When England’s Arthur Wellesley, a.k.a. the 1st Duke of Wellington, first wore and popularized the leather hunting boot that came to be known as the “Wellington” in the early 19th century, he could hardly have predicted that a rubber version of them would one day play a role in an African-themed music festival in a former French colony in the city of Montreal…
Wellingtons were at one time worn by South African miners, who called them gumboots. Since actual drumming wasn’t permitted as the miners worked and sang, gumboot dancing evolved in its place.
Now the percussive, polyrhythmic and highly entertaining dance form is known the world over, and a gumboots dance workshop will kick off the free outdoor portion of 28th edition of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique – dedicated, fittingly, to the memory of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela – on July 16, while the festival proper runs from July 8 until July 20.
For 13 days, Montreal will thrill to the international sights and sounds of some 600 artists from 35 countries at more than 100 shows performing world music of African descent, all set against a backdrop of art, dance, acrobatics, food and family-oriented fun. In addition to the paid shows at seven concert series at seven indoor venues – beginning with an opening concert by Ivory Coast reggae great Tiken Jah Fakoly, the “godfather” of this year’s fest – the Parterre portion of downtown Montreal’s centrally located Quartier des Spectacles will host The Village des Nuits d’Afrique, the site of numerous free outdoor events. To wit…
From July 16-20, workshops – Brazilian capoeira, West African percussion, samba reggae, African dance, gumboots and more – will preface a full schedule of free music each day. Concertgoers will also be able to avail themselves of a range of indigenous African gastronomy, the Timbuktu Market (jewellery, artwork, clothing etc.), a Nelson Mandela photo exhibit tribute and a children’s village where the kids can get painted up like the little jungle animals they are.
Closing out each day in The Village will be big exterior concerts by the likes of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars (traditional reggae), Black Bazar (Congolese afrobeat), HK et Les Saltimbanks (rock/rap/reggae from Algeria and France) and Haiti’s “Ambassadors of Kompa,” the dance-mad Tabou Combo. Special ticket, tour and hotel packages are available to all who are curious to sample a lot of little bits of Africa in one festive and welcoming setting.
Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, July 8-20, 2014
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