2008 NUIT D'AFRIQUE MUSIC FESTIVAL
report filed by Robert J. Lewis & Marcel
those of us who have always wanted to visit Africa but cannot
because it’s either prohibitively expensive or politically
problematic, the next best thing is Montreal’s
Nuit d’Afrique Festival, now in its 22
year. For two straight weeks, Africa’s most famous composers
and musicians, several of whom are living in exile, bring their
internationally renowned talents to Montreal’s celebrated
club scene (Club Balattou, The National) for sights and sounds
you’ll never forget.
last four days of the festival feature a series of free concerts
that begin in the early afternoon and continue until deep into
the evening at Place Emilie-Gamelin (at the Berri Metro), where
you’ll find a simulacrum of an African market place such
as you might find in Senegal and Ghana, fully stocked with African
artifacts, native clothing and of course musical instruments,
including the many varieties of skinned percussion instruments.
Short of traveling to Africa, it’s the next best thing.
guests are always showing up at the free events. This year’s
treat came by way of gentle poet rapper, slammer Souleymane
Diamanka, who wanted to share with a larger audience the heights
to which his genre of music is capable of rising. If every festival
aspires to a moment of revelation, this year’s belonged
to the meditative poetry of Diamanka whose penetrating words
were set to melodic flights of hip hop and slam.
highlights included great Algerian Idir, the brilliantly creative
and highly original reggae from Brazil’s Tribo de Jah
and Nigeria’s Seun Kuti.
draws crowds to the inspired programming featured in Nuit d’Afrique
is not only the music qua music, but what its music
has to teach us as it concerns its complex character. When we
find ourselves in the embrace of what is best in Africa’s
sounds and soul, we’re in fact discovering or rediscovering
its relationship with its original music that has informed much
of the western idiom, which in turn has been brought back to
Africa (western ennui enhanced by technology) for yet another
cross-fertilization, which is why Africa’s music continues
to thrive and challenge. Since a dynamic and flourishing music
is one that does not recognize borders, that always looks for
ways and means to reach out and ride, Montreal’s Nuit
d’Afrique Music Festival is a golden opportunity to discover
what’s new and true in Africa. Making it all happen is
festival organizer Lamine Touré, who, out of musical
necessity, has one foot in Montreal and the other in Africa
-- and loving it.