The 2012 edition of the Nuits d’Afrique festival ended two weeks ago. Funny that I had to leave Africa to discover its music through one of the most multicultural festival in Montreal. A wide range of music was used to entice Festival goers; West african folklore, Latin America crazy beats and Arab music

Desert is calling

Gnawa Diffusion
Gnawa Diffusion, Source: Zoom Algerie

Maghreb-French group Gnawa Diffusion launched the Festival Nuits d’Afrique. The opening first act was by the Algerian group Syncope.

Syncope offered a multicultural performance; it was a mix of French popular music, latin rhythms and Algerian music. It was a refreshing to hear them play even if I the Algeiran sounds were diluted in other music types… It was multiethnic but I didn’t really know on what feet to dance…

In contrast, I was fascinated by Gnawa Diffusion. Their music is a subtle mix between West Africa and North Africa. They opened the show withwhat I think was Foungoro, a song by Hamid El Gnawi that haunts my mp3.
The music of Gnawa Diffusion is charged with history, it’s in the spirit of a line of artists who chose to preserve their culture through what it’s called Gnawa music.

Gnawas are an ethnic group who live in the Maghreb. They are the descendents of ancient Black slaves (from Senegal, Mali, Sudan, Ghana…). They have established themselves in Maghreb after having been brought there to build palaces and join the armies.

The music of Gnawa Diffusion is the result of a successful cross-over; a note of revolt witnessed by a hint of reggae, mournings common in Maghreb songs and the same slow ryhtms played by the lovers of desert, the tuaregs. Their songs stirred up something deep inside myself. I felt a similar desire of desertion last year during the performace of Bombino, a Tuareg group from Guinea. « The desert is calling », that how I ended up qualifying this need to travel through music notes.

Closing of the Festival

Urban Latino groove

Heavy Soundz, Nuits d'Afrique
Heavy Soundz, Nuits d’Afrique

One of the most memorable performance the last day of the Festival was that of Heavy Soundz, a latino group from Montreal. Heavy Soundz is a strange cocktail of hip-hop urban music spiced up with Latino sounds beat. Moreover, the dancer wore beautilful flameco skirts, which gave their performance a little traditional style despite the urban appeal.

Music from the Islands not always exotic

I was also excited about the closing concert of the Festival as it would have been the occassion to discover the music of raggae legend Tiken Jah Foly. Unfortunately, his performance was cancelled for a stupid reason; his visa for Canada had expired. This reflects the type of problems African usually encounter…

Dub Inc
Dub Inc, Source: Festival Nuits d’Afrique

Finally, French raggae band Dubé Inc was chosen to do the closing. I am not a big fan of reggae but Dub Inc is definately a talented and charismatic band. I have attended many concerts in my life but it was one of the best. The lyrics of the group touches on two sore points in France; immigration and discrimation.

The composition of the group itself emphasizes the fact that France is multicultural against its own will. One of the singer is originary from Algeria (Hakim Meridj is Kabyl not Arab) and the other lead singer is Black (Aurélien Zohou).