Every year the Vancouver Folk Music Festival rounds up an eclectic mix of talent to perform at Jericho Beach Park, and this year (the 36th annual event running July 19-21 at Jericho Beach Park) is no exception. Performing along with artists from around the world are some amazing musicians directly from, or with strong roots in, Africa and the Caribbean – music from Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, and Trinidad.
Opening up the festival with a Main Stage concert Friday night, July 19 in their only festival appearance are Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars. Formed in West African refugee camps, this group is a potent example of the redeeming power of music, and the ability of the human spirit to persevere through hardship, and emerge with optimism intact. They have made waves around the world with uplifting songs of hope, faith and joy, presenting a mix of old school reggae, funky African grooves and deep tribal chants.
Boston-based Debo Band move traditional and popular Ethiopian sounds to an astonishing new place – a party place where funk, soul and free jazz swirl together. As an 11-member group led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen, they have delighted fans across the globe with their electrifying live performances. NPR calls their latest album “one of the best finds of 2012, bar none.”
Kobo Town, founded by Trinidadian-Canadian songwriter Drew Gonsalves, is named after the historic Port of Spain neighbourhood where both calypso and Gonsalves were born. After moving to Quebec City as a kid, Gonsalves started writing his own calypsos to cope with the nostalgia he felt for his true home. Today, Gonsalves and Kobo Town take the folkloric music of the West Indies in new creative directions, running the intricate wordplay of classic Caribbean music through a 21st Century filter.
Fellow Trinidadian, Anthony Joseph, is a poet, novelist and lecturer who moved to the UK in 1989 and formed Anthony Joseph and the Spasm Band. They blend together sounds of free jazz, spoken word, calypso, and the hypnotic spiritual Baptist rhythms that were prominent in Joseph’s Trinidadian childhood. Get ready for performances that are a tidal wave of sound, emotion and potent words.
Laeititia Zonzambé, with her soulful, deeply emotional voice promises a special experience. She began her musical career in her birth place of Bangui, Central African Republic, deliberately choosing to sing out in the midst of upheaval and social crisis. Now based in Montreal, she melds the traditional rhythms and sounds of her homeland with pop, jazz, and R&B. Singing in French, English, Sango and other central African dialects, she creates a sound that pays fresh homage to the extraordinary musical wealth of her homeland.
From galvanizing rhythms to soulful sounds to potent prose, all this and more is on tap at the best weekend of your summer. Tickets and info are available at go to thefestival.bc.ca.