Alex Cuba and more @Fiestaval Latin Festival 2017 @AlexCuba #yyc #fiestaval17

Alex Cuba performing at Fiestaval Latin Festival, Olympic Plaza, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Alex Cuba

Calgary’s annual July journey into South American culture drew to a close on Sunday night at Olympic Plaza with a classy performance by Alex Cuba.

The Cuban-Canadian artist who has lived for many years in Smithers, BC, is a four-time Latin Grammy winner. He has also been awarded the Juno for World Music Album of the Year on two occasions. His jazz, funk, pop fusion crosses many borders, guided by a beautiful voice and subtly understated jazz guitar chops in his musical passport.

I happened to come across his music as I channel-flipped one evening in a hotel in Victoria, some years ago. As soon as I had the chance, I got into a record store to pick up Agua Del Pozo, his third album issued by Caracol Records in 2007. Song after song continues to be compulsive, such as Amor Infinito and De Camino. And then there’s Si Pero No, with its beautiful chorus-line lyric Que puede ser mejor que lo que ya tienes (which, translated in one way says What can be better than what you have right now). His self-named album, Alex Cuba (2009) followed its way into my collection not long afterward. His latest recording, a single, Todas Las Cabezas Están Locas (All Heads Are Crazy) issued in 2017 also comes with a French version. Que Bueno, Alex!

A Flash Mob performing La Marinera at Fiestaval Latin Festival at Olympic Plaza, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Flash Mob Marinera

Musical highlights from earlier in the day included Felipe Alberto, singing popular songs frequently heard in Peñas (folk-music gatherings) in Peru and elsewhere in South America. And there were Latin dancers show-casing their talents, individually, in couples and groups. The biggest of these was a Flash Mob performance of La Marinera, under the direction of Carla Diaz Silva of Raíces del Peru.

For more photos about the Latin food, dance, and music of Fiestaval Latin Festival 2017, please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography

Dancers performing a very acrobatic version of Bachata at Fiestaval Latin Festival, Olympic Plaza, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Posted in #YYC, Alberta, Calgary, Canada, Dance, En español, Music, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canucks run in seven tries on @canucksrugby Day @calgaryrugby

Try scored by Derek Arnold, Calgary Canucks in their Canucks Day game versus Calgary Irish at Calgary Rugby Park.
© J. Ashley Nixon

It was a day to celebrate the foundation of the Calgary Canucks, established in 1968 and now one of the best rugby clubs in Alberta. As the temperature soared up to 30 (Celsius, American friends, this is our Canadian summer), the big crowd including many old boys, strategically bunched in close to the Calgary Rugby Club house, quenched their thirst with beer and cheered just a little louder than the Irish fans on the other side of the pitch.

Nathan Pratt attacks for the Calgary Canucks in their Canucks Day game versus Calgary Irish at Calgary Rugby Park.
© J. Ashley Nixon

The game went the way of the Canucks, with the final score, 45-8. Seven tries were scored by the Canucks: Nathan Pratt (2), Thomas Rayner, Jacob Bentley, Derek Arnold (2) and a forward drive over the line, scored by hooker Robbie Burns. The Irish put in one try and a penalty kick.

Emerson Padley, Calgary Canucks, leaves the field with an ankle injury during the Canucks Day game versus Calgary Irish at Calgary Rugby Park.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Sadly, an ankle injury to centre, Emerson Padley led to him being carried off the pitch. It was later confirmed as a fracture, requiring orthopedic surgery. On a more positive note, scrum-half William Nixon, another product of the Canucks Youth rugby program, made his first ever appearance for the Senior Division 1 team, coming on as a substitute on the left wing in the closing stages of the game.

For more photos, please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography

Dan Cunningham (left) and William Nixon, who made his first appearance with the Canucks Senior Div 1 team, come on as substitutes in their Canucks Day game versus Calgary Irish at Calgary Rugby Park.
© J. Ashley Nixon

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Happy Canada Day Canada #canada150 #canadaday @canada

Canada rugby fans celebrating their team and their sport at the HSBC Rugby Sevens in Vancouver, 2017.
© J. Ashley Nixon

It’s a special day today for Canadians. Canada is 150 years old. This day marks the occasion when the Dominion of Canada was formed, on July 1, 1867, from (the separate colonies of the British Empire) Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In truth, Canada has been around for much longer, especially its native peoples, but the day gives us a calendar point to celebrate this great country.

I’m proud to be a part of this beautiful, diverse and respectful country.

Happy Birthday, Canada. From Sea to Sea to Sea.

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Paddington Bear’s creator dies. RIP, Michael Bond @paddingtonbear

Paddington Bear, visiting his family in darkest Peru (taken care of by Jennifer Nixon at Machu Picchu).
© J. Ashley Nixon

The story about the little lovely bear who turned up at Paddington Station, all the way from “deepest Peru” has been with me for a lifetime. Sadly, Paddington Bear’s creator, Michael Bond, passed away at his home in London this week. He was 91.

My first age with Paddington was as a child when I first read A Bear Called Paddington, taken out of the old public library at Haworth, Yorkshire. The cartoon series on BBC was a fun thing to watch and I can still hum the tune. But my relationship with the bear who loved marmalade sandwiches didn’t stop there.

In 1997, when I went to live in Peru, I joined the local Hash House Harriers social running club in Lima. The club gave me Paddington as my Hash Handle (name) and it was an honour. As part of our final hash run with the club in 2001, we celebrated with Paddington tee-shirts specially printed for the occasion.

The love for this precious bear was passed along to my own children and he (a small stuffed version) joined us on a tour through Peru including Machu Picchu in 2011.

Paddington still hangs out with us at home and is usually on display. Thank you, Michael Bond, for bringing Paddington Bear into the world. Rest in Peace.

Paddington Bear on a train in darkest Peru.
© J. Ashley Nixon


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Sweat work in the sugar plantations of Peru: backgrounder on film Sugar entered for @rodemics My Røde Reel

Sugarcane cutter on a plantation near Cartavio, La Libertad region, Peru.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Have you ever wondered what it takes to get that sugar you need to get your tea or coffee feeling just right in the morning?

These photographs of sugarcane plantation workers in Peru were shot in 2016 (Canon 5D Mark III) alongside a short documentary film, made in the field using an iPhone 5 with a Røde VideoMic Me and the Filmic Pro app. Sugar that was entered into the Røde Reel Short Film Competition that closed at the end of June 2017. You can see that film plus the Behind the Scenes film via this link.

Plantations in Peru

Sugarcane plantations were first developed in the 16th century by Spanish colonists in the river valleys that run from the Andes mountains through the desert-like coast and into the Pacific Ocean. Most of the production today comes from La Libertad region, where my film was made. Sugar plantations also exist in Lambayeque further north and the Lima region to the south.

Sugarcane plantation near Laredo, La Libertad region, Peru.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Sugar production and consumption

Historically, slaves taken from Africa worked forcibly on these and other plantations across South America. Today, paid workers are employed but it is still hard, demanding labour. Sugar cane is cut and transported to mills towns such as Casa Grande and Cartavio, home of the Cartavio Sugar Company, famous for its rum since 1891.

In 2016, around 1.4 million tonnes of sugar was produced in Peru. It’s a lot of sweetness but still not enough to meet the country’s demand, which was about 1.6 million tonnes that year. As incomes rise in the country, people are eating more sweet confectionary and drinks, so that gap may rise. Another factor is the fermentation of sugar to make ethanol, which began in 2009 driven by a mandate for blending 8.7% ethanol into petrol in Peru.

About 100 kg of sugar cane has to be cut to produce a 1kg bag of sugar. And while there are plantations that use cutting machines, many still rely on gangs of workers using machetes.

Hard, not sweet work

It’s brutally hard work and the plantation workers look a bit like coal miners in the fields. This is because they first set controlled fires in the plantations to remove some of the vegetation and move along snakes. That clears the area pretty well but it creates a lot of soot, which mixes with the oozing sugar every time a cane is cut, and this spreads quickly all over their clothes and faces.

Sugar cutter in a sugarcane plantation near Cartavio, La Libertad region, Peru.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Water demands

Sugar cane is a really thirsty crop but there’s not much rainfall here. So water has to be provided using extensive irrigation systems, which are under pressure now as many growers seek to get more, and a greater variety of crops out of these arid desert soils.

It’s thirsty work as well for the cutters. Many of these men, and it tends to be male-dominated labour, came down to the coastal plains from the Andes mountains for work. Some use a traditional remedy to help them deal with the thirst as well as the hunger and fatigue that comes quickly when you are cutting and stacking tons of cane every 12-hour shift. Coca leaves are placed in the mouth and sucked on throughout the day. Alternatively, an extract is prepared from the leaves and applied inside the mouth using a small needle.

Artisanal industry

As well as the bigger processing mills there is an artisanal industry found in numerous shops or kiosks along roadsides in the sugar growing areas in the north of Peru.

The one shown here shows a family working together to strip the outside of the cane then cut it into cubes. It’s a popular, sugary snack for children, and adults, to pop in their mouth and suck rather like a candy.

The sugar is also squeezed out, to make Caña Dulce or the super sugary drink, Miel de Caña. It’s also fermented and distilled to make an alcoholic drink like rum, called Cogoyito. After all, ethanol is not just for cars!

For more images from this assignment please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography

Click here to view the documentary film, Sugar entered in My Røde Reel.

Click here for more information on the Røde Reel Short Film Competition.

Traditional drinks from sugarcane.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Posted in Documentary photography, Environmental documentary photography, Films, Food and agriculture, NIXON Films, Peru, Photography, Social documentary photography, Sustainable Development, Travel photography, Water | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sledding Fun @sledisland with @levimacdougall @TrannaWintour @MartyTopps @NourHadidi @BobbyWarrener & Carina Morton @niteowlyyc

Levi MacDougall performing his standup comedy routine at Nite Owl, Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Saturday night was comedy night in Calgary for the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival as Nite Owl turned around their downstairs bar to make it nice and cozy. There were chairs to sit on. Even tables to put your beers on and books to read from the Library! I had to go back to the shelves on the stage and take a quick look at Chaos and Order by Stephen R. Donaldson. I thought it might help my understanding of the slogan on the t-shirt (Order from Chaos) worn by heavy metal band Sigil’s vocalist, the night before at Dickens Pub. I didn’t get in too deep as the punters were coming downstairs. I went over to the comfy sofas by the door, sat down and had a chat with a comedian and a comedienne as I was getting my cameras organized. Carina Morton, from Edmonton, was hosting the night and Tranna Wintour was hanging out with the other acts, Levi MacDougall, Marty Topps, Nour Hadidi and Bobby Warrener.

Good for anarchists. From the library collection at Nite Owl, Calgary.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Carina Morton

We got talking about what it takes to get into stand-up comedy and dealing with hecklers. Carina started doing stand-up about three years ago and has become a stalwart of the Edmonton comedy circuit, including appearances at The Underdogs of Comedy and running comedy night at the Express Alehouse. She’s “never really got over the nervousness of live performing but deals with it by not eating and drinking lots of water. In between introducing the other acts, she told some funny stories, including one about International Women’s Day and another about the calorific value of sperm. Good guidance if you are thinking of going on a diet.

Carina Morton hosting and performing her standup comedy routine at Nite Owl, Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Tranna Wintour: Standing up to Hecklers

Tranna Wintour, from Montreal, who declares herself to be a love child of Barbra Streisand and Andre Agassi, never really planned to get into stand up. But it happened because she has “always had this performance energy in me and for the longest time I didn’t know what to do with that, or what shape it would take”. She discovered that stand-up could bring together storytelling, music, and comedy and “that’s what I’ve been looking for my whole life” So, like most comedy acts, she got up and did an open mic session and it fired off from there.

We talked about heckling and how she manages with it on stage. She saw this as a bit of a Catch 22-you want to get feedback and audience participation, but then, you don’t want to get abused or put off by some rant or rave about your sexuality or something. When it does happen, she said “there is this split second decision about how you handle it” and added, “Something that doesn’t get talked about a lot in comedy, especially for performers who are LGBQT minorities or racial minorities is that sometimes on stage you don’t get heckled but you get hate speech directed at you…. Dealing with hatred from an audience member is a very different thing from heckling. A few times when I have had to deal with that myself, I really haven’t found a funny way to deal with it. I think it just has to be called out and shut down immediately.”

I asked Tranna how she strategizes on stage in that split second when you have to decide whether to engage with a heckler or shut them out? She said it depends upon the nature of the heckling “just how extreme it is, what they are heckling about, whether it comes from someone who is drunk or someone who is sober. There are so many factors and it really is a split second decision.

Although it hasn’t happened often, when it does, she finds that “It always catches me off-guard. But I try to shut them down with a quick, funny insult and hopefully that shuts them up, and just move on.”

Tranna berated (in a nice fashion) the audience when she came on stage “It took me two hours to get ready for you tonight, so I’m going to need a lot more than that!” She got her deserved applause and moved around in her big high heels with stories about Lady Gaga and the audience’s favourite divas. Fun stuff.

Tranna Wintour performing her standup comedy routine at Nite Owl, Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Nour Hadidi

Nour Hadidi, a Toronto-based comedian has been featured on television and is a writing contributor to CBC Comedy. Her routine began with a splendid story about Americans confusing the basketball player, Michael, from the country (of her birth), Jordan.

Nour also performs and hosts The So Fresh’ n’ So Clean Comedy Show, part of Toronto’s only clean standup comedy show.

Nour Hadidi performing her standup comedy routine at Nite Owl, Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Bobby Warrener

It’s unlikely that show opener Bobby Warrener, from Sylvan Lake, Alberta would get on that clean circuit, given his rude stories about texting girls and getting the spellings wrong. It makes you think twice about Ranch Dip.

Bobby Warrener performing his standup comedy routine at Nite Owl, Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Marty Topps

Marty Topps came on stage prepared for a work out in his specially cut, body-part revealing, TapOut-like outfit. Gyrating across the stage with his Roland mini keyboard, his set included a song about relations with dolphins. Hilarious musical comedy!

Marty Topps performing his standup comedy routine at Nite Owl, Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival .
© J. Ashley Nixon

Levi MacDougall

And so the funny journey wound its way through to the headline act, Levi MacDougall. Hailing hazily from “some part of Canada” (it might well be Calgary?), this comic, writer and actor who has made numerous television and film appearances, began his set with a concern about being miscast. “When they asked me to do comedy at the Sled Island festival, I was a little surprised as I consider myself as a cowboy poet”, he said.

The cowboy theme came up repeatedly, what with references to looking for wheat on stage and making horses laugh plus a funny one about his shoe laces. The best was his duo with Marty Topps providing Vangelis-like chords on his Roland as Levi went through a long tale about feet prints.

Hilarious stuff across the night from all of these comedy performers and a great contribution to the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival.

For more photos of live entertainment in Calgary, please visit my photo website, J. Ashley Nixon.

Levi MacDougall performing his standup comedy routine with Marty Topps on his Roland keyboard at Nite Owl, Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

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Heavy Metal Sledding in Calgary with @wittrofficial , Wilt, Oxeneer and Sigil @sledisland @DickensYYC

Sigil performing at Dickens Pub, Calgary during the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon

A hoard of heavy metal aficionados delved into Dickens, Calgary last night for one of the heaviest nights in the Sled Island Music Festival program this year. The pub was packed out, largely with black-cladded fans, many well-prepared with a pair of ear plugs set and ready for head banging or grooving in mysterious ways through to the wee hours of Saturday morning. They expected that it was going to be loud and they were not let down as four bands exposed them to a periodic table full of metal. There was black metal, of the bleak atmospheric and Cascadian varieties, doom metal, and sludge metal. Did I miss any?

Wolves in the Throne Room

The headline act, Wolves in the Throne Room have a huge following and a long list of recordings going back to 2003 when they were established in Olympia, Washington, USA. Their performance start-up was a fascinating, ritualistic preparation of the stage and equipment (generally vintage valve amplifiers, by the way) with smoke generated from lit wads of dried grasses, maybe sedges, and mosses (I would guess coming from an important, perhaps sacred woodland place on the west coast, anyone know?) The aroma and smoke had a calming effect, augmented by a long and progressive minor double key recording that the band members gradually worked into with their own instruments. It was the calm before storm though as they let loose, passionately on black metal arrangements played on their own terms that reach back to landscapes that members of the Wolves strongly connect with.

Wolves in the Throne Room prepare their stage for performance using smoke from lit wads of plant material. The gig, part of the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival was played at Dickens Pub, Calgary.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Earlier in the evening, there were performances from Sigil, Oxaneer and Wilt:


Local black death metal band, Sigil was up first, playing numbers from their recording Primal Void. The vocalist (see above), whose stylish and short haircut was so distinct from any other performer in the night, found deep, eerie resonance in his vocal chords that got some appreciative imitations from the audience.

Heavy metal fans at Dickens Pub, Calgary during the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon


Oxaneer, another local band played sludge metal from their album Worn Out, released in 2016.

Oxaneer performing at Dickens Pub, Calgary during the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon


Traveling west from Winnipeg, Wilt put on a Hulk-like performance on stage, going through a set of all new material from their, yet to be titled, new album. Their current album, Moving Monoliths was released in 2015.


For more images from this and other live music and dance performances in Calgary, please visit my photography website, J. Ashley Nixon

Wilt performing at Dickens Pub, Calgary during the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival.
© J. Ashley Nixon




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