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Toronto is getting a free, Indigenous music and arts festival this weekend

Toronto Star | March 24, 2023

Categories: news

“Ziigwan” will take over Yonge-Dundas Square from Friday to Sunday, featuring artists like Logan Staats and Aysanabee, along with clothing, arts and food vendors

By Alessia PassafiumeStaff Reporter

Fri., March 24, 2023

An Indigenous music and arts festival is ready to take over Yonge-Dundas Square this weekend and includes Logan Staats, Aysanabee and Northern Cree onstage, along with vendors offering beadwork, food and clothing.

“Ziigwan,” meaning the first day of spring in Anishinaabemowin, doubles as the name of the free, three-day festival taking place in downtown Toronto from Friday to Sunday that “celebrates the healing and learning power of music and art, the rebirth of spring, and the collective awakening as we walk together on the path toward reconciliation.”

“It’s essentially an Indigenous arts and culture takeover,” said Matthew Maw, Red Music Rising’s director and lead artist manager. “It’s a celebration of being able to gather, share culture, music, food and the cultural gifts we’ve got with the wider community of the City of Toronto.”

It’s an important mission for Maw who said that, despite being the largest city in Canada and home to tens of thousands of Indigenous Peoples, Toronto sees few large-scale representations of Indigenous cultures.

“The element of representation and seeing oneself reflected on a stage downtown, surrounded by billboards in ‘the spot’ in Toronto, I think there’s something really important about that” for upcoming generations, he said.

Hosted by The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund and Downtown Yonge BIA, and in collaboration with ELMNT FM Radio, Red Music Rising, and Music Tourism, the festival kicks off Friday evening. After opening ceremonies at 4:30 p.m., scheduled performers include Fastcloud, Noelle, Status/Non-Status, Logan Staats, Digging Roots and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings will follow.

On Saturday starting at 3:30 p.m., Genevieve Fisher, Nimkish, Sebastian Gaskin, Shawnee Kish, Tia Wood, Northern Cree and DJ Shub take the stage, while Bullhorn Singers, Aysanabee, Julian Taylor and Boogey the Beat are to perform Sunday starting at 11:25 a.m.

Six Nations-based singer-songwriter Logan Staats plays at Ziigwan on Friday, the same day his new studio album "A Light in the Attic" drops.
Sunday also marks Family Day at the festival, where children and their families can “engage in meaningful conversations about Indigenous cultures” with books, singers and learning activations.

“It was important for us from a music curatorial perspective to have a broad representations of different genres, age groups and Nations,” said Maw, noting traditional powwow music and those pushing the boundaries of what people think are signature Indigenous sounds are coming together to present audiences with music they may not hear everyday.

Aaniin, an Indigenous fashion retail company, will have items for purchase, along with Pacha Indigenous Art Collection and Neechi by Nature, and food vendor Dashmaawaan Bemaadzinjin (They Feed the People).

“Taking up space where Indigenous folks traditionally haven’t had as much access to those spaces is important,” Maw said. “I just hope that folks are able to make it down and that the late-March weather co-operates.”

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