Friday Festival highlights included great performances by Afrissippi, Les Yeux Noirs and Vieux Farka Toure. Click the read more for updates.
The 21st Festival Internationale de Louisiane kicks off today in Lafayette, LA. The fest is a gem that is often overshadowed by the start of Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Festival, as it is called by the locals, showcases some of the best world music from Africa to Finland and all points in between. This is my second trip to Festival and I hope to provide you with daily updates and photos.
One of the best features about Festival is the cost – it's FREE. But, you are encouraged to purchase a festival pin that supports the annual event.
On top of the great music is a wide range of events; there's an art walk featuring regional and national artists… and of course it wouldn't be complete without the food. The Acadiana region or southwest Louisiana is know for top notch cuisine. If you are in the Lafayette area or want a nice little trip, head on over to get your world boogie on.
Saturday at Festival Internationale
Saturday was a long day at Festival. We got there around 1:30 p.m. and stayed until the bands were finished around 11:30 p.m. Saturday's highlights included great performances by Los Pinguos, The Lee Boys, Ba Cissooko, who were amazing, Eddie Bo and Clinton Fearon just to name a few. The food was also a major player in Saturday's festivities with the likes of various forms of crawfish, shrimp and assorted cajun dishes. Look for a complete review as the week progresses along with some photos.
Friday at Festival Internationale de Louisiane
After an early lunch at a great local Cuban restaurant and some down time, Friday's Festival activities got underway around 6 p.m. as we went to the Community Coffee tent and saw our fellow north mississippians Afrissippi. They put on a great show and I was glad to see they got a great welcome by the attendees. After the highly anticipated stop for a crawfish tamale and a much needed Abita Strawberry Ale we headed over to the main stage and caught the last few minutes of Fanfare du Belgistan a great brass band from Belgium.
Another pause was needed to sample the best dish of the festival so far, fried catfish topped with seafood etoufette. It was some crispy fried nuggets topped with crab, shrimp and crawfish and went nicely with a frozen cocktail. Remember folks, when you come to Louisiana you have to leave the grilled cheese in the parking lot. Food is equally important down here as the music so come with an appetite. As the sun crested behind the downtown children's museum many of the european festival dwellers filled in the small pavilion for Les Yeux Noir. "The Black Eyes" takes their name from the title of a Russian gypsy tune made famous by Django Reinhardt in the '30s. The sextet is led by brothers Eric and Olivier Slabiak who founded the band some 15 years ago. The group plays a combination of gypsy and yiddish music with a foundation of jazz tempo. To coin a phrase from a friend of mine it was Klezmerific. The Slabiak brothers build off of the other band members and start combining fiddle licks that crescendo into a frenzy of something that sounds like a cosmic Charlie Daniels. More to come as the Festival progresses.
Thursday at Festival
The 21st Festival Internationale de Louisiane got off to a pounding start as the first act to take the stage was the Amazones: Woman Master Drummers of Guinea. The group's sound thundered throughout downtown Lafayette as the girls from Guinea performed traditional African rhythms and showcased their dancing talents. The steady beats of the djembe mixed with other African percussive instruments had even senior citizens shaking their money makers. This group shared a great message showing how women in Guinea are able to overcome poverty and rise to be their own voice.
After the brief opening ceremony Marcia Ball took the stage as the sun set and the legions of baby boomers and babies filled the park. Ball came out of the gate swinging with a great version of "Red Beans." Her swamp boogie sound kept the crowd rockin,' and she brought the house down with her version of Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927" which brought some spectators to tears. The tune was very moving and highlighted the strength of Ball's vocal talents and piano skills.
The final act of the first night was Angélique Kidjo from Benin. The three-time Grammy nominee brought her West African sound to Lafayette for her third appearance at Festival. Despite some early sound issues, her vocals were very powerful. In between tunes she preached a message of unity, embracing one's culture and that her pledge was to provide a song that would touch your heart and soul.
Playing on that theme, Kidjo did a great number called Aruna(sp?) which voiced her message. She followed that up with a great cover of "Gimmie Shelter" combining powerful vocals with a lighter, roots feel to the music. Closing the show she brought about 20 audience members on stage to help her sing and dance. Kidjo had a great stage presence and powerful voice that engaged the crowd the entire evening.
The first night of Festival was a good start, but Friday will crank things up to another level as bands will begin performing on six stages. Other activities aside from the great music are the cooking demonstrations and art area. La Place des Enfants will provide a venue for children to run around the downtown plaza fountain, and there will also be puppet shows and tunes for kids.
For a slideshow of images from Festival visit Peter's blog here.