Although we usually venture far and wide during the winter, in the summer we stay near and close, visiting all of Vancouver’s many festivals.
I have my favourites, ones that we keep going back too, but this year there were a couple of new ones courtesy of Canada150+, Canada’s 150th birthday celebration.
So, some old favourites for July: the last day of the International Coastal Jazz Festival at David Lam Park, Khatsahlano!, a contemporary music festival on Fourth Avenue and the Carnaval del Sol at Concord Pacific Place. All of these events are free and fantastic for their live performances.
I want to do a special shout out for MNGWA at the Carnaval del Sol – we first saw this amazing band at the Harmony Arts Festival in West Vancouver (August) and have been on the look out for any performances ever since. This is Colombian cumbia with a Vancouver twist – you must listen to MNGWA’s ‘La Rumba de Kingsway’ on YouTube, their tribute to the low-rent street that cuts diagonally through the city.
Then for something different we went to our first Women’s Roller Derby game to see our friend being turned into a ferocious Roller Girl. There are several locations to watch this tough sport, and more info can be found at https://www.rollergirl.ca/rollerskaters/terminal-city-rollergirls.html. One of my dearest friends!Then there were a couple of special events that weren’t particularly well advertised – I only found out when I heard amazing music wafting across the water and looked it up. It was the Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra, all over the map musically, part of Cap sur le Pacifique (Canada goes Pacific) on Granville Island. The program continued the next day with a free screening of ‘Un barrage contre le Pacifique’ at 1:00, finishing with free concerts by a variety of Caribbean/Hispanic groups. Of course, one of the best parts of any Francophone festival is the fantastical costumes, in this case the stilt walkers – it’s no surprise to me that Cirque de Soleil started in Quebec.
The Francophone festival continued on Sunday but in the process of looking it up I discovered another festival called The Drum is Calling, an indigenous festival being held downtown for the week. I wasn’t sure what to expect but there seemed to be some sort of event at the Central Library. When I entered it was to the pounding of drums and sight of dancers suspended from the library ceiling. It was called the Dance of the Thunderbird, accompanied by drums and traditional dancing on the floor, an amazing spectacle.There were more events down aways on the festival grounds and although I wandered around a bit I felt that one amazing event per day was quite enough so I went home, deciding to come back the next night for the Day of the Matriarch.
The last artist of the evening was Tanya Tagaq, a Inuit woman with a sweet demeanour and voice. She hesitantly described her work as contemporary. And improvisational. Which meant that the piece we would hear tonight would only happen in this place and never happen again. She then described throat-singing, an Inuit tradition, usually performed as a conversation between two women. But this would be only her, accompanied by a violin player and a drummer.
The performance started and it was as if she was possessed; strange sounds emitting from the stage, so strange I asked my friend who was familiar with her work, “Is that her? or the instruments?”
“That’s her, have you never heard throat-singing before? It sounds like demons.”
Yes. Demons. And rutting bison, and wolves, and murdered indigenous women.
There were no breaks, just one continuous song that went on for an hour without stopping and when it was over there was a stunned silence followed by people rising to their feet and murmurs.
If you have never heard throat-singing before it is an amazing experience and if you ever have the chance to see a performance by her by all means go – it is an experience of northern Canada unlike any other.
Another old favourite in Vancouver is the fireworks competition which currently goes on three nights: the last Saturday in July, the next Wednesday and the Saturday after which coincides with the BC Day long weekend. Here’s Japan’s 2017 Celebration of Light fireworks lighting up the sky over English Bay.Of course there are even more amazing things going on. While walking along the Sea Wall one evening I caught a glimpse of strange coloured lights playing on the other side of the bridge. So I have just looked that up and it turns out it’s called Uninterrupted, Salmon Return to False Creek, a cinematic public artwork projected onto concrete Cambie Bridge. There’s more info here: http://uninterrupted.ca and it may be the amazing thing I do tonight. And it’s still only July! More of Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Near.