Leonard Sumner (main photo) will be performing at Vancouver Island MusicFest, as well as curating a special session, featuring some of his favourite Indigenous performers from across the country, including (right side, from top) Fawn Wood, Caley Watts, and Wyatt C. Louis. Photos supplied.

Leonard Sumner (main photo) will be performing at Vancouver Island MusicFest, as well as curating a special session, featuring some of his favourite Indigenous performers from across the country, including (right side, from top) Fawn Wood, Caley Watts, and Wyatt C. Louis. Photos supplied.

Vancouver Island MusicFest features Indigenous talent from across the country

Gerri Trimble

Special to Black Press

Leonard Sumner’s coming back to Vancouver Island MusicFest – and this time, he’s bringing some friends.

The Winnipeg-based Anishnaabe singer-songwriter and MC, whose distinct personal style combines and highlights hip-hop, spoken word, country, and rhythm and blues, made his festival debut on the Woodlands Stage under a scorching midday sun in 2012. It was his first ever appearance – and attendance – at a music festival. MusicFest audiences enthusiastically responded to his brand of musical storytelling, delivered with both humour and directness during captivating solo and workshop performances, all while nursing a broken ankle.

That memorable debut included performances of material released on his first album, Rez Poetry. Sumner has subsequently released two more albums, 2018’s Juno- nominated Standing in the Light and the recently released Thunderbird, has performed on stages nationally and abroad, collaborated across genres and borders, married and became a father. A bright light in a burgeoning and stylistically varied national Indigenous music scene, he was recently named the SOCAN Foundation’s TD Indigenous Songwriter of the Year. In speaking his truths on topics both universal and personal to his experiences as an Anishnaabe man in contemporary Canada, Sumner’s moving songs demand and deliver honesty.

MusicFest’s 2021 virtual edition, being streamed live by Black Press, will include a repeat appearance by Sumner, filmed from his home community of Little Saskatchewan First Nation in northern Manitoba, and will also feature him in a guest curation role. MusicFest audiences will be introduced to five Indigenous acts from across Canada that are among Sumner’s personal favourites and representative of the quality and voices that he feels festivals should amplify.

Wyatt C. Louis, Evan Redsky and Caley Watts arrive at their crafted and evocative songs and stories through a number of musical routes and influences, including folk, Americana, roots and rock; Fawn Wood incorporates a wealth of family musical knowledge into her drumming and singing, with her latest album debuting at #1 on the Canadian World Chart on iTunes, and the Juno-nominated Silla and Rise weave together Inuit throat singing and electronica to intrigue the ears. These artists will be performing throughout the weekend. Accompanying their performances will be a one-hour workshop featuring conversation between the artists, named, with Sumner’s characteristic gentle teasing and deadpan humour, as “Indigenous Relations and Northern Music Affairs”. The musical performances and workshop will be also be broadcast by the National Arts Centre in Ottawa as part of a partnership with MusicFest.

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Gerri Trimble lives, works, plays, sings and writes on unceded Algonquin Anishnabe territory.

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