SappyFest has always produced a sort of magic. But this year’s festival, which for the twelfth time reignited Sackville, New Brunswick with a weekend of music and palship and not-so-secret secrets, felt especially vital. Locals Kirsten Olivia and Aquakultre were both highlights—Olivia moved a packed Vogue Theatre to both laughter and tears, while Aqukultre was joined by the Big Budi Band, a crew of Halifax scene all-stars for a collaborative and uplifting performance. But it was Lido Pimienta, whose electrifying dance music draws from her Afro Colombian and Indigenous heritage, who shaped the brightest, most life-affirming moments of the festival.
She exhibited a handful of textile artworks, delivered an artist talk, joined Aquakultre and Doldrums for their performances, showed up to close Sunday’s Bahnahnah dance party, and became the talk of the town with a star-making performance on the main stage. Notably, Pimentia was also one of a handful of artists to acknowledge the unceded Mi’kmaq and Maliseet land on which the festival took place, and asked that the main stage audience make space for racialized women, Indigenous women and trans people at the front of the crowd before she began performing. Pimienta has been having one hell of year—thanks in no small part to a spot on Polaris Prize short list for last year’s self-released record La Papessa—and every moment she graced at SappyFest affirmed her spot as one of the most important artistic voices in the country. At the heart of Pimienta’s performances were a deep sense of care for others and a wicked desire to move bodies and minds—grounded with pummeling beats and topped with a beacon of a voice, her music was unstoppable.