Montreal Jazz Festival Cancels Controversial Show After Criticism

MONTREAL—The Montreal International Jazz Festival is cancelling the remaining presentations of a show that has been criticized because it features a white woman singing songs composed by black slaves.

The festival says it is apologizing to anyone who was hurt by the decision to put on the shows.

“Since the beginning of SLAV performances, the festival team has been shaken and strongly affected by all comments received,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.

“For the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, inclusion and reconciliation between communities is essential. We made the decision with the artist Betty Bonifassi to cancel all performances of the show at the festival.”

The decision comes a day after U.S. musician Moses Sumney cancelled a gig at the jazz festival to protest the SLAV shows.

At the premiere last week, about 75 protesters staged a demonstration outside the theatre that was hosting the performance, which was directed by renowned Quebec playwright Robert Lepage.

Police had to form a cordon to block protesters in order to allow people to enter.

Bonifassi, a Montreal-based singer known for her Oscar-nominated work on the soundtrack of “Les Triplettes de Belleville,” was the main performer.

Lepage and Bonifassi earlier released a joint statement on Facebook in which they said, “Yes, the history of slavery, in all its various forms, belongs first and foremost to those who have been oppressed and to the descendants of those people.”

“Diversity and its artistic potential are at the heart of SLAV as much as the legacy of slavery. Do we have the right to tell these stories? Audience members will have the opportunity to decide after having seen the show.”

 

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