A tourist attraction, St. Jacobs sees visitors from all over the place. This week, it’s music from around the globe making a stop in the village.
For the first time in its 10-year history, the annual Kultrún World Music Festival will be held in St. Jacobs.
The mastermind and head organizer behind the event is Isabel Cisterna, the artistic director and founder of Neruda Arts. The organization hosting the festival just this year relocated to St. Jacobs from Kitchener-Waterloo.
The music kicks off today (Thursday) 6 p.m. at the Neruda Arts studio at 8 Spring St. From there the music will continue on Friday at 5:45 p.m. at the St. Jacobs baseball diamond at 3 Water St. and will continue Saturday and Sunday afternoon and evening.
Kultrún is a word from the Mapuche people whose traditional territory is partly in Chile and partly in Argentina. It is a word used to describe a drum, but also a heartbeat.
“This comes from part of my heritage,” said Cisterna. “But also the fact that when looking at a name for a festival that was about bringing people from all over the world here and bringing people from other parts of the world to come here, it was very suitable to talk about our heartbeat and also the drum because both unite us all.”
The point of the festival is to introduce people from many cultures and help them get to know each other on a deeper level.
“Many years ago, one of the things that I was thinking about is that a lot of people are interested and they’re curious about other cultures. But they don’t necessarily see the depth, the intricacies and the diversity of cultures within cultures,” she said. “So for example, people thought of Mexico as mariachis only. They didn’t realize that within Mexico there are so many different cultures and traditions. And so when I bring an Afro-Mexican jazz band, there is a conversation there to be had.”
The festival will feature 13 international musical acts, including Ceili band Irish Real Life; Polky, an Eastern European band; Argentinian electric tango-jazz band Tanghetto; Los Patita de Perro, a Mexican children’s entertainment band; and Funk Lion, a Quebecer with roots in Haiti who plays a mixture of rock, Afro-futurism and voodoo-funk.
Throughout the weekend, many activities for kids and adults are on offer, including the likes of puppet workshops or Brazilian martial arts and dance workshops. On Thursday at 6 p.m., Feel the Music, a concert especially developed for the hard of hearing with children’s band Los Patita de Perro will take place.
Attendance at all the events is free.
Cisterna said the year before the pandemic, the festival hosted almost 19,000 people – its best attended event yet – in Kitchener’s Victoria Park.
So why move to St. Jacobs?
“A lot of people said, ‘don’t bring it to St. Jacobs, nothing happens there, there are no music festivals there.’ And my thought was, ‘precisely.’ For that reason, we’re going to bring it there. And I’m very happy about the change. I hope that people will embrace it too.”
Cisterna says she moved Neruda Arts and the Kultrún World Music Festival to St. Jacobs because of insights gained during the COVID-19 crisis.
“(The pandemic) made us assess and reassess some of our priorities. And part of the new vision is to decentralize some of the work that we do in bringing art to many people. So this festival moving to St. Jacobs is part of our new way of doing things.”
Neruda Arts moved to their new location at the timber barn building on Spring Street in 2019, and opened up the first performing studio in April, Cisterna said.
Cisterna founded the not-for-profit organization in 2001.
“This is new for St. Jacobs, and we hope that it will turn into a great tradition for families to make this weekend their weekend to experience culture from around the world,” said Cisterna. “I think a lot of people haven’t been able to travel for a couple years and I think this will be a great refresher – we can’t go somewhere else, but we will bring the world to them. And I think that may be good for our spirits right now.”
For a full schedule of events, visit www.nerudaarts.ca.