With spine-tingling vocal polyphony, blue notes, intimacy and power, the four women of Swedish a capella group Kongero (Lotta Andersson, Anna Wikenius, Anna Larsson and Emma Björling) push the boundaries in both folk and vocal music and joyously bring Scandinavian trad into the 21st century. The quartet was formed in 2005 when the original members (all graduates of Stockholm’s Royal College of Music) started singing together by chance at a Nordic folk music conference and discovered that their voices and harmonies blended perfectly. As the women say, "Four voices, one vision, infinite possibilities".
With a band name that means "spider" (maybe to convey the sense that they are one body weaving a web of harmonies) and a new genre of music that the women call "Swedish Folk’apella,” Kongero has truly become one of their country’s leading vocal groups. Their singing tells life's tales, whether in moving love songs, dramatic medieval ballads, witty ditties, or spirited dances. It’s repertoire that would be right at home on the soundtracks to Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings.
The UK’s Leith Folk Club describes Kongero’s music as “powerful, evocative and haunting,” while Israeli music journalist Jeff Meshel writes, "This group is a revelation. The beauty of the four voices is equaled only by the pristine, flawless arrangements. They provide a stunning example of a marriage between the traditional and the innovative. This magical Swedish music very much deserves to be heard far and wide."
Kongero has received high praise for its four full-length albums: Om Mikaelidagen (2008), Bakvända Världen (2011), no. 3 (2014) and KOM (2017). Their releases were followed by extensive tours around the globe, including several previous Sunfest indoor and festival dates. In 2015, the quartet celebrated its 10th anniversary with numerous special events, such as the release of a Kongero beer and a songbook. Kongero is a 2019 Official Showcase Artist at the upcoming Folk Alliance International conference in Montreal and, this coming spring, it will premier VAERLA VAKEN, a collaborative album with Swedish instrumental band Massivet.
MAR. 1, 2019
ROSIE & THE RIVETERS
Rosie & the Riveters never planned to get political. But opening a newspaper or watching the news these days made it impossible to see the status of women around the world and stay silent. The result is Ms. Behave – a collection of gritty, sultry, vintage-inspired folk anthems that paint a portrait of a woman’s voice in a man’s world.
The band’s 2018 sophomore record, Ms. Behave, remained in the Top 10 US folk music charts for 17 weeks, peaked at #3 on CBC Radio 2’s Top 20, and was featured in publications such as Parade Magazine, Pop Matters, No Depression and Rolling Stone Country. With songs addressing sexual assault, the gender pay gap, and the policing of women’s behaviour, it’s clear why Billboard Magazine called them, “powerful and daring.”
MAR. 20, 2019
ROSIE & THE RIVETERS
“I want to take people to places they haven’t been.” Jesse Cook, Juno winning master guitarist, known for his intoxicating fusion of world music, has travelled the globe looking for sounds that resonate with him. “I like finding common ground for different music traditions, a space where music from around the world can come together,” Cook explains. “A place where modern sounds can mix with ancient timbres.”
MAR. 22, 2019
Juno-award winning Jazz Saxophonist, Composer and Arranger, Allison Au refuses to be defined. Born to a Chinese father and Jewish mother, and raised in the multicultural metropolis of Toronto, Allison found music as a young child. Exposed to a wide array of musical styles, she was captivated by the unhinged freedom of Jazz. Jazz became Allison’s lab for self-expression, exploration, and musical experimentation. Her work weaves a mosaic of influences into a seamless and soulful sound, a concoction steeped in the tradition of Jazz but skillfully laced with elements of Classical, Pop, R&B/hip hop, Latin, and world music.
Au’s music transports you to a place where instrumentals ring bold and emotions run free. Melodies cascade and collide, highlighting Au’s gift for layering voices and rhythms. Her writing showcases the color and character of each instrument, while providing ample room for her band mates to push her compositions to new heights.
Au earned her first Juno nomination for her debut album, “The Sky Was Pale Blue, then Grey” in 2013, and in 2016 seized the Juno for “Best Jazz Album of The Year: Group” for “Forest Grove.”
Formed in 2009, the Allison Au Quartet has toured extensively in Canada and the US. The group was awarded the TD Jazz Fellowship Scholarship (2011), The Alfred and Phyllis Balm Scholarship (2012), and The Margareta and Benno Nigg Scholarship (2013) for three consecutive artist residencies at the Banff Centre.
Most recently the Allison Au Quartet has won the 2017 Montreal Jazz Festival TD Grand Prix de Jazz, received the 2017 Halifax Jazz Festival Sting Ray Rising Star Award, and was named a 2017 Finalist for Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Jazz Artist Award.
APR 6, 2019
With more than 20 million views on YouTube, Swingrowers (pronounced Swing-Growers) is one of the most sought-after bands on the retro-world scene. Based in Palermo (Italy) and Brighton (England), it is celebrated for its irreverent style, which blends the freshness of electronic dance music with the warm influences of 1920s & ’30’s era jazz to create a unique vintage-inspired pop sound.
The group’s debut album, PRONOUNCED SWING’GROWERS (2012), was largely a sample-based affair featuring founding members Loredana Grimaudo on vocals and Roberto Costa (a.k.a. PiSk) on production duties. Manouche guitarist Alessio Costagliola joined the unit prior to recording the 2013 single “Queen of Swing,” and its 2014 follow-up album REMOTE saw the band expand to a five-piece with the addition of Davide Rizzuto on violin and Ciro Pusateri on alto saxophone and clarinet. Swingrowers’ latest release is OUTSIDEIN (2018).
Along with three albums on the independent British label Freshly Squeezed, the band has released a series of catchy singles, cover versions and remixes, many of which were collected on its 2014 “Do Not Cover EP”. Hits include a cover of Technotronic’s 1989 classic “Pump Up the Jam,” and “Butterfly,” released in April 2017. On top of delivering official remixes for Caro Emerald and Swing Republic, Swingrowers has also collaborated with The Lost Fingers, Gypsy Hill and DJ Pony Montana.
Swingrowers has taken its explosive live show to major stages all over the globe, including the United States, Japan and India, and has opened sell-out concerts for the likes of pioneering electro swing artists/producers Parov Stelar, Chinese Man and Caravan Palace.
MAY 4, 2019
JODI PROZNICK With LAILA BIALI
Jodi Proznick’s latest album Sun Songs (released on the Cellar Live label in 2017) invites the listener into a musical experience that explores the depths of and reverence for the dualities of life.
This project is a new venture for Jodi as a composer, bassist, producer, and songwriter, who soon after her album Foundations was nominated for a Juno Award, was faced with two sets of emotionally charged news: first, the immense joy of discovering she was expecting a baby and would enter the brave new world of motherhood, and second the intense sorrow of learning that her mother was diagnosed with early onset dementia (Jodi’s mother passed away from dementia in January 2018 after a ten year struggle with the disease).
The title for Sun Songs is a play on words. First, it’s a dedication to her son, and second, the metaphor of life as sunrise and sunset. As if she was standing on the horizon watching two suns simultaneously rise and fall, both lighting up the sky in different ways. These are the polarities explored through each song: birth, death, the learning and unlearning of life, and the emotions that arise in its quieter moments.
Jodi found herself documenting words, images, and melodies to help process the titanic emotions transpiring through her as the story unfolded. A collection of songs emerged, eight originals and one cover, in a narrative documenting the process of containing these dramatic dualities and emerging more resilient and in tune with the pendulum of life.
In the land where jazz and pop meet, two genres that have always been intrinsically woven together, Sun Songs becomes the template for a new weave. Every track is an exquisite tapestry of modern harmonies and rhythms, layered with memorable melodies and potent lyrics. Featuring her prodigious quartet of Tilden Webb (her husband) on piano, Jesse Cahill (drums), and Steve Kaldestad (tenor saxophone), Jodi shines an even brighter light on this album with the addition of singer Laila Biali, whose luminous vocals lift the songs to unparalleled heights.
Sun Songs opens with “Listen” and “Beautiful Again”, a song about the miracle of birth, inspired by indigenous author Richard Van Camp’s children’s book “Welcome Song for Baby.” The impeccable “Let Go” follows, a lullaby for her mother, and “Little Bluebird”, which marks the calm before the storm. “Ancient Yearning” pulls from a poem by Vancouver poet, dancer, and scholar Celeste Snowber in which her lines weave with a melody that is primal and revealing. And while songs “Storm” and “3 am” encapsulate moments of panic and worry amidst the struggle of modern-day life, the story weaves back to hope in “So Near, So Far” which reflects on staying connected to loved ones that have passed on. Sun Songs closes with Stephin Merritt’s “The Book of Love,” originally covered by Peter Gabriel, and brings the listener full circle through of a woman’s journey in love.
A stalwart on the Vancouver jazz scene as a performer and educator, Jodi Proznick is undoubtedly the perfect person to bring this work to light. Infinitely talented as a songwriter, producer, and player, she is also a mentor for the next generation of jazz musicians. Sun Songs represents the unbridled potential of every woman’s most powerful contribution – her story. In fact, the album may become a beacon for other artists aspiring to share their own stories with the world. Inside each song, a radiant beauty echoes, and there’s a gateway to the many different ways we can all light up the sky.
MAY 23, 2019
JODI PROZNICK W. LAILA BIALI
SUNFEST SOCIAL CLUB
Support the arts by becoming a Sunfest contributor and receive perks such as discounts to concerts as well as invites to exclusive free shows. If we all gave a little, together we could do alot!
P.O Box 1063