Think globally, act locally and expand your horizons.
It’s the message behind Global Citizen Week, and its crowning jewel Global Music Fest, on this weekend at the Laurel Packinghouse in downtown Kelowna.
As much as the concepts apply to the feeling of citizenship this week of events is intended to foster—and aims to bolster cross-cultural understanding—the musical traditions in Global Music Fest, and the musicians booked, truly embody a worldly perspective in every sense of the term.
From violin rocker Kytami, who founded a world music group, to the multicultural, Vancouver-based Cuban band Mazacote, to the party collective The Boom Booms, who got their musical start travelling, these are artists capable of thinking well beyond the reaches of what they initially saw to find their niche.
“I didn’t copy anyone. I just evolved over time,” said Kyla LeBlanc, a.k.a. Kytami. “I was trained classically and then I landed a gig at an Irish Pub, so I essentially taught myself how to fiddle. I was really into hip hop and electronic music at the time—I was dating a DJ—and I started thinking how can I combine my two worlds?”
Coming out of Victoria, LeBlanc played in an electro-drum and base reggae group called Third Eye Tribe, in hardcore bands with a metal-punk edge and eventually co-found the highly successful Delhi 2 Dublin.
“It was a lot of time spent experimenting and playing with other musicians and coming into my own as a writer,” she explained.
Returning to the Island after leaving the band, she completely transcends expectations as a solo act, donning rock goddess headlines while aligning herself with friends from her Classical music days.
And she still has global aspirations for tours that could touch Europe, South America or Australia.
Her perfect lineup and visual presentation are all in her plan, complete with projections and the graphic elements she would use. If you’ve ever seen Kytami bring a house down, you can understand she also knows the kind of thunderous musical energy needed to pull an audience up onto the stage and she’s ready to use it every time.
“I have a daughter and trying to balance life can be tricky,” she said. “But the reward that comes from following my heart has been immense and I just can’t picture living any other way.”
Paired with Vancouver’s Mazacote, it should make for a wild Saturday night performance at the three-day event.
The six-piece Cuban band is also from Coastal B.C., though its members have roots in Japan, Latin America and Africa.
As trumpet player Malcolm Aiken, originally from New Westminster, describes it, they’re the perfect multi-ethnic fit for a Global Music Fest. And they have a Grammy-award winning percussionist, Toto Berriel, to add international success to the mix.
Many of the members came out of Vancouver’s Buena Vista Social Club, a salsa scene in Vancouver in the early 2000s where a young musician could find paying work.
They eventually solidified into a group that’s managed to stay madly in love with the Cuban beats behind their music, and are a group of musicians who know how to bring a crowd to their feet—not unlike the festival opener The Boom Booms.
The Boom Booms found themselves in a global music environment by heading out on the road.
Lead singer Aaron Ross was travelling the world, figuring he would wind up working in community projects in developing countries, when a music career landed on his door, by his description.
He had a guitar with him as he travelled, made a few recordings, people liked it and he fell into his art.
Now, he sees music as a better path to enable the kinds of messages he would have shared working in development.
“The bigger audience you can reach, the bigger impact you are going to have,” he said. “The music path has been just incredible.”
The group formed four years ago in East Vancouver and immediately took to the road, driving to Panama, splitting for time, and then rejoining each other in Brazil.
If there’s a way to describe their music, its as a floating version of the Brazilian Carnival with a good dose of the tic drum on the twos and fours and the classic whole room singing flare, he said.
This is rock and roll, soul and world beat at its best.
To take the plunge and hear something new, Global Music Fest runs March 1-3. The Boom Booms play Friday, March 1 and Kytami and Mazacote play Saturday, March 2, both at the Laurel Packinghouse. Tickets are $12 per night online or $15 at the door; they can also be purchased at the Bike Shop Café and Leo’s Videos.