Spring is just around the corner and what better way to hasten its arrival than a dance party to the sound of West African music. This is exactly what happened at the opening night of the Montreal en Lumiere festival on Thursday, February 22 with the Vieux Farka Toure concert at Club Soda.
The venue was very accommodating and comfortable, and even though people were made to coat check their winter jackets and scramble for $1.25 in cash (who carries coins nowadays?), this proved to improve the experience inside the theatre and avoid inconveniencing everyone around.
Happy to be opening for their “brother” Vieux, Zal Sissokho, the Montréal based Sengalese kora player and singer, presented us with his original music, his stories and his longing for warmer days and less snow.
His music, played in a duo with a fellow Senegalese guitar player, was quite beautiful and had the power of allowing yourself to let go of the stresses of the week and enjoy the moment. In between songs he introduced us to his story, his instrument (the kora) and his life in Montreal.
During their last song they invited the whole crowd to sing along with them and sing the chorus, they asked for the lights to turn on and made sure the crowd was prepared and warmed up for what was to come with the main act.
Given that the stage was already ready the wait time for Vieux Farka Touré was not so long. He was joined by a percussionist and a bassist, and as soon as they set foot on the stage, he greeted the crowd and began to play a slow jam filled with equal parts exotic and blues.
There were no phones on, not even for quick pictures or videos. Everyone seemed to be mindful and present of the moment, enjoying the music and letting themselves be submerged in the original sound of Touré and co.
As the night progressed so did the rhythms being played. The tempo of each song was brought up a notch and the crowd moved with the music, dancing in their seats and those lucky enough to have space in the balconies stood up and had a party right with their friends.
The sounds I heard that night reminded me of Carribean music I have been hearing ever since I was a kid. Calypso, soca, and even reggae made their presence on stage that night, delighting everyone and making the night one of the most vibrant and warm winter nights I have been a witness to in my 5 years in Montreal.
Review – Ricardo D. Flores
Photos – Jean-Michel Lacombe