"The rhythms of this unique festival are filtered not by the eardrum, but by the spirit .....
Melodies mingle deep in your soul ..... Music seeps from the pores of your skin ..... a calypso beat ..... a Canadian folk song ..... a tale of lost love ...... Parisian cabaret ..... Cajun waltzes .....Creole fiddling ..... Reggae ..... Carribean carnival chants ..... Zydeco ..... Soukous from Zaire ..... Haitian rara ..... New Orleans Rhythm and Blues ..... ballads from Mali ..... a montage of music from the French-speaking world ..... the essence of Festival International de Louisiane ...... where the world unites in harmony.
"Festival International de Louisiane is the largest Francophone (French speaking) festival in the United States. This free Festival (supported by the sale of annual pins) began in 1986, and has been held every year since, in downtown Lafayette, Louisiana," (lafayettetravel.com/play/festivalsevents/festival-international).
For five days in late April, several blocks of the historic downtown are transformed into an entertainment mecca featuring six music stages, food court areas, street musicians and animators, arts and crafts boutiques, art galleries, beverage stands, cultural workshops, international cooking demonstrations and a world music store.
The first two nights use only two stages. We attended the second night and found a spot for our chairs along the edge of the large open space at the Scène Stabil Drill. The crowd consists of "standees," "sitters" in their own chairs, and "movers," those who are in almost-constant motion in the audience section.
I would guess that about eighty percent of the performers at the Festival are individuals or groups that the audience has not heard before. And that is the attraction of the Festival--exposure to different individuals, groups, and cultures.
The first group we heard was the Nimbaya Women Drummers (Guinea-Africa Drum and Dance) (photos above and the three below).
"The name NIMBAYA! originates from the Nimba mask, which holds great significance in the West African culture.
Representing a woman at her zenith of power and beauty, the mask embodies the mother of fertility, the joy of living and the promise of abundant harvest.
NIMBAYA! pays tribute to women by choosing Nimba as a namesake and symbol of beauty, strength, fertile abundance and integrity" (from the group's bio).
The group's performance lived up to the strength and energy of their name and fit the large venue perfectly.
Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara has demonstrated "...her passion to develop her own music, composing, arranging and playing her own material, blending Wassalou traditions and wider influences into a spacious acoustic environment where the warm tones of her voice can glissade and glide" (artist's bio).
Her performance matched the description of her voice, but we thought it was a bit unfair to present her warm tones in such a large, noisy venue.
We are two retirees--Chuck, 64, and Kate, 63--who decided to travel the U.S. On June 13, 2008, we began our long-talked-about travels by heading south from our home in Pennsylvania in our Ford 550 and 38’ New Horizons fifth wheel.
Our travel aim is to meet people and go at least "knee-deep" into the culture of several communities. To learn what is important in the lives of the residents of the towns, villages, and farms of America is our primary interest.
When not learning about what people do, we will be (1) sampling the foods that help people do what needs to be done and (2) listening to the music of their culture.
A neighborhood joint or local hall serving liquid refreshment and featuring a jam session with local musicians . . . well, it just doesn't get any better.
We welcome comments, questions, or suggestions of people to meet, places to visit, and "don't miss" neighborhood joints for food and/or music. Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org