Nuits d’Afrique 2021 celebrates a great 35th anniversary

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Nuits d'Afrique 2021
Photo by Jérôme Busquet provided by Nuits d'Afriques Productions.

Nuits d’Afrique 2021 was a masterpiece of creativity and adaptation. Despite the obstacles, the organization managed to deliver a unique program and was present on all fronts: online, indoor and outdoor. The online part was the most special, but the actual concerts and activities were as good as one would usually expect. Here is an overview of the ten days of programming.

Exclusive livestreams

Nuits d’Afrique took the decision to have online opening and closing livestreams. This was not a last minute or unwise decision, these were not just concerts filmed and broadcast. The festival took the online experience further and delivered incredible content to make us dance, to teach us about the history of music, and make us reminisce of the best Montreal World Music moments of the last 35 years.

Opening Night

The opening night, Nuits d’Afrique presented “Le Bal de l’Afrique Enchantée”, a musical voyage by Les Mercenaires de l’Ambiance, filmed in the mythical Studio l’Ermitage in Paris. A musical voyage, a stream of cover songs to take us through the history of the African music. It’s the perfect way to experience “African music” without falling into the trap of homogenizing the continent’s music, even if the show didn’t pretend to be exhaustive. But as they said, what “they indubitably have in common, is that every song in Africa tells a story”. Stories, but also history, as they explain how Cuban music came (back) to Africa in the 40’s and 50’s. History of some genre as well: the son of the founder of Afrobeat already performed at Nuits d’Afriques, they tell us! Thank you Soro, Vladimir, Hortense and the orchestra! 66.000 persons watched the show, a giant success!

Closing Night

The closing night was a bit more special for the festival’s regular, but it was interesting nonetheless: a retrospective of some of the best concerts of the last 35 years! It started with Rokia Traoré‘s show in 1999, before going straight to the magnificent Angelique Kidjo that same year. The Grammy-award winner and UNICEF ambassador delighted us with her voice and dance moves. The Nigerian Femi Kuti, mentioned above as the son of the Afrobeat founder, gave a magical and danceable performance, as you would expect from him! A dozen musicians, dancers, and a contagious happiness being spread!

The festival also found archives of the breakthrough of Tiken Jah Fakoly in North America! His concert in Montreal in 2000 helped propel him to stardom. The artist, from Ivory Coast, is not one of the most famous figures of reggae. The video is still online for everyone to watch, with past performances by Oumou Sangaré, Manu Dibango and more.

Sold out shows and open-air festival

Nuits d'Afrique 2021
Moridja at the Club Balattou

Indoor shows

Nuits d’Afrique 2021 also took place in real life, with a real crowd! Fifteen out of the eighteen concerts were sold out well in advance, and all of them were a success for the crowd and the artists. The winner’s of the festival competition for emerging talents (Syli d’Or) proved that they deserved their place: Boulila, Lara Klaus and Ronald Lebeau delivered serious and celebrated shows, and we certainly will hear more about them. The Trio Kora show, with three koras as the name indicates, was a special and unique moment, as was the “Soirée Rythmes au Féminin”, with four talented and flamboyant female musicians.

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Festileaks Festivalvakantie 2022

Festileaks had the chance to attend the concert of the Congolese musician and visual artist Moridja: he has a great range in his voice and the genres of music he gets his inspiration from. He also knows how to entertain a crowd, with stories and history, with jokes and interactions! A great night, we almost forgot that we were seated.

Open air Festival

The festival also took place in its usual locations at the “Place des Arts”. It was a great sight: a festival “arena” with stages and places of workshops. Families were there, but also young people. You could just come and chill on the grass, or watch one of the show. When we got there, we stumbled upon the show of the amazing Mateo who delivered a great performance. Other (acoustic) concerts included music from Morocco, Mali, Burkina Faso, Trinidad, Haïti and more. Workshops included steal drums, derbouka, gumboots, Fulani flute and more. There was also a photo exposition (going on until August 8), and at night, there were giant projections and sound and light spectacles. All that contributed to make the festival as normal as possible, and it was a beam of light and hope. The oudoor site was at full capacity each of the nights Thank you Nuits d’Afrique.

Nuits d’Afrique 2021

Nuits d’Afrique is one of Montreal’s biggest summer festival. The festival is a hotspot of World Music in North America, and its influence is spread throughout the year with almost weekly shows at the infamous Club Balattou, and the Syli d’Or emerging talent competition. The festival itself is a must-go because of many reason: an incredible lineup every year, but most of all a great atmosphere at the free outdoor shows, where you will find a “village” with food courts and more. In 2020, Nuits d’Afrique had to go virtual, but still delivered great shows. The next edition will take place from 12 to 24 July 2022, mark your calendars for a vacation in Montreal!

For more information, visit their website.

Akram is a 26yo living in Montréal. After visiting Sziget Festival in 2014 (and 2015, and 2016), his love for live music started ascending and is yet to peak. His favorite bands are Arcade Fire, Radiohead, M83, Big Thief, Beach House, Sufjan Stevens...