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3 acts to catch during the virtual Vancouver Folk Music Festival this weekend



The next time a global pandemic strikes, we are going to be so ready, I tell you.

After hastily cancelling last year’s festivals and touring seasons in response to COVID-19 then struggling to cobble together entertainment in the online sphere, our industry has learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t in online entertainment – both technically and in terms of content.

Which brings us to this year’s festival season. Good news: there is one!

But instead of sitting in a park and having the artists come to us, festivals across Canada are showcasing a lot of homegrown talent, mostly online, and it’s on us to “travel” – virtually – each weekend to see what they have to offer. On the plus side, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper!

The Vancouver Island Music Festival kicked things off this past weekend with three nights of leave streaming that featured pre-taped, wonderfully produced performances by regional artists like Big Little Lions and Corwin Fox, as well as a terrific line-up of Indigenous artists from across the country and a workshop on Indigenous relations.

This weekend, it’s the Vancouver Folk Music Festival’s turn to present online, and its focus is on local talent. It will post a series of pretaped performances on its website on Friday, and it’s asking everyone to begin their journey by watching the opening ceremonial welcome by Tsatsu Stalqayu (Coastal Wolf Pack). If you live in Vancouver, you can see these shows screened on the big screen at the Rio Theatre, by the way. Here are three artists you won’t want to miss.

Vashaan Ensemble

The Vashaan Ensemble was formed in 2011 as a project to explore forms of Iranian music that have rarely been heard in North America. Their first collaboration, Shadmaneh, brought lost melodies and unknown musical styles of southeastern Iran to a wide range of listeners in an effort to demonstrate how rich and cheerful Iranian traditional music can be. The ensemble has since formed into a professional yet close-knit group of musicians that continue to explore the broad range of traditional Persian musical styles and perform for a wide range of North American audiences.


Though he was born and raised in Mexico and spent his teens in Thunder Bay, there are few artists more profoundly associated with the Vancouver folk music scene than Tom Landa. He is the founder of the Juno-winning band the Paperboys, founder of the old Vancouver Celtic Festival and co-founder of the Vancouver World Music Festival. The Paperboys were most associated with Celtic music, but in 2006, Tom was awarded a Canada Council Grant to study traditional Mexican music in Veracruz. That led to the birth of his second major music project, Locarno. No matter what Tom’s playing, he brings tons of energy and joy to it, and that energy manages to translate even on record. So don’t miss Locarno!

Blue Moon Marquee

Nominated for Songwriter of the Year at this year’s Canadian Folk Music Awards and recently featured online during the Indigenous Music Summit, the duo of A.W. Cardinal and Jasmine Colette perform original compositions influenced by anything that swings, jumps, or grooves. They cite among their influences artists such as Lonnie Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Blind Willie Jonson, Charley Patton, Howlin’ Wolf, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Tom Waits, Memphis Minnie and Django Reinhardt. Jasmine holds down the rhythm section in this duo by playing a mean upright bass and pounding out the beat on the kick drum, snare and high hat – all while singing harmonies. A.W. brings gravelly vocals and a wicked holler to the front of the arrangements. Their passionate performances and smouldering onstage chemistry have enthralled audiences from backroom bars to festival stages to velvet-seated theatres.


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