PHABRIK Magazine

It’s About the Music

By Beryl Bacchus

March 2011

Canada has become a leader on the festival world stage hosting the likes of the Toronto International Film Festival, the Montreal Jazz Festival, and the Edmonton Fringe Festival. Edmonton is also home to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival (EFMF), an event that is now viewed as one of the foremost music festivals in the world offering an incredibly diverse musical range that many say is not just folk-based, at affordable prices. Held in Edmonton’s downtown Gallagher Park every second weekend in August, past performers include Elvis Costello, Sarah McLachlan, Blue Rodeo and Ryan Adams. In 2010, festival goers were treated to performances by artists such as Jakob Dylan, Ben Harper, Gord Downie, Colleen Brown and Basia Bulat.

“When I joined the EFMF the festival was $60,000 in debt and weekend passes were selling for $20,” Producer Terry Wickham tells Phabrik Magazine. “I come from a business and economic background. To change an image or perception of something you have to change the programming.”
This is exactly what he did. One of his goals was to increase the awareness of folk music through the depth of the performer line-ups selecting artists within a broad musical mandate–mixing familiar and not so familiar as well as repeat and first time performers together. Festival goers have the chance to experience music from around the world such as this past season’s performance by Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba from Africa. At the same time, the festival maintains at least 40% Canadian content.

”I remember driving back from Calgary after the 1992 North American Folk Alliance Conference. I had this sudden flash of the full potential of our festival and here we are 18 years later,” says Wickham. His goal was realized when his dream came true to have Van Morrison play for the fans in August 2010. When asked who would be next now that this dream has been realized? “There are so many, but I would have to say my next would be Paul Simon.

The festival is volunteer driven and works to ensure the proper treatment and respect of the volunteers, audience, performers, sponsors and media. Over 2,000 volunteers work to deliver the majority of services provided to patrons of the festival. Media Liaison, Sylvio Dobri, has been involved with the EFMF for 31 years. “I am encouraged by the growing number of younger volunteers who are becoming involved in the festival community,” says Dobri. The number of youth volunteers continues to grow each year, ensuring there will be a well trained group to keep the festival alive. “Musicians laud and applaud the festival and its army of volunteers. Whether young or old, first-timers or festival veterans, musicians performing here are always eager to talk to the Edmonton writers and broadcasters,” states Dobri. He shares his favourite memory to date of, “Taking Ramblin’ Jack Elliot to a local radio interview and after he was done driving him to the Hudson’s Bay store on Jasper Avenue where he spent an hour trying on colourful Hudson’s Bay coats.”


Well Sung Heroes Dimitri Chris: Master of the Foxhounds
Well Sung Heroes
Dimitri Chris: Master of the Foxhounds


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