Manitoba has earned a reputation for its folk music. And rightly so. Internationally-acclaimed acts like The Wailin’ Jennys, The Duhks, Del Barber, Romi Mayes, and Oh My Darling have been winning awards, hitting the charts, and taking over stages across the globe. And one of the oft-cited inspirations for many artists is the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
“There isn't much else like it actually,” says Andrina Turenne, whose Juno-winning band Chic Gamine will be performing on several stages throughout this year’s Folk Fest weekend. “I remember the first tweener I ever did on the Winnipeg Folk Festival main stage was in 2001 with Rudimental. It had gotten dark already so we couldn't see how far the crowd stretched out. After our first song (which I think was an a cappella cover of Joni Mitchell's 'Blue'), the audience roared and I got shivers down my spine. What a feeling!” Click here for a free download of "Motions" by Chic Gamine.
The venerable festival kicks off its five night, three day run on July 4, presenting numerous performers that span multiple genres, from traditional folk to indie roots to world music and beyond, including marquee names like Feist, DeVotchKa, Iron & Wine, and K’Naan.
The crop of Manitoba artists is equally diverse, including the soul/roots pop of Chic Gamine; roots super trio Dry Bones, which features Leonard Podolak (The Duhks), Nathan Rogers, and JD Edwards; Manitoba/B.C. indie folk act Fish & Bird; Klezmer outfit Black Sea Station, which includes former Finjan players Daniel Koulack, Victor and Myron Schultz; Manitoba-bred, Nashville-based sibling duo and Duhks alums Sarah and Christan Dugas; children's performers Aaron Burnett and Jake Chénier Band.
Turenne is no stranger to festivals, having played big stages in Canada and the U.S. But like many touring artists, being asked to play Folk Fest can be particularly poignant.
“The Winnipeg Folk Festival stands above the rest,” she says. “The staff and huge team of volunteers work tirelessly to make the Festival experience an unforgettable one for artist and festival lovers alike. We're in the Manitoba workshop and I know we'll be teamed up with friends I haven't seen in a long time. It will be great to share the stage and maybe jam a few songs together.”
The festival celebrates homegrown talent once again with the popular Manitoba-centric workshop, which has drawn huge crowds in recent years. Dubbed "Fuelled By Passion", the workshop features hosts Dry Bones with Chic Gamine, Black Sea Station, Sarah and Christian Dugas, and Fish & Bird. Presented by Manitoba Music and Manitoba Film & Music, the workshop takes over Big Bluestem on July 6 at 12:45pm.
Three locals will also hit the Main Stage this year in tweener spots, including Chic Gamine on July 5, Sarah and Christian Dugas on July 6, and Dry Bones on July 8.
The Winnipeg Folk Festival is about more than just five days in July. As one of Manitoba's largest arts organizations, it works year-round offering programming. Centred largely around its downtown venue, The Folk Exchange, the festival offers concerts and regular open mic nights as well as workshops and other training. It also offers the Folk School Tent at the site and runs the specialized training through its Folk Retreat every year.
Open to emerging musicians age 14-24, the festival’s Young Performers Program offers a day of workshops and mentoring with festival performers and a chance to perform on stage during the weekend. Participants this year include Cassidy Mann, Rachel Ashley, and Adam Hanney. Several participants from its Young Performers Program—including Juno-nominated alum Del Barber, a Folk Fest performer two years ago—have gone on to careers in music.