Global vision, local stage 

Mike Weterings Band brings sounds of Africa to Pemberton Folk Fest

Who: Mike Weterings Band

What: Pemberton Folk Festival

Where: Pioneer Park

When: Saturday, June 12

Tickets: $25/adults ($40/weekend pass), $10/kids

Think globally; act locally.

The mantra of social responsibility is defined in Vancouver musician Mike Weterings.

Raised on a meat and potatoes diet of North American blues, folk, and rock ’n’ roll, Weterings discovered beauty and inspiration in African rhythms while spending a year travelling around the continent, making his way from Cairo to Capetown.

"It seemed to affect me in different ways," said Weterings from Vancouver.

"It liberated me emotionally and creatively. I think I am more invested in ‘going for it’ than I would have been had I never gone there.

"African music is deceptively simple-sounding to Western ears, yet once a person gets into it the phrasing, for example, is really hard to play and capture authentically. I love the challenge of that!"

Weterings himself is quick to point out that he is far from an African music expert, something that would take a lifetime to achieve. He’s merely allowed his folksy rock sound to adopt the rhythms in a way similar to Paul Simon’s landmark Graceland album or the work of Dave Matthews.

He’s flattered by the common comparison but is quick to direct the credit for the sound to the African artists and not just their renowned collaborators with multi-million dollar record deals.

"I think Paul Simon is an amazing, timeless writer and Graceland is a beautiful album," says Weterings, "but I have this idea in my head that he was influenced and drawing from people like Jaluka, Hugh Masekala and countless other African artists for his work.

"People aren't recognizing that Paul Simon is just one unique and beautiful expression and interpretation of an entire culture’s worth of music."

Weterings also likes the idea of being a conduit for cultural understanding.

"We can all learn from each other," he says. "It’s my dream to see African music as just another musical category that most people draw from like they would rock, blues, Celtic or reggae.… Why not sprinkle rock with some African-sounding guitars? That’s basically what I’m doing right now."

The global sound will come to a very local venue this Saturday evening when Weterings and his self-named band headline the first annual Pemberton Folk Festival at Pioneer Park.

He says he’s looking forward to the smaller community experience.

"Festivals can be like community watering-holes," he muses. "They provide a fairly non-commercial medium whereby people from all walks of life can find commonality and connection. The retired couple can share an ice cream or a joke with kids, or the unemployed person claps along and dances to the same music as the millionaire and no one cares where you're from. Unlike the larger international festivals I think they tend to be a bit more intimate and disarming," he adds.

Weterings is also well known as a solo artist and plays regularly at the Crystal Lounge. The festival performance will draw primarily from material on the Mike Weterings Band’s CD Aluminum Sea .

A new album is currently in pre-production. And for curious fans Weterings is keeping a Web diary of the process.

"If people are interested in some of the inner workings of an independent recording artist and the things that go into making an independent CD, I am always interested in feedback and try to respond to questions that people may have along the way," he says.

The diary is online at www.mikeweterings.com/newalbum_info.htm.

Mike Weterings Band plays last on Saturday evening, taking the stage at approximately 9 p.m. after the sun has disappeared behind Mount Currie. Weterings will also contribute to the festival song writing workshops.

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