Festival Madness In Kitchener

The Kitchener-Waterloo region is known for Research In Motion rather than Music Festivals in Motion, but that is changing in 2016. It seems difficult to fathom, but three separate fests are expected to descend upon the area on the July 8-9  weekend.

On the rock and pop side is Big Music Fest, to be held at McLennan Park in Kitchener. It has been there the previous two years, and has attracted such artists as Slash, Bryan Adam, Aerosmith, Soundgarden, Jane’s Addiction, and Extreme.

FYI recently reported on the first CMT Music Fest, produced by Corus Live. Featuring such country music star power as Eric Church and the Zac Brown Band, and notable Canadians Andrew Hyatt, Cold Creek County, Kira Isabella, Leah Daniels, Lindi Ortega, The Road Hammers and Washboard Union, it sets up at Bingemans, and also runs July 8 and 9.

Martin de Groot of the Waterloo Region Record recently reported that there is another music fest scheduled for the same weekend. The Neruda Arts Kultrún World Music Festival is a free world music festival to be held at Victoria Park on the Saturday. Their full lineup has yet to be announced, but it will include Juno nominees Ayrad (“ Maghrebian, Arab-Andalusian and Moroccan-Jewish repertoires”) and Congresso ("traditional Chilean cueca dance rhythms, native instrumentation ... Latin, jazz, folk and world music fusion").

The Kultrún World Music Festival is a reconfiguration of the long-standing Neruda Arts LatinFest project scheduled for the same weekend. According to de Groot, Kultrún founder and artistic director Isabel Cisterna is taking the presence of two other bigger fests in stride. She posted on her Facebook page that “we are the absolutely free alternative to the duel ... let's not fight about it!"

The Kultrún fest is relatively new, but is supported by the likes of the OMDC, Ontario Arts Council and SOCAN. Organiser Neruda Arts is marking its 15th anniversary this year. According to its website, it “is a nonprofit world music presenter dedicated to building bridges in the community through music, dance, drama, and literary and visual arts.” 

In an interview with FYI, Cisterna explained that “we produced three editions of LatinFest before expanding the format in 2013 to include all genres of world music and rebranding this event as its Kultrún World Music Festival. Attendance at Neruda Arts’ summer festival has increased steadily from 3,000 in year one, to around 7,500 in 2015. We have a lot of fantastic Canadian and international bands on our short list and will announce the full line-up at our official launch in May." Notable artists to have played the fest include Amanda Martinez (2013), Alysha Brilla (2015), and Nomadic Massive (2014).

Cisterna is confident  Kultrún  can withstand the fest competition. “You have to keep in mind that these festivals present distinctly different genres of music. We will do our best to make sure that the media and the community are aware that Neruda Arts’ Kultrún Festival is the only one of the three that offers residents and visitors high quality, free programming by local, national and international world music artists.”

FYI’s David Farrell has queried whether one of the Kitchener fests will meet its Waterloo this summer. Stay tuned.



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