Winnipeg Folk Festival to bring world's talent to Prairies, art director says

It isn't quite spring yet, but the hype surrounding Manitoba's biggest summer music festival is already growing.

On Thursday, the Winnipeg Folk Festival released its lineup of musical acts set to take the various festival stages this summer.

Chris Frayer, artistic director for the festival, spoke with CBC Weekend Morning Show host Terry MacLeod Saturday morning about the festival.

This will be Frayer's twelfth year with the festival. Despite all that time, he says he still gets really excited every spring for the coming-festival.

"Every year it's been different. I'm always excited to see how the audience responds to what I've planned for them," he says.

Bands from Australia, Germany, Ethiopia, France, Yemen and Israel, to name a few, will be making the trek to Birds Hill Park to perform.

"I think it's an opportunity for us to do some really exotic programming at the festival that fills a void in our musical community," he said. "A lot of these groups are literally coming from their respective countries, so it takes a good budget to bring them over."

Frayer said he happened upon the band Yemen Blues last November while travelling through Israel and knew he had to have them for the festival.

"There's a huge immigration of Yemenite Jews to Israel, so the music is ... influenced by Balkan and Gypsy overtones, but it also has an African and Arabic-type influence on it."

The band has played Winnipeg before, but this iteration of the band is different, Frayer says.

"I think people will love it. It's very modern."

Noam Pikelny will showcase his banjo picking skills this summer. Pikelny is part of the Grammy Award-winning group Punch Brothers (who've played the festival in the past) and has won comedian and folk musician Steve Martin's Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.

"Noam is fantastic; he has a great sense of humour. He's a virtuoso banjo player," Frayer said, adding Pikelny will host a bluegrass jam session at the festival.

"Banjo is very much a big part of the Winnipeg Folk Festival — it's actually our logo."

Boogat, a band based in Mexico City but with ties to Montreal, will bring an eclectic mix of "Latin, Quebecois electronica," Frayer says.

"It's a party," he said. "They've never played a show here before and are excited to come, and there's just a lot of buzz in the world music community for them."

The Staves, a group of three sisters from the U.K., have a distinctly Joni Mitchell vibe and "phenomenal harmonies."

"We've been trying to get them for a long time," Frayer said. "People are really, really excited for them to come over."

The Krar Collective from Ethiopia will also grace the stage.

"This music doesn't sound like anything that will be familiar to people's ears," Frayer said. "We haven't done anything like this at the festival before."

Winnipeg Folk Festival runs July 7 to 10. Tickets went on sale March 11.

Visit the folk festival website for a full list of performers.

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