Moses Sumney has cancelled his set at the Montreal Jazz Festival. According to Pitchfork, he made a statement recently about his choice to pull himself out of the lineup, “I knew that I could not present my music at this same festival in good conscience. Especially on a day sandwiched between Canada Day and Independence Day, two bittersweet holidays that have long left black, brown, and indigenous voices out.”
This decision came from presence of a controversial musical theater production titled SLAV. This decision on his part also stems from the festival’s support of this show which can be described as a “theatrical odyssey based on slave songs.” This show is often performed by a white group and has drawn protest for racism.
According to Sumney, the festival has defended this performance because of “adamant protests.” The Festival decided to stand with this performance stating, “We are truly fortunate that artists as talented and recognized as talented and recognized on the five continents as [performer] Betty Bonifassi and [director] Robert Lepage—in his very first collaboration—have chosen this festival to present this show as a world premiere,” organizers wrote, according to CBC. “Before subjecting them to trial by public opinion, we firmly believe that we must wait and witness the show they will present to us all.”
The festival is saddened to hear about his decision, but they respect it and “hope he’ll come back to the festival in the future.”
Sumney understood and appreciated the festival’s effort to engage in a dialogue about his thoughts and concerns but still made the executive decision to cancel his appearance at this festival. He will refund tickets and hold a show that same evening at a different location, Montreal’s La Sala Rossa. Fans will not be denied the privilege of hearing him perform.
UPDATE (7/5): According to Spin, Montreal Jazz Festival has cancelled the remaining performances of controversial performance-art piece SLĀV. The controversial play incorporates traditional slave songs by a largely white cast and the festival received a strong backlash in reaction to hosting the show at their festival.
In a statement left on Facebook, the festival organizers apologized for including the play in their lineup. “Since the beginning of SLÂV performances, the Festival has been shaken and strongly affected by all comments received. We would like to apologize to those who were hurt. It was not our intention at all.”
To Sumney, the decision to cancel the remaining performances appears to feel like “too little too late.” He tweeted yesterday, likely in reaction to the news, “nothing lost, nothing learnt.”
Nothing lost, nothing learnt.
— Moses Sumney (@MosesSumney) July 4, 2018
Photo Credit: Sharon Alagana