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African Nights: More Often Than Not, Are Hotter Than Hot

Posted by Goran / July 11, 2008


It’s hard to deny that the summer is Montreal’s festive season, and we’re definitely in the midst of it. Alongside the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival, Fantasia Film Festival, and Reggae Festival, the Nuits d’Afrique are steaming up the MTL nights. The Algerians were out in full force last night at the Metropolis to welcome their national music hero, Idir, in a Montrealsque display of community and culture.

Idir has been an ambassador of Berber culture and music for over three decades. His success and longevity were reflected in the generations that made up the audience. A good representation from every age group (newborn babies to wheelchair ridden elderly) inspired a different form of Metropolis concert ambiance. With no line ups at the bar and pristine bathroom facilities, it felt as though I was at a different venue altogether. The crowd was tame and calm, but the mixture of Berber, and other African traditional dresses, added a rich ethnic touch to the visual aesthetic.


Those who like Idir, like him a lot. In fact those who like him, namely the Algerians, love him. I am not exaggerating in the least when I state that they never stopped clapping, whether showering him with applause between songs or adding a hand smacking affects to the constant beating of Berber drums. The Algerians know Idir’s material like the backs of their clapping hands. With the strum of single guitar chord, Idir’s followers would erupt into a powerful gang-vocal chant. Although he sang and recited poetry all night, with a following like that, Idir didn't even need to open his mouth.

Not a single Algerian left the Metropolis unsatisfied that night. I personally found Idir’s performance an enlightening cultural experience. However, on the musical end, I was far more impressed by the Algerian Montrealer opening act, Syncop. The fusion of contemporary urban pop with North African rhythms and harmonies was masterfully executed with finely woven violin and clarinet melodies. The animated lead singer, Karim, added fine touch of flare and energy to this tightly rehearsed group. Idir and Syncop are just a small sampling of the abundantly lush cultural events put on by the Nuits d'Afrique and other concurrent MTL summer festivals. So please don't let me find you bumming around the house this weekend.



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