This weekend, the City of Surrey will invite the world to Holland Park for a celebration of its diversity. The Surrey Fusion Festival will feature dozens of live acts whose musical roots go back to many countries. In addition, there will be 50 kitchens on-site preparing a breathtaking array of international cuisine.
Because Surrey is located on traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Salish Peoples, festival organizers have also invited many Indigenous artists to perform. They include DJ Shub, Don Amero, Piqsiq, Iskwew Singers, Bitterly Divine, Indigenous Songwriters Circle, M’Girl Music, Eli Gosselin-Rattlesnake, Matt Cook-Controls, Pat Calihou, Chief Rock, Lisa Patterson, Semiah, and Stars of the North Drum Group.
All musical performances are free for the public.
There were 212,680 people of South Asian ancestry living in Surrey in 2021, according to the census. That accounted for 37.8 percent of the entire city population, exceeding the “European” category for the first time. And some big names in Punjabi music will be on-stage at the festival, including Gurnam Bhullar, Ikky, Robyn Sandhu, and Shally Rehal. There are also some Bollywood-style entertainers at the festival, such as Karshma Deo and Karima Essa. Plus, the audience can enjoy seeing dancers from the Rangla Punjab Arts Academy and performers from the Nepal Cultural Society of B.C.
Meanwhile, Surrey is home to a growing population of people of African ancestry. According to the 2021 census, there was a 36 percent increase—to 12,870 residents—from 2016.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this year’s Surrey Fusion Festival will feature some of the region’s top Afrobeats artists. The lineup includes Wesli, Zaki Ibrahim, Zahara, Jacky Essombe and Friends, V-love, Kara-Kata Afrobeat Group, Izo Dreamchaser, Kunda Culture, and Nam 4 Sure.
Big Asian presence at Fusion fest
This isn’t the only community showing a big increase in numbers. Those who define themselves as being of “Middle Eastern” ancestry are also becoming a bigger part of Surrey’s population, reaching 12,620 in 2021. That was up 33 percent from 2016, partially as a result of the Syrian refugee crisis. This community’s music will also be represented at the festival.
For example, the mother-and-daughter duo of Amal & Malak, who are from Lebanon, will perform Arabic folklore music. They’ll play a flute-like instrument called the nay. In addition, Tissa Rahim, sometimes referred to as the Persian Powerhouse, will dish up her brand of funk and soul.
Meanwhile, there were 115,995 people of East and Southeast Asian ancestry living in Surrey in 2021. That marked a 19 percent increase from five years earlier. People of East and Southeast Asian ancestry account for more than 20 percent of the city’s population in the last census.
Artists of East Asian or Southeast Asian ancestry include Jirong Huang, Argel MDR, Uzume Taiko, Non Sweet, 21 Strings, Yuki the Juggler, V3, The Spirit of the South Seas, Satsuki-Kai, and the K-pop dance company MAMAKEISH. In addition, cultural groups such as Sekarwati Surrey, Hua Xia Multiculture Society, Korean Traditional Arts Society, and the Southeast Asian Cultural Heritage Society will also be represented at the festival.
A truly global event
Plus, there are healthy servings of Latin American, Celtic, folk, blues, and experimental music.
Perhaps there is no greater emblem of the Surrey Music Festival than percussionist Boris Sichon, who was born in Ukraine. While travelling the world, Sichon has collected more than 200 rare and unique musical instruments, such as the Middle East dumbek, the Australian didgeridoo, First Nations drums, and the Turkish gong.
“It’s like they are all cousins—one family,” Sichon says in the video below.
The Surrey Fusion Festival takes place on Saturday (July 22) and Sunday (July 23) in Holland Park. For more information, visit the website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.