Running since 1978, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival (VFMF) is a definite staple on the summer music festival scene. And not only local Vancouverites flock to Jericho Beach for the three-day event, as the festival also draws large number of neighbours from Alberta and Washington. In total the weekend will see upwards of 40,000 festival-goers. The success of this long-standing event is largely due to the eclectic lineup featured over the years, as discussed last year. This year, VFMF once again doesn’t disappoint. VFMF 2014 artists include powerhouse Canadian talent, second-generation afrobeat performers, and classic southern sounds.
Canadian talent is always central to this festival, and this year the homegrown talent comes in various unique iterations. Victoria’s folk-rock ensemble, Fish & Bird, fuses classic folk inspirations with more experimental melodies, ultimately creating a beautiful and interesting listening experience. And returning to VFMF after five years, Great Lake Swimmers bring a timeless quality to the festival. There’s no argument that this Canadian staple will serve as easy listening on a hot July day. Also gracing this year’s stage is Flying Mountain, one of the Canadian West Coast’s most well known folk groups from the 1970’s. Over the years they have incorporated various cultural influences into their music, and their eclectic inspirations are palpable while performing. And eloquently personifying the multi-cultural influences many Canadians draw from, is Leonard Sumner. This fusion artist incorporates rap, hip-hop, and easy rock influences, all of which are approached from a Canadian Indigenous vantage point.
And while each of these Canadian groups is wholly unique, cross-cultural artists from other nations bring further lively flavours to the festival this year. Exemplary of this vibrancy is Seun Kuti and Egypt 80. The son of Fela Kuti, the widely credited creator of afrobeat, Seun Kuti infuses his music with strong influences derived from his heritage. On stage you can expect Egyptian 80s beats alongside renditions of Fela Kuti originals. Echoing the theme of strong cultural ties in her music is Noura Mint Seymali. Seymali’s musical career started in the North African tradition of storytelling, and has since grown to encompass myriad traditions, all fused into one transfixing experience.
Finally, a trio of a capella singers from Como, Mississippi, The Como Mamas will steal your heart with their ballads. These ladies are from the southern United States, and their music is rooted deeply in the heritage of their ancestors and religion. There is simply no way their voices won’t stir something up inside of you.
When interviewed in 2002 about the VFMF’s 25th Anniversary, founder Mitch Podolak exclaimed, “You enter a special world. You step outside normal society for three days and enjoy a totally non-alienating experience. What could be better?” This year’s festival is no exception with its transcendental influences and evocative artists.
Similar to last year, the festival will be held at Jericho Beach across various stages, running July 18-20, 2014. Ticket and VFMF 2014 information (including vendor and volunteer opportunities) are available here. For interesting and current tidbits, see Facebook and Twitter. Don’t miss this year’s musical journey.