Edmonton Folk Festival's first artist-in-residence hopes to boost diversity at long running festival
Local artist Mohsin Zaman is mentoring young musicians to help them get heard
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For years, Mohsin Zaman lived a double life: banker by day, and musician by night.
“I was raised in the Middle East, in Dubai, and in our culture, my family, (being a musician) is not looked upon in a positive way,” he said. “It’s supposed to deviate you from your faith.”
Zaman is the first artist-in-residence for Edmonton Folk Music Festival, happening in Gallagher Park this weekend. He hopes to use the post to help other Edmonton musicians find their voice in the music world — a challenge he knows something about.
His parents dreamed of him having a successful career, so he left Dubai in 2008 for business school in Kamloops, before taking a bank job in Edmonton. But he’d leave the office each day and head to open mics, or write music late into the evening.
In 2015, he independently released his first album and won the Edmonton Folk Festival’s Emerging Artist of the Year. He knew it was time to make the leap to making music full time.
“I didn’t notice myself but people started telling me there’s this Middle Eastern ethnic flavour to (my music) with my playing and my singing,” said Zaman.
“There’s a huge community of different cultures (around Edmonton),” he said. “There’s a lot of great music, but it’s kind of confined into these pockets, and these people don’t know that the festival exists.”
Funded by the festival, Zaman says he will play at schools and mentor young up-and-coming artists in songwriting in some of Edmonton’s multi-cultural communities.
Folk Fest Producer Terry Wickham said the goal is to get more diversity into the folk festival.
“I think there’s communities that we’re not making roads into,” he said. “I think someone who can speak four languages, as Mohsin can, can make roads into communities that maybe we can’t.”
Zaman will be playing the festival Friday at 7 p.m. on Stage 7 with a full band accompanying his set, for a more full-bodied and dynamic live show.
“I feel very blessed and honoured to be part of this whole new community.”