Sound of skeletons

The Skeleton Park Music Festival will hit McBurney Park on June 22 for its eighth year in a row

Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Nomadic Massive and Souljazz Orchestra (clockwise) are some of the eclectic Canadian artists performing.
Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Nomadic Massive and Souljazz Orchestra (clockwise) are some of the eclectic Canadian artists performing.
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Though it’s a chronological precursor to another Kingston music festival, Skeleton Park Music Festival gains recognition all on its own. One of the Skeleton Park Music Festival’s main goals, according to their website, is to raise awareness of the arts community here in the Limestone City.

The Canadian musical masterminds of Souljazz Orchestra, Lemon Bucket Orkestra and Nomadic Massive are just a few of the festival’s performing artists on June 22 in McBurney Park at Ordnance and Clergy Streets north of Princess St.

These eclectic groups of former buskers and international socio-cultural activists have a lot to bring to the table this summer. After a long winter, this festival reawakens the passion for the arts that Kingston prides itself on.

It’s not about money or fame or recognition for these artists. It’s a love for the production, the reaction, and the connections made between festival goers that makes it worth the while.

Souljazz Orchestra

The eclectic percussive band Souljazz Orchestra said they owe their return to Kingston’s tight-knit atmosphere.

This sextet hails from Ottawa, having met through friends of friends in coffee shops frequented by the capital’s indie music scenesters.

The members, ranging in musical backgrounds from drums to vocals to tenor saxophone, all bring cultural attributes to the mix, said Pierre Chrétien, Souljazz Orchestra’s keyboarder, percussionist and vocalist.

“Some of us came from jazz and African ensembles or Latin groups or big band musicals,” he said.

The band recently returned from a visit to the Juno Awards at the Brandt Centre in Regina, where they were nominated for their 2012 album Solidarity.

The awards event was a rewarding and educational experience for the band.

“It was eye-opening, knowing what goes on in the industry,” he said. “I think it was a positive experience overall.”

Souljazz Orchestra has an international presence takes them global. Chrétien said Chicago takes the cake for parties, but Kingston’s good vibes, family atmosphere and food spread make it a worthwhile destination.

What’s valuable for Chrétien isn’t so much the destination though. He said he enjoys perforning and connecting through music the most.

Solidarity includes electric pawn shop, organs, “trashy guitars and stuff like that,” Chretien said. It’s a step-up from their previous work which, he said, was more acoustic.

Most of their set at Skeleton Park Music Festival will be from their most recent album.

“It is definitely a more collaborative and eclectic album with influences from Jamaica, Brazil and Senegal,” he said.

Chrétien said the small atmosphere of the park pays tribute to the “lesser-known-but-equally-
good” acts.

“A lot of the bigger commercial mainstream festivals, they won’t showcase the same kind of acts,” he said. “It’s nice to showcase artists that are doing something a little different and a little creative.”

— Vincent Ben Matak

Lemon Bucket Orkestra

When Lemon Bucket Orkestra named their then-four-person band, they had high hopes.

“The dream was for it to be big,” violinist/vocalist Mark Marczyk said.

Now with 15 band members in tow, the self-described Balkan-klezmer-gypsy-party-punk-super band is making their return to the Limestone City for the Skeleton Park Music Festival.

The first time the Orkestra was here, they played at the Sleepless Goat on Princess St. before heading to the Toucan, a pub across the street, to keep playing.

“We’re excited to come back and play outside and reconnect with Kingston,” Marczyk said.

The group is known for their guerilla-style performances, the most famous one being an impromptu performance on a delayed Air Canada flight.

According to Marczyk, it was a move spurred on by accordion player Tangi Ropars, who began playing for the anxious flight passengers.

“We do that kind of thing all the time … taking out your instrument when you feel inspired and just playing,” Marczyk said.

The band had humble beginnings. Originally a group of buskers, Marczyk said the band’s growth was natural.

“It’s been an organic process of accumulating numbers,” he said.

Busking is, after all, part of the band’s origin story.

“We said we’d go out and play this song about lemons [“Lemon-Cheeky” off their EP Cheeky] and take our bucket and ask some people to throw some lemons in the basket,” Marczyk said.

With the upcoming Skeleton Park Music Festival, Marczyk said he’s not worried about the band playing to the crowd sitting outdoors, listening to live music.

“That’s actually where we’ll feel right at home,” he said.

— Janina Enrile

Nomadic Massive

For Butta Beats, the MC and drummer of the Montreal-based band Nomadic Massive, hip hop is more than just noise. He set the record straight on the misconceptions surrounding the genre.

The group, which is performing at this year’s Skeleton Park Music Festival, seeks to engage youth in the socio-political aspects of hip hop through workshops.

“With the amount of money being made now [in the hip hop industry] ... a lot of the core values have been left by the way side,” he said.

Butta Beats said Nomadic Massive offers an alternative to mainstream hip hop by creating beats that bring the music back to its roots.

“We choose to represent a hip hop that is positive, that is inclusive and non-violent,” he said.

By using hip hop as an educational tool, members of Nomadic Massive have been able to open up conversations on issues such as racism and poverty.

“We try to get [youth] to aspire not only to be good artists but to be good peer mentors as well,” Butta Beats said.

With such a diverse background, the group has the ability to influence a wide spectrum of people. Members have origins stretching from Algeria, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Chile, Argentina and Haiti.

Their composition reflects what Montreal looks like, he said.

“You can be multilingual, you can be cohesive, and you can be cooperative,” Butta Beats said. “We share a lot of values, even though we come from very different places.”

The group has progressed since their humble beginnings in 2001, having initially met as individual artists and officially forming in 2004.

Their latest EP, Any Sound, was self-recorded and represents where the group is going in terms of production. They are currently working on a third album.

“I’m really interested in validating the musicality of hip hop music and celebrating it for what it is,” he said.

— Kate Shao

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