A July 12 at FINA: Angélique Kidjo, Chanda & the Passsengers, Boulila & Friends, Naxx Bitota

by Rédaction PAN M 360

The PAN M team is very present at the Festival international Nuits d’Afrique. Our contributors report daily what they have seen and heard at the concerts presented in Montreal until July 23rd.

Photo credit: Pierre Langlois

Angélique Kidjo: Imperial Despite an Apparent Economy of Means

Undoubtedly, Angélique Kidjo remains this beast of the stage whose permanent object is to mobilize one by one her potential fans at each of her concerts. Rare are these conquering spirits of showbiz who have kept the flame of the stage for a lifetime, the Beninese diva is a convincing example. Insatiable, the winner of the Prix Nuits d’Afrique pour la Francophonie offered an electrifying performance as she has always done during her Montreal stops since the 90s.

Economy of means moreover: no ambitious stage sets on the program, no innovative lighting, no sophisticated arrangements, no large audiovisual means, no immersive context. Wednesday evening at MTELUS, Angélique Kidjo chose to run on arm oil, thus opting for the old school of Afro-pop evenings: West African percussion, drums, guitar, bass and a certainly boosted singer. Nothing else. This did not prevent his audience from dancing and loudly showing his love and admiration.

About 15 songs were on the program: original Kidjo songs, including Africa, One of a Kind, Do Yourself, Sahara, Meant for Me, Choose Love, Mother Nature, Free and Equal. Several tracks were taken from his most recent album released in 2021, Mother Nature, but without the luster of the excellent afrobeats productions, prominent in this very well kept recording.

The public was also treated to the famous covers of the performer including Bemba Colorá (Celia Cruz), Crosseyed and Painless and Once In A Lifetime (Talking Heads) or even Pata Pata (Miriam Makeba) in accelerated mode. The whole thing was accompanied by a surprise appearance by Louisiana singer Zachary Richard in an almost rap version of the Cajun classic L’arbre est dans ses feuilles, a version planned as a duet through which Angélique obviously had some difficulty adapting.

For the rest, a concert based exclusively on the sole and solid performance of its African soloist, a safe bet before the Eternal.

Chanda & The Passengers : Vintage Funk

In the same vintage spirit, the Montreal group Chanda & The Passengers, headed by soloist Chandra Holmes, offered a performance worthy of the 60s and 70s, a funk approach à la James Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic, Chic, à la Cameo… This magnificent singer with spectacular Afro hair can count on a powerful alto/contralto register and expresses herself in the rules of the art of an era prior to her own. It’s the same for its musicians keen on funk, jazz and also Afro-Latin music… from the previous generation. The eras coexist in the present, it is clear once again…

Alain Brunet

Boulila & Friends Make Club Ballatou Jump and Collide

Boulila & Friends provided a steady beat of African fusion, funk, blues, and Gnawan jazz to a filled room at Club Ballatou. Walking in, the dancefloor was immediately filled, with a nine-piece band; a saxophonist (Montreal’s one and only Damian Jade Cyr,) drums, backup singers, bass and keyboards, and leader of Boulila, Boudouch Yassine on guitar and the Xalam (a two-string guitar about the size of a big ukelele).

This band was ridiculously tight and well-prepared, going into instrumental jams between the afro-fusion numbers, and returning to the chorus in unions without looking at one another. The band took us to the desert with an almost Tuareg Sahara blues, reminiscent of someone of Mdou Moctar, but also the Calypso with the rhythms. It was a mystical performance combining the African sound with some more Western fusion and the crowd ate it up.

Stephan Boissonneault

Naxx Biota Has A Voice for the Scene

Bringing a bit of Congolese rumba and a serene style to Montreal, Naxx Biota wowed Club Ballatou, even though the crowd was starting to drift away, as it was 11 p.m. But her soulful voice convinced them to stay for almost the entire duration of the concert. Naxx Biota’s voice and movements are both playful and robust. Although the music is upbeat and well-crafted, it’s her dance moves and faces that captivate the audience. There is so much passion in these songs. Committed but very festive, she pursues her inspiration in her high-quality “Mutuashi-Rumba-Sebene” style. I have never seen such a performance. Whitney Houston meets Erykah Badu.

Stephan Boissonneault

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