First People's Fest draws to a close

·3 min read

This year, Halloween weekend will not only be for candies and scares.

Montreal’s 30th edition of the First People’s Festival is offering three online concerts as part of its closing program. The shows will premiere on October 29, 30 and 31, on the festival’s website.

André Dudemaine, director and one of the founding members at Land Insights, the organization behind the festival, explained that this year’s theme, Nomade Land, reflects our current situation living in a COVID-19 pandemic.

The idea was to have a flexible schedule that moves and adapts itself to the constantly changing restrictions.

“We had hoped to go all in and celebrate our 30th anniversary, but let’s say that the cake deflated when it came out of the oven,” said Dudemaine with a laugh.

Starting on August 7, the festival included in-person events such as street performances and film screenings, but also online events.

The festival launched a series of three new concerts recorded at the Cabaret le Lion d’Or in Montreal earlier this September.

Dudemaine explained that finding artists given the circumstances was not a difficult task since most artists had to cancel their tours. It actually gave them the opportunity to produce and offer a unique show, he added.

One of them, âpihtawikosisâniskwêw multidisciplinary artist Moe Clark, brought together on stage Nina Segalowitz, David Ryshpan, Mark Nelson and Marino Vazquez. The collaboration that will be presented on Halloween night at 7 p.m. offers a vocal improvisation with multilingual lyricism.

“Get your costume on, your computer, have some candies and celebrate with a live show,” said Clark.

The 37-year-old singer explained that even though it was complicated to organize band practice while respecting social distancing, the feeling of playing on stage with real musicians was much-needed.

A lot of artists turned to livestreamed performances and Clark is no exception. But the Metis artist from Treaty 7 in Calgary said the exciting new way of sharing her music quickly became tiring.

“All of a sudden, it felt like I became the sound engineer, the lighting and technical designer,” said Clark. “When you don’t get the feedback from the audience that tells you we are here, we are listening and laughing at your jokes, it becomes exhausting. You are not getting the energy back in the same way.”

If on Halloween night you already have plans to watch a horror movie, then you might prefer the concert offered prior to the spooky evening. A jazz trio based in Montreal, Backwater Township, consisting of Corey Thomas (bass), Olivier Turner (guitar) and Vitta Morales (drums), is offering a performance tonight (Friday) at 7 p.m., paying tribute to Thomas’s personal experience as a Mi’kmaq artist.

The third concert was presented last night (Thursday). Laura Niquay, an Atikamekw artist from Wemotaci, was joined by Gotta Lago from the Ivory Coast. Together on stage, they shared their respective cultures, acknowledging their different heritages in a beautiful respectful marriage of style.

Although the official First People Festival’s program is coming to an end this weekend, Dudemaine is looking at including more shows and cultural events later in November and December.

“We slowly continue to keep the festival alive and allow Indigenous artists to share their arts,” he said.

Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door