WTF Wayhome, Ouch Osheaga: Let’s Discuss Cultural Appropriation

I think it’s important for people to check themselves. Is your speech, behaviour, attire, or accessories offensive in some way? If you’re unsure, the answer is probably, Yes.

I was really fortunate this summer and I was able to experience two major music festivals, the Wayhome Music & Arts Festival in Ore Medonte, just outside Barrie, Ontario, and the Osheaga Festival of Music and Art in Montreal, Quebec. Attending these two festivals affirmed my love for my fellow Canadians and the ways in which music can be used as medium to bring people together. I met so many amazing people during my time at these festivals, like-minded individuals from all over Canada (and other parts of the world) who were looking to enjoy their favorite artists and have a good time.

On the other hand, there was one really big issue that I couldn’t get past. Keep in mind, this wasn’t a one time occurrence but several instances in which I was extremely uncomfortable, and unable to understand why those around me didn’t share the same sentiments.

What really irked me throughout the festivals was the abundance of non-POC individuals donning culturally significant items such as bindis, headdresses, cornrows, dreadlocks, dashikis, warpaint, etc. I could go on forever.

WHAT IS CULTURAL APPROPRIATION? 

The definition of cultural appropriation is pretty simple: cultural appropriation is the use of a certain culture by members of another culture wherein the meaning or significance of these cultural ties are lost, misappropriated, and is disrespectful to the culture that it is originally from. Considering this, it’s pretty simple to understand that non-POC individuals, aka white people, are taking advantage of a culture when using it as a part of their costume at a music event.

Cultural appropriation is by no means a new concept, and, this far into the year 2017, I hoped to see changes from past years in which music festivals almost seemed as though they were breeding grounds for white dudes in cornrows and white girls in bindis. It saddens me that this is still a thing.

WHY DOES CULTURAL APPROPRIATION STILL HAVE A PLACE IN OUR FESTIVAL VENUES? 

This question has plagued me for the past few years. How has there been no reform to what people are allowed to wear at these festivals? More over, who perpetuates this trend or gives a “thumbs up” to these perpetrators before heading out the door?

There is a lot to be planned before heading to a festival, and a big part of that preparation is putting together an outfit and making accessory, hair, and makeup choices. Each year, I go through my overflowing closet in hopes of pairing together some makeshift ensemble that is cute and eye-catching and, most important, hasn’t been done before. While it may be hard to find that extra detail that will help make your look standout, I can assure you, it will not be found through the use of someone else’s culture. Do better.

From Alessandra Ambrosio‘s Instagram account. The post reads, “Becoming more inspired for @coachella with this amazing Native American headpiece @jacquieaiche #feathers #festival #coachella #foreveronvacation #inspiration #cocar”
From Kylie Jenner’s Instagram account
From Vanessa Hudgens’s Instagram account. The post reads, “Coachella life. Day 2 =) xx”

Social media often becomes oversaturated with the misuse of culture by the wrong demographic of individuals around festival season, (as seen above) so if the affirmation of a celebrity wearing such items becomes a confirmation for you to do the same if you are a non-POC, that is where we run into some trouble. One may ask, “if I see Kylie Jenner wearing such things, and she looks great, why can’t I?”

There is a long weighted history and discourse behind the argument that I am posing with this article, not all in which I can include. Instead, I am hoping to instead bring light to this topic, in the hopes that it sparks a greater debate between friends.

This is one of the ways that we can make a change.

WHAT DO MUSIC FESTIVALS LIKE WAYHOME AND OSHEAGA HAVE TO SAY ABOUT CULTURAL APPROPRIATION?

I did some research to see what I could dig up about the stance that certain festivals take on the issues I mentioned earlier. There was not a whole lot of information I could find, but, rather, a lot of great articles on the subject. Like I said earlier, I am not the first person to talk about this.

In the case of Wayhome and Osheaga, specifically, here is what I found. After scrolling through an “overview of festival rules” for Wayhome,  the only mention of clothing and/or accessory was through the bullet point stating:

  • No gang clothing and/or gang support shirts.

This bullet point appeared on the list twice. I am unclear as to what this is referring to or in what context Wayhome would qualify a shirt as “gang supporting,” but, nevertheless, I didn’t find another mention of clothing, accessory, or hairstyle. After scrolling further, I did find one more interesting bullet point, under the topic of “additional rules/regs”:

  • No confederate flags.

The fact that this was added to this list sends a red flag to me and really makes me interested in what event must have happened for the organizers to feel they must mention this. In Canada. In 2017. Either I am living in a fantasy world or there are bigger issues about what individuals are bringing to music festivals than I have ever imagined.

Osheaga on the other hand, was a little bit better. In 2015, the festival put a ban on the admittance of:

  • First Nations headdress and other feather headdresses

On their website, they specify that, “The First Nations Headdresses have a spiritual and cultural meaning in the native communities and to respect and honour their people, Osheaga asks fans and artists attending the festivals to not use this symbol as a fashion accessory.” 

This was really important. Osheaga was one of the first major music festivals to take a stand on cultural appropriation and to lend support to the Indigenous community of Canada by creating this rule.

SO… WHAT NOW? 

Here, my friends, we come to our final question: “What exactly can be done?” How would a music festival enforce these rules in practice? The fact is, it is impossible to police. There is no system that will be put in place that will not admit a white person because of a hairstyle or because they chose to wear a bindi.

This brings me full circle back to my frustration, and my understanding that the policing needs to begin within. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article: everyone needs to check themselves, and better yet, check your friends.

There is just no room for excuses. We all play our part, and as tough as a the world is, it’s important that your role in all of this is one that is as unproblematic as possible. There’s too much shit going on.

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Sets You Don’t Want to Miss at Osheaga 2017

Osheaga never fails to impress. Once again its lineup has every other music fest in Canada quivering in its boots. How can they even compare to the likes of Lorde, Muse, and the Weeknd? Your fav could never. Not only does Osheaga have a legendary three-day lineup, it takes place in a city that is very close to my heart, Montréal.

The most difficult part of attending a music festival, besides the fear of a dying cell phone, losing your friends, or running into your ex-boyfriend and his new boo is choosing what artist you are going to see on a given day. Let’s face it, it’s impossible to do it all, but that won’t stop us from trying. We often get too lit, or too lost (most likely a combination of the two), and run the risk of missing our favourite artists.

Not to worry, we have you covered. Claire and I have made a list of our top artists you must see on each day of Osheaga to help cement your decision or simply point your internal compass in the right direction after one too many Molson Canadiens with your best friend, Ben.

FRIDAY AUGUST 4TH 

Photo: Matt Seger

SAMPHA [SCÈNE DE LA VALLÉE VANS @ 4:55-5:40 PM]

Not only do I love slow, melodic soul music, but I also have a soft spot for British accents. Considering this, Sampha sings and speaks directly to my soul. He has quickly become a muse for some of the biggest names in music (Drake and Kanye for example), and built a reputable discography for himself. His debut album, Process (2017) came out after many years of waiting and long time fans like myself devoured it.

Photo: Marie Claire

TOVE LO [SCÈNE DE LA RIVIÈRE VIRGIN MOBILE @ 5:40-6:30 PM]

If Tove Lo’s music is anything, it’s honest. Her mix of cool synth pop and frank lyrics are the reason why I like her so much. Her music is raw, brutally honest, and empowering. Her unique vocals have also lent themselves to tracks with Coldplay, Nick Jonas, Broods, and Flume. Who doesn’t love to sing along to the dark breakup anthem Habits (Stay High) or the raw confessional love song Talking Body?

SATURDAY AUGUST 5TH

Courtesy of Capitol Records

JON BELLION [SCÈNE DE LA VALLÉE VANS @ 6:30-7:20 PM]

There is a lot of work that goes into creating music. Often, artists have a huge team backing them to help produce, create beats, and to put finishing touches on their work. Jon Bellion creates and produces all his own music. Anyone accustomed to his music will know the great amount of fine detail that goes into each track he creates, which registers as a sure sign of an absolute creative genius.

Photo: arkellsmusic.com

ARKELLS [SCÈNE VERTE SONNET @ 7:20-8:20 PM]

If you haven’t seen them yet, it’s an absolute must. These Ontario natives rep their hometown of Hamilton, HARD. They are known for their passionate and honest rock and energetic live shows. Their latest album, Morning Report (2016) was described by the band’s singer/guitarist Max Kerman as their “most honest” work yet. The album’s first single, ‘Private School,’ peaked at number one on Canadian Alternative radio. A festival is a perfect venue for them to show off what they’ve got.

SUNDAY AUGUST 6TH

Courtesy of Vevo

ZARA LARSSON [SCÉNE DE LA MONTAGNE COORS LIGHT @ 2:05-2:45 PM]

I haven’t been in love most of my life. That is, until I stumbled upon Zara Larsson. This singer-songwriter is a Swedish bombshell whose debut international album, So Good, was released in March 2017. She produced six singles, including ‘Lush Life’, ‘Never Forget You’, ‘Ain’t My Fault’, ‘I Would Like’ and ‘Symphony’. One can’t help but dance along to her infectious music, and I guarantee that you don’t want to miss her set as a closer for your last day at Osheaga.

Photo: The Fader

LOCAL NATIVES [SCÈNE DE LA RIVIÈRE VIRGIN MOBILE @ 4:10-4:55 PM]

I was recently introduced to this band by a friend of mine, and I have been obsessed with them ever since. Their dramatic brand of indie rock gives off some serious California vibes, which makes sense since their home base is Los Angeles, California. Their music is a combination of various harmonies and intricate sounds that somehow come together to form a collaborative, dreamy sound. Formed in 2008, the band has come a long way. Their sophomore release reached number 12 on the Billboard 200, and their highly anticipated third album, Sunlit Youth, was released in summer 2016.

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One Month, One Style: Fringe

Although Coachella, the heart of “festival season” is already over, there are many other music festivals upon us, like Governors Ball in NY, Glastonbury in Pilton – UK or Osheaga in Montreal. There is no denying that these festivals are shaping the face of the fashion trends, therefore we decided that the month of May will be all dedicated to the bohemian look.

There are some elements that reflect the ultimate festival look. Think lace, crochet, flower prints and fringe. One of the major trend this season is the playful fringe, that added a lot of movement and fun vibe to any garment or accessories.

Music festivals are no longer the only place to channel this bohemian free-spirit look. Here are several ways to incorporate fringe into your daily wardrobe:

Just a touch

Add a touch of hippie boho feel by carrying a fringe bag on your side. Since handbags can speak much about your personality, without being too risky, it can be the first step in building your relationship with this flirty accessory. Fringe or tassels bag can be worn with anything, from formal outfit to a free spirit one and can make a fancy dress look more casual.

Photo: Emillio Pucci , Vogue

The Wild Wild West

While it’s still chilly outside, a fringe jacket can be a great way to welcome the wild west into your wardrobe. For S/S ’17, it’s clear to that designers had the festival season on their minds, by showing a collection that perfectly capturing the boho western vibe. Rodarte features a cream leather fringe jacket on his collection, as a modern update to the cowgirl sexy look, or Roberto Cavalli’s with a blue suede leather with fringe details all over it,as part of his hippy ’70s collection. For a casual day look, opt for fringe crop jacket with a skinny jeans, or add a pair of cool sneakers, for an unexpected combination.

Photo: Anna Sui, Imaxtree

100% boho look

Fringed kimono is the most identified component with the bohemian style and the most popular piece in any music festivals, but if you think it’s only appropriate for certain event, think again. Kimonos can totally be an integral part of your day to day wardrobe.  Try to wear this bohemian topper with a t-shirt and skinny jeans or layered over a denim shorts for the ultimate weekend look. Do you Feel the urge to refresh your classic office look? simply wear it with a midi dress and add a belt, that will give the whole outfit a polished touch.

Photo: Apiece apart, Vouge

I like to move it

There is no doubt that fringe skirt is a statement piece. The street style circuit have already become a big fan of this daring trend, which brings movement and liveliness to any outfit. You can take your fringe skirt from night to day and make it ideal for spring days. To dress it down, pair it with a graphic t-shirt and leather jacket. You can also add a pair of sneakers to give the bold look a casual twist.

Photo: Tory Burch, Imaxtree

Summer Flirt 

One summer accessory that you really need to own in your closet is a pair of fringe sandals. Whether it appears on suede lace up heels, flat sandals or come in a funkier version, it can bring a lot of fun you your outfit. The great thing about fringe sandals that it gives a bohemian hippie vibe to a city chic look, with no efforts. The good news that even if you are not a big fan of the retro 70’s trend, there are a lot of fringe variations to choose from.

Photo: Paul Andrew™ for J.Crew