On tour with them in Vancouver is dancer Haunani Ruelas.
In the early years HAPA built a devoted following throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and their self-titled debut was an award-winning hit and biggest selling recording by a group in the history of Hawaiian music. Since then they’ve released six more CDs, the latest called HAPA Live. HAPA continues to bring the past, present, and future of Polynesian music to a worldwide audience.
Corey Harris – United States
For the longest time John Hammond Jr. seemed to be the only guy keeping the flame alive for the original down-home, dusty Delta blues. Everyone else seemed to be hot for the more urban, brassy Chicago blues-the stuff that easily lent itself to rock.
But come the mid-1990s a new, fresh breed of blues musician emerged celebrating the original country blues, among them most strikingly Corey Harris. And happily from the start, Harris eschewed the Delta purist’s orthodoxy, easily mixing in influences as diverse as French Quarter New Orleans, Rasta Jamaica, and West Africa into his music.
Harris was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1969 and started fooling with the guitar at age 12 after checking out his mother’s Lightnin’ Hopkins records. He played in the usual rock ‘n’ roll bands through high school, going on to a college major in anthropology that led to a stint studying linguistics in Cameroon. There he soaked up the local music, particularly the amazing polyrhythms. Back in the States, Harris taught in rural Louisiana but was determined to make his way as a musician.
His first album, Midnight and Day, was a stripped-down arresting guitar and vocal affair and made a splash on release in 1995. Most of the rest of us got to know Harris through his 2002 release Down-Home Sophisticate, where he borrowed from gospel influences, a little Tex-Mex and the ever-present Delta blues.
Now with a string of highly praised albums, he’s performed everywhere from London’s Royal Albert Hall to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and toured the world. As the star of Martin Scorsese’s segment in the PBS series The Blues, he travelled to Mali to play with Ali Farka Toure, a voyage he repeated for his album of field recordings called Mississippi to Mali. Most recently and to great acclaim, Corey released Zion Crossroads, a celebration of roots reggae, Ras Tafari, Ethiopia, and the African continent.
A musical explorer rooted in but never restrained by the early cotton field blues, Corey Harris’s expanding body of work firmly establishes him among the most versatile blues and roots artists of his time.
Veda Hille – British Columbia
Who or whatever puts the talent in human beings must have spilled when working on Veda Hille. Few artists have her breadth of artistic vision and ability. A sample list of recent and current projects serves to illustrate.
Veda will soon release a CD of songs by Buffy Sainte-Marie and Neil Young: the Buffy ones recorded live with the CBC Radio Orchestra, the Neil songs with her own ensemble. She is also collaborating with two of Vancouver’s most adventurous theatre companies: working on a version of Peter Pan for Leaky Heaven and writing songs about clothing for Significant Outfits and about geography for Greatest Cities of the World with Theatre Replacement.
Then there is her first opera, commissioned by Vancouver Opera for its Operas in the Schools program. Jack Pine is a story of trees and children that has delighted thousands of youngsters in scores of schools. There is her most recent CD of original songs, This Riot Life, hailed by many as her best yet, and a cantata written with Bill Richardson, Do You Want What I Have Got? that is based on Craigslist personals. The latter premiered last January at Vancouver’s PUSH Festival and will be performed on the evening stage at this year’s festival. And that is only a partial list of Veda’s accomplishments to date. Whew.
Veda is Vancouver born and bred. She started her musical life with classical piano, moved on to pop and then jazz before finding her own quirky voice in what might best be called contemporary art song. It’s as good a definition as any for an artist who is indefinable. In 1992 Veda released the first of 13 or so recordings and was invited to perform at that year’s Vancouver Folk Music Festival. That launched a career that has taken her across Canada, Europe, and to the United States. Veda is off to Germany for the fall to study contemporary opera and other things Berliner. Who knows what she’ll come home with. Whatever it may be, it is certain to be unexpected, powerful, and delightful-three words that sum up Veda Hille and her work.
Iron and Wine – United States
There he was-one minute a cult gem for a favoured but fierce few and the next, in a proverbial snap of fate’s fingers, thrust into the pop culture spotlight when Iron and Wine’s gorgeous Flightless Bird, American Mouth was selected for the Twilight movie soundtrack. Suddenly millions were exposed to one of America’s very finest, if most enigmatic, singer-songwriters.
With the beard of an Old Testament prophet and the hushed delivery of a ’70s folk bard, Samuel Beam is Iron and Wine, the public name he lifted for himself from a dietary supplement called “Beef Iron and Wine.”
Beam was born and raised in South Carolina and studied and later taught film making at the University of Miami in Florida. As a sideline he was writing and singing his own songs for some seven years until a friend loaned him a four-track recorder, and Beam began recording his songs while his kids were asleep. With a husky, whispery voice, Beam sang songs steeped in the imagery of the rural South. One of his demos wound up in the hands of the owner of Sub Pop Records, the Seattle-based label that first signed Nirvana and Soundgarden. Simple as that: Iron and Wine had a record deal.
His first release, The Creek Drank the Cradle, was entirely written, performed, recorded, and produced by Beam in his home studio. The gentle, lilting tunes decorated with guitars, slide, and banjos had an irresistible lo-fi attractiveness and eagerness that made them startling and refreshing.
He booked studio time for his next album, Our Endless Numbered Days, and later worked with a band featuring his sister on harmonies. He also collaborated with roots band Calexico. Throughout, the quality of songwriting remained superb, the vocals almost spookily intimate. Five Iron and Wine albums are now available, including the current, Around the Well. A folk singer for the next generation, Beam is one of the most compelling artists on the scene today.
James Keelaghan – Manitoba
Calgary-born, singer-songwriter James Keelaghan has established an international following by telling the stories of his life and his land. In spite, or maybe because of, his years studying history at the University of Calgary, Keelaghan believes history has less to do with the names remembered a hundred years later than the stories that remain and are passed down. His recordings often reflect individuals and events uncovered from his deep knowledge of this country and from tales he’s gathered on his travels. It’s his passion for times past that has inspired some of his most celebrated songs, tunes like Jenny Bryce, Red River Rising, and Cold Missouri Waters.
James has spearheaded a wide range of creative projects. In 1996 he won the Global Visions Artist of the Year award for his work on the documentary Feeding the Future: The Seeds of Survival. He is also active on the radio-from regular Canada Day broadcasts on the CBC to hosting shows on CKUA Radio in Alberta.
Keelaghan has released nine albums and garnered a Juno for Best Roots and Traditional Recording in 1993 for My Skies. In 1997 he joined Chilean-bern Latin guitarist Oscar Lopez to develop a sound they called celtino, a perfect musical melding, and recorded the brilliant Juno-nominated Compadres. After nearly a decade, James and Oscar began touring again and in 2007 released a second album called Buddy, Where You Been.
One of the hardest working musicians in the folk business, James Keelaghan performs up to 300 nights a year, building followings in the United States, Europe, Australia, and in all parts of Canada. A commanding performer possessing a rich baritone, he develops an intimate rapport with audiences through his stories and humour-and then leaves them spellbound with passionate renditions of songs that tap into universal emotions. “I love touching people as a performer,” he says, “putting a song across so that people get inside the story.”
Labess – Quebec
Labess is Arabic for “things are going well” and nicely describes the success enjoyed by young Algerian guitarist Nedjim Bouizzoul and his talented musical friends. With his rich, husky voice and undeniable charm, he sings in Arabic and French about the turbulent daily life of his native country and the need to live in peace and unity. His music reveals the beauty and depth of a repertoire that fuses gypsy rumba and flamenco with gnawa, chaabi, and other traditional North African rhythms.
Born in Algeria, Bouizzoul landed in Montreal in 2003 and immediately began busking down in the Metro as busy commuters rushed by. His superb guitar work soon attracted the attention of fellow professionals in the local music community, and he put together an eclectic quintet he called Labess. The group includes Pierre Emmanuel Poizat on clarinet, Takfarinas Kichou and Anes Beglerbegovic on percussion, and Georgi Stankov on bass.
After performing at several Montreal venues (Le Divan Orange, Les Bobards, Le Balattou) in January 2005, Labess made a guest appearance on the popular Tele-Quebec TV show Belle et Bum, hosted by Normand Brathwaite. That gig led to an invitation to open Montreal’s Festival du Maghreb (the region of Africa north of the Sahara Desert and west of the Nile). .Since then Labess has opened for the renowned Rachid Taha and performed at festivals throughout Quebec, always attracting an enthusiastic audience.
Their first album, Tout Va Bien, like its creator, is an intriguing hybrid of music. it was nominated for Best World Music Album of 2007 at ADISQ (Quebec’s Juno Awards).
This is French-Arabic music of the first order, beautifully rendered and exotic as the old spice routes. Not for nothing is Labess seducing audiences everywhere they play.
Patty Larkin – United States
Patty Larkin is sort of like Huck Finn with a guitar: an adventurer on a raft of her own invention, eager to explore whatever river of musical ideas she finds herself riding. To her, and our, delight, something amazing always seems to turn up.
Larkin comes from a long line of Irish American storytellers and singers. She grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, part of an intensely creative family; her mother is a painter, and both sisters are musicians. Starting with classical piano at age seven, she taught herself guitar during the guitar-mad ’60s. She earned an English degree at the University of Oregon and studied jazz guitar at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, the American music school with a star studded alumni that includes the likes of Quincy Jones, Branford Marsalis, and BC’s own Diana Krall.
She started her music career shuttling between San Francisco and Oregon while at college but really got going in the Boston area, where she became a staple in the rich and broad New England coffee house circuit.
Larkin is that rare combination oftalents. With 11 CDs under her belt, she has honed a reputation as a fine and sensitive singer, is among the top contemporary songwriters, and a superb guitarist to boot, working with some of the brightest lights in American music. Long a favourite with critics, Patty possesses that unique level of artistic so-phistication her audiences have come to appreciate and new fans will love.
She’s also extraordinarily inventive. On Watch the Sky, the self-produced album she released last year, Larkin is like an ingenious kid in a toy store. On one tune she’s playing a “slapsteel,” a steel guitar tuned down and struck with a drumstick and a hand. On another she’s playing a baritone electric guitar-basically a guitar with four frets added-with her daughter’s old violin bow; that’s a “baribow.” She can do whatever it takes to capture the authentic sounds she’s looking for.
The singer-songwriter tradition is a long and proud one, and Patty Lark in stands as one of the very best in the business.
Anne Loree – Alberta
It’s a song that changed at least two lives forever. it’s a song that speaks to every true heart longing for understanding and a song called Insensitive. Of course you’ve heard it. That little tune, four minutes and 14 seconds of sweet angst and ache, launched Jann Arden’s career and brought Anne Loree to the forefront as a songwriter, garnering her a Juno nomination for songwriter of the year in 1996.
Growing up in a small town in Ontario, Loree got through the teenage angst years by writing songs. Those songs became her ticket into the Humber College music program. Loree then moved to Calgary, where she worked as a server in a restaurant, and experienced a love affair that went wrong. As she’d done for years, she turned her pain into song. Insensitive took less than half an hour to write, and very soon after, Arden heard her sing it in a club. Jann Arden’s version of Insensitive became a number one hit in Canada and Australia, charted in the States, and still has intensive airplay internationally. And Loree got a record deal.
Loree’s talent to distil very personal observations into universal truths and insights and wrap them up in melodically intriguing packages made that song a hit and marks her songwriting today.
She later became a member of the Edmonton-based folk country band Jr. Gone Wild and has since released five solo CDs: the latest, Make it Sparkle, is backed by some of the most talented songwriters and musicians in Calgary. Her brave, sometimes politically direct lyrics, her wit, and the delicate strength of her voice make a powerful combination.
Whether in small clubs across Canada, or at festivals and showcases, Anne has a natural flair for connecting with her audience. Her live performances are always warm, witty, and fun. Going back and forth on piano and guitar, she delivers a unique and evocative sound through stylized vocals and smart arrangements. Anne also delivers her own haunting rendition of Insensitive, just the way Jann Arden heard it that fateful night.
Dan Mangan – British Columbia
Twenty-five-year-old Dan Mangan has already toured Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia several times. He’s played coffee shops to six people and festival stages to many more and showcased at numerous music business conferences, from Austin’s SXSW to The Great Escape UK, MusExpo in Los Angeles, Australia’s Big Sound, and various Canadian events. Whether performing alone or with his Vancouver-based band, Mangan continues to work like there’s no tomorrow. There are no limits on how far he can go with that kind of fire in his belly and talent to match.
Dan ranks among the finest songwriters on the richly endowed West Coast scene. Simply put, he writes poetically powerful songs that evoke the wonder and the absurdity of life. His songs are unpretentious and insightful, his delivery imbued with a raw rootsiness that has a lived-in, comfortable feel. The-Fly website described his music as “what you’d expect from a lovechild of Harry Nilsson or Tom Waits.”
Postcards and Daydreaming, Dan’s debut album, released in 2007, opened up a world of opportunities. Record deals were offered, and invitations to perform at festivals around the world were received. Britain’s NME magazine featured him as one of Canada’s most promising acts. Here at home, he was profiled by the CBC Radio 3 podcast, The Future of Music: Artists we think will be great in 2008.
In August 2009 Dan will release his sophomore album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice. He’s ready and eager to unveil a collection of lyrical ruminations that showcases his growth as a songwriter. Titled in reference to a Kurt Vonnegut poem, the album features artists Veda Hille and Mark Berube, who are also performing at this festival.
To hear an up-and-coming, savvy singer/songwriter who doesn’t lean on ironic instruments or gimmicks to grab your attention, join Dan Mangan as he weaves his lyrical web.
Tony McManus – Scotland/Ontario
The first-and last-thing that needs saying about musician extraordinaire Tony McManus is that John Renbourne dubbed him “the best Celtic guitarist in the world.” And that he is an absolutely dazzling technician with immense and subtle taste, McManus in his mid-40s is at the peak of his talent.
Of Irish descent and raised in Scotland, McManus is indeed as Celtic as whiskey and often goes back to melodies heard in childhood to reference his music. A dozen years since his first CD release finds McManus already ranked alongside the greats of guitar history. Drawing on traditions from the entire Celtic world-Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Galicia, Asturias, Cape Breton, Quebec-along with still further ranging flavours, such as jazz and Eastern European music, his dextrous, original playing both extends and transcends the parameters of contemporary Celtic music.
At the heart of his playing is an uncanny ability to transpose the complex and characteristic ornamentations of traditional Celtic music-the delicate phrasing of a Gaelic song, that curlicue at the end of a phrase mimicking a uillean pipe-onto six meagre guitar strings. To do this within a centuries-old idiom where the instrument has no real history is truly remarkable.
Born in Paisley, near Glasgow, Tony was introduced to traditional music via the family record collection. Self-taught, he took up the guitar at age 10 and abandoned academia in his 20s to pursue music full time. The Glasgow and Edinburgh session scene and a studio set for the BBC provided him the springboard to go further.
With four solo albums to his credit and over 50 more that feature his guitar matsery, McManus is in demand in studios all over the globe. Equally admired for his live performances, his musical travels have taken him to such diverse places as the Bogota International Guitar Festival, the Men of Steel concert in Rivoli, Italy, and to Ryman Auditorium for Nashville’s All Star Guitar Night.
Expect a riveting performance.
Jorge Miguel Flamenco – Ontario
Flamenco is one of the oldest forms of world music inhabiting the folk scene. Unfortunately, like many old things and sometimes people, it is subject to a good degree of elder abuse: most flamenco you hear is far from the passionate, fatalistic music that has deep roots in Andalucia in southern Spain. Jorge Miguel’s mission is to reclaim the flamenco tradition and interpret it through the fingers, voice, and feet of an ensemble committed to its authentic spirit.
Jorge Miguel is a Spanish Canadian guitarist and composer from Toronto. His family comes from Cadiz, a city in Spain’s flamenco heartland, and he has spent much time living and studying there. Like many folk forms, flamenco is best learned from the elders and Jorge’s teachers included some of the best: Carlos del Rio in Madrid, Augustin “Bola” Carbonell in Seville, and others.
Jorge has worked as an accompanist for many of the finest contemporary flamenco performers, including the legendary dancer lsabel Bay6n. His ensemble comes from more varied and cosmopolitan stock. Eliana Cuevas is Venezuelan and leads her own ensemble performing her own music. A lover of flamenco, she brings a vocal.approach that is not traditional but is every bit as compelling. The same is true of Peruvian percussionist Luis Orbegoso and bassist Ross Maclntyre. They are at home in many musical styles and bring Latin and jazz influences to the table.
Flamenco is only partly about music. Flamenco without dance is like a folk festival without sun, and dancer llse Gudino shines brightly. Originally from Mexico, llse is also trained in many styles. Her approach to flamenco is both one of respect for the tradition and a desire to create new growth from old roots. Together Jorge Miguel and associates create music that takes flamenco somewhere new and preserves its duende, an untranslatable Spanish word that means spirit or soul. Ole!
Los Misioneros del Norte – Mexico
Los Misioneros del Norte (the missionaries of the north) are an extended family of talented musicians from the state of San Luis Potos in north central Mexico. Founded in 1993 by Ricardo lbarra Castillo, the group features his three sons Ricardo Jr., Edgar, and Francisco and their cousins Juan Francisco Hernandez and Omar Jaramillo.
They play music called norter’io (northern), or conjunto, that comes by way of their grandfathers. Their original sound also incorporates Columbian cumbias, huapangos (a Mexican music linked to Spanish flamenco), salsa, and Caribbean-style rhythms.
A vital and highly danceable music, norter’io evolved through the introduction of accordion and polka rhythms to northern Mexico by German migrants in the 19th century. Local bands began integrating these elements into their traditional ranchera styles (music closely linked to mariachl) creating a new and distinct genre-norteno primarily popular in the north.
At their live performances, Los Misioneros often play this very lively music along with corridos, a popular narrative song and poetry form of the mestizo Mexicans. They sing about love and also address social, political, and economic issues with their music.
After a few years playing in local bars and at parties, the group became local favourites and found themselves in demand to perform on radio and TV and tour festivals, cantinas, and palenques throughout Mexico. Octavio and Pancho alternate on lead vocals, Juan and Ricardo play the cumbias, and Francisco dominates on the accordion. In addition to the diatonic button accordion, their instrumentation includes bajo sexto (sixth bass-a low resonant guitar), bass, drums, and Latin percussion.
Now it’s Vancouver’s turn to revel in buoyant polkas, and dance with abandon to the contagious rhythms of Los Misioneros del Norte on this, their first Canadian crusade.
Mr. Something Something – Ontario
Seeing Mr. Something Something in concert is as close as most of us will get to experiencing the Shrine, in Laos: intense energy, rifling saxophones, and dancers having a ball. This Toronto group is gaining international recognition for their blend of Afrobeat, jazz, and pop.
The band began in 2003 when Larry Graves (drums and percussion) and John McLean (saxophone and voice), two childhood friends who love Afrobeat and improvised jazz, met like-minded musicians in jazz guitarist Paul MacDougall, bassist Liam Smith, singer Johan Hultqvist, and dancer-choreographer Jennifer Dallas. All shared a love for music, theatre, dance, and the belief that music can effect social change.
Over the last four years the band has toured relentlessly in Canada, doing more than 450 shows. Aside from their wildly energized and unpredictable live shows, the band is becoming increasingly well known for its green politics and environmental activism. They did a number of “eco-dates” in 2007, playing at a wind-powered show and performing in such unconventional venues as organic farms and food co-ops to highlight communities that are trying to minimize their ecological footprint. Last September Mr. Something Something organized Canada’s first bicycle-powered concert. “lt is our intent to educate ourselves to a better and more sustainable lifestyle,” says lead singer Johan Hultqvist. “We hope this will inspire others to do the same.”
The fresh sound and powerful message of the band’s second album, The Edge, led to a nomination for a 2007 Juno Award for World Music Album of the Year. The third album, Deep Sleep, a collaboration with Nigerian spoken-word artist and Afrobeat poet lkwunga, was the most played world music album on Canadian college radio in 2007. Deep Sleep was recently re-released in Japan, and a track from the same album was included on the prestigious British compilation The Rough Guide to Afrobeat Revival.
Mr. Something Something offers a little something for the body, a little something for the mind, and a big sound for a joyful revolution where everyone can dance.
Matabaruka – Jamaica
Born in Rae Town, Jamaica, in 1952, Allan Hope would become Matabaruka, the voice of the people in Jamaica. He first realized the power of the word when he was in his teens and introduced to the Black Power movement. The messages of Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver formed the roots of Hope’s own aspirations.
In 1973 he formed the band Truth in his first attempt to combine spoken word with music. By this time the poet had converted to Rastafarianism and taken the name Mutabaruka. From the Rwandan language, the phrase mutabaruka translates as “one who is always victorious.”
Throughout the years Mutabaruka earned critical acclaim in both the literary and recording worlds, with the release of two collections of poetry and eight reggae-infused albums. His fiery debut at Reggae Sunsplash became a live album, and it was this performance that brought Mutabaruka to international attention in 1982.
A distribution deal with the American RAS label quickly established him as an influential poet and singer, both in Jamaica and abroad. His groundbreaking 1986 recording The Mystery Unfolds featured Dis Poem, one of Mutabaruka’s most thought-provoking poems. it’s included in the definitive The Rout/edge Reader in Caribbean Literature.
1994 saw the launch of The Cutting Edge, Mutabaruka’s wildly popular radio show on IRIE-FM. Contentious, scrappy, and unrepentant, Mutabaruka’s unfiltered commentary about everything from local politics to Hindu philosophy has consistently made his the most listened-to program in Jamaica.
As reggae evolved into dancehall in the ’80s, Mutabaruka fought to keep the cultural and moral dimension of the music alive with recordings like Gathering of the Spirits that celebrate the organic sounds of Jamaica’s roots reggae heyday. These days he spends most of his creative energy touring Africa and encouraging literacy in the townships of South Africa and rural Ghana.
Combining social commentary with scathing personal analysis and endearing humour, Mutabaruka is an essential and powerful artist. We’re privileged to welcome him on this rare visit to Vancouver.
Idy Oulo – Cameroon/France
Guitarist and singer idy Oulo’s passion for music began when he listened to traditional African rhythms played by the griots and shepherds in the mountain village of northern Cameroon where he was born. Seeing his vocation in their performances, he built his first guitar, with wood parts and recycled brake cables, and later formed a band comprised of fellow students. The band’s repertoire featured interpretations of songs by well known artists. His father, an employee of the regional cotton company, and other villagers frowned on ldy’s early musical efforts, believing the activity had no future. Undaunted and with the support of his mother, he continued to pursue his goals and eventually won a performance prize and began touring in the region.
In his late teens ldy moved to Douaia,the capital of Cameroon’s show business, and in 1996, joined the group Faadah-Kawtal as guitarist and singer. The group recorded the original soundtrack for the French film Le· Maitre des Elephants, bringing them international attention and an invitation to take part in the opening ceremony of the 1998 World Cup in France. Tours of Europe and Asia followed.
A resident of France since 2000, Oulo won the Musique et Danse en Poitou-Charente competition in 2002 and was a finalist at the Decouvertes du Printemps de Bourges competition the following year.
ldy plays garaya (a papaya with two strings, an instrument played by griots and Bergers), guitar, and the sanza, an instrument that originated with the Pygmies of the forest of South Cameroon. A proud ambassador of his native Fali and Peuls ethnic groups, ldy performs a mixture of African world music and reggae.
Today, ldy Oulo records his adventures as a soloist accompanied by local musicians from the Charente region of France. On his Canadian tour, three musicians from Quebec join him in concert.
Pacifika – British Columbia
What does a band sound like when comprised of a Peruvian-born singer with a love of flamenco and electronica, a dub-infused bassist raised in Barbados, and a Canadian-bred guitarist with roots in 1980s new wave? To find out go hear Pacifika.
As Canadian music stories go, Pacifika is an almost quintessential test”ament to our country’s policies on diversity. In this case talented musicians from different countries and cultures discover each other on the West Coast and find common musical ground-each participant contributing her or his own influences and experiences. This is the stuff of confluence and chemistry, and every once in a while in this world when it all comes together a special new sound is created. That happened with Pacifika.
The group features multi-talented Silvana Kane, a Peruvian-bern singer, composer, and actress who was a part of the pop band West End Girls. New Westminster guitarist Adam Popowitz creates atmospheric soundscapes. Adept at new wave, classical, and pop, he’s also a record producer responsible for a catalogue that includes everyone from T. Nile to the Armenian folk music of Miriam Mattosian. Dub-wise bass player Toby Peter, born in Canada and raised in Barbados, adds influences from the greats of jazz and hip-hop. Joining them onstage is Elliot Polsky, one of Canada’s most accomplished multi-percussionists. Their music draws you in with seductive vocals, bits of electronica, dub reggae, and Spanish and Latin elements.
Released by Six Degrees Records and Motown/Universal in the spring of 2008, their debut album, Asunci6n, appeared on many “best of” lists. Their video of the song Me Cai has had over 50,000 views on YouTube. 2009 is shaping up to be another exciting year for Pacifika. They’ve been selected as one of six bands for the first Revelations Radio-Canada Musique, a multi-platform project supporting music artists who will tour a bunch of other festivals this summer.
It’s clear Pacifika is a band on the rise. Be sure to catch the wave.
Steven Page – Ontario
It’s a rare Canadian, or person from many other countries for that matter, who needs an introduction to Steven Page. We’ve been listening to his voice and singing his songs for the past two decades.
For 20 years Steven Page was the eo-lead singer and songwriter with Canada’s beloved Barenaked Ladies (BNL}. He’s well known for his dynamic, physically exuberant performances, his powerful tenor, quick wit, and an arsenal of songs that spans the gamut between humour and pathos.
Steven and the band· toured the world, selling out venues ranging from Madison Square Garden to the Royal Albert Hall. They sold nearly 15 million albums and won numerous Juno awards, two Grammy nominations, and two Gemini awards for their work on Canadian television. In 1992 their debut album, Gordon, became an instant hit, featuring a slew of memorable songs, including Grade 9, If I Had $1,000,000, Brian Wilson, and Hello City. While most of the album was recorded without incident, difficulty with The King of Bedside Manor caused the band to record the track naked – a tradition they would continue for other albums.
As a solo artist, in 2005 Page released the album The Vanity Project, written and produced with Stephen Duffy, and in 2007 hosted his own national documentary series, All The Rage, on CBC Radio One.
This year, in a move many BNL fans thought impossible, Steven left the band t pursue a solo music and theatrical career. No stranger to the theatre, his compositions to date include music for Canada’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival: Shakespeare’s As You Like lt (2005) and Corialanus (2006) and Ben Jonson’s Bartholmew Fair (2009).
This summer Page takes to the road, playing a mix of familiar BNL favourites and test drives of new material. Halifax native Kevin Fox, the revered multi-instrumentalist and much sought after arranger and composer, accompanies Steven on tour. New works due for release include an album later in 2009 of Steven’s songs recorded with the Art of Time Ensemble (comprising classical and jazz players) and a new solo album slated for 2010.
The Paperboys – British Columbia
Viva Tom Landa! Since coming to Vancouver in the early 1990s from Sudbury, our own Mexican – Canadian musical revolutionary has concocted a musical melange he calls “stomp,” incorporating Celtic music, bluegrass, and an increasing amount of Latin American music. Along the way Landa worked with some of BC’s finest young roots musicians, ranging from Scottish piper Alan Macleod in the earliest days to fiddlers Shannon Saunders, Stephanie Cadman, Shone La Mottee, and latterly, Kendel Carson, who is now touring with legendary Texas songwriter Chip (Wild Thing) Taylor.
The latest incarnation of The Paperboys features Spirit of the West founder Geoffrey Kelly on flute and whistle, Brad Gillard on banjo, and the latest young fiddle protegee from Victoria, Kalissa Hernandez. To round off the ensemble, the horn section features Nick La Riviere on trombone, Kareem Kandi on sax, and young Cuban-emigre Miguelito Valdez on trumpet. Valdez learned his trade in Havana with the Buena Vista Social Club and now leads his own excellent combo, Puro Son. All these ingredients make for a powerful mix but the group is more than simply a rocking dance band promising a “stompin” good time. Incorporating soulful Latin grooves, delectable Celtic airs, and compellingly topical songs-many of them original compositions-this musical project refuses to be pigeonholed. To borrow a phrase from the James Keelaghan and Oscar Lopez project Compadres, Tom Landa and The Paperboys create “Celtino music” with horns: equal parts spice, devilment, and musical virtuosity.
A staple at folk, roots, and bluegrass festivals in North America and Europe, the group has picked up Juno and West Coast Music Awards along the way. and released a new CD, Callithump, just in time for this festival. Odds are The Paperboys will bring home more awards and, more importantly, win over even more fans.
The Proclaimers – Scotland
Back when I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) first hit the airwaves, more than a few folks on this side of the pond were unable to resist singing along. They found themselves using the word “havering” for the first time, with absolutely no idea what it meant. There was something seductive about the tune and the vocals and the sentiment in the lyrics-fidelity despite life’s ups and downs – that touched a chord around the world.
Twin brothers Craig and Charlie Reid have enjoyed huge,worldwide success over the years. With their emotional honesty, political fire, wit, and sing-along raucousness, The Proclaimers have enlightened and entertained fans new and old. They’ve carved out a niche for themselves in the netherworld where pop, folk, new wave, and punk collide. In the process they’ve garnered gold and platinum singles and albums in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Born in Leith in 1962, Craig and Charlie Reid grew up in Edinburgh, Cornwall, and Auchtermuchty in Fife. At home they listened to early rock ‘n’ roll and country music greats. At school they played in punk bands before forming The Proclaimers in 1983. Singing in regional accents about Scotland-its emigration and its politics-they were a far cry from standard mid-’80s fare.
Clearly what the Proclaimers had, the world wanted. In 1987 they released This Is the Story to immediate acclaim, following it in 1988 with Sunshine on Leith to even higher praise. Six more studio albums followed, along with repeated worldwide tours and accolades. They’ve performed at every major festival you can name, opened the Live 8 Murrayfield Stadium concert in 2005, had their music featured in film soundtracks, and saw a re-recorded rendition of I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) for Comic Relief in 2007 again become a massive hit. The next stage is set with the 2009 release of Notes & Rhymes.
Bona fide Scottish folk heroes, The Proclaimers make their first-ever appearance at this festival.
Joe Pug – United States
It is always exciting to hear a really good songwriter for the first time. Joe Pug may be new to Vancouver audiences, but it’s safe to say he’s at the beginning of what will surely be a long, successful career. He is adding his name to rich songwriting tradition that began with the likes of Woody Guthrie and went on to Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle and Josh Ritter.
“Pug is a populist at heart, a singer who can’t help but talk about all of us when he sings about himself and can’t help but sing about himself when he’s talking about all of us.” So wrote Paste Magazine.
Joe was a senior studying theatre at the University of North Carolina when he sat down to a cup of coffee and had an epiphany: his future was in song. He packed his belongings and drove the longest route possible to Chicago. Working as a carpenter by day, the 23-year-old Pug spent nights playing the guitar he hadn’t picked up since his teens. With ideas originally slated for a play he was writing called Austin Fish, Pug began creating the debut EP that would become a Nation of Heat.
The songs were recorded quickly in a Chicago studio. A friend snuck him in to late night slots that other musicians had cancelled. Joe was short on money so the results were raw and immediate, without any production frills. When Delusions of Adequacy posted its blog review of the EP, they said, “Every word here is just amazingly beautiful … packed with symbolism and pure poetry … Let Joe Pug give you back faith in folk music and truly marvelous singer-songwriters.”
Joe’s first solo concert occurred only last year at Chicago’s famous “listening room,” the Schubas Tavern. This past May he was invited to tour with Steve Earle and has opened shows for Kasey Chambers, Susan Tedeshi, and Josh Ritter. This young man’s career may be just starting, but he writes with the lyricism, melody and insight of a veteran. See Joe Pug. Then you can say you were there when it all began.
Lester Quitzau – British Columbia
Guitar wizard Lester Quitzau grew up in Edmonton listening to typical teenage rock by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Edmonton’s legendary Ambassador Hotel where he was first exposed to live performances by masters of the blues, such as John Lee Hooker, James Cotton, Jimmy Rogers, as well as great Canadian acts like the Downchild Blues Band, Dutch Mason, and David Wilcox. In his late teens Lester discovered the world of boarding and for a number of years divided his time between chasing snow and concrete by day and going to smoky blues bars at night. His skateboarding career peaked in 1985 with a fifth-place finish at an international meet. Word is he still likes to ride for a block on the rear wheel of his bike.
Luckily, Lester chose music and in the late ’80s formed his first band, The Slipping Lizards. That led to participation in another fine Edmonton blues band, The Yard Dogs. In1993 the recordings started coming. So far in his career, he has released four under his own name, a recording with his life partner, Mae Moore, and four as Tri Continental with Bill Bourne and Madagascar Slim.
Lester’s work has been acknowledged with numerous Western Canadian Music Awards and nominations, and in 1996, A Big Love, recorded with hers Very Electric Trio, received a Juno nomination for Best Blues Album. The Tri Continental debut album won the Juno for Best Global Album in 2000.
Over the years, Lester’s music has evolved from that of a blues-rocker to an acoustic blues specialist to a Jimi Hendrix-like virtuoso to a well-rounded and brilliant player who draws on influences from the whole world.
Kate Reid – British Columbia
Every year or so, a buzz is heard about an artist or two as the Vancouver Folk Music Festival looms into view. This year Kate Reid’s name is being bandied about as one of the buzzwords. “Have you heard Kate Reid?” is a question being asked among the folklerati as the festival lineup is pored over.
And yes … we have heard Kate Reid. We’ve laughed hearing I’d Go Straight for Ridley Bent, a queer epic of love that can never be, which is on Kale’s first CD. We laughed harder at Ex-Junkie Boyfriend and Only Dyke at the Open Mic from her brand new sophomore recording, I’m Just Getting Warmed Up. We also thoughtfully nodded at Small Town, shed a tear or two for No More Missing Daughters about the “missing” women of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and cheered for her anthem to personal pride, Uncharted Territory.
Kate was literally born on the farm in southwestern Ontario. To say she had a difficult childhood and a more than difficult adolescence is an understatement. She came west to escape, first to Nelson and now in Vancouver, and began writing and performing songs that are both well-crafted works of art and exorcisms-songs to chase out the demons. As she tells it, “Music saved my life.” Her songs have found a home in the hearts and minds of others with their own demons.
She writes in the first person singular; there are a lot of I’s in her songs. But in unraveling her thoughts and emotions, her stories and experiences, she tells tales that resonate with our own experiences, even though the people, places and things might be very different. That is what makes music music “folk,” instead of pop. These are true stories, not manufactured dreams, and are performed simply with voice and guitar.
Sometimes funny, sometimes dark, always infused with a humanity that draws you in like a warm hug, Kate Reid is beginning to attract attention from folks who can tell a great songwriter when they hear one. Have you heard Kate Reid? You’re about to.
Sara Renelik – Quebec
A Montreal-born singer, dancer, and choreographer of Haitian origin, Sara Renelik is unique, versatile, and widely recognized for her quest for originality and depth. As a young dancer she studied and performed with Montreal-area dance troupes such as Ballets Modernes du Quebec, Ballets Jazz du Quebec, and later with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. In New York Sara spent two years studying as the prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and went on to perform with Cirque du Soleil and Celin Dion.
Then she discovered she could sing.
Sara’s music career was kick-started in the late 90s when she began to sing with Alpha Yaya Diallo, Harold Faustin, and many others. Her first album, Aube, released in 2006, blends African and French Caribbean world beat with forays into pop. She has been touring her own show since 1999 through Canada, Germany and the United States. Her widely divergent projects express her passion for life with an emotional rush of dance and imagery.
In recent years she performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival with Harold Faustin Septet and with Yakengue. Her composition Laisser Aller recently received the Maestra SOCAN/SODRAC grant, and in 2007 she was nominated as best world solo artist at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.
In addition to her solo work, Sara performed with the Line 1 Troupe from Montreal, directed by Emmy Award winner and Cirque du Soleil’s choreographer Debra Brown. They toured California and presented excerpts at the prestigious Canada’s Walk of Fame and Governor General Awards.
The Vancouver Folk Music Festival is the only western Canadian musical stop on Sara Renelik’s itinerary this summer. It’s our chance to discover the flame, the passion and the pulse of this multi-talented artist.
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – United States
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band may technically be comprised of only three people, but their name is no misnomer. Hailing from rural Brown County, Indiana the band is family affair that includes vocalist and finger picking guitarist Josh “Reverend” Peyton, his brother Jayme, whose wild assaults on his simple drum kit drive the band’s fierce tempo, and the Rev’s irrepressible wife, “Washboard” Breezy, playing – you guessed it – the washboard.
The Peyton brothers grew up listening to their father’s collection of blues-oriented rock. Jayme eventually picked up the drumsticks, while the Reverend explored the blues guitar styles of artists such as Muddy Waters, Bukka White, and Robert Johnson. After further musical experimentation, the Reverend mastered the finger picking styles of country blues artists Charley Patton and Furry Lewis. While recovering from a hand injury sustained performing at his high school graduation party, the Reverend met Breezy, a washboard playing wrecking machine, whose stage presence can only be described as forceful. Shortly after, the trio began writing songs and playing gigs. Then they got serious – sold everything they had a big yard sale and hit the road.
They band performs raw and frenzied yet down to earth and authentic Mississippi Delta blues. They write contemporary lyrics about people and situations they know: songs like Can’t Pay the Bill that deals with health insurance anxiety corporate greed. The Rev isn’t big on metaphor and symbolism, preferring to let people know exactly how he feels.
Since releasing their first album in 2006, the Pork ‘n Beans Collection, they have averaged an astonishing 250 shows a year. Their second CD, The Whole Fam Damnily, was recorded at a church in Bloomington, Indiana, just down the road from where the band lives.
Lucky for us, their music is meant to be appreciated live. The band’s raucous shows have become the stuff of legend, with Breezy clean wearing through stainless steel washboards, the Reverend furiously picking like his strings are on fire, and Jayme kicking it all up a notch.
Rock Plaza Central – Ontario
Inspired by carnival sideshows and dustbowl ballads, this Toronto-based outfit plays with jubilation of a blind drunk Salvation Army band.
It started in 2003 when Chris Eaton, author of The Inacitivst and The Grammar Architect(Insomniac Press), booked a show at Toronto’s fabled Sneaky Dee’s. With only his guitar and some song ideas, he asked members of the other bands on the bill to join him on stage with old frie d Donald Murray and drummer Blake Howard. Without even knowing each other’s names, something clicked. Two weeks later they were in the studio.
That session resulted in The World Was Hell to Us. Recorded in two days in August 2003, the record is completely unrehearsed and mostly first takes: several songs were written on the studio floor and recorded immediately.
World Was Hell to Us recounts a war between humans and angels that left the world in a state of constant loneliness. In contrast their follow-up album, Are We Not Horses, is one of hope. This tale is told through the eyes of the six legged robotic horses caught between the conviction they are real horses and confusion about their part in the earlier destruction; theirs is a story of confession, redemption, and the triumph of happiness over loneliness. The album featured a third-grade school class on backing vocals.
The literary-styled concept album was a huge critical success and even studied in a graduate English course at the University of South Alabama. With calls to tour and perform going through the roof, Rock Plaza Central has just released At the Moment of Our Most Needing.
Their ingenious blend of literate and thought-provoking storytelling and a rich amalgam of strings, horns, and Eaton’s evocative vocals have been described as alt-not-country and Americana. The only truly fitting identifier needed is Rock Plaza Central.
Zal Idrissa Sissokho and Buntalo – Quebec
There are three great lines of griot families in West Africa. Poets, praise singers, and wandering musicians, griots are repositories of the West African oral tradition. Zalldrissa Sissokho descends from one such line of musicians and storytellers who have guarded and passed down the stories and history of the Mandinka people since their earliest days. Born in Dakar, Senegal, Zal learned the oral and music traditions of his people at his father’s knee, as had his father before him.
Zal studied under the great kora master Toumany Kouyate and apprenticed with other notable kora players and percussion teachers in Senegal and Mali. In 1999 he moved to Montreal with his kora as his companion, where he was immediately recognized as a kora soloist of exceptional subtlety and ability. He began playing solo concerts and with groups, including Takadja, the Diouf brothers, the Montreal Jubilation Choir and with BC’s Alpha Yaya Diallo. He also performed with Cirque du Soleil’s O in Las Vegas.
Zal formed the Afro-Mandinka group Buntalo in 2004. The group’s name was chosen to reflect the sound a kora string emits when plucked. With Buntalo, Zal performs his own compositions and traditional Mandingo classics, singing in. the Malinke and Wolof languages. While preserving the integrity of the tradition-based centuries-old music, they also renew it with the addition of elements such as salsa and reggae.
Last year Zal and company released their first CD, Silaba, on the Montreal-based label Nuit D’Afrique. Performing for the first time at this festival, Zal Idrissa Sissokho on kora and thioug – Aboulay Kone playing guitar, bass player Manu Pele, David Mobio on keyboards, percussionist Thomas Niamke Ehui, and dancer and vocalist Tapa Diarra.
Mavis Stapes – United States
Mavis Staples recently celebrated her 70th birthday, and for almost 60 of those years he’s been performing on stage. For years, she was the lead singer, and youngest member, of The Staple Singers, an American institution sometimes called God’s Greatest Hitmakers. The group was led by Roebuck “Pops” Staples and, while remaining rooted in a firm gospel tradition, managed to land a number of hits starting in the mid-1950s, perhaps most notably with Respect Yourself.
The friendship between Pops and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the early 1960s led to the Staple Singers becoming the unofficial voice of the civil rights movement. They broke fresh ground recording songs by the new generation of white songwriters from Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain … to Stephen Stills’s For What It’s Worth. and forged a rare unity between black and white American artists.
Mavis began her solo career in 1969 when Steve Cropper produced her first solo recording. With the death of Pops Staples in 2000, the family singing group disbanded, and Mavis devoted herself full time to her solo career. In 2007 Ry Cooder and his son, Joachim, worked with Mavis to create the album We’ll Never Turn Back-a stellar rendition of many of the freedom songs sung by The Staples in the 60s, linking them to New Orleans, war, and other contemporary events. She recorded some of the same material and more on a live CD-Hope at the Hideout- released on the day of the 2008 United States elections that saw an Afro-American chosen as president. How did she know?
Whether celebrating her gospel roots, reviving memories of the civil rights movement, or calling attention to the current ills of American society, Mavis Staples carries on “her father’s work” and keeps creating great music as she enters her seventh decade on stage.
Tarhana – Netherlands/Turkey
Tarhana takes its name from a traditional Anatolian soup made in the villages throughout Bosnia, Macedonia, and Turkey. In Turkey it is made with wheat, yoghurt, and vegetables that are fermented, dried, and added to a broth. As the ingredients blend and simmer, flavours combine to produce a delicious and healthy soup. In each region and over time, the recipe varies. So it is with the group Tarhana. Their music is a succulent mixture of diverse sounds, textures, and talents that incorporate ancient traditions and modern technology to serve up something new.
The band’s founder is Sjahin Durin, a percussion specialist who was born in Holland and spent his early years in Istanbul before returning to his homeland. Twelve years of musical study followed, with a focus on Afro-Cuban music, Latin, jazz, flamenco, pop, dance theatre, and Oriental music. Durin went on to build a career as a record producer and formed a couple of groups, Turqumstances and Bayuba Cante, before starting up Tarhana. His vision for Tarhana brings together all the elements of his musical education, experience, cultural heritage, and creativity.
These “nomads in music,” as described by Durin, base themselves in the Netherlands. Blending traditional Balkan and Oriental flavours with Afro-Anatolian grooves, the tribe spices up Ottoman soundscapes, digital Sufi grooves, Gypsy melodies, and ancient rhythms and sounds from North Africa. Tarhana have made one recording to date: Mundus, released last October.
Durin’s bandmates are as diverse as their music: drummer Borislav Petrov hails from Bulgaria; Holland’s Hassie Dune plays bass and ngoni; vocalist and saz player Ozhan Acikbas comes from Turkey; Alex Simu of Romania plays saxophone and clarinet; and on piano, keyboard, and laptop is Franz von Chossy from Germany. Together they cook up a tasty, musical Tarhana.
Shari Ulrich – British Columbia
For all she has accomplished over the decades, from solo recording artist and broadcaster to actor and mentor, many still retain a mental picture of Shari Ulrich in her first bloom of youth when she moved to Vancouver from San Rafael, California: from back when the air was somehow sweeter in this town, when the possibilities seemed endless and Fourth Avenue was as much a state of mind as a strip of asphalt, when Shari Ulrich was one-third of the infamous Pied Pumkin String Ensemble.
The Pumkins-Uirich with Joe Mock and Rick Scott-were as whimsical as the times, and Ulrich was the quintessential Earth Mother sawing on her fiddle, with peasant dress and long tresses blowing in the breeze as she sang up to the sun.
To finance their records Pied Pumkin would collect the names, addresses, and $5 from fans, record an album, and mail it off to all those trusting souls who had prepaid. Their Squash Records was Canada’s first indie label.
Later Ulrich was hired to tour with West Coast folk artist Valdy and his Hometown Band, stepping up every show to sing Joe Mock’s stunning Flying. On the strength of that song and the eclectic and remarkable musicianship of the members, The Hometown Band was signed to A&M, released two albums, and won a Juno Award. The top single from the second album was Shari’s very first self-penned song , Feel Good.
After the Hometown Band dissolved, Ulrich embarked on a solo singer-songwriter career for major labels like A&M and MCA before releasing records as an independent artist again. She also continues to collaborate with long-time friends Bill Henderson and Ray Forbes in the acoustic vocal trio UHF.
Outside music Ulrich has eo-hosted a TV show with David Suzuki, written and hosted BCTV’s Inside Trax, written and produced pieces for Sesame Street scored themes and documentaries for the CBC, Life, and Knowledge TV channels, the National Film Board, and even performed in musical theatre.
Shari Ulrich is as British Columbia as rain and has been one of our most articulate voices in song for nigh on four decades.
Umalali – Belize
Umalali means “voice” in the Garifuna language. Umalali, the Garifuna Women’s Project, gives voice and presence to a vibrant culture with an amazing history. Tracing their Central American origins to a 1635 shipwreck of slaves headed to the Caribbean, the men and women on board escaped with their lives-and their liberty. Over the years the Garifuna established themselves along the coasts of Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. Generations of intermarriage with the indigenous Carib and Arawak people produced a unique language and way of life, with an unbroken tradition of songs, dances, and rituals that remains essential to their culture.
Umalali was 10 years in the fruition, a project of Stonetree Records founder lvan Duran. Living in Belize, Duran saw the fundamental role Garifuna women play in the maintenance of family and preservation of their language and the importance of singing in their daily lives.
Duran spent five years traveling and recording the singing of dozens of women, and then another five years bringing together both men and women in an ocean-side recording hut to mix instrumental and vocal arrangements for a CD.
Though powerful singers and spontaneous dancers, the Garifuna women are not professional performers. Getting the women into the studio to record required perseverance as family obligations and house chores were always the women’s first priority.
The exuberant music made by the Garifuna women’s voices resulted in an album that has reached the top of campus radio and world music charts in North America and Europe. As a consequence, some of the women now tour extensively.
With their fishing and subsistence farming way of life under threat and their communally held land under siege by tourism developments, the Garifuna are devoted to maintaining their roots. Umalali is the voice of the women who live their culture and keep its flame alight.
Suzie Vinnick and Rick Fines – Ontario
Sometimes the stars seem to align perfectly, when out of the spinning chaos things somehow come together. The combination of Suzie Vinnick and Rick Fines is a happy example of the cosmos getting it right.
Toronto’s Rick Fines is a veteran of the North American blues and folk circuits, a great, laid-back singer and an even better guitar player. In 2005 he took first place in Alabama’s Sweet Gum Bottom Acoustic Blues Competition. He has won the Maple Blues Award for Acoustic Artist of the year twice and has been nominated four times for a Maple Blues Songwriter of the Year Award. He’s also backed legends like Pinetop Perkins, Colleen Peterson, and Penny Lang.
Suzie Vinnick, on the other hand, is easily one of the finest singers this country has ever produced. A self-taught musician, the Saskatchewan-bern and Toronto-based Vinnick can play guitar, bass, sax, dobro, and mandolin. She is also an excellent songwriter, with a voice that stops people cold. And, yes, you probably have heard her. Besides playing festivals and concerts all year, Vinnick is a busy session singer featured on ads for the likes of Tim Hortons and Tetley Tea.
Twelve years ago an Ottawa radio personality decided Vinnick and Fines should meet and pointed Fines to a club where Vinnick was performing. At the time Fines was a member of the much-lauded Jackson Delta Acoustic Blues Band, and Vinnick had just moved from Saskatoon and was the musical talk of the town in Ottawa. They started playing a few gigs together and thought about making a recording. The outstanding Nothing Halfway album of mostly self-penned songs resulted from their auspicious convergence.
Individually they’re Canadian roots royalty. Together Suzie Vinnick and Rick Fines are a cosmic success.
Vishten – Prince Edward Isalnd/Quebec
In the Gulf of Saint Lawrence off Canada’s east coast lies tiny Prince Edward Island and nearby the even smaller archipelago called the Magdalen Islands. Both areas have shared histories and cultural ties that date back several centuries of the North Atlantic pounding their respective rocky shores.
Their connection has roots in the early French Acadian settlers’ search for a better life in the new world. Many of them turned to fishing for their livelihood and maintained their musical traditions as a means of celebrating their survival from generation to generation. Today a small enclave of predominantly French culture still exists on Prince Edward Island, while the Magdalen Islands remains primarily French.
Songs were traded back and forth on fishing boats in the old days and through many marriages over the years. A musical marriage that embodies the spirit and the sound of these many links is the contemporary Acadian traditional group Vishten.
Vishten emerged when twin sisters Pastelle and Emmanuelle LeBianc from Prince Edward Island teamed up with Pascal Miousse and Louis-Charles Vigneau from the Magdelene Islands. These third-generation Acadians living separate but parallel musical experiences create a sound that incorporates modern elements into the Acadian tradition.
Their music is at essence Celtic but with a difference. The songs are French, sung by each band member alone or in four-part harmony. The foot percussion drives the rhythm in a fiddle tune at times, yet holds back in the gentler musical moments. Accomplished multi-instrumentalists and step dancers, band members incorporate the fiddle, guitar, accordion, pennywhistle, banjo, mandolin, piano, jaw-harp, and bodhran into each performance.
An old saying advises to “go out and make your mark in the world exploring the new ways but don’t turn your back on your roots.” For the past seven years VishtEm has captivated audiences with music that comes from a deep respect and love for the sounds and rhythms forged by musicians who have gone before them. Vishten’s music is a living legacy, renewed and refreshed by a youthful 21st-century energy.
VOC Soul Gospel Choir – British Columbia
The Vancouver Outreach Community (VOC) Soul Gospel Choir has been activating our souls and sharing the joy of music since music director Checo Tohomaso founded the choir in 1996. Their goal is to unite people of different cultures and beliefs and deliver a message of love, peace, hope, and healing through their common passion-singing.
The choir sings in six-part harmony, and their 130 members, 70 of whom will be performing at the festival, include men and women of all ages, ethnicities, and religions. Delivering a high-energy, positive vibe, this dynamic choir mixes together the sounds of soul, gospel, R&B, jazz, Hawaiian, calypso, and reggae music.
The choir has “changed lives” with its energetic, soulful periormances at community events for local audiences, large and small. VOC has sung at the CIBC Run for the Cure for nine consecutive years and performed with distinguished artists such as Celine Dion at GM Place and Maya Angelou at the Orpheum.
Music director Checo Tohomaso brings a wealth of musical experience to the choir. Before arriving in Vancouver in 1986, Checo was a keyboard player and background vocalist for the Green Machine, the backing band for The Commodores and Lionel Ritchie. He was immersed in the Motown Sound, having been a part of Marvin Gaye’s final European tour.
Growing up in Florida and Hawaii, the son of an African American Christian mother and Peruvian African-American Jewish father, Checo was surrounded by R&B and soul as well as by other styles of cultural music. His passion for gospel began, as it has for many others, singing in church and hearing the work of other church-trained singers. In his quest to “bring soul to the city,” he shares his joy in soul and gospel music as a vocal, piano, and bass teacher.
This weekend the VOC “brings soul to the festival.” Feel free to let the spirit move you.
The Weakerthans – Ontario
Their blend of punk-inflected folk-rock laced with witty and introspective lyrics has made the Weakerthans one of Canada’s most popular bands. Critically hailed and impossible to categorize, they have developed a strong and dedicated following that crosses the boundaries of genres and fashions.
Lead singer John K. Samson (former bassist of Winnipeg punk band Propagandhi) along with bassist John P. Sutton and drummer Jason Tait created The Weakerthans in 1997. Samson dropped the in-your-face punk posturing in favour of a pensive, post-punk sensibility mixed with a strong dose of Prairies roost. The name of the band was inspired by an old leftist hymn of solidarity. Samson recalls the line: “Oh what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one, but the union makes us strong.”
The Weakerthans are masters at connecting the personal and the political. Their debut album, Fallow, was issued in 1998 and received wide critical praise. With the added presence of guitarist Steve Carroll, the group’s second full-length album, Left and Leaving, was issued in early 2000. Their Watermark EP followed a year later. In 2003 the band issued Reconstruction Site-their breakthrough album.
Soon after, Sutton left the group, and bassist and keyboardist Greg Smith joined. Reunion Tour, the fourth album in their 10-year tenure, was released in 2007. Every song sounds like the Weakerthans wrote it specifically for themselves and the listener to enjoy together.
Such a special intimacy and rich warmth surrounds the Weakerthans that you feel their music deep inside your stomach like the anxious butterflies of a new romance. At album number four, this isn’t a fleeting love affair-it’s the Weakerthans doing what they do best.
Cheryl Wheeler – United States
There are two sides to New England-based singer songwriter Cheryl Wheeler. When she sings you know she is a gifted songwriter with a beautiful voice. She’s also a natural storyteller with a fantastic sense of humour. Some of the joy of watching her perform is to see which persona wins control of the microphone-you know you’re a winner either way.
Many of Cheryl’s songs are emotional portraits of people that leave you feeling like you know them. You find yourself right there in the moment with her as she sings of small-town life or shares tales of touring on the road. Other songs are hilarious situation comedies.
Between songs, Cheryl delivers devastatingly funny social commentary in defiance of transitory trends. Armed with a scathing wit, she gleefully pokes fun at her own foibles-and we see ourselves in her mirror.
Cheryl’s road to a lifelong career in folk music started early when she discovered the stage was her natural habitat. By age 12 she was performing at a public hootenanny in her hometown of Timonium, Maryland, and the local Steak and Ale Restaurant hosted her first professional gigs. Writing songs since she was 17, she released herfirst self-produced EP in 1983.
Since then she’s made 10 albums and a live performance video called What Do ICare? IDon’t Have Any Kids Construction Company. Inc. Touring extensively and performing at some of North America’s most prestigious festivals, she’s also been busy writing tunes that other people turn into hits. Addicted was at the top of the country charts for Dan Seals; Aces made it as a top-ten country hit for Suzy Bogguss; and other songs have been covered by Garth Brooks, Bette Midler, Kathy Mattea, and Peter, Paul and Mary to name a few. Cheryl’s latest album, Pointing at the Sun, includes new tunes along with older songs that are just now being released.
Cheryl Wheeler can having you laughing one moment and crying the next-she’s that good.
Women in Docs – Australia
Give a warm welcome to two bonzer singers from Brizzie (translation: two remarkable and wonderful singers from Brisbane, Australia). Canadians may need a bit of help understanding some colourful Aussie expressions, but there won’t be any cultural divides when Chanel Lucas and Roz Pappalardo, a.k.a. Women in Does, take the stage.
Those who enjoy artists with independent spirits wi!l find plenty to admire in the Does. They’ve been described as a cross between the Indigo Girls and the Dixie Chicks-which could mean they have exquisite harmonies, classic lyrics, and a vibrant stage presence; all true, but there’s more. Women in Does also bring to the stage an original, bright folk-pop sound, a unique brand of dry Down Under humour that comes out in and between songs, and intelligent, realistic, and at times edgy poetics.
The duo formed in 1998 and worked their way up through the music industry ranks-from playing in their bedrooms in far North Queensland, to moving to the big smoke of Brisbane, to building a fierce following that spans the breadth and depth of their country. On the way they gained a reputation for their solid performances and as Australia’s hardest working artists, winning a Self-Managed Artist award in 2004.
In recent years they’ve gone further afield, taking the plunge and crossing the ocean to perform at important industry showcases: The North American Folk Alliance in California, SXSW in Texas, and at Canadian Music Week. Their charm and talent shone through, and now they journey to North America on an almost regular basis to sing at festivals and in concerts.
They have released four EPs and two full-length albums, with Red Wine and Postcards the most recent. Their recordings have spent time in the Top 10 of the Australian Independent Record Charts and the Top 20 of the Americana Folk Charts.
Women in Does will grab you with their emotional honesty, their powerhouse vocals, and well-crafted lyrics, all dressed up in stealthily addictive melodies. And, of course, bonzer shoes.
Jamyang Yeshi – British Columbia
Jamyang Yeshi was born into a nomadic family in the Amdo region ofTibet. As a child he learned to sing and play the five-string dhamyin while following the flocks through Tibet’s mountain pastures. Escaping Chinese occupation, Jamyang crossed the Himalayas in 1998, making his new home in Dharamsala, India. Soon after his arrival he formed the Aku Pema Performing Arts group, performed at the first Tibetan music festival there, and produced two CDs.
Jamyang’s Canadian connection is an accidental odyssey that began when a volunteer worker, Karen McDiarmid from Banff, Alberta, agreed to teach English to a Tibetan musician in Dharamsala. This soon ramped up into organizing house concerts and impromptu recording sessions. Returning to Canada, Karen’s promise to produce a CD of those recordings morphed into the Tara Cafe Project. In 2005 The Banff Centre invited Jamyang and fellow musician Gompo Dhundup to perform at the Cultures at Risk Conference, which developed into a residency at The Centre’s Music & Sound Department. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Jamyang and Gompo produced The Karma of Snow/and CD.
In 2006 the Tara Cafe Project began work on the Shining Spirit project. Karen and fellow traveller Mark Unrau entered Tibet as tourists and, through contacts made earlier in Dharamsala, connected with Jamyang’s family at their winter camp. Mark carried a laptop loaded with tracks laid down by Jamyang at The Banff Centre, and over the next few weeks made recordings of the family singing and playing along with their lost son. Multi-tracked back in Canada, the sessions were released as the CD Shining Spirit: A Tibetan Family’s Reunion through Music. Penguin Eggs music magazine featured the project, and tracks from the album underscored the acclaimed mountaineering documentary Via Bearzi.
Jamyang has taken his music to Russia, Hungary, the United States, and Canada. He has performed for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and in a special concert for Prince Charles in Delhi. He now lives on Vancouver Island.
d’bi. young – Ontario
Hailing from the trenches of Kingston, Jamaica, and the concrete jungles of Toronto, Canada, d’bi.young stands firm at the hybrid oasis, where roots-rock-reggae meets dub-poetic-politix, infused by dangerous dancehall riddims and funked out punk [rock].
The core of d’bi’s work is based on what she describes as the seven founding principles of dubpoetry and dubtheatre: language, rhythm, orality, political content,urgency,integrity, and sacredness. Her multidisciplinary performances have been heralded worldwide, from her headlining performance at the International Reggae Festival in Cuba to starring in the Canadian hit musical Da Kink in My Hair to her legendary sets at the Sistahood Festival in Vancouver.
In d’bi’s own words, “I am a Jamaican born and raised dub. poet. it is my honour to be among the griots of the global african village retelling our forgotten herstories. storytelling was taught to me by my mother, taught to her by her mother and her mother before her. they weaved the divine struggles of everyday life in jamaica into quilted celebrations of worship / Jubilee /sorrow/and dance. I learnt very early that life beyond poverty/violence /(self) hate /abuse/ inequity/and degradation-is about gratitude/humility/love/healing/and valuing struggle … storytelling grounded in responsibility and accountability to the community/a reflection of integrity.”
She has produced five dubpoetry albums, is the author of two dubpoetry collections put out by Women’s Press-art on black (2006) and rivers and other blackness between us (2007) and is also the playwright of the double Dora award-winning show bloodclaat. d’bi recently launched a new arts initiative, anitAFRIKA! dub theatre, a radical arts centre designed to provide creative resource-s that facilitate and promote the ideas of accountability and responsibility between the storyteller and the people.
Five CDs, five plays, two books … dancehall, rock, and dub, d’bi’s performances may cross genres and styles but all bring messages of empowerment, social consciousness, and inspiration.