All performances of controversial show SLĀV: a theatrical odyssey based on slave songs have been cancelled following protests against the controversial production, which incorporated songs composed by slaves.
The Montreal International Jazz Festival has apologized “to those who were hurt. It was not our intention at all.”
“We made the decision with the artist Betty Bonifassi to cancel all performances of the show at the festival,” organizers said in a press release on Wednesday.
The show, directed by Robert Lepage, has been labelled by critics as cultural appropriation.
It was described as a journey “through traditional Afro-American songs, from cotton fields to construction sites, railroads, from slave songs to prison songs” by Théatre du Nouveau Monde.
Black activist Vincent Mousseau, who spoke at the opening night protest, said the festival was forced to cancel the show because of pressure from artists who demonstrated against it and because of widespread media attention that included international coverage.
“The Montreal International Jazz Festival is the largest jazz festival in the world and we found it very irresponsible for the festival to put on the show without listening to the voices of those concerned,” he said.
“What we saw here were black communities and allies standing up and saying that we’re not OK with the ways in which black culture has been co-opted and put on a pedestal by folks who are not us.”
Last week, a group of protesters gathered for the production’s opening night shouting, “Shame,” outside the theatre.
Protesters also showed up the next night, with some saying Lepage is profiting off the history, culture and pain of black people.
“I don’t believe the descendants of the people who wrote these songs are going to see this show,” said Lucas Charlie Rose, a hip-hop artist who organized the protest.
White people should not be profiting from the history, culture and pain of black people, he said.
WATCH BELOW: Protest against Jazz Festival show of songs by black slaves
On Tuesday, American musician Moses Sumney pulled out of the Jazz Festival, saying he was disappointed by the festival’s decision to book a show “in which a majority-white group of singers, led by a white Québécois director, sing African-American slave songs, sometimes dressed as field slaves and cotton pickers.”
SLĀV, a sold-out show, had been considered one of the most popular events at Montreal’s annual jazz festival.
Ticket holders can get a refund at point of purchase.
The 39th edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival is on until July 7.
—with files from the Canadian Press