Musician cancels festival appearance after organizers defend racist musical featuring white people singing 'slave songs'
Musician Moses Sumney sings at the 2017 Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. Image via Nina Corcoran/Creative Commons.

Indie musician Moses Sumney has cancelled his appearance at the Montreal Jazz Festival after its organizers defended a racist musical featuring white people singing African American spirituals stemming from slavery.


Pitchfork reported that Sumney's decision to cancel his Tuesday set was spurred by a play titled "SLĀV." Billed by its creators as a "theatrical odyssey based on slave songs," the musical has drawn protests in Canada because it's performed by a "largely white troupe."

Despite widely-attended protests that accused white SLĀV performer Betty Bonifassi and its director, Robert Lepage, of racism, the festival released a statement last week saying its organizers are "truly fortunate" that the director chose Montreal Jazz for its world premiere.

"Before subjecting them to trial by public opinion, we firmly believe that we must wait and witness the show they will present to us all," the festival's organizers wrote in their statement.

In his own statement on Twitter, Sumney wrote that he could not in good faith perform at the festival following the organizers' praise for SLĀV.

"When I learned that the festival continued to defend this show publicly, even after adamant protests — during which one of the show goers (the majority of which were, of course, white) stopped a woman of color protesting the show — I knew that I could not present my music at this same festival in good conscience," the artist wrote.

He went on to add that the day of his performance, "a day sandwiched between Canada Day and Independence Day, two bittersweet holidays that have long left black, brown, and indigenous voices out," contributed to his decision to cancel his set.

You can read Sumney's entire statement about his cancelled Montreal Jazz performance below: