Thirteenth talking stick festival brings electric powwow to Vancouver

Western Canada’s premiere Aboriginal arts fest, the Talking Stick Festival, returns to Vancouver February 18-March 2 for it’s 13th year. This year’s festival menu includes some electric powwow, theatrical explorations of Canada’s Aboriginal and Chinese cultures, boundary-pushing contemporary dance and slam poetry face offs.

“Nurturing the talents and providing opportunities for our people to share their stories and have their voices heard has been my objective and passion,” stated Margo Kane, Artistic Managing Director.

Attracting performers from far and near and audiences young and old, this year’s Talking Stick Festival promises to get your mind and body moving. 

First up is the opening gala event at the Roundhouse Community Centre, February 18 at 7:00 p.m. Entitled Wax hoks en Shqulawin (Open Your Hearts), the gala acts as a teaser for the Talking Stick performances to come. Quebec based Metis Jazz quartet Kawandak will open the festival as well as Innu singer Kathia Rock and other Vancouver based musicians.

At the newly renovated York Theatre on Commercial Drive, Talking Stick matriarch and artistic director Kane will perform the comical and heart-warming play For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again by Michel Tremblay.

Another of Talking Stick’s theatrical highlights include Raven meets the Monkey King, a kid-friendly play by Louise Moon and Axis Theatre Company about a young girl who finds a First Nations Raven mask wrapped in an original Chinese Opera Poster. The story focuses on the two cultures sharing their stories and traditions. The Raven and the Monkey King will offer two performances a day at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. at the Culture Lab on February 19 and 20 plus February 25-28.

One of the most popular shows will likely be the live electro set by Ottawa’s best electronic music exports: A Tribe Called Red. The trio of DJs will perform their completely addictive brand of dance beats dubbed “electric powwow” at the Commodore Ballroom February 21 and 22 during Salish Coast Live.

Combining traditional First Nations singing and drumming with dance floor friendly baselines, A Tribe Called Red is kind of like Canada’s version of Major Lazer and has spurred on a whole movement of traditional First Nations/dub/hip hop/dancehall mashups. A Tribe Called Red’s show promises to one of Vancouver’s hottest February tickets. Local beat mavericks Mat the Alien, Ostwelve and VJs Kintropy and Heidrogen are also on the ticket for a night that promises to shatter your musical boundaries and make you dance.

Other performances not to miss during the Talking Stick Festival include Convergence: Currents of Contemporary Aboriginal Dance II on February 27 and Ch’odza (she is dancing), Raven Spirit Dance celebration on February 28.

Aspiring poets can look for local inspiration at Cafe Deux Soleils on February 21 at slam poetry event From Talking Stick to Microphone. Hosted by East Van poet Zaccheus Jackson, the night promises to be a whiplash fast evening of slam poets going head to head.

A Tribe Called Red will perform at the Commodore February 21 & 22 Photo Credit: Athena ANASTASIOU


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