Star musician does green activism with the blues

Top slide-guitar vocalist to rock Massey Hall Saturday night with "environmental music"

TORONTO, Nov. 28, 2013 /CNW/ - Rachelle van Zanten, regarded as Canada's "best slide guitarist" by Randy Bachman, will take to the Massey Hall stage in Toronto Saturday night to voice a gutsy environmental message -- 'hey industry - don't mess with our waterways.'

"I sing about what I know.  This whole situation with the pipelines, the oil tankers, and the mining proposals that are coming out around my home in northwest B.C. -- they are part of my life, and are consuming my everyday thoughts."

"So I couldn't help but write about them," said van Zanten.

The Toronto Blues Society chose her, among several top Canadian women musicians for its 27th annual "Women's Blues Revue", because of her extraordinary musical talent, but also because of her growing reputation as a social activist for the environment.

Van Zanten sings about the unity amongst "unusual allies" -- farmers, loggers, environmentalists, First Nations, rednecks and hippies -- all working towards stopping the projects that threaten their livelihoods and culture.

"She's equally comfortable singing about the Tahltan women's fight for the Sacred Headwaters in northern B.C., as she is pouring her heart out in her songs about loss, joy…" said Toronto Blues Society co-founder, Derek Andrews.

One of van Zanten's Youtube music videos -- "My Country" -- is a meld of breath-taking mountain views, Aboriginal children, and Tahltan First Nations blockading an industrial project, with some women being taken away by RCMP in handcuffs.

Another of her songs -- "I fight for life" from her new CD "Oh Mother" -- was also inspired by these forces. 

"The Tahltan, especially the women, are my mentors… when I wrote 'I fight for life'… it was because of the Tahltan."

"I'm consumed with singing about our natural world, because I just cannot imagine my daughter having a life where she isn't able to fish, grow food, and drink water from our lake without being afraid," said van Zanten.

Van Zanten is one of only a small number of top Canadian musicians, including Sarah Harmer, Blue Rodeo, Neil Young, Ron Sexsmith and Mae Moore, who have used their musical voice in recent times to draw attention to enviro-concerns.

Her latest green cause is a joint environmentalist - First Nations fight against a controversial coal mine by London, Ontario's Fortune Minerals.

The company wants to blow up a mountain, sacred to the Tahltan First Nations, in order to carve out millions of tonnes of coal from an open-pit mine.  The issue flared into a crisis when Elders blockaded the company's mining camp for several weeks in September.

"I was on the road, talking about it everywhere I played.  I gave my audiences an update about what was going on up there," said van Zanten.

The roots of her "environmental music" started much earlier --- when Shell Oil tried unsuccessfully for years to build a gas extraction project in the heart of her region's wild-salmon watersheds.

"The Sacred Headwaters was the beginning.  I saw the effects of corporate bullying on a community.  When I saw the unity between the Tahltan, communities and environmentalists forming a powerful force to kick Shell out, it really lit my fire," said van Zanten.

The Massey Hall gig, she added, is a very special honour.

"It was on my list [to do] before I die.  So it's pretty cool.  I feel it's a true life accomplishment."

On Sunday, the day after her concert, the artist will participate in a public presentation called "In This Together."

The free public event from 4pm to 6pm at eco-chic Patagonia clothing store at 500 King West, will explore how environmentalists, communities and First Nations are banding together to fight eco-threats in Canada.  The Sunday event is put on by the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition.

SOURCE: Rachelle van Zanten

For further information:


Rachelle van Zanten
cell: (250) 692-0642



Shannon McPhail
Executive Director, Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition
Cell: 250-842-8738

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