Emmanuel Jal

The rain and oddly adverse summer weather were no obstacle for music lovers to enjoy the 34th Vancouver Folk Festival. Thousands of people, locals and visitors, grown ups and children alike, gathered once again at the Jericho Beach Park to enjoy the 34th edition of this festival.

The lineup for this year was pretty complete, gathering musicians from all around the world and from various musical backgrounds. Some of the headline features of this year’s Folk Music Festival included international celebrities, such as songwriter Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band, country music star Rosanne Cash, singer Emmanuel Jal, and Nova Scotian rapper Buck 65. However, there is great quality music being brewed here home in BC and this was represented by locals like C.R. Avery, Kathryn Calder and The Fugitives, just to mention a few.

Although most of the featured artists were North American, there was a respectable group of artists coming from places as far as Africa, South America and Australia. The result: The Folk Music Festival became a “World Music Festival”. But this is not a bad thing; on the contrary, this is a formula that attracts much wider audiences which makes this a very unique festival among regular music festivals.

The universe of different rhythms and styles, however, acquired very particular notes and flavours with the smartly thought workshops that took place throughout the entirety of the festival, which successfully aimed to find common grounds among performers and put them together on stage. That way, the audience was treated by acts like “Under African Skies”, which featured exclusively African artists like Emmanuel Jal, Alpha Yaya Diallo and Freshlyground, or “Girl Talk”, where female performers Jenny Whiteley, Kathryn Calder and Samantha Crain took the stage.

But the Folk Music Festival did not only feature music. As in every previous version, the festival also featured a series of gastronomical options to please the attendees’ taste buds. Inspired by world music influences, the food options available inside the festival were also inspired in world cuisine, ranging from purely North American hot dogs (by Fantastic Hot Dogs) and chili (by The Chili Tank), to French crepes (savoury and salty by B&B Crepes), to Mediterranean food (North African dishes by The Nomad’s Kitchen), Italian gourmet pizzas (by the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.), Ukrainian perogies and garlic sausages, and Salvadorian pupusas. Some more exotic creations were also available in a few food tents, such as the case of the Hungarian “Langos” (savoury and salty Hungarian Fried bread) by Ovenmonkey or the organic salads and wraps by Preserved Seed Cafe. 

In all regards, the 34th edition of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival was pleasant – except, of course, for the weather, which is understandably beyond the control of the organizers. The smiling faces shown by attendees at the end of the weekend were the best proof that people were satisfied with the organization and choices of music and food available on site. There’s little doubt that the transition from a purely Folk festival to a more World music and food stage has been positive, and it will not be surprising that, just like a great wine, it keeps getting better with time.

Photo Credit: Eddie Tafber