Three Must-See Shows at Nuits D'Afrique

Festival International Nuits d'Afrique has brought the world to Montreal music fans for three decades and is still going strong. The festival's rich history includes legendary performers, homegrown talent, fun workshops and family activities, and the most exciting outdoor celebrations of the summer at Quartier des spectacles. CBC journalist,musician, traveller, and CJLO "Grrls Groove" alumnus Emily Brass brings us her top-three must see performers at this year's festival!


Manu Dibango

Cool, energetic and charming, Manu Dibango's performances are so high-powered, it's easy to forget his age. But at 82, the elder statesman of world music says he'll be passing the baton at this year's Nuits d'Afrique, taking the stage with the winner of this year's Syli D'Or contest, Montreal-based Cuban band, Proyecto Irie.

An icon among saxophonists, Dibango has always placed groove above glory, with multifaceted material that's greater than the sum of its parts. Rather than putting the spotlight on his horn playing prowess, his scant solos take the back seat to infectious hooks that sink into your soul.

Despite his humble demeanour, Dibango is a musician of greatness, a pioneer whose style influenced musicians of all genres. The founding father of makossa, he was one of the first artists to fuse jazz, funk and reggae with African stylings. The theme of his groundbreaking 1972 worldwide hit "Soul Makossa" created the anthem "mama ko, mama sa, mako makossa" later adopted by countless performers, including Michael Jackson.

Above all, his music is laidback, alluring and FUN. His ever-present smile charms the crowd, and he seems to soak in the loving vibes audiences inevitably reflect back to him. Don't miss this chance to say farewell to the "Lion of Cameroon", a master who dedicated his life to taking African grooves to higher heights around the globe.

Manu Dibango plays Theatre Fairmount Monday, July 18 at 8 pm.


Faris Amine

Faris Amine's music transports you to a serene dreamscape where edgy guitar lines akin to Jimmy Hendrix meet the ethereal musical vibes of the Algerian desert. His latest album, 'Mississippi to Sahara,' soothes the soul like a cool wind in the warm desert air, a breezy set of smooth grooves that show how much of the blues is rooted in the musical heritage of the Tamasheq culture of North Africa.

With an Italian dad and an Algerian Tuareg mom, the musical ambassador blends traditional Tuareg stylings into old school Mississippi blues. He refashions the lyrics into the Tamasheq language, laying rich African harmonies and percussion onto the intricate, emotional guitar styles of American legends such as Leo Bud Welch, who collaborated on his latest release.

If you're a fan of African master Ali Farka Touré or US blues icons such as John Lee Hooker, this show's for you. Take a seat, relax your mind and soak in the mellow, entrancing sounds of this up and comer who counts Ben Harper and Taj Mahal among his biggest fans.

Faris plays Club Balattou Tuesday, July 19 at 8:30 pm.


Meiway & Zo Gang

Nuits d'Afrique always goes big with its closing concert, and this year is no exception. This heavy hitter is a legend of the dance floors of Africa, setting crowds on fire with his zoblazo grooves, a style he's credited with inventing.

Recognized as one of the top voices of Africa, Meiway has been singing his whole life, getting his start at an early age in the parish choir alongside his musician parents. Today, he's seen as a top performer of the percussion-based style stemming from the electrifying sounds of Ghana and his native southern Ivory Coast.

Expect a huge, amped-up crowd at Place des Festivals for this closing show, with dancers waving white handkerchiefs as they celebrate the passion and joy of this irresistible, relentless African beat that will undoubtedly put a smile on your face and a shimmy to your hips.

Meiway & Zo Gang plays the Parterre du Quartier des Spectacles Sunday, July 24 at 9:30 pm.


Festival Nuits d'Afrique runs from July 12th to July 24th at Quartier des spectacles in the heart of downtown Montreal, and venues across the city. All photos courtesy of