Whitehorse’s 10th annual CypherFest Hip Hop festival is going ahead Aug. 3 to 13 with an exciting mix of virtual and interactive events.
The COVID-19 pandemic almost led to the festival being cancelled. But then other world events –particularly the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police – inspired organizers to press ahead.
Artistic Director Riley Simpson-Fowler said CypherFest had big plans for its 10th anniversary before the pandemic arose. Then, despite being well-funded, he said organizers felt it would be easier to cancel than to come up with a new plan.
But when Floyd’s death ignited protests around the world, Riley says it sparked CypherFest back into action.
“We have a platform,” he said. “We had to think of something that could make a difference and continue these conversations.”
What they came up with is a “crazy half-online, half-quarantine” festival with workshops, panel discussions, and a main show with original videos by Canadian and international performers.
“We’ve got people from across Canada, the States, Europe, Brazil and Taiwan making videos,” Simpson-Fowler said.
CypherFest will start with online panel discussions moderated by MCs Spicey from Montreal and Boxwon from Philadelphia. On Monday Aug. 3, a panel will talk about mental health during a pandemic; the Tuesday, Aug. 4 panel will discuss the Black equality movement; and on Wednesday, Aug. 5, the panel will share their perspective on Hip Hop culture.
The first dance workshop will be Friday, Aug. 7 with beginner and advanced levels. There will be more workshops on Aug. 10 and 11.
The big show is Aug. 13. The producer, Alex Robinson, says they plan to have a screening at the Yukon Arts Centre, observing any restrictions in place at that time. The show will also be broadcast live online to watch from home.
“The show is going to be videos created by 10 videographers around the world,” he said. Two MCs will present the show.
CypherFest has an arrangement with three local restaurants – Pickapeppa, Daat Cuisine, and Azhong Noodles – to provide a meal at no charge to people who have bought tickets online.
“Take it home and watch the show – it’s like dinner and a movie,” Simpson-Fowler said.
All CypherFest events are free except for the Aug. 13 show, and that one is on a “pick your price” basis.
“You can go to yukontickets.com, and we’ll have different prices to pick from. It ranges from $5 to $500,” Simpson-Fowler said. “$500 if you want some good karma on your side!”
All proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, the Canadian Mental Health Association Yukon Division, and Black Lives Matter Canada.
“It’s all rooted around self-expression and peace, love, unity and having fun. It’s all about community and you can bring whatever you have to it,” Robinson said.