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Kultrún music festival gets people engaged with different cultures

With Canada celebrating its 150th anniversary, the annual Kultrún World Music Festival is starting with a conversation about what the next 100 years will bring.

What kind of Canada do people want to leave to their children and following generations?

With a festival that celebrates cultural diversity, Kultrun Festival artistic director Isabel Cisterna said they want to bring those communities together to discuss the potential of the future while redressing the past and Canada’s relationship with its Indigenous people.

“We call it a conversation that is moving forward while looking back,” said Cisterna. “It’s about the Canada that we want and the legacy we want to leave for our children.

“What do we need to get there?”

She said there is a lot of reconciliation that needs to take place and Canada can’t move forward if it doesn’t acknowledge its past, including that a lot of Canadians live on Indigenous territories.

“The symposium has a lot of great panellists and a great moderator in (NDP MPP candidate) Laura Mae Lindo,” said Cisterna. “This is how we wanted to begin things — with a conversation.”

The conversation takes place at Open Sesame July 7 starting a 5 p.m. The Kultrún Gala follows at 8 p.m. at TheMuseum.

The evening is kicked off by local up-and-coming First Nations artist Elsa Jayne followed by headliner Amanda Martinez from Toronto.

Cisterna said the gala is often highlighted by an internationally recognized artist like Martinez complemented by emerging artists like Elsa Jayne.

“Most of the time people come to see Amanda, but they’ll find Elsa,” said Cisterna. “That’s how you develop new audiences as well.”

The rest of the outdoor festival July 8 to 9 is just as diverse, bringing people and audiences together who might not normally have the chance to mingle.

The festival moves to downtown Kitchener and Victoria Park after the gala, introducing audiences to new acts while they experience international stars including two Juno

Award winner — Lorraine Klaasen and Quique Escamilla — and seven international acts.

The festival will have two stages like last year, with the hope of keeping up an almost continuous cacophony of music and culture.

“It’s a great way to maximize the amount of music we can present,” said Cisterna. “We can present twice as many bands because of that.

“With no downtime people don’t get bored, they can keep that vibe going.”

The festival is also interactive, and in addition to the symposium there will be drum lessons and demonstrations by Vivalda Dula from Angola, and local artist JoJo Worthington will be doing sessions getting people playing the ukulele.

“Everybody is invited to bring their ukulele,” said Cisterna. “We hope to have the largest ukulele jam in Waterloo Region.”

There will also be storytelling and native cultural demonstrations.

“There will be storytelling with Aaron Bell, who is an Ojibwe storyteller, and he is bringing the White Pine Dancers with him as well,” said Cisterna. “We’ll have dancers in full regalia.”

Eljuri, a Latin American artist from the U.S., will also talk about and demonstrate the importance of activism in music, and how it has the ability to challenge conventions and break down barriers.

“She’s a Latina artist from New York,” said Cisterna. “We know how important that voice is right now.

“This is just one of more than a dozen interactive activities during this festival.”

This is a festival where people don’t just sit and watch — they get up and get active. Cisterna said that moving people both

physically and emotionally is part of what they’re trying to do and to get people engaged in culture in ways they normally might not be engaged.

“You can just consume the music and be there as a spectator or you can take part in it and get involved and get to know people you would never know otherwise,” she said.

“It’s easy to say you’re tolerant of multiculturalism when you don’t really have to hold hands with someone from another culture.

“We’re inviting people to hold hands, we’re inviting them to join in and realize a common purpose.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re a new Canadian or one that goes back seven generations, it’s about experiencing culture in a real way — engaging with it.

“In a time where racism and intolerance is growing, or resurfacing, how do we continue to have those meaningful interactions?” said Cisterna.

For a full list of artists and activities, visit