Moses Sumney drops out of Montreal Jazz Festival over controversial play

The festival refused to pull the questionably-titled play SLĀV from their programming.

July 3, 2018

Montreal’s Jazz Festival is taking place this week, though its stacked lineup ­– featuring acts such as Daniel Caesar and the War on Drugs – has found itself short one Moses Sumney due to the Festival’s hosting and continued defense of a controversial play.

The play, questionably-titled SLĀV, is described as “a theatrical odyssey based on slave songs […] from cotton field plantations to railroad yards,” a pitch that, in tandem with performer Betty Bonifassi and director Robert Lepage both being white, has garnered a rightful amount of controversy and criticism on the basis of the production’s appropriative nature. This controversy – along with the festival organizer’s lack of action – has led to protests being organized outside of the play’s performances, which themselves have received support from Canadian creatives such as Polaris-nominated artist Pierre Kwenders:

Organizers of the Montreal Jazz Festival have defended the production, announcing that “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.”

Sumney, who dropped his debut full-length Aromanticism to acclaim last year, announced on Twitter that the organizers’ lack of action toward such a production and the messages it spreads made him realize that “I could not present my music at this same festival in good conscience,” with the artist removing himself from the bill:

Fans still looking to check out Sumney can catch him tonight at La Sala Rossa, where he has rescheduled his set free of Festival associations.

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