Los de Abajo, Jorge Miguel Flamenco, Steven Page, Los Misioneros del Norte




Dates and Venue 17-19 July 2009 | Jericho Beach Park, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

This year marked the 32nd annual festival of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. This year's fest included 60 artists from 14 countries playing in seven different stages. Among the artists were Arrested Development, Los de Abajo, Steven Page, Mavis Staples, Iron & Wine, and The Proclaimers, among others.

I went last Saturday and had a chance to listen to a few bands: Los de Abajo, Jorge Miguel Flamenco, Los Misioneros del Norte,The Paperboys, and Steven Page.

Los de Abajo (lit. Those from down below) was a fantastic group. This is a Mexican band that's been in existence since 1992, and they played all kinds of music in this concert: salsa, reggae, cumbia and of course, their Mexican tunes -- son jarocho and banda sinaloense. They've been strong supporters of the Zapatistas of Chiapas in their struggle to fight for the rights of the indigenous Mexicans. The last song they sand dealt with freedom.

Jorge Miguel Flamenco and his ensemble composed of Peruvian percussionist Luis Orbegoso, bassist Ross Macintyre, Venezuelan singer Eliana Cuevas, and Mexican dancer Ilse Gudino gave us an insight into Flamenco music and dance. This truly is an international group, a real example of multiculturalism in Canada. The artists were born or came here at a young age, and they all hail from Ontario.

The audience were enthused by the guitar playing of Jorge Miguel and the percussion solo of Luis. Luis thanked the repairman who fixed his instrument. He said that if it weren't for him, he wouldn't be playing percussion with the group. Eliana sounded like a real Andalusian with her singing, preserving the duende or soul of Flamenco. Ilse Gudino in her black and white Andalusian outfit delighted the audience with her passionate moves.

Following on the same Stage 1 was Los Misioneros del Norte (lit. Missionaries of the North) from Northern Mexico, garbed in cowboy outfits. Their music was quite eclectic, with the traditional norteño or conjunto passed on from generation to generation, close to the ranchera style linked to the mariachi. There were also corridos, from the Spanish influence, attributed to the Mexican mestizos.

They also played some Columbian cumbias, salsa and what sounded like polka. Their topics dealt with socio-political and economic issues, and the band is an "all in the family" headed by Ricardo Ibarra Castillo, with his three sons, and two nephews.

It was five o´clock and the evening concerts began with The Paperboys, from our own BC. Heading the band was Mexican-Canadian Tom Landl who came to Vancouver from Sudbury, Ontario in the 1990s. His style is a melange Celtic, bluegrass and LatinAmerican music, a very interesting combination. He would start off singing José Martí's "Guantanamera, Guajira, Guantanamera" and then finish off with a Celtic jig. Really unique. The other members of the band were Geoffrey Kelly (flute and whistle), Brad Gillard (banjo), and Kalissa Hernandez (fiddle).

The last performer I saw in this fest was former co-lead singer and songwriter of Barenaked Ladies, Steven Page, who played with the band for the past 20 years and just recently went on his own. He sang a few familiar BNL favourites as well as new material.

I wish I had a weekend pass (we used to get those at one time), and I could have seen and reviewed more bands. ReviewVancouver has been reviewing this Vancouver Festival as far back as 1997, and we'll surely continue with this tradition in the summers to come.

. © 2009 Ed Farolan