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 WayHome 2017

With WayHome Music Festival right around the corner, we have all been prepping our bodies, minds, and bank accounts for the big weekend ahead. If you’re anything like me, you’re not excited to be camping for three days, but there is nothing like the motivation one gets from seeing their favourite artist’s name printed on a lineup. I will run the risk of not having a hot shower (or a shower at all for the matter) for three days, just for the opportunity to be 10 feet away from Frank Ocean’s feet.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it will be a long 72 hours, but together, we can make things work. Below I have compiled a list of must-see sets at this year’s WayHome, along with the details of where each artist will be playing. You can thank me now, or later, but don’t forget to see these talented individuals in all their glory under the beaming sun.

FRIDAY, JULY 28th 2017

Photo by Bryan Allen Lamb

NONAME [WayHome Stage @ 3:45-4:15 PM]

Noname, otherwise known to her parents and childhood friends as Fatima Warner, is a Chicago MC first known for her cameos on Chance the Rapper’s “Acid Rap”, as well as Mick Jenkin’s mixtape, “The Waters”. Following this debut, Noname took her time and carefully detailed and executed her breakout project, Telefone, which provided hungry fans with a body of work. Noname is an up-and-comer with melodic soundscapes and lyrics that weave into poetry.

Photo by Zack Vitiello

ALLAN RAYMAN [WayBright Stage @ 4:30-5:00 PM]

Toronto native, Allan Rayman is an enigma. Fairly new to the scene, Rayman has managed to steer clear of the spotlight and keep his identity something of a mystery. His first ever interview was released in February of 2017 with Billboard. He is currently signed to Communion Records and has released two albums, Hotel Allen” and “Roadhouse 01” as well as two singles, “Much Too Much” and “All at Once“. Rayman’s vocal style is gritty and soulful, and his music crosses boundaries between genres.

Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images

DANNY BROWN [WayAway Stage @ 12:15-1:00 PM]

For those looking to end the WayHome Friday with a bang, attend Danny Brown’s closing set. This Detroit-native is no stranger to the festival circuit; he delivers high-energy through his performances without missing a beat. Danny’s shows are known for getting quite rowdy and #NSFW, to say the least, but that certainly doesn’t take away from his big finish.

SATURDAY, JULY 29TH 2017

Cover of Charlotte Cardin’s Big Boy EP

CHARLOTTE CARDIN [WayBright Stage @ 2:00-2:30 PM]

Charlotte Cardin is a pop/electro singer from Montréal who is best known for her single, “Like It Doesn’t Hurt, featuring Husser. Her smooth vocals compliment any backdrop, while her lyrics sing truths about tales of lost loves and relationships. Charlotte released her solo debut EP, “Big Boy“, in 2016 with Cult Nation Records with songs in both English and French.

Photo by Carlotta Guerrero

SOLANGE [WayBright Stage @ 8:30-9:30 PM]

One simply cannot leave out this beauty while highlighting the best-of-the-best at WayHome. Without Solange, there would be no list, and, frankly, if you take anything away from this article, let it be this one suggestion: do not miss her set.

Photo by Steven Taylor

RUSS [WayAway Stage @ 12:15-1:00 PM]

Russ is not only a singer-songwriter, but a producer, a beat-maker, and an artist who never stops grinding for his dream. Over the past decade, Russ has put out consistent singles and videos, making him a rising-star from Atlanta. Russ has released eleven “unofficial” albums before eventually signing to Columbia records and releasing his newest project, “There’s Really A Wolf“.

SUNDAY, JULY 30TH 2017

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

MITSKI [WayBright Stage @ 6:00-6:45 PM]

In 2016, Mitski released her fourth studio album, “Puberty 2” through Dead Oceans Records. The whole world applauded Mitski’s vulnerable and complex songwriting, whose subjects include love, depression, self-alienation, and racial identity. The New York Times describes “Puberty 2” as “an impressive collection of D.I.Y punk and indie rock.”

Photo by Liam MacRae & Sean Brown

DANIEL CAESAR [ WayAway Stage @ 6:45-7:30 PM]

Daniel Caesar is a singer-songwriter making waves in the Toronto music scene. Transcending the frameworks of R&B/Soul, Daniel’s music resonates with his audience and creates a moments of self-examination through his lyrics. The 21-year old Toronto native debuted in 2014 with his EP “Praise Break” and has since received attention from major music publications across the country. Daniel speaks directly to a millennial generation through ballads of love, lust, and faith.

Source: The Independent

FRANK OCEAN [WayHome Stage @ 9:45-11:15 PM]

I don’t think there is a combination of words or sentences that I can string together to explain the excitement I feel to finally see Frank Ocean live at WayHome. After a four-year hiatus, Frank has delivered with Blonde, Endless, and consistent singles we will cherish for decades to come. *cough* “Lens” *cough.* This angel sent from above needs no backstory or convincing. See his show, fall in love, and dance slowly under the moonlight, drifting away with his voice.

See the full line up for the 3 day festival here, and continue following our arts and culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.