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NLFB 2019: K'naan, Bedouin Soundclash, Basia Bulat and Sam Roberts Band

Rappers and folk artists on the same bill at venerable Sudbury music festival
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Northern Lights Festival Boréal will always feature folk music, says Sudbury festival director Max Merrifield, but this year's edition has a rather contemporary flavour.

Merrifield revealed the balance of the July 4-7 festival's lineup Wednesday at a press conference at Spacecraft Brewery, the bus-station-turned-trendy pub-style restaurant.

As previously announced, Canadian rock icon Sam Roberts Band will headline the festival on Thursday, July 4. 

Headlining Friday, July 5, will be Somali-Canadian rapper, singer and songwriter K'naan (a.k.a. Keinan Abdi Warsame), who's well known for his song “Wavin' Flag.”

On Saturday, July 6, Canadian reggae/soul/alternative band Bedouin Soundclash will headline. You'd probably recognize this band's song “When the Night Feels My Song.”

And then, on Sunday, July 7, Canadian folk singer-songwriter Basia Bulat is that night's headliner. 

“I think our headline roster is pretty diverse, and they're all really respected and different artists,” said Merrifield, artistic executive director of the festival. 

“Yeah, I'm really happy with the headliners this year, and I think Sudburians will be too.”

Thirty-something Merrifield, whose parents actually helped to found the festival in 1972, said he deliberately programs folk acts that will appeal to Northern Lights veterans. But he looks to the future, as well.

Merrifield said “a lot of the old folkies” told him they enjoyed The Arkells, one of last year's headliners, and jokes his grandmother actually loves K'naan's “Waving Flag.”

“You will always find traditional folk at Northern Lights,” he said. 

“Of course we want to explore where folk music has gone, as well and the new types of songwriting that are taking place within that genre, but also in other genres, as well.”

Another theme of this year's festival is the craft of songwriting, exemplified by headliners such as the Sam Roberts Band and K'naan, Merrifield said. 

“All of these artists use lyrics in very effective and inspiring ways, and we wanted to sort of highlight that in music,” he said. 

“A lot of times, in certain genres these days, there's a lot of focus on the tone and how does it sound. People like the sound of something. But what are they saying?”

Other performers coming in for NLFB 2019 include: Juno winning singer-songwriter William Prince, Quebec singer-songwriter Safia Nolin, Mexican-Canadian rapper Boogat, Montreal singer-songwriter Mélissa Laveaux, vintage-infused rock band Zeus, Toronto rapper Haviah Mighty, francophone singer Céleste Lévis, indie rock bands Jane's Party and Oh Geronimo of Toronto, Edmonton singer-songwriter Ben Sures and folk artists Hannah Shira Naiman, Sheesham & Lotus & Son and Mayhemingways.

And the festival also features plenty of locals: this year Sudburians The Almighty Rhombus, Shaky Stars, Duncan Cameron, Jennifer Holub and Kevin Closs are on the roster. 

Tickets are available at nlfb.ca or Old Rock Coffee, Jett Landry Music and the Home Hardware locations in Lively, Hanmer and on Bouchard St. after May 1. Full festival passes cost $90 each.




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Heidi Ulrichsen

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