Festival Blog

Cécile Doo-Kingué gets political at Calgary Folk Music Festival

Posted by Ashton Chugh on 26 July 2016



Cécile Doo-Kingué kicked a variety of musical asses during the 2016 Calgary Folk Music Festival. A returnee from 2015, Doo-Kingué’s eclectic guitar and powerful vocals had Folk Fest faithfuls on their feet applauding as she finished her set on the main stage.

“It was nice to know that we impacted the audience and organization as much as they impacted us,” Doo-Kingué says. “That was a beautiful thing to live.”

While her stage presence suggests she was born with an innate ability to move crowds, Doo-Kingué comes from humble musical beginnings. Born in New York City, she now resides in Montreal where she attended a musical boot camp with the likes of Graham Chambers and Trevor Payne.

“They were strong personalities, but had huge knowledge in all their heads that they were willing to pass along,” Doo-Kingué says. “But you had to be willing to get your ass kicked and do the work.”

Doo-Kingué admits the success she enjoys now did not come easily.

“It took a while,” she says. “Nothing comes for free. Nowadays the notion of paying dues gets lost. We’re used to instant gratification depicted on reality shows like The Voice, but that’s not the way it works.”

Many young musicians start out by first learning to express themselves through the mechanics of an instrument instead of learning where their inner music comes from, explains Doo-Kingué.

“It’s very much spiritual,” she says. “A lot of us out there forget that it’s more spiritual than technical. A thing that’s true for any art is that it’s transcendent to our understanding of our human shell.  The reason so many of us can rally around a song or picture is because it’s greater than what we understand or know, but yet, we find ourselves in it.”

Doo-Kingué says finding one’s social passion is a driver for their musical voice.

“As much as I love a good love song, at some point you have to look outside,” she says. “For those of us with a platform, it’s our responsibility to use our voice to create the change that we want to see.”

Doo-Kingué’s social activism includes speaking out against sexual prejudice in songs like “Blood Stained Vodka” and ending racial tensions in America on tracks like “Anybody Listening.”

On the mainstage Friday night, Doo-Kingué’s anti-Donald Trump sentiments were well-received.

“At some point you’ve got an audience who trusts you, so say something from making us go backwards 500 years,” she says. “You got to speak up if you’re fighting the good fight. It’s too easy to shut the hell up, but if you do, you’re a part of the problem and not the solution.”

A well-developed social conscious can be a heavy task to undertake, but Doo-Kingué offers humbling advice.

“If you’re an artist, it’s a gift that the universe has offered you,” she says. “None of us come out [as a] genius and everything’s perfect. It’s work. Once you understand that, get rid of your ego and realize that you are a conduit for something, then so many things open up.