Dunlevy: Goodbye Jazz Festival, Hello Nuits d’Afrique

With 150 events and activities, including 70 performances by artists from 30 countries, the festival puts the “world” in world music.

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Suzanne Rousseau is happy to see Nuits d’Afrique finally getting the recognition it deserves. As the music festival prepares to launch its 36the edition, director Rousseau took a moment to remember a great year.

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In April, Productions Nuits d’Afrique, the company behind the festival, received the Prix du Jury du Grand Prix du Conseil des Arts de Montréal. Then in June Nuits d’Afrique founder Mohamed Lamine Touré was named Compagnon de l’Ordre des arts et des lettres du Québec, not bad for a guy who was mistakenly declared dead (while sitting on the room) by the Quebec minister. head of the fight against racism, Benoit Charette, in an embarrassing blunder at the Dynastie Gala in March.

And now, with the last of the empty beer glasses and jazz festival banners removed, Nuits d’Afrique will take over the Place des Festivals, from July 12-22, where for the first time it will present shows on not one but two stages at outdoors for his last six days.

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“The festival is growing,” Rousseau said. “It’s exciting. We are very happy to be back with the big names on the international scene and discover new talent that people have not seen. I have goosebumps.”

With 150 events and activities, including 70 indoor and outdoor performances by artists from 30 countries, the festival puts the “world” in world music.

Ivory Coast reggae icon Tiken Jah Fakoly performs as part of the 36th Nuits d'Afrique music festival.
Ivory Coast reggae icon Tiken Jah Fakoly performs as part of the 36th Nuits d’Afrique music festival. african nights

Among the big names this year is Ivory Coast reggae icon Tiken Jah Fakoly, who opens the festival with a performance on July 13 at MTelus.

“Montreal is his home,” Rousseau said. “We first introduced him in 2000. That was a big moment for him, and it’s always a great honor for us to have him back.”

On Thursday, Fakoly will receive the Prix Nuits d’Afrique pour la francophonie at a ceremony at the town hall. The prize has previously been awarded to Manu Dibango, Amadou et Mariam and Salif Keita.

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A highlight of the outdoor programming will be the passing of the Afrobeat torch when Femi Kuti & the Positive Force, featuring Mádé Kuti, perform a free show on the main TD stage on July 19 at 9:30 p.m. Femi Kuti is, of course, the son of Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, and Mádé is Femi’s son.

For young fans of Nigerian music, Yemi Alade brings a feminine touch to the sound, injecting it with hip-hop, pop, reggae and soul, and a style that has seen her collaborate with Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige and Angélique Kidjo. She performs for free on July 24 at 9:30 p.m. on the TD stage.

Other giveaways include veteran Montreal collective Papagroove, July 20 at 8 pm on the TD Stage; The Guatemalan-Mexican-American cumbia team Quitapenas, on July 21 at 9:30 on the TD Stage; and the Ivorian Afro-electro singer Dobet Gnahoré, on July 22 at 7 pm at the Loto-Québec Stage.

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Nigerian Afrobeat heir Femi Kuti (right) performs with his son Mádé as part of the 36th Nuits d'Afrique music festival.
Nigerian Afrobeat heir Femi Kuti (right) performs with his son Mádé as part of the 36th Nuits d’Afrique music festival. Photo by Oseni A. Kolade /african nights

The rest of the lineup runs the gamut. Local offerings include blues queen Dawn Tyler Watson, July 13 at 8:30 at Club Balattou; the return of Brazilian Quebecois Paulo Ramos, on July 14 at 8:30 p.m. on the same stage; the Angolan-Quebecan singer Pongo, nicknamed “the queen of neo-kuduro”, on July 15 at 9 pm at the Fairmount Club; and globetrotting bass beat guru Poirier and guests, on July 23 at 10 p.m. at Le Ministère.

Internationally, Rousseau points to South Africa’s Derek Gripper, who adapts music for the 21-string kora on his six-string guitar. He joins Montreal griot Zal Sissokho’s kora, with singer Djely Tapa for opening hours, July 15 at 7:55 pm at Le Gesù.

It also nods to the mystical desert blues of Moktar Gania and Morocco’s Gnawa Soul, on July 18 at 8 pm at Théâtre Fairmount; and the Brazilian singer Fabiana Cozza, on July 21 at 9:00 p.m. on the same stage.

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If there seems to be something for everyone, you’re taking notice.

Brazilian singer-songwriter Fabiana Cozza performs as part of the 36th Nuits d'Afrique music festival.
Brazilian singer-songwriter Fabiana Cozza performs as part of the 36th Nuits d’Afrique music festival. african nights

“The festival reaches a multi-cultural and multi-generational audience, with completely different tastes,” said Rousseau. “That really is the recipe for the festival: to have a mix of cultures on stage, which creates a mix of cultures in the crowd, which creates a rich and festive atmosphere that brings together open-minded people.

“And if they weren’t (open-minded), they will be at the festival.”

TAKE A LOOK: the 36the african nights music festival takes place from July 12 to 22. For tickets and information, visit festivalnuitsdafrique.com

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