2016 Adӓka Cultural Festival: An Exploration of Old and New

Continuing its tradition of collaborative art projects, this year’s Adӓka Cultural Festival will bring together six northern musicians for a fusion of traditional and contemporary sounds.

The artists will get together during the festival and create a performance that will blend and build on their individual – and very different – styles.

The project is call A New Way Forward. Artists involved include Aboriginal cellist/composer Cris Derksen, arctic fiddlers father Colin Adjun and son Gustin, Gwich’in fiddler Boyd Benjamin, Kaska drummer/singer-songwriter Dennis Shorty and Inuit throat-singer Kathleen Merritt.

“All of these artists are established in their own right,” says the festival’s Associate Producer Caili Steel. “For three days during the festival they work together to develop this brand new collaborative show… they build a show from scratch by bringing together what they all have to offer.”

The choice of artists for the collaboration was based on the type of work they are already doing. All of the artists are already blending traditional musical styles with different cultural and contemporary approaches.

“(They) push boundaries and are excited and open to exploring new ways to perform and present their music,” says Steel.

It’s a recipe for unique and interesting results.

Kathleen Merritt – also known as IVA – creates mesmerizing mixes of Inuit throat singing combined with Celtic influences. Originally from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, she is now based in Ottawa, Ontario, and has performed in festivals and ceremonies all over the world.

Based in Toronto, Juno nominee Cris Derksen currently collaborates with artists of various genres and types. Her incorporate traditional Aboriginal music with electronics. She has partnered with Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq and Robert Todd of the Tribal Spirit Powwow label to create collaborative compositions.

While the Adjuns are – as Steel describes – “rooted in traditional fiddle music from their home in Nunavut,” they are already incorporating new approaches into their work. Known as the “Fiddler of the Arctic,” Colin Adjun and his fiddle have travelled to festivals and concerts across Canada and the United States.

In the past, the Adӓka Cultural Festival has sparked and supported similar collaborations with larger groups of artists. With a smaller, more intimate group, Steel is certain that the performance that comes out of A New Way Forward will push musical boundaries and offer audiences something new and unpredictable.

During the seven-day festival there will also be cultural presentations and visual artists. There will be over 40 workshops led by artists. The workshops include weaving a cedar hat and beading a headband, both with Heather Dickson, and making an ulu – a traditional Inuit knife – with George Roberts.

Audiences are invited to hop aboard the trolley for artist talks and for a guided tour on the history of the waterfront from a First Nations’ perspective.

Audiences can experience the A New Way Forward collaborative performance on Tuesday, July 5 at 7 p.m. at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. Tickets are available online and will also be available onsite at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, which runs July 1 to 7.

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