Monday, 31 May 2010

Africa Vive - by Theo

My first night out without Kate and Rosie. As I waited for the metro the sense of guilt at abandoning my girls to go have fun threatened to over-power, so I turned to text to try to distract me, messaging my friend Aboubacar to tell him that I was go to Africa Vive and we should meet up. All of ten seconds later he and his brother Ibrahima were greeting me on the Metro.

Kate had insisted I went; the Africa Vive concert last year had been amazing, but definitely not for babies, especially after our experience with Rosie at WOMAD and the Planeta de Madrid. And I really, really wanted to see Konono No.1. Especially as it was all free.

As the three of us alighted at Cuidad Universitaria we became caught up in a whooping, excitable crowd of African expats - Senegalese, Malian, Congolese, Ivorians, and more - full of glee at the prospect of seeing some of the continents mega-stars for free. We were all early, not wanting to miss the beginning, and it seemed like we weren't the only ones with that idea. The queue for entry snaked for a good 500m as the security confiscated booze and food at the gate. However queuing with the Senegalese contingent was a lot of fun, as they weren't going to let being the wrong side of the fence stop them from getting involved in their compatriots, Da Brains, performance.

We finally got in and, after collecting some beer and water and glancing round the few stalls set up at the back, grabbed a shady spot on the grass near the stage. The event was very much a mini-festival with market, bars and an African tapas restaurant, albeit with just the one stage, but the change-overs were extremely quick given the number of performers in some of the bands. The first few acts - Don Bigg and Njaaya - passed by pleasantly enough as I hung out with Ibrahimah, Aboubacar and their Spanish teacher Carmen.Then Cesar and David showed up, sporting their back-stage wristbands and band-rider beer. Naturally, Cesar knew the organiser (of course he did!), and of course they hadn't queued! We hung out a bit more on the grass, before Cesar managed to snag the organiser, Mario, and blag a wrist band for me off him. Very kind. It turned out that AnneTerese, the american girl who had stayed with us in January, was now working for him. It's a small world. Especially when you know Cesar!Back-stage was pretty groovy - a free bar and tapas, plus an elevated viewing platform to the side of the stage. Definitely the best festival back-stage set-up I've ever come across, and I've been back-stage at a fair few in my time. It was from here that I got to witness the awesomeness of Konono No.1's hypnotic mbira and percussion playing, and the equally awesome crowd response, with some exuberant Africans leading a 50 strong group of equally exuberant Spaniards in a mass formation dance in the middle of the now swelling crowd. I was surprised there weren't more members of Konono No.1, though the six that were there did make a awesome racket, and while I still think they'd make for better sunrise music, watching them at sunset was pretty cool too! Their set seemed way too short, but it was excellent nonetheless. Sadly I forgot my camera, but David obliged with his blackberry!
Afterwards, we chilled out back-stage, chatting with a load of Cesar's old friends and taking advantage of the free beer. Sidy Sambi, the next act, was pretty good, but, though I love his music, I decided to leave during Salif Keita - the journey home would take about an hour and I had been up since 6am. But, more importantly, I was missing my girls!

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