Ten years ago, I attended Sziget, one of the biggest music festivals together with a friend. We pitched our tent after the downpour left the campsite in ankle-deep mud and puddles, which evaporated the next morning in the 35+°C that would heat up the scene for the next six days. Sziget, located on an island in the Danube river in the heart of the Hungarian capital Budapest, is huge: 6 days, one main stage, a few big ones, and all in all 60+ venues, more than 1000 acts, and some 400,000 visitors. The one in 2011 was voted “best festival” in Europe. The opening act was meant to be Amy Winehouse, yet she decided to move on two weeks ahead of the festival. Guess who jumped in: Prince! I never thought I’d see that legend of my teenie years live ever – not that I bothered, but hey, here he was, all inclusive. Amongst my favourite performances: Pulp, Chemical Brothers, Flogging Molly, Skunk Anansie, Gogol Bordello, Goran Bregović, and some less well-known acts in the Roma tent where I loved to hang out till dawn.
Plus sides: it does have something for everyone, including food (strong Balkan presence!), and it’s a celebration of diversity, a European kind of diversity. Hence the attempted attack by a Jobbik mob, a Hungarian racist-nazi group, that’s now happily represented in parliament.
Downsides: prices and policies (e.g. limits on bottles of water, packs of cigarettes, etc. to bring to the camping – and on site sales of, for instance, Marlboro only. That sort of monopolized capitalism). The prices make the festival almost unavailable for most locals.
Mbira is indeed a very “tangible” instrument. Only if you connect with it will it help you to produce the most enticing sound, a phenomenon in which beat mixes with harmony. As of this week, UNESCO recognizes mbira crafting and playing as intangible heritage in Zimbabwe – and also, with the variant name sansi – in Malawi. I’ve written about my experience with mbira elsewhere, so here’s the UNESCO summary video:
While mbira/sansi is less iconic in Malawi, where it is played in the south, it is an iconic instrument amongst the MaShona people that dominate Zimbabwe. Hence the move by UNESCO was met with applause, and Hope Masike – a young and accomplished mbira player and musician featured in some of the media coverage.
Wasn’t there always talk of “developing countries” vs. the “developed world”? I guess that was right: some countries indeed were developing while others started whingeing more and more, and rested comfortably on their “achievements”, and whinged some more when they were asked to share those, or give back. Pathetic.
Only one of the seeds of African Giant Calabash actually grew big enough so I could plant it in the garden. Now with a few of the fruit grown pleasantly big, it looks like I can go all industrial next year, producing truckloads of shekeres 😉
This is my second trip to Malawi this year. I arrive in a time of political unrest following the elections in May. Leaders of the opposition parties have alleged that there were massive irregularities and that Mutharika is the “tipp-ex president”. Lilongwe, Blantyre and other places have been the scenes of massive demonstrations which sometimes turned violent, including lootings and mob violence, and as of late the police and army forces are using live ammunition. Driving through town wasn’t always easy therefore, since you better avoid the demonstrations as the protestors do not always clearly discriminate between who to attack. Or would the police? Anyway, we stayed clear of them as best as we could.
30 years ago today, the German Democratic Republic was meant to celebrate her 40th anniversary. There was little to celebrate, though. Thousands had fled the country in previous months, and illegal demonstrations happened in every major town, notably on Mondays. This though was a Saturday afternoon, and Sandow were playing in Magdeburg, by the banks of the river Elbe. Heavy rains delayed the soundcheck, and in the meantime lots of police trucks had pulled up and the police surrounded. Men that were much too old for punk music in groups of two or three infiltrated the crowd.
Besides big events like the Würzburg Africafestival, the biggest Africa festival in Europe, lots of smaller events devoted to African themes happen across Germany. Just in case you were asking yourself: yes, mostly in the summer months, for fairly obvious reasons. Mind you, this summer of 2019 has been so hot occasionally, we may have to reconsider the timing, or else our African guests will be climatically intimidated! Anyway, two events put Africa on the local map in Göttingen these past few days: the Afrikanisches Sommerfest at Uslar, and the Hit the Beat concert at the local Freie Waldorfschule.
End of May – time for the biggest celebration of Africa in Europe! For 31 years Würzburg has hosted the Africa Festival, a four-day festival of food, African clothes, fabrics, instruments and curios – and, of course, music. A smaller open-air stage for afternoon performances, and a big tent for the two evening concerts now attract some 80,000 visitors, many of whom stay on the nearby campsite which features the sound of various drum groups almost non-stop.