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Blues singer to bare all at Firehall

Downtown Eastside resident will perform concert to raise funds for arts centre


Dalannah Gail Bowen
Firehall Arts Centre
Tonight at 8 p.m.
Tickets $20 at the door

After a soul-searching journey from the streets to centre stage, Vancouver’s Dalannah Gail Bowen will be singing the Downtown Eastside blues at the Firehall Arts Centre tonight.

As part of the Heart of the City Festival, Bowen is performing an intimate autobiographical concert called All of Me. Ticket sales will help fund a Downtown Eastside Centre for the Arts.

Bowen is a resident in the Downtown Eastside and a respected name within Vancouver’s lively jazz and blues scene.

Although she has struggled with drug addiction and homelessness, Bowen says she “returned to the land of the living” to release her first full-length album Mama’s Got the Blues in 2007.

During her lengthy singing career the 63-year-old songstress has opened for the likes of B.B. King and Buddy Guy.

“I even got to sing with Willie Dixon,” Bowen recounts.

“That was one huge feather in my cap because he has had such a profound influence on my own music.”

Although her album wails with a classic blues sound, Bowen’s live show draws on a wide range of influences and a variety of artists, including rock legend Jimi Hendrix.

Of African and Cherokee descent, she sings from a rare cultural perspective.

Traditional native drumming and 1960s protest songs add character to her diverse performance.

“I play a broad range of music but the thread is the interpretation,” she says.

The Heart of the City Festival’s artistic producer Terry Hunter has witnessed Bowen’s dynamic recovery. “I first met Dalannah at the Carnegie while working on the community play In the Heart of the City in 2003.”

Bowen says she was still homeless and addicted at the time, but was inspired to perform. The play was successful, prompting the birth of the Heart of the City Festival in 2004. Bowen has been an integral part of the festival ever since.

“The Heart of the City Festival has grown wonderfully and so have I,” she says. “It’s like a gauge of my recovery and development.”

A crew of renowned musicians will help Bowen tell her remarkable story. Her band includes Grammy-nominated keyboardist Michael Creber and award-winning Vancouver guitarist Harris Van Berkel.

Tonight’s fundraiser supports arts programming in a community that has struggled with poverty, crime, addiction and homelessness.

Bowen hopes to provide a supportive and creative environment for troubled residents in the Downtown Eastside.

“I’ve taken the lead on this initiative,” she explains. “The project is about offering opportunities to the artist in everyone.”

Bowen says the prospective arts centre will offer lessons in visual art, music, theatre and dance, and will pay particular attention to aboriginal crafts.

“Dalannah really puts herself out there,” Hunter said. “We’re all expecting a hot show.”

The Heart of the City Festival runs from Oct. 29 to Nov. 9 and features hundreds of local artists at more than 25 venues. For a complete schedule visit heartofthecityfestival.com.

Published November 3, 2008.