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St. Albert Latin Festival to bring the heat next weekend

The St. Albert Latin Cultural Association (SALCA) brings the rhythm back on Aug. 13, so stand up and get ready to dance

This year's St. Albert Latin Festival will be a day to immerse oneself in a colourful and sensuous street party. Taking place on Aug. 13 at Lions Park, it’s a jam-packed celebration of authentic Latin music, dance, and cuisine. 

Latin music is a fusion of world music motivated by emotions, passion, rhythm, and movement, encompassing styles from salsa and samba, to forro and mariachi. For Jorge Vargas, the festival’s major organizer and an educator, passing on his culture to future generations is a primary driver. 

“We want to plant a little seed in youth. We want to encourage projects of Latin culture in St. Albert, and to have this continuation nurtured for the community,” he said. 

Vargas moved to St. Albert four years ago, and with a group of musically determined friends, set up a small festival at Lions Park last summer. There was no budget to advertise, however through word of mouth and social media, nearly 300 people showed up. 

“Fortunately, we had a lot of good music  — mariachi, Latin jazz, rock — and we spent a lot of time dancing,” Vargas said. 

This year, as visitors lounge on the grass, 17 acts from the Latin diaspora living in the region will perform. The countries of Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, and El Salvador are several will all have their cultural heritage represented. 

Entertainer Robert Arce is the festival’s MC. In addition to hosting and keeping the crowd engaged, he will sing two songs. 

“He’s a showman, and last year he did a very good job. At the end, he even had everyone dancing like a train,” Vargas said.

One performer is David Jay, a self-taught, virtuosic guitarist dubbed “The Spaniard.” A modern musician, he combines metal, classical, flamenco, and avant-garde into a unique hybrid. 

“He is an incredible musician, maybe the best in Canada.” 

Mandakarú, a long-established Brazilian ensemble in Alberta, returns to perform traditional forro and samba. Another act, Sol del Norte, a new band on the scene composed of mainly Chilean immigrants, delivers strong social content underlined with Latin rock and folk. Marianela Adasme, a Chilean singer who sings with Sol Del Norte, will also perform a solo segment blending folk and contemporary ballads. 

Sherwood-Park-based Marco Claveria, a singer, songwriter, and producer, will also return to St. Albert to deliver one of his mesmerizing performances. 

“Marco has a huge reputation. He is originally from Chile, but his style is more Cuban. He studied in Cuba, and will bring a different music to the festival.” 

As another professional musician from Chile, a shred-master and jazz-aficionado, Rodrigo de La Prida Barros focuses on contemporary guitar stylings. Justin Khuong, a member of the dynamic Bardic Form, is another guest. 

“Justin is so versatile. The way I met him was through Kijiji. I went to buy a guitar he was selling, and we later connected through teaching. Justin likes to play a Latin rendition of Carlos Santana,” said Vargas.

Max Mendes, a high-profile musician who enjoyed his own radio and television shows in El Salvador, will also pop by for a few numbers. Los Rebeldes Musicales, a group of Jasper Place High School students, add a youthful component to the program.  

“They are Grade 10 students who have embraced Latin culture, and they will play a mashup of danceable music.” 

Another ensemble is Vargas’s brainchild, mariachi Mundo/Borealis, a quartet with vocals, trumpet, violin, and guitar. Vargas is the main singer, along with Alexa Leon, who is also performing a solo set. 

Amanda Rivers is singer-songwriter from El Salvador who enjoys singing Mexican ballads, while Sebastian Barrera displays his versatility through the power of his voice. Closing the show is Calafquen, a dance troupe performing a folkloric segment. 

Last year's startup festival was paid for out-of-pocket by organizers. This year, the City of St. Albert has provided a $5,000 grant that will cover stage rental, equipment, and a sound crew. 

The festival runs Saturday, Aug. 13, from 12 to 8 p.m. at Lions Park. Attendance is free, however organizers will pass the hat for donations to pay additional costs not covered by the city grant.  

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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