The Concert of Colors – now in it’s 26th year – is a festival that happens in Midtown Detroit. It also happens to be FREE. Yep. Totally and completely free. While the Concert of Colors may have some major sponsors (Meijer, Ford, Comerica) they partner with important local, Detroit-based community organizations as well –  like the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, ACCESS, The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and more.

The word community was spoken a lot during the Concert of Colors series community-building was apparent in how accessible they made the festival. Since the festival was of no cost to attend, it was made accessible for folks who might otherwise not have been able to enjoy and participate in the festivities. The assistants at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra made the building accessible to the public by providing door-people to open doors and navigate any questions. Even Grandma Techno could be seen scooting around the Concert of Colors festival inside at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra main stage as well as the outdoor Wolverine Stage where many local Detroit acts showcased their talents.

When I heard Buffy Sainte-Marie was going to be at this festival, I could barely believe it. Buffy has been an Indigenous figure in Canadian politics and history since she was in her early twenties in the 1960s. Today, at 77 years old, Buffy Sainte-Marie is still performing regularly and speaking out as an advocate for Indigenous rights, and on the importance of community.

Buffy Sainte-Marie graced the stage with a huge smile, leather jacket embroidered with roses, and an ienergy that instantly filled the room. Buffy has such a range of sounds: did you know she wrote the track “Up Where We Belong“? It was oddly satisfying to hear this all too familiar track with her unique vocals. Her banter between songs included stories about songwriting, performing on Native reserves, racism and sexism, what it was like to be performing as a woman in her early career, among other things, but always on an end note of uplifting empowerment. Buffy performed other significant anthems like her newer track “The War Racket” with a flat-toned range but a heavy punch. The beat from “You Got To Run” had people up and out of their seats dancing in front of the stage.

“Down, in a hole / You feel like two different people in your soul / Feel like a loser, until you see / That as you bend / You learn to be / Your own best friend”

These powerful songs, about standing up for your beliefs and letting yourself be afraid but acting anyway, obviously resonated with the crowd. The age range was significant; from people in their mid-twenties to over 70 – I spoke with a couple of self-declared hippies who seemed to be among the majority. There were even a few children with the noted earphones bobbing with parents along to the beats of Buffy Sainte-Marie and her trembling vocals. As Buffy mentioned during the performance, we are experiencing the same issues from 20, 30, and 50 years ago: racism, violence, war, capitalism, and greed. The blending of Indigenous folklore and sound with a modern day message is not something to be missed.

“Sometime you gotta take a stand / Just because you know you can / Ah you got to run you got to run”

buffy ste marie.jpg

Photo by Jann MacIsaac

See Buffy Sainte-Marie live…

August 4th @ Kalso Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival, Kalso BC

August 6th @ Canmore Folk Music Festival, Canmore AB

August 9th @ Edmonton Folk Festival, Edmonton AB

August 11th @ Stillaguamish Festival of the River, Arlington WA, USA

September 9th @ SKOOKUM Festival, Vancouver BC

October 19th @ One Heart Native Arts & Film Festival, Spokane WA, USA

November 16th @ Koemer Hall, Toronto ON


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