2019 Conference in Review

For our 31st annual conference, we were thrilled to be back in Montréal for the first time since 2005. Our attendance once again eclipsed the previous year’s, with 2,910 attendees representing 47 countries (including 1,499 first-timers!).

With 181 Official Showcases, 2,553 Private Showcases, and over 1,000 speed meetings, the conference presented a strong front for the folk music community.

The conference theme, the Spirit of Creativity, was an exploration of the creative process from inspiration to vocation and a collective conversation about innovation, collaboration, and spirituality in art.

Post-Conference Report
Tanya Tagaq giving her keynote address at Folk Alliance International's 2019 conference

Keynote Speaker: Tanya Tagaq

Celebrated Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq read a few poems from her new poetry book, “Split Tooth”, and shared some of her deep vocal improvisations. The theme of her keynote address covered the nuances of authenticity in creativity. Tanya is a 2014 Polaris Prize-winning recording artist and recipient of multiple Juno Awards, a Canadian Folk Music award, and is a 2016 International Folk Music award nominee.

Artist in Residence

In collaboration with UNESCO, FAI invited Twin Flames to create an original piece that speaks to the importance of language, especially as it relates to identity, culture, and history. The song features vocal support from Inuit students and staff at Nunavut Sivuniksavut Arctic College, along with First Nation and Métis friends live on set with photographer Sean Sisk and videographer Matt Provencal.

Feature Interviews

Buffy Sainte-Marie

John Kay

Buffy Sainte-Marie being interviewed by Andrea Warner (author of her biography) at the 2019 Folk Alliance International Conference

Buffy was reunited with acclaimed music journalist Andrea Warner who authored “Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography”. The biography went on to become a national bestseller. Buffy was also the recipient of the IFMA’s 2019 People’s Voice award.

John Kay during his feature interview at the 2019 Folk Alliance International Conference

For the first time in 50 years, John Kay (Steppenwolf founder and vocalist) sat down with Tom O’Neal (rock and roll photographer and Steppenwolf album designer) to share stories of their long careers in folk music. They shared reflections on folk and blues music, and Tom’s career launch at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival.

The International Folk Music Awards

The 2019 International Folk Music Awards were hosted by award-winning Canadian musician and CBC broadcaster, Tom Power, with French translation by Anique Granger. The awards show started with a welcome by the United States Consul General, Robert Thomas, and an acknowledgment that the event was taking place on the unceded territory of the Kanien’kehá:ka, Nation of Kahnawà:ke. The full recording of the show is available here.

Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

  • Living: Joni Mitchell
  • Legacy: Leonard Cohen
  • Organization/Academic: fRoots

Best Of Award Winners

  • Album of the Year: Rifles & Rosary Beads by Mary Gauthier
  • Song of the Year: “The President Sang Amazing Grace” by Zoe Mulford, recorded by Joan Baez
  • Artist of the Year: I’m With Her

The Clearwater Award Recipient

  • Hillside Festival

Spirit of Folk Award Recipients

  • Alfredo Caxaj
  • Ellen Hamilton
  • Gilles Garand
  • Matt Smith
  • Michael Wrycraft
  • ShoShona Kish
  • Sonny Ochs
  • Sofía Rei

Folk DJ Hall of Fame Inductees

  • Bob Harris
  • Matt Watroba
  • Wanda Fischer

The People’s Voice Award Recipient

  • Buffy Sainte-Marie
The Good Lovelies performing at the 2019 International Folk Music Awards
The Good Lovelies performing at the IFMAs. Photo by Jake Jacobson
Buffy Sainte-Marie accepting her award at the 2019 International Folk Music Awards. Photo by Jake Jacobson.
Buffy Sainte-Marie accepting her award. Photo by Jake Jacobson
Zoe Mulford accepting her award for Song of the Year at the 2019 International Folk Music Awards. Photo by Jake Jacobson
Zoe Mulford accepting her award at the IFMAs. Photo by Jake Jacobson

Indigenous Focus

Artwork for the International Indigenous Music Summit. Watersong by Christi Belcourt

Building on five years of intentional outreach and programming, this year’s conference had a focus on Indigenous artists. This included a dedicated Official Showcase stage (sponsored by APTN), a dedicated Private Showcase room, panel inclusion, a screening of “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World”, and featured artists and speakers including Twin Flames (AIR), Buffy Sainte-Marie (People’s Voice Award), and Tanya Tagaq (keynote). It also included a partnership with Indigenous leaders to present a summit and commenced the appointment of indigenous lawyer and musician Gerald Torres to the board of directors.


FAI's celebration of the anniversary of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's 1969 "Give Peace A Chance" bed-in

On February 16, 2019, FAI held a live-streamed “Bed-In” performance from the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth in Montréal to commemorate the 50th anniversary of John and Yoko’s original recording of “Give Peace A Chance”. Over 300 groups (artists, industry, administrators, and fans) signed up to broadcast their personal version of the song from their own beds (whether at the hotel, or elsewhere in the world). The video of the bed-in is available here.