Ruby Singh and the Future Ancestors bring friendship, history, and virtuosity to Folk Fest stage

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      Ruby Singh knows the joy of getting the band back together.

      Speaking to the Straight on the phone a day before taking off to Berlin for a residency at Mono Studios, he is roughly one month away from an anticipated performance at this year’s Vancouver Folk Music Festival—a gig that will see “the full constellation” of musicians involved in the supergroup Ruby Singh and the Future Ancestors come together on stage.

      “This group is an extremely busy cross-section of human beings, so when we can pull the stars together for us to perform together, it’s a treat,” Singh says.

      That’s quite the feat in and of itself, given the list of musicians brought together to record their debut album, Ruby Singh and the Future Ancestors, reads like its very own festival lineup. Singh considers each and every one a “longtime friend and musical comrade.”

      Kenton Loewen and Peter Schmitt hold down the rhythm section of the group, with Singh noting that he has worked with them on and off for over 20 years since he was “a burgeoning young MC.”

      Khari Wendell McClelland and Holly Eccleston are joining in on vocals, and have both been Singh’s roommates in the past, and guitarist and oud player Gord Grdina joins as a longtime friend of Singh. Singh has also tapped turntablist Paul Finlay for Future Ancestors, noting that the two had worked and toured together in the late 2000s.

      “I really wanted to bring together a group of incredible musicians,” Singh notes, “but also, I love making music with my friends.”

      Ruby Singh and the Future Ancestors
      Kristine Cofsky

      But “Future Ancestors” isn’t just a moniker for the collective. Singh notes the name has a deeper meaning.

      “We’re always bringing things from our past with us, whether consciously or unconsciously, and we’re always folding into the future. So in that way, I just wanted to keep this idea that the present moment really is the connection point in the portal between the past and the future.”

      The Vancouver Folk Fest will be only the second time the Future Ancestors take to the stage to perform together, as the troupe played a show in Burnaby back in April.

      “The show went great, packed house, a lot of love in the room from all corners; the bands, communities, and folks just wanting to come check this out,” Singh recalls. He also notes that those who catch the group live won’t only be hearing songs from the 2022 effort; there are also some surprises in store.

      “We’ll be referencing a lot of the stuff on the album, but we’re also dealing with some of the best improvisational musicians we have, I would say, in this country and in the world at large, so there’ll be a little bit of that coming at you as well.”

      It’s festivals like Vancouver Folk Fest that allow for the relationships between musicians to form, Singh adds, resulting in the kind of collaboration he prides himself on.

      “The backstage is always a great, great opportunity,” he shares. “I always say I’m a bigger music fan than I am a musician. I love festivals, especially in the summertime, wandering around and just happenstancing into different music.”

      Noting he’s looking forward to catching performances by William Prince, Krystle Dos Santos, Steve Dawson, and Jim Byrnes, Singh continues with: “For me, it has been a cultural centrepoint, both in the music community and the Vancouver community at large. It provided a much needed stepping stone, and visibility for local musicians. There’s always been an invite there—and the ability to be able to crossover with other world class, incredible musicians.” 

      Ruby Singh and the Future Ancestors perform at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival’s West Stage at 1:35pm on July 15.