Kultrún Festival celebrates world music and cultural appreciation this weekend

The annual Kultrún world music festival is back - with new events and a new theme.
15,000 spectators came to see 2016 Kultrun World Music Festival (Neruda Arts)

The world music festival Kultrún will take place once again this weekend in downtown Kitchener.

The festival's theme this year is reggae, but the lineup represents a diversity of both style and place of origin. Local and Canadian artists will be sharing the stage with musical guests from Chile, Peru, France and beyond.

Isabel Cisterna is the artistic director of Neruda Arts, the organization responsible for Kultrún. She says the festival reflects what her organization has been trying to achieve in the community.

"When I came [to Canada] I realized there were very, very few spaces for people of colour, people with accents that were professionals in their countries and they were here trying to be productive as artists," Cisterna said.

As a professional actor back in her home country of Chile, Cisterna wanted to create opportunities for professional international art to the Kitchener-Waterloo community. 

"But not the typical exocitized representation of international art," she says.

What to expect

In addition to the on-stage musical acts, Kultrún is hosting a selection of workshops and interactive activities, including a silent disco, an arts and robotics workshop for kids and a drum circle. 

There will also be a concert for the deaf held at Walper Hotel on Sunday. "Feel the Music," designed by Grammy-nominated musician Lucho Queuquezana, uses light, vibration and visual stimuli to deliver a unique musical experience.

Apart from the opening concert taking place on Friday night, admission to the festival grounds in Victoria Park is free. Cisterna says the free entry is important for the festival to attract new audiences and help drive tourism to the region.

She says government grants, sponsors and donations are all integral to making it possible. A large part of the Kultrún's budget goes toward booking and facilitating travel for international artists to Kitchener-Waterloo.

"We don't take it for granted. Year after year it's a struggle because you never know if you're going to get funding for the festival."

We're at a junction, an intersection of how far we have come but also how fragile all of it is and how easily we can go backwards.- Isabel Cisterna

Promoting inter-cultural appreciation

Cisterna says she has seen the community grow toward acceptance and celebrating diversity throughout Neruda Arts' time in the region. She believes Kultrún festival has encouraged people to celebrate different cultures, and celebrate their commonalities. But she says we also have some way to go, and that racism remains a real problem in Canada.

"We're at a junction, an intersection of how far we have come but also how fragile all of it is and how easily we can go backwards," Cisterna said. 

"Through the arts, and being able to present powerful and relevant performances that open people's eyes and perceptions about other people has really helped."


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