13 Years of the Sounds of Liberation with Suoni per il Popolo
Also known as the festival of liberation music, Suoni per il Popolo is the festival child of Montreal’s Casa del Popolo team that seeks to turn the spotlight on the city’s most innovative and often ignored musicians—and genuinely nice people.
“A lot of the music that we like, the artists are very approachable,” said artistic director Steve Guimond. “We always want to work with people whose music we enjoy.”
When it comes to booking musicians for the festival, there is no set limit for the genre of music that fits Suoni’s mandate.
“The mandate is really to present creative, interesting, innovative music,” Guimond said.
Music preferences change from year to year, as reflected in the festival’s programming, but you can always count on Suoni per il Popolo to present the best free jazz artists.
“If you look at free jazz musicians and the environment they’re working in, it really mirrors what we’re into, which is creativity, no-holds-barred, not really being fenced in by real rules or parametres, and just going with the artistic freedom.”
Free jazz performances have been part of the festival since its inception, and since that time Suoni per il Popolo has become the main programmer for free jazz artists.
“At one point the big Montreal Jazz Festival used to program a lot of the jazz that we’re doing now, but they just kind of gave up on it,” said Guimond.
Even if you miss the festivities, Suoni books off-season shows all year round. In an effort to build an active and year-round network with artists, off-season concerts broaden the festival’s horizons. It allows artists to present new projects under Suoni per il Popolo between festival seasons, and also helps bring awareness to the festival and Casa del Popolo and La Sala Rossa, the tapas restaurant and concert hall opposite Casa on St. Laurent.
“People automatically associate the festival with those venues,” he said. “It sort of helps to create our own musical environment.”
JGH Jazz, or the Jewish General Hospital Jazz series, is in its 14th year and joins forces with Suoni per il Popolo to promote the idea of healing through music. The series’ founder and JGH music therapist Bryan Highbloom approached the Suoni team to curate the June performances.
“Our idea was to present some local stuff that we really enjoy and some out of town [artists] who are going to be in the city for a couple of days while they’re playing shows here.”
The result is a mini-free-jazz festival of sorts, with the likes of Orkestar Kriminal and Ken Vandermark performing at the hospital’s entrance at lunchtime for free.
The collaboration with the Jewish General falls within the festival’s mandate to participate in community outreach programs. Casa del Popolo works with McGill’s Improv for Social Change to bring a weekly MusikAddict workshop series held out of NDG’s Head and Hands community centre for at-risk youth.
Even if you’ve never heard the sounds of Suoni per il Popolo, you’ve probably noticed the colourful and intricate “promotional” posters on Montreal’s streets.
The festival is accompanied by a collection of posters designed and printed in-house (and by hand). Kiva Stimac, one of Casa del Popolo’s founders, runs the Popolo Press studios within Casa’s home on the Main.
“Part of the idea was to create a general aesthetic for the festival, both musically and then also visually,” Guimond said.
Now in its 13th year, Guimond, who joined Casa in 2005 after a career in independent radio, has seen their efforts grow from a modest project to a full-blown music and arts program comprising of free Tools of the Trade workshops, DJ nights, film screenings and a series of media arts performances.
Suoni per il Popolo runs until June 22, explore the festival’s last week of events .