Whether it’s something more adventurous, experimental or just downright different, Zula Presents’ Something Else! Festival has always been based on the organizers deep rooted love of newer traditions in jazz and more. Now in its sixth year, Something Else! has a new venue but with the same musical mandate as always.
“It’s nice to see Hamiltonians have opened up to this kind of different music and this year we have some new excellent examples of that,” says organizer Cem Zafir on the festival’s growth over the last five years. “We represent some of the music that falls through the cracks. There are a lot of great people working in a similar fashion but they tend not to focus on artists from the jazz tradition that’s more current. We’re grateful that the city welcomes these artists.
“This year, we’ve formed a board so there are a lot of other people involved and they agree the artistic direction can be broader,” adds Zafir. “Our guest of honour is from Europe but now living in NY state. Virtuoso violinist and vocalist Iva Bittová comes from the folk tradition from the Baltic region of eastern Europe. She’s not a jazz artist but she plays in jazz, folk and new music festivals. She’s the perfect person for someone who doesn’t usually listen to the music we present — free jazz, improvised music and the avant garde. Anyone that hears her can get into her because her approach is multi–faceted. She’s great and can do solo but she’s great with collaborations as well.”
This year’s festival includes rare appearances from Bittová, playing solo and joined by drummer Hamid Drake who also revisits a duo with one time Hamiltonian, Toronto saxophonist Brodie West. Chicago trio Indigenous Mind, with Joshua Abrams and Jason Adasiewicz, perform twice. Clarinet giant Don Byron will be featured solo, with Indigenous Mind and in other contexts. Plus, Hamilton is represented with Sourpussy’s experimental and sometimes volatile performance, Connor Bennett’s solo sax / electronics project Tidal Pool, and wayward choristers Earth, Wind and Choir. The average music fan may have no notion of who these names are but that's the point of the festival. Zafir speaks so passionately about each performer that it’s difficult to decide who is headlining but aficionados will recognize the names coming from the US, Poland or around the block and will assuredly come out to support their passions. The event has taken up residence in a variety of locales over the years but this weekend found a new home on Locke Street.
“It’s an Anglican church at Locke and Charlton,” says Zafir. “Hammer Baroque uses it regularly and it’s a beautiful setting offering what might be the best sounding room we’ve had so far. We’re also using Whitehern for an afternoon concert on Friday afternoon. We’ve got a sampling of the artists to play a free show that’s all acoustic and outdoors. We thought that would be a nice free show and a nice slice of the festival. If you’re curious about what the other shows are about, you can see what some of it is about for free but we do have a policy now where no one will be refused entry for genuine lack of funds. We have to put a ticket price on this to make 26 sets happening and we’re all volunteer run but we want as many people who are passionate about this music to come out as possible.
“If you go to our website, you can see videos and links for all of the performers so it’s all not just jazz or jazz based,” adds Zafir. “There are singer/songwriter situations and so many things going on that you’re sure to find something that you like. There are a lot of things going on this weekend but I genuinely believe, once you’ve been exposed to this music, especially if you’re coming to a four act bill. If you don’t like one set or the second set, I’d be really surprised if you didn’t really like the third. There is so much variety that you can’t help but be moved — I guarantee it.”
Some might think the average festival goer wants to hang out in the beer tent and rock out to the classic rock but for Zafir and Zula Presents, the festival embodies an unwavering passion for exploring beauty and sound in a wide world of varied styles. Zafir hopes even the average music fans will have something to love at Something Else!
“We’re offering such a variety of music and art from across the world that Hamilton doesn’t normally get — I just hope people come with an open mind,” says Zafir. “I’d love to see young people or students who are really serious about playing music — I just want to see lots of people turned on to this stuff. We want to be exposed to as many different styles and approaches to music. If you can expose yourself to as many cultures as you can — the world becomes a smaller place and we can love, accept and respect each other a lot more.”
Sixth Annual Something Else! Festival happens Thursday June 20 through Sunday June 23 at the Rock on Locke, Church of St. John the Evangelist (320 Charlton Ave W). Individual advance tickets for events Thursday-Saturday are $25, Sunday $20 while weekend passes are available for $125 with discounts available for students and seniors. CLick on zulapresents.org