Dancer Brontë Poiré-Prest. Photo by Lily Alexandre
Just when the cold, dark iciness of winter is starting to feel a little tiresome, a brand new music and arts festival called Lux Magna is set to lift our spirits, with its premiere edition taking place this week from Thursday, Jan. 25 through Sunday, Jan. 28.
The fest’s team of 10 organizers — made up entirely of women and non-binary folks — has deep roots in the city’s underground arts community. To create Lux Magna, they’ve drawn upon their experiences as performers (including Elle Barbara, Julie Richard, Ora Cogan, Strange Froots’ Magassy Mbow and dancers Sasha Kleinplatz and Sonya Stefan) and cultural producers (Suoni per il Popolo’s Amélie Malissard, Popolo Press’s Kiva Stimac, Unceded Voices’ Camille Larivée and McGill scholar Mars Zaslavsky) to develop a rich, stylistically diverse program packed with performances, visual arts, collaborations, workshops, parties and dialogue that will take place primarily across the venues la Sala Rossa, Casa del Popolo and la Vitrola.
“Lux Magna means ‘The Great Light’ in Latin,” says singer/songwriter Ora Cogan. “It seemed fitting to have something bright and radiant — something big and exciting and warm in nature, in the deepest depths of winter. We also wanted to do something with an ethos that was positive, inclusive and fun.”
“We also wanted to get out of our comfort zone,” adds Malissard. “We didn’t want to book the same thing over and over. We wanted programming that was multidisciplinary, with different kinds of music and arts. We chose from the beginning to have different genres of music like hip hop or bluegrass or experimental music.”
Some of the different kinds of music and arts that will be on display at Lux Magna include performances from well-known Montreal artists like Annie Sama (fka APigeon), Tshizimba, Lucas Charlie Rose, Mich Cota, Hua Li, Karen Chung, Foonyap, the Urban Science Brass Band and Bats in the Belfry, plus a documentary screening featuring the artists of the 2017 edition of street art convergence Unceded Voices and art installations and exhibitions from Cedar Eve and Nina Slykhuis.
While the program is designed to shine a light especially on Montreal-based artists, Lux Magna will also host the first edition of Elle Barbara’s new dance party series Shemale Reprezent! on Saturday night, featuring a line-up of trans women of colour headlined by Brooklyn’s Jasmine Infiniti, with Toronto’s Coco Supreme and Philadelphia’s Precolumbian.
Other special events include Thursday’s opening event Prise d’opposition: a musical conversation with 12 performing artists showcasing works and engaging in critical conversation, Sunday evening’s RISE: a Performance Night for Black women and Femme Folks with spoken word artist Shanice Nicole, hip hop artist Shades Lawrence and writer/performer Karine Constant-Déjean and also on Sunday, an experimental music night with Fillesharmoniques (Concordia electroacoustic students) and a collaboration called les Yeux with YlangYlang, Jessica Moss, Joni Sadler, Joni Void, Ora Cogan and Big ‡ Brave’s Robin Faye.
“It’s a really creatively diverse line-up,” says Cogan. “As a music nerd, I challenge everyone to try at least one event that you wouldn’t usually go to and keep an open mind.”
The Lux Magna organizers have planned a first edition with the future in mind by engaging young people with workshops and performances for and by youth in collaboration with Rock Camp for Girls plus free daytime kid-friendly programming, as well as Mbow’s own initiative, the Lux Magnets mentorship program that will see young participants learning various aspects of sound production and engineering.
“We really wanted to foster future musicians,” explains Malissard. “We’re working for the future here, not only the present. It’s part of our mandate.”
Of course, the present can use some work, too. Recently there have been efforts to reform the show-going experience to make it safer for women, non-binary and non-white audience members and performers alike, an issue that matters to Lux Magna organizers like Magassy Mbow.
“We’re trying to foster a new generation of inclusivity in event organizing,” Mbow says. “We [Strange Froots] did a lot of observing on how we were getting booked and why, and how we were being treated depending on what kind of art we did. These are lessons I took with me.
“We want to show that you can have a successful show with a diverse array of artists without tokenizing the artist or focusing so much on commercial success. We want to ensure a safe space not only for artists but for the audience. A great example of this for us was the Princess Nokia show that happened last summer. It was a huge hit and a lot of young, queer people of colour were in the room. Oftentimes in Montreal they don’t necessarily feel safe at certain events — this is something I personally strive to change. Lux Magna is making a sound effort in creating a safe environment not just for the artists but for the festivalgoers.”
Cogan agrees, noting that emphasizing inclusivity allows for greater participation and a better all-around cultural environment.
“When we allow people to breathe and be who they are, encouraging and creating space for that, some really amazing things happen for all of us. It’s good for everyone. The hope is that someone walk away from the Lux Magna festival feeling inspired and excited and involved with new ideas and a new way to look forward.” ■
The Lux Magna festival takes place from Jan 25–28 at Casa del Popolo (4873 St-Laurent), la Sala Rossa (4848 St-Laurent) and la Vitrola (4602 St-Laurent), with events ranging in price from free to $12. Check out the full program on their website.