The German town of Würzburg is gearing to host the 27th edition of its International Africa Festival - considered by many to be the largest and oldest festival for African music and culture in Europe - from 4 to 7 June.
Since it began in 1989, more than 6000 musicians and artists from 56 African and Caribbean countries have performed in Würzburg so far - and about over two million visitors have heard, seen and tasted the cultural wealth of the African continent. Together they have ensured that this festival is always a peaceful and lively get-together.
This year’s edition will take festival-goers on a trip to the Indian Ocean with a special focus on Zanzibar, the vibrant island off the Tanzanian coast that has for centuries been a link between Asia and Africa, with a proud musical tradition of its own. The festival will introduce Matona and the Zanzibar Taarab Ensemble – one of the best groups of the genre – to European audiences. Zanzibari president Dr. Ali Mohamed Shein will be a special guest of honour and will come to Würzburg for the opening of the festival.
The festival kicks off on Thursday 4 June with performances by Moroccan artist Oum, promoting her first international album, ‘Soul of Morocco’, and legendary German saxophonist Klaus Doldinger’s collaborative project 'Passport to Morocco'. On Friday 5 June, the stage will be headlined by Paris-based, Guinean singer and guitarist Moh! Kouyate with his special guest Mariama from Sierra Leone, who started her career in the band of Nigerian star Ade Bantu. Also on the bill that night will be Malian singer/guitarist Habib Koité with his band Bamada, who return to the Africa Festival two years after their last performance.
Saturday 6 June will see performances by Zambia’s rising star Namvula, still riding high on the success of her debut album ‘Shiwezwa’, performing for the first time in Germany. That night will also see South African Afro-soul star Lira return to the Würzburg stage after her debut at the Africa Festival in 2009. On the final day of the festival, Sunday 7 June, Moroccan six-piece band Bob Maghrib will bring their signature blend of ‘Gnawa Reggae’ to the festival, re-interpreting Bob Marley’s reggae classics on traditional Moroccan instruments. Also performing on Sunday will be Paris-based Cape Verdean reggae princess Mo’Kalamity and her band The Wizards, playing tracks from their new album ‘Freedom of the Soul’.
Other artists to look out for at the Africa Festival include German oud player Roman Bunka, whose music career started in Würzburg, with his newly-formed Shamandura Project. He also plays guitar for German world music pioneers Dissidenten, who will be accompanied by Egyptian superstar Mohammed Mounir. Also on the bill are two of the most celebrated young female artists in African at the moment, Shishani from Namibia and Marema from Senegal.
Evidence of the festival’s popularity, the organisers recently announced that tickets for Friday and Saturday have already sold out, and that tickets for Thursday and Sunday are running out fast. To buy one of the remaining tickets or to check out the full festival programme, go to the festival website. Television channel ARTE is a partner of the event and will broadcast selected performances.