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Crawford Bay's Starbelly Jam offering music and activities for all ages

Two dozen acts — roots, hip-hop, folk, jazz — are scheduled for this year’s Starbelly Jam, which starts Friday in Crawford Bay Park...
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars is among about two dozen acts performing at this year’s Starbelly Jam.

More than two dozen acts are scheduled for this year’s Starbelly Jam, which starts Friday in Crawford Bay Park. Acts range from roots to hip-hop to folk to jazz, and the organizers couldn’t be more thrilled with the lineup.

“I’m excited about everything,” said Lea Belcourt, now in her second year as Starbelly’s music director. “I do love all these acts almost equally.”

One stands out more than the others, though — Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, which Belcourt discovered on CD in 2006.

“They were one of the bands that inspired me to start working for the festival,” she said. “I was like, I want to see music like that at my home.”

The Afro-beat-folk-reggae musicians hail from Freetown, from which they all fled during rebel attacks in the 1990s. According to its website, “The band is a potent example of the redeeming power of music and the ability of the human spirit to persevere through unimaginable hardship and emerge with optimism intact.”

Some of the other big acts performing are Blue King Brown, an eight-piece urban roots group from Melbourne, Australia, that has shared the stage with Carlos Santana and Michael Franti & Spearhead; Aesop Rock (a.k.a. Ian Bavitz), a New York-born, San Francisco-based hip-hop artist-producer, recognized for his dense and abstract word play; and Locarno, the Vancouver-based Latin project of Juno Award-winning musician and Paperboys frontman, Tom Landa.

From closer to home, the Tipi Camp Tribute Ensemble will perform, offering recordings of camp life entwined with music inspired by the teachings of camp founder Peter Duryea, and Creston-based Tiizak Hamra will offer desert trance music.

Youth are well represented onstage, with the Kootenay Music Awards artist of the year Good Ol’ Goats, an alternative folk band comprised of Cranbrook grade 11 and 12 students, and Swing Theory, a seven-piece jazz band of boys in grade 9-12.

“It feels really good to have two Kootenay youth bands coming from the east and west,” said Belcourt, noting that having them perform will “let youth attending the festival know that it’s possible. They can get on stage, too, if they want to pursue music.”

Last year’s festival attracted over 1,200 people — less than the record crowd of 3,500 — and the organizers are hoping to surpass 2,000 this year. To that end, the organizers have always tried to ensure the festival offers something — music, workshops, activities — suitable for all ages.

“It reflects the values of the East Shore,” said Belcourt. “We tend to do things with our kids. We do a lot of all ages events. The generation gap is kind of small here.

“There aren’t a lot of festivals that deliver programming to youth. It feels really good for us to have something we can all go to.”

Tickets vary in price and are available in advance at and during the festival at the gate.