Festival international Nuits d’Afrique: North America’s largest African music festival is back
The 35th anniversary will highlight a variety of African, Latin and Caribbean music
The Festival international Nuits d’Afrique is celebrating its 35th anniversary, with a selection of African music from July 6 to July 18. The festival has various venues located around Montreal, as well as Facebook live events.
African music was difficult to find in Montreal 35 years ago, until club Balattou on St. Laurent became a popular place to hear it. Two years after the club's initial opening in 1985, the owner, Lamine Toure, created Festival Nuits d’Afrique.
The festival allowed international and local African artists to showcase their music each year. Nuits d’Afrique showcases not only African music but also music from the Caribbean and Latin America.
“We were looking at old videos on betacam, and it was important for us and people to see the artists that come from all over Africa, which is a continent not a country,” said Suzanne Rousseau, the festival’s co-founder and managing director.
As Nuits d’Afrique heads into its 35th edition, Rousseau also explained how the longevity of the festival shows the appreciation for not only African music, but also for African culture.
Each respective country in Africa has its own music and culture and these different styles are displayed throughout the festival. Nuits d'Afrique includes music such as Afrobeats, Highlife music, and Afro-soul.
The festival will include a performance by Latin rap group, Sonido Pesao, who first participated in the festival back in 2012. Sonido Pesao brings a unique sound to the festival by being one of the few Latin groups performing. The group blends hip-hop and rap with Latin music called Cumbia, which originally comes from Colombia.
Shows like this give us this opportunity to perform in front of a lot of people, people who can relate to us and discover there is something else. — Ronald Barrientos
“The diversity of all those kinds of artists from everywhere around the world and rhythms make Nuits d’Afrique have its own personality and its own colours,” said one of the band members of Sonido Pesao, Ronald Barrientos, who also goes by Chellz.
“We blend Afro-Latin music—Colombia to Central America—our hip-hop background and our Montreal slang, that is what Sonido Pesao is about. There is no other band like us in the world!” said Chellz.
Because of the mixture of international and local artists, the performances from Nuits d'Afrique change every year. However, while the artists differ from year to year, the range of artists remains the same, from Caribbean to French and English African artists.
“Listen to the radio or tv shows. We do not have that,” said Chellz. “Shows like this give us this opportunity to perform in front of a lot of people, people who can relate to us and discover there is something else.”
The festival gives people the opportunity to experience Afrobeat and Afrofunk with groups like Afrodizz, who will be performing July 15. The group includes eight band members who have been together for over 20 years. They not only perform their own music, but they also cover popular music from Africa.
“It's always a question to search for new songs that came from Africa that are based on Afrobeats. Nigeria, Benin and Ghana, those three are the main places where you have that kind of music,” said Gabriel Aldama, Afrodizz’s main guitarist and composer.
Festivals like Nuits d’Afrique are important in sharing the African culture through song and dance. It also showcases how African music spawned off a lot of different sounds and styles heard on and off the radio, just like a lot of other genres, said Aldama.
For some Latin rap, you can catch Sonido Pesao’s performance on July 10 at the National at 9 p.m. For some afrobeat music, you can watch Afrodizz July 15 at Le Ministère at 9 p.m.
The festival doesn’t end there. You can find the full program of events and performances on the festival's website.