Chautauqua and Fall Fair, 2017. Photo courtesy of Fernie Museum

Fernie Chautauqua kicks off

Two-time Juno nominated blues artist Ndidi Onokwulu to perform at Fernie Community Centre tonight

The Chautauqua and Fall Fair is right around the corner, and kicks off tonight at 5:00 p.m.

We thought it appropriate to give you an insider’s perspective into the mind of one of the artists attending this year’s festival.

Ndidi Onokwulu is a two-time Juno nominated blues artist, and says she’s very excited to perform in Fernie this year.

Growing up in northern B.C., Onokwulu is no stranger to mountain towns, and says she’s been to Fernie multiple times over the years. However, she wasn’t aware just how expansive the art and culture scene in Fernie had grown over the years.

“It’s really expanded, it’s much more vibrant,” said Onokwulu.

“I’ve been through there recently, and I was like, oh, Fernie! I like this place! … I wish, years ago when I was growing up, this kind of stuff excited me. It would have made life in small town Canada much more bearable.”

“I love that I’m getting to play and be a part of something that’s about bringing culture and bringing ideas and sharing ideas in various parts of Canada, that often people don’t know a lot about.”

Onokwulu said she’s often touring outside of Canada for long periods of time, and when she tells people where she’s from, B.C., they immediately assume Vancouver. When she tries to explain that she’s from the interior, confusion follows.

“I don’t think people understand that in Canada we have … so many different towns, and fairs and events like this allow artists from different parts of our province and our country to be presented to a new audience that may not get to see them,” she said.

The blues artist has been in the industry for close to 14 years, and previously performed in Fernie in 2005. Since then, she’s changed by leaps and bounds. Onokwulu said very little about her, as an artist, is the same as it was back then; her voice, her style of writing, her life experience.

Sometimes, she said, it’s hard to maintain the same excitement she had all those years ago. However, she said it helps whenever she gets to perform somewhere new.

Over the years she has been compared to many other artists of varying genres. Over the years she’s taken on some of these assigned titles by critics and other musicians in the industry. But now, she’s going back to who she knows she is; a blues singer, through and through. From the very beginning, this is the music she loved, and this is the love that keeps her going.

More specifically, she has a love for delta blues. Onokwulu says she loves not only the style of delta blues, but also what it does to people.

“I love that sound because it was the sound of the people, it was community music,” she said. “Everybody could be a part of it, and everybody was. That’s what people would listen to after work, it was the kind of sound people would gather towards…

“I think that’s something that’s missing from music today, that sense of real community, real instruments.”

Onokwulu admits she knows little about the southern United States, and also admits the delta blues movement was far before her time. However she believes that somehow, she was born with a bit of the delta blues spirit.

You can catch her live alongside musical group, Flatback, at the Fernie Community Centre on Friday, September 14, at 6 p.m.

UPDATE: This event was previously scheduled to be held at the Chautauqua main stage but has been moved to the community centre due to the weather. Tomorrow’s pancake breakfast, concert and children’s activities will take place at the Fernie Family Centre, 521 4th Ave.

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