Brighten up the long, dark nights with the promise of long, hot days filled with extraordinary music at the 2019 Roots and Blues Festival.
“We’re bumping up the world music component with Tal National, a band from West Africa,” says artistic director Peter North. They’re high energy, definitely a main stage act and it has the sounds of all these different communities in Mali, but is also heavily influenced by rock and roll – lots of fun!”
By the time Tal National reached international acclaim with 2013’s Kaani, the band’s first release outside of Niger, they had spent more than a decade crisscrossing their native country, usually on dirt pathways through the Sahara, playing epic five-hour sets, seven days a week, selling their CDs on street corners and roundabouts.
In the process, they became Niger’s most popular band, with songs constantly blasted on national TV and cell phones everywhere. Following FatCat’s release of Kaani, Western audiences and critics quickly embraced the band’s singular and finely-honed sound.
Niger borders Nigeria, Mali and Ghana. Collected within this former French colony can be found Songhai, Fulani, Hausa and Tuareg populations, all of whom are represented in the membership of Tal National, notes the band’s website.
As such, the nation enjoys a greatly varied mix of cultures and ethnicities, all richly steeped in music. It is no stranger to highlife, kora and Afrobeat music, while giving the world Tuareg blues and a unique brand of hip-hop. In Tal National’s music can be heard the rolling 12/8 rhythms in the Hausa’s fuji percussion, the pensive aridity of the Tuareg’s assouf and the exquisite griot guitar of Mali’s Songhai, all delivered with virtuoso precision and unrelenting energy.
On stage, Tal National perform with six musicians. At shows, musicians regularly change places midway through songs (including the amazing sight of drummers swapping without missing a beat).
Semple began his musical career playing with various Regina-based bands, and relocated to Toronto in the late 1980s to become the lead guitarist of The Lincolns, a popular funk and rhythm and blues band. He left the band after two years, returning to Regina to pursue a solo career and to spend more time with his family.
Following the move, Semple contributed to television and music scores and appeared in the title role of Guitarman, a 1994 television movie. He also embarked on a solo recording career that has resulted in the release of 10 albums. In 1992, Semple came to national prominence through winning the MuchMusic Guitar Wars contest.
He has been twice nominated for a Gemini Award for his soundtrack work on the television series “Incredible Story Studio.” Semple won a Juno award in 1991 for best roots recording. He has won two Western Canadian music awards and continues to perform as a solo artist with The Jack Semple Band, across Canada and America.
“I first saw him 30 years ago when he was with the Lincolns; he’s not just straight blues, he’s a wonderful mix of soul, R&B, jazz fusion,” says North, noting Semple’s tribute album to Gord Lightfoot is one of the best interpretations of the Canadian icon. “He’s one of the most well-rounded guitar players I’ve heard, a good singer, good writer and he’ll just be one of those guys who can add so many different layers to the festival.”
Also providing on-your-feet music, will be Mile 12, a band formed by five young musicians in Boston in the winter of 2014.
Their uncompromisingly authentic songwriting, crafted arrangements and gliding groove have thrilled audiences throughout the states as well as Canada, Ireland, The UK, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
In 2017 the International Bluegrass Music Association recognized them with The Momentum Award, which is given to young bands on the rise. Their debut full-length album Onwards was met with critical acclaim and earned the band time at the top of the bluegrass charts as well as International Bluegrass Music Association nominations for 2018 Emerging Artist of the Year and Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year.
“They all came out of the Berkeley School of Music in Boston where they met as students,” North says. “They’re just one of strongest up-and-coming bluegrass bands in America.
Tristan Le Govic
From France, comes Tristan Le Govic, a Celtic harp, composer, teacher, singer and composer born in 1976.
His repertoire combines traditional tunes from the Celtic nations, together with original compositions in a contemporary style played on the Celtic harp.
His inspiration comes from the heart of music, poetry, real or imaginary legends, as well as nature or daily – but never innocent – impressions. Rhythm and harmony are the musical predominant elements in his music. In perpetual movement, his world opens the gates of an extraordinary diversity.
“He has had a really great career so far in Scotland, Ireland and France,” says North, noting Le Govic will play the main stage on Friday night in collaboration with a yet-to-be-announced performer from Vancouver. “The festival has never had a harpist of his tenure.”
Tickets to the festival are a great gift for Christmas and special holiday pricing remains in effect until the end of January. Get them at www.rootsandblues.ca, by calling 250-833-4096 or dropt into the office on weekdays at 490 Fifth Ave. SW.