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21st of July 2018


Moses Sumney quits over slave show

American singer-songwriter Moses Sumney cancelled his Tuesday night performance at the legendary Montreal International Jazz Festival, protesting the event's ties to a show on slavery performed by whites.

The black entertainer, who appeared in Sydney this year, criticised the festival for supporting SLAV, a theatrical production on black slavery he said constituted cultural appropriation. Instead of performing at the festival, he played two back-to-back shows on Tuesday night at a Montreal club venue.

Moses Sumney at the 2017 Sydney Festival.

Moses Sumney at the 2017 Sydney Festival.

Photo: Jamie Williams

SLAV, directed by Robert Lepage and starring Betty Bonifassi, sparked protests as critics argued it appropriated black culture. In the production, the predominantly white cast dress as cotton pickers and poor field workers and sing old slave songs.

"Their songs are taken from them by white people and performed to rooms full of other white people for high ticket prices," Sumney wrote in a letter to organisers that he also published on his Tumblr blog. "I much would have preferred seeing actual black Americans sing their own slave songs."

He also compared SLAV to blackface minstrel shows. "The only thing missing is black paint," he wrote.

Bonifassi told the Montreal Gazette last week she didn't "feel badly at all" about the production. "I don't see colour. To me, it doesn't exist, physically or in music," she said.

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