Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Festival Report: Antilliaanse Feesten Day 1

Friday, August 8th
Antilliaanse Feesten Photos Fotos Pictures Report Review Verslag Concert 2008
Click above for more pictures. Some pictures courtesy of (usually the sharp ones ;)). Dutch version here.

A beautiful sunset over the Blue Forest in Hoogstraten (on the border between Belgium and Holland) marked the beginning of an exotic night with lots of surprises. The knee-deep mud and the amount of cancellations couldn't ruin the atmosphere at the Antilliaanse Feesten, the biggest Caribbean music festival in Europe: the multicultural crowd was ready to party all night long with dozens of musicians from all over Latin America and the Caribbean.

And the start couldn't be better than with Rocola Bacalao (myspace), an energetic ska band from Ecuador. The nine members jumped around frantically while putting their heart and soul in their trumpets and guitars - which worked very contageous on the crowd at the Cahier Club stage. Their best songs mixed cumbia (and even merengue) with clever lyrics and an incredibly positive attitude - they just wanna have fun. Only when the guitars were cranked up, things got a little too loud and hyperactive for me.

Over at the main stage, Dominican merengue star Chichi Peralta kept us waiting for a while with a strange and totally unsuitable apocalyptic video - not the kind of intro you want for a sexy session of merengue. Chichi himself was hardly behind his percussion set, entertaining the audience while two not very talented youngsters took care of most of the singing. The usually exhilarating merengue was brought routinely, and though Chichi played the crowd quite well he didn't seem to have a lot of fun - maybe he's tired of performing? The multiple power failures didn't help either. Still, the latina girls jumping on stage to show off their dance moves were nice to watch ;)

Meanwhile, Manolito y su Trabuco (myspace) were setting the Joker stage on fire with their Cuban salsa and timba. It always strikes me how Cuban artists seem to have music and rhtyhm in their blood - with great professionalism Manolito and his band spun 15-minute long versions of their timba hits, playing the crowds with accelerations and improvisations. Lots of room for dancing, so all you could do was get carried away. Manolito ended the concert with a whirling "Loco por mi Habana", smiling from behind his piano.

Soca music might not be a focus of this blog, I had to see Machel Montano (website). The self-proclaimed king of soca (and honored with multiple awards at Trinidad & Tobago carnival over the years) has an excellent live reputation, and indeed the show was 2 straight hours of jumping and dancing. Realizing the simplicity of soca music can't carry a show on it's own, and being the pure entertainer he is, Machel brought some variation with r&b and dancehall bits mixed between his own songs. And the audience digged it: 10,000 people jumping and whirling around flags is an impressive sight!

I ended the first night with Son de Cali (myspace) from Colombia, who replaced their compatriotas Grupo Gale. They were visibly tired when they got on stage - and to be honest, starting a concert at 3:45 AM is unearthly late (thanks to accumulated delays - or let's just say, latino spirit). They deserved a second chance - saturday on the Joker stage, and I'll tell you more about that in a few days!