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Hot Ticket: Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Former child soldier from Sudan, Emmanuel Jal plays the Vancouver Folk Festival.

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Pack a blanket, dust off your Birkenstocks and head for the 34th annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival - one of Vancouver's most beloved music fests.

This weekend's big names include country singer Rosanne Cash - daughter of music legend Johnny Cash - as well as Muddy Waters collaborator James Cotton, and outspoken actor Tim Robbins with his Rogues Gallery Band.

But as always, some of the most exciting bands are ones you may never have heard before, such as South Africa's Freshlyground and Sudan's Emmanuel Jal.

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"Freshlyground was the backing group for Shakira when she did the theme for the World Cup. So they're huge stars in South Africa," says festival artistic managing director Linda Tanaka.

"And Emmanuel Jal is just coming up - I think he's going to be a big star," she says. "He's been working on other issues in Africa and building a school, but now he's concentrating more on his music."Other hidden gems that Tanaka recommends include Virginia banjo player Morgan O'Kane, Ireland's Foy Vance - who many call the next Van Morrison - and Pokey LaFarge and the South, who are putting a new spin on early 20th century Americana.

There's also plenty on offer for the Chuck Taylors set, including Canadian indie superstars Joel Plaskett Emergency, Buck 65, Jim Bryson and Weakerthans Band, Elliott Brood, Danny Michel, Kathryn Calder and more.

"Being able to go into one gate and just wander between eight stages is really unique," Ms. Tanaka says. "It's just really exciting to be able to absorb all of that music within the confines of the fences."

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