A northern state of mind in the heart of the west side

Diyet van Lieshout – Love of North guides musical path.| Photo by R. van Lieshout.

Diyet van Lieshout – Love of North guides musical path.| Photo by R. van Lieshout.

The Vancouver Folk Music Festival presents over 60 acts for its 38th annual event this July. New to the festival this year is Aboriginal singer/songwriter Diyet van Lieshout from Burwash Landing, Yukon.

After moving to Vancouver at the young age of 13 to study music, going to university in Victoria and then getting married and settling down in Vancouver, van Lieshout ultimately moved back to her hometown.

“I love Vancouver but when you are born in the mountains in the North the feeling and desire for space and freedom never leaves you. It was only a matter of time before I came home,” says van Lieshout.

The surrounding environment serves as van Lieshout’s main musical inspiration and so it is not surprising that she was drawn back to her roots. More specifically, the people, relationships, landscape, social issues and the cultural and personal struggles make up an environment for van Lieshout that
brings together her contemporary music.

“Music for me is a communion between artist, audience and the Creator. Everyone and everything is equal at that point,”
she says.

Musical path and accomplishments

Starting out as a songwriter then transitioning to singing, van Lieshout has had to streamline her performance from a five piece band to a trio, especially with the added difficulty of travelling from the Yukon and having two kids as well.

However, she is actively touring with her trio, including husband Robert van Lieshout on acoustic guitar, foot percussion and backing vocals, Bob Hamilton on electric guitar, mandolin and backing vocals and herself on bass and lead vocals.

“We’ve got a pretty fat sound for a trio,” van Lieshout says.

Receiving nominations for Best New Artist and Songwriter of the Year at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards in 2010 and 2011 and Album of the Year at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, van Lieshout has achieved a substantial amount of success in her career. Her validation, she says, does not come from this success but from the positive effect her music has
on people.

“I once finished a very small concert thinking to myself that I needed to get a “real” job when a woman in tears came up to me. She said my song about residential schools made her cry. … I felt really bad and apologized. She started laughing and said that she hadn’t been able to cry in years and that these were tears of joy. That was the last time I got down on my choice of career,” says van Lieshout.

Your typical Canadian

The Folk Festival website remarks about van Leishout that “this sub-Arctic-Southern Tutchone-Japanese-Tlingit-Scottish-Yukoner is your typical Canadian.”

Although she is a veritable mix of cultures van Lieshout was raised primarily in her Southern Tutchone community, a First Nations people from southern

“It’s more than race. You have to take into account your environment and its influences,” van Lieshout says about cultural identity.

Nevertheless, van Lieshout being referred to as “your typical Canadian” reflects the multiculturalism of the country itself. While we cannot deny the variety of cultures in Canada as epitomized in the cultural landscape of Metro Vancouver, van Lieshout suggests that Canada as a nation is still defining what it means to be Canadian.

Taking place at Jericho Beach Park, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, or “Folk Fest,” will be held July 17th to 19th with van Lieshout having multiple performances throughout the weekend. Tickets are required to enter the festival but the energy and music can be heard all throughout the surrounding neighbourhood so everyone can take part.

“Great crowds, good food, great organizers and lots of new friends. Really what more could an artist ask for?,” says van Lieshout of the Folk Fest.

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