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Saturday, 19 July 2008


From sconfinare – to cross borders, to cross over. The Sconfinando is an annual world music event taking place open air during July in the Fortezza Firmafede, a medieval citadel, in Sarzana. Ever since we have arrived here in 2004 we have made a point of seeing at least one concert there each year. Last night we went to see the last of this year’s (the 17th edition) events, Angelique Kidjo from Benin, West Africa. I hadn’t actually come across her before, but I’m wondering how I managed to miss her so far. Her music is a mixture of African rhythms combined with calypso, Caribbean and Brazilian sounds and rock’n’roll. She sings in English, French and her native African language. She has covered songs by Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, giving them a distinct African twist. She has actually been nominated for 4 Grammy awards and on her latest album Djin Djin, she has collaborated with, amongst others, Alicia Keys, Peter Gabriel, Josh Groban, Carlos Santana and Branford Marsalis.

On stage Angelique is electric. After only the first song she asked the audience: “Are you gonna dance tonight?”, which was answered by a half hearted: “yeah”. When after the next song still no one had got up she just got off the stage and dragged people off their seats and finally invited them all onto the stage. The sound technician obviously wasn’t ready for that and was having kittens about people treading onto his cables and damaging his equipment. Well for the rest of the night about 80 of us stayed up there dancing with the woman herself and her band. The band by the way consisted of an acoustic guitar player from Brazil an African percussionist and a bassist from Senegal, a lead guitarist from Guinea-Bissau and a drummer from Surinam. There was a lot of good-natured banter going on amongst the band and between Angelique and her musicians. Especially the percussionist, Ibrahim Diagne ‘Thiokho’, mingled with the crowd making everyone contort in new dance steps including a bunch of kids.

The venue, as always, was haunting, taking place in the large inner court of the citadel with it’s imposing medieval towers and walls. The acoustic is very good and last night’s rising full moon and balmy temperatures added to the atmosphere. The only down side of the concert was that it was too short. After barely 1 ½ hours and just one encore it was all over, but hey I’m a fan. There were no CDs sold after the concert, so I shall have to find one in the shops and I recommend anyone reading this to do the same.

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