Nunca Más Mujer
Last November, twelve Chilean women songwriters and musicians gathered at a retreat centre near the capital city of Santiago for a weekend workshop to harness the power of song as a tool in the struggle to end violence against women. The gathering was convened by the Popular Education for Health Foundation (EPES), an organization that was founded during the era of the military dictatorship (1973-90) to help working-class women organize for better living conditions. Leading the workshop was Holly Near, the American singer, feminist, and peace activist. Near’s 1978 song “Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida” (‘There’s a Woman Missing‘) helped ignite international condemnation of the Pinochet regime’s forced disappearances and systematic human rights violations. Near and EPES have been collaborating for more than a decade. The workshop’s agenda included an EPES presentation about violence against women, Near’s reflections on effective political uses of song, as well as individual and group composition. ‘Nunca Más Mujer‘ (‘Never Again, Woman‘) is a captivating song that was composed by the workshop participants. It was released in April, accompanied by a nation-wide promotional and educational campaign. Check it out on YouTube.
Packingtown scores at Hogtown Mayworks
Toronto’s 32nd Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts concluded on an artistic high note on May 7th with a performance of the video ballad Packingtown, a multi-media people’s history of the struggles of Edmonton meatpacking workers from 1908, through the epic 1986 Gainers strike, and beyond, to the demise of the industry in the 1990s. The 60-minute performance piece weaves together live music, written and performed by Juno-nominated singer-songwriter Maria Dunn, with video footage, archival photos, and interviews by Ground Zero Productions videographer Don Bouzek and historian-curator Catherine C. Cole. Packingtown refers to the site of what was North America’s second-largest stockyard, and the home of meatpacking giants Canada Packers, Burns, and Swift (re-branded as Gainers in 1980 by Edmonton financial mogul Peter Pocklington). The video ballad form is brilliantly realized by the collaborating artists. The vintage images, interviews, and live performances are perfectly synchronized, as the narrative moves back and forth between everyday life and collective struggle with humour, pathos, and anger. Kudos to Maria Dunn – an accomplished songwriter and performer – and to her supporting musicians, violinist Shannon Johnson and saxophonist and low-whistle player Jeremiah McDade. For more info: www.mariadunn.com and www.gzpedmonton.org.
Canadians protest TSO Israel Tour
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra launched its first-ever tour of Israel with a May 3rd “Arabian Nights Pre-Tour Concert” at Toronto’s Roy Thompson Hall. The send-off for the tour, which included several concerts in Europe, followed a winter fund-raising campaign that ignored the protests and petitions of Palestinian solidarity organizations like the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) and the Canadian BDS Coalition. The TSO’s tour included concerts at Sherover Hall, Jerusalem on May 11 and the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv on May 13. In its statement, the CAIA charged the TSO with “lending its prestige and reputation to legitimize a state which is responsible for ongoing human rights abuses”. Those abuses include holding two million people under siege in Gaza for the past ten years, flouting both international law and official Canadian policy by moving half a million Israeli citizens into illegal settlements in the occupied territories, and systematic destruction of Palestinian homes and olive groves. The unprecedented TSO tour will be reciprocated with a performance by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Toronto on October 28, 2017. Read the full CAIA statement at http://www.caiaweb.org.
Summer Folk Festival Roundup
“Sumer Is Icumen In” as the medieval English round song says. For many music lovers this means it’s time to go to a folk festival, pitch a tent, hang out with friends and family, and enjoy some laid-back music. Here are some of the best-known Canadian folk festivals, with their dates, plus a sampling of performers (most of whom have been mentioned at some time in this column). Starting things off is the Festival folk de Montréal, where you can catch Sarah Harmer and James Keelaghan (June 14-18). The Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso, NS celebrates Canada Day weekend with Garnet Rogers and Dave Gunning (June 30-July 2). The Winnipeg Folk Festival has some big names, including Feist and Bruce Cockburn (July 6-9). You can see folksinger/activist Si Kahn and nu-calypso/reggae band Kobo Town at the Mariposa Folk Festival, just north of Toronto (July 7-9). On the West Coast, the Vancouver Folk Festival showcases Billy Bragg and Rhiannon Giddens (July 13-16). The Calgary Folk Festival has Coeur de Pirate and Tanya Tagaq (July 27-30). On the East Coast you can catch Amelia Curran and David Francey at the Lunenberg Folk Harbour Festival (August 10-13). The Edmonton Folk Festival features Martin & Eliza Carthy and Mary Chapin Carpenter (August 10-13). Happy summer days and nights! For more info: www.musicfestivalwizard.com.