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Sample Track 1:
"Gakondo" from Mighty Popo
Sample Track 2:
"Comme Des Enfants" from Coeur De Pirate
Sample Track 3:
"Clap Your Hands" from Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band
Sample Track 4:
"Tallulah May" from Morgan O'Kane
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"Dancing with the Moon" from Balkan Beat Box
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"David Wax Museum" from El Corrido Del Borracho
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"Yoducha" from Yemen Blues
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"Go To Sleep Alone" from The Flatlanders
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"Memphis Flu" from The Felice Brothers
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"Rekwazé" from Ti Coca & Wangs - Neges
Layer 2
Calgary Folk Music Festival 2011 (Alberta, Canada) View Additional Info

Incubating at the Fringes:
Calgary Folk Music Festival Breeds Open Audiences and Bold, New Artists

“We’ve become an incubator of the indie scene and a gathering place for people interested in supporting live music,” reflects Kerry Clarke, artistic director for the Calgary Folk Music Festival (July 21-24, 2011;, which turns the wooded expanse of downtown Calgary’s Prince’s Island into a funky musical melee once a year.

“The initial audience was made up of a more stereotypical folk audience and featured lots of with beards and banjos; now we’re on radar of a whole melting pot of indie artists, from punk bands to world musicians, plus all sorts of marquee names,” she says. “We’re part of the milieu but on the edge, though we’re being noticed more and more because of the role we play in artists’ careers.”

The Folk Music Festival has become a jumping off point for regional, national, and international artists—as well as a beloved venue for established icons—thanks to its seemingly contradictory ability to get musicians and audiences out of their comfort zones, while keeping a comfy vibe of contentment pervading the event. There’s greenery and scenery—the Calgary skyline and distant peaks of the Rockies rise above the trees. There’s food, crafts and friendly crowds.

But the Folk Music Festival is really about new music. Audiences may come to hear artists they’re familiar with—past headliners include The Decemberists, Andrew Bird, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, David Byrne, and Michael Franti—but are ready and willing to discover and listen seriously, as they unwind in the inviting park atmosphere. “Prince’s Island is our stealth headliner,” Clarke laughs. Festival-goers sit under trees, well fed and open to new experiences, not crouched on hard seats with warm beer and blaring stadium sound.

They are surrounded by like-minded listeners of every conceivable type—hipsters, kids on shoulders, old-school bohemians, businesspeople, recent immigrants, government officials. Everyone chats and urges friends and acquaintances to check out what’s happening on the festival’s seven stages.

What’s going on is what Clarke has humorously called “arranged marriages,” serendipitous, anything-goes workshop sessions that throw several unexpected artists together for the first time: Indian slide guitarists with Congo’s Konono No 1, Raw Mississippi rock with electric Saharan blues. It’s performing without a net: no sound checks, no rehearsing, just a dozen skilled musicians leaping gleefully into the unknown.

It can be crazy, but it can also be magic. “For the artists, it’s daunting,” muses Clarke. “All of a sudden, you’re in a ten-piece orchestra from all different musical contexts, with an unknown sound engineer. The great thing is that the audience doesn’t mind at all. They just want to see people collaborate, and they’re willing to take a chance, whether you’re Geoff Berner or Billy Bragg.”

These collaborations turn the old festival cliché of “sharing the stage” into the honest truth. “If you’ve played Calgary and say you shared a stage with Michael Franti or Cat Empire, you actually have,” Clarke explains. “The headliners stay on the stage and get to hear and play with Canadian or Calgary bands, say, or masters from the other side of the planet. Everyone gets to know each other. It’s a great opportunity for an artist that’s just breaking, and many groups take full advantage of that.”

Marquee artists or first-time touring groups alike all share qualities that defy simple genres like folk and rock, but make for powerful festival experiences and have a subtle impact on the scene. “We look for people who are open-minded and creative, who are willing to look at their own work with fresh eyes, not just repeat their four big hits,” Clarke notes. “Even if they are young performers, our artists have a sense of history and depth in their chosen style.”

Additional Info
Incubating at the Fringes: Calgary Folk Music Festival Breeds ...
Festival Director's recommendations for things to do in and around ...
Festival by-the-numbers
Calgary Folk Festival 2011 lineup

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