The 2018 Juno-nominated Quebec band Oktopus joins this year’s Roots & Blues Festival lineup. (Oktopus/Facebook)

New acts join Roots and Blues Festival lineup

An eclectic mix of musicians added to Salmon Arm’s slate

The acts just keep coming for the 26th annual Salmon Arm Roots & Blues festival.

Four acts with a decided world-music thrust are the most recent additions to what promises to be a weekend of inspired stand-alone shows on main stage coupled with the explosive musical chemistry found on side stages on the festival site.

From Quebec comes the spectacular octet, Oktopus, which will be making its Western Canadian debut on the Roots & Blues weekend. The band’s exuberant harmony of bows, keys, valves and mouths strikes a chord in music lovers’ hearts, bringing pure joy to audiences in quest of memorable evenings and festive occasions. The music of Oktopus is a fabulous witch’s brew of traditional eastern-European melodies, blended in with classical masterpieces and a sprinkling of Quebec song for good measure – a Quebecois take on a sort of classical-balkanized klezmer.

Geoff Berner comes to Roots & Blues with a reputation for keeping an audience on its collective toes, as he combines a feisty, pointed performance stance with engaging songs built around characters who have been compared to those found in the works of Kerouac and Ginsberg. Armed with his accordion, Berner has played all over the world to rave reviews. It’s rare for a musician to be as good at writing prose as making music, and Berner can credibly make that claim. Maclean’s praised his novel, Festival Man, for its “hilarity and razor-sharp satire.” If that testimony doesn’t make the uninitiated turn their attention to Berner’s talents, Billy Bragg’s assessment of Berner can’t be ignored. “Cherish him, cherish him, for there really is no one like him,” says the iconic British artist of Berner, who will be rolling everything from Americana to Klezmer, rock and European folk into his Roots & Blues performances.

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The open-door immigration policies of our country continue to reap so many artistic rewards it’s impossible to keep up with the gifts that come our way.

Mbira Renaissance Band is an example of new Canadians who come straight from a musical source and are now working with young Canadian-born musicians who love African music. Based in Alberta, this septet will have the Roots & Blues audiences on its feet and dancing. Mbira Renaissance Band delivers an afro-fusion, Thomas Mapfumo and Bhundu Boy-inspired sound that pays homage to the rich, ancient genre of mbira music. The members draw on their backgrounds in jazz, rock, traditional Zimbabwean music and reggae. Mbira Renaissance can feature up to eight players, with Zinyemba and Ronald Nyandoro on mbira and vocals, James Stuart on bass, Sandy Ockenden on hosho (shakers), Chaka’s sister Rumbi Zinyemba and his wife Chiedza Nezungai on vocals and conga, kit drummer Vinay Jhass and guitarist Mike Campbell.

Rounding out this release of four acts for Roots & Blues 2018 is David Thiaw – educator, master drummer, artist, composer, craftsman and storyteller. Thiaw’s first home was in Senegal. He has memories of growing up in Dakar, with the scent of the Atlantic, the sand of the beaches and the music of the people inspiring him. African and World music have been David’s lifelong passion. He formed his first band when he was 14 years old, and began a lifetime of world travel, learning about musical genres and their relation to – if not their debt to – West African rhythms. For a number of years, Thiaw has called the Interior of B.C. home. Growing up in a culture where music was part of the every-day not only started Thiaw on the path he walks today, but also nurtured his strong belief that the ability to play and sing is a human right shared by all. That will be one of his missions at the Roots & Blues festival where a couple of his performances will be of the interactive variety.

Tickets for the festival are available online at rootsandblues.ca or at the Roots & Blues office at 541 – 3rd street. For info, phone 250-833-4096.

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