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Calgary musician goes against the grain

Calgary artist discusses complicated relationship with music ahead of Big Fun Festival performance

FOONYAP opens Big Fun Festival with Matt Foster tonight at the Ballroom at 8 p.m.

ANASTASIA LUTZ-OROZCO

FOONYAP opens Big Fun Festival with Matt Foster tonight at the Ballroom at 8 p.m.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/1/2018 (903 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Big Fun Festival is back for its seventh edition with more than 40 artists performing at seven venues over five days, starting tonight.

Other than adding coffee shop/bar/restaurant Forth, as well as Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club, to the festival’s list of venues, not much has changed with Big Fun for 2018 — festival passes are still $75 for the whole weekend and the artists performing represent a vast array of genres and geographical points.

Headliners this year include Ice Cream, an indie/experimental pop duo from Toronto; the Polaris Prize shortlisted group Braids; Montreal three-piece art-rock band Big Brave and local groups Red Moon Road and Super Duty Tough Work. The festival kicks off tonight with a show at the Ballroom (218 Roslyn Rd.) featuring experimental artist Foon Yap (who performs under the name FOONYAP) from Calgary.

Yap performed in Winnipeg for the first time just a few months ago, in October, at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church. In addition to loving the unique venue, Yap mentions the night was memorable for another reason.

"We brought our own smoke machine and set off the fire alarm," she says, laughing.

"And it was one of those fire alarms that can only be turned off by the building manager or is hard-coded, so we had to evacuate everybody — it was a freezing night — and wait for the fire department to come, so it was quite an interesting night, but it was a nice little adventure and I have very fond memories of that evening... but I’m not bringing a smoke machine this time."

Yap pulls inspiration for her compositions from all corners of the sonic and lyrical map — she self-describes her genre as Asian folk electronica — but, counterintuitively, her music is mostly quite minimalist and spacious. Her debut album, Palimpsest, is a deeply emotional piece of work. At age four, Yap started violin lessons and, after showing natural talent on the instrument, was later enrolled in the Mount Royal Conservatory of Music, where she was forced into a rigid life of practice and competition with little room for personal or artistic growth. She spent years fighting an internal battle, pushing back against ideas of conformity and judgment, while desperately wishing for acceptance from both her peers and her traditional Chinese family.

It wasn’t until she eventually dropped out of the conservatory that Yap began to rebuild her positive relationship with music. That rediscovery of her creative and emotional self, along with the trauma and breaking point that led to it, is what Yap explores on Palimpsest.

"Definitely context and my personal growth factor into how I relate to ­music. I was always a very musical child, but growing up in the classical music context, there wasn’t the room that I needed to express and compose. That kind of activity wasn’t really encouraged in that tradition, alongside with my own cultural background," she explains.

"My relationship with music didn’t really begin to heal until I quit the classical music world and started performing with indie bands... so over the past year, part of this album certainly has been about healing that relationship with the expressive part of myself. I find now, more and more, that music for me is a means of engaging with reality."

Yap says the process of touring this record and sharing it with her fans has been difficult but rewarding.

"I feel like when I put myself out there, I’m exposing myself to a version of reality that is unfiltered by the comfort of a steady paycheque," Yap laughs.

"And so there’s so many triumphs and disappointments and personal struggles along the way and, yeah, I mean continually to this day I struggle, just like any other human being there’s a constant struggle to make each moment meaningful."

It’s immediately clear Yap is thoughtful and deliberate; she is in no hurry to rush out her answers to questions, instead taking a beat and a breath before explaining her thoughts exactly how she wants to. She makes her music the same way, being patient with the process and embracing the time it takes to get things right.

"I’m not a prolific artist. For me, it’s about time and depth and patience. So because of the emotional depth of my work, it does acquire many iterations before I feel like... I know when it happens. So it’s about really having the courage to move past old patterns and old ways of thinking and being vulnerable to the process, being able to accept that almost everything I do won’t work out the first time," she says, laughing.

Yap will open Big Fun Festival tonight at the Ballroom with Matt Foster. Doors open at 7:15 p.m. and music starts at 8 p.m.; individual tickets are available at Ticketfly.com for $15, festival passes are $75, also at Ticketfly.

For more information about Big Fun Festival, including the full schedule and artist listing, as well as a link to buy festival passes, visit bigfunfestival.com.

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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