HONK! ON Propaganda (Part 1)

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One of the challenges of bringing the HONK! community to Toronto is actually building the local support network. In other words, we want to expand the broader HONK! community by leading our city into this special musical melee but part of our efforts are spent generating local interest among potentially like-minded musicians.

HONK! ON is unlike a lot of music festivals. It’s non-commercial so there are no ticket sales, for instance.  Apart from some merchandise sales to help generate some operational capital, it’s a hardly a commercial venture at all.  In this regard, gaining “exposure” is less a marketing concern than it is a community-generating concern.  It’s all volunteer-based and bands pay their way to come and play.  Hopefully, in the future we’ll have generated enough community and grant-based funding to offer a stipend to bands to help offset costs.

The priority – at least as I see it – is that bands have a good time!  HONK! ON is basically a community party with music.  I hope that the visiting bands have such a good time that they will want to come again and talk it up to their colleagues.  I hope that local musicians enjoy a unique musical experience that is exciting enough to cause ripples throughout their circles of influence.

In terms of the HONK! world, what’s taking place in Toronto this coming weekend is very special. It’s local music history-in-the-making.  What’s particularly a treat – and the locals generally have no idea about the degree of significance! – is that we are to be honoured by the presence of three of the longest-running HONK! bands: Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band, Extraordinary Rendition Band and The Carnival Band.

All three of these bands were at the very first HONK! Fest in Somerville, Massachusetts in 2006.  I think it’s absolutely wonderful that they’re all going to be here to help us launch HONK! ON.

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The Beauty of HONK!

No horn? No problem. Here are some shakers.

No rhythm? No problem. Just make a joyful noise.

You don’t have to even play an instrument; you can dance or juggle or do a hand-stand, etc. The only limit is your imagination.

Anyone can be involved in HONK! – literally, anyone. Among the many characteristics that make the HONK! street band movement beautiful is its inclusivity.

As Tim Sars, of Vancouver’s The Carnival Band, is fond of saying to anyone around to listen: “You’re all in the band.”

The Carnival Band’s website says further: “We believe community music is grounded in collaboration, with the aim of empowering the individuals involved.”  They invite anyone with an interest, even loaning instruments and providing instruction.

The Party Band from Lowell, Massachusetts says, “Open rehearsals encourage players of all skill levels and dedication to attend and join our cause, none are turned away.”

In Toronto, you can come play with Street Brass. We don’t have instruments to lend, sadly, but we can hook you up with some spoons at the very least.

Beyond being directly involved in the music-making, the second key aspect of “inclusivity” involves the participatory nature of the performance, the breaking down of the (very common) barrier between audience and performer. “Bands don’t just play for the people; they play among the people and invite them to join the fun” (honkest.org).

There are so many divisive, polarizing aspects to the world. HONK! actively thwarts this. On the one hand celebrating tremendous diversity in expression (musical and otherwise), HONK! is one tribe and openly invites you to be part of it.

HONK! ON (HONK! Ontario) is July 26-28 in Toronto (details TBA).

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