The Montreal International Jazz Festival, now in its 37th edition, is regarded as the world’s largest jazz festival. The music lineup includes ambassadors of jazz and blues – as well as a generous dose of artistes in world music and fusion. See my write-up from last year’s edition here; fans of jazz and world music can check out my app ‘Oktav’ as well, a collection of witty quotes about music (available on Apple iTunes and Android).
The 2016 edition of MIJF featured artistes from Canada, USA, Japan, Norway, Turkey, Mexico, Senegal, Mauritania, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and Guadeloupe. The festival organizers estimate that the acts drew two million attendees, spread over 10 days and two dozen venues. The long summer days of late June and early July made for perfect outdoor performances, along with ticketed indoor events as well.
Check out some of the highlights in this photo tour of MIJF 2016, and make sure you attend the 2017 edition!
Paris-based Mauritanian singer-songwriter Daby Toure kicked off Day One of MIJF 2016. He delivered a pleasing set of ‘Afropean’ music, featuring tracks from five of his albums, and occasionally drummed on his guitar as well. He has earlier founded the group Touré Touré, and sings in Fulani, Soninke and Wolof.
Formed in Beirut, Arabic alt-rock group Mashrou’ Leila played to a packed concert hall with their blend of indie rock, ballads and electronica. Their music has addressed topics such as politics, social taboos and religion in the Middle East.
Ceu – Maria do Céu Whitaker Poças – was born into a distinguished Brazilian musical family, and began her career at the age of 15. Her indoor set at MIJF drew fans from across North America, and she performed a mix of Brazilian popular music, samba, reggae and electronica. Her albums include Vagarosa and Ao Vivo.
Guitarist Denis Chang draws on gypsy jazz influences such as Django Reinhardt, and has studied with Fapy Lafertin, Ritary Gaguenetti and Emmanuel Kassimo. He performs across Europe and the US, and has released a series of educational DVDs. He performed two sets at MIJF 2016 in an intimate indoor café.
The Cuban Martinez Band had the crowd on their feet with an infectious set of salsa, merengue, bachata and more. Anchored by Yordan Martinez, the band performed in an astonishing venue at the back of a church near the jazz district!
A Haitian institution since 1963, the Orchestre Tropicana d’Haïti is a legendary big band on a 50-year mission to showcase and enhance Haitian culture. Their recent release is Bravo Tropic, and the band had the audience on their feet for a set of sensuous hip-swaying dance.
Samito is a singer-songwriter from Montreal, whose music blends acoustica and electronica. The lyrics and style are reflective of his upbringing in Maputo. Samito sang in Portuguese, French, English and Xitswa, offering a textured set of commentary on the changing times.
Born in Mexico and raised in California, award-winning singer-songwriter Lila Downs performed a sold-out standing-room only set reflecting her deep studies of musicology as well as stage charisma. Cumbia, jazz, ballads and stunning visual animation set the tone for commentary on women’s rights, immigration and poverty in Mexico. Her albums include Pecados y Milagros and Balas y Chocolate.
One of the extraordinary bands at MIJF 2016 was Baba Zula, with a mix of Turkish dub and psychedelia. Traditional Turkish instruments, wild costumes and theatrical delivery regaled the audience and provided them with a sense of Istanbul’s underground cult movement.
Mariachi Flor de Toloache, named for the legendary Toloache flower of Mexico, is an all-female mariachi band. They were nominated for the Latin Grammy in 2015. Their original costumes and ambience blended with modern takes on classic and contemporary tunes, and had the audience clapping and chanting along loudly during their two outdoor sets.
Singer-songwriter Malika Tirolien from Guadeloupe performed a superb outdoor set. She had the audience on their feet for a smooth mix of Afro-Caribbean jazz and urban beat.
Young Senegalese singer-composer Ilam has already won a range of awards in Canada, and receives wide radio airplay. His spicy outdoor set of reggae, blues, Afro-folk, pop and rock kept the audience dancing even during a slight shower; concert-goers were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow afterwards.
Pianist David Bontemps heads Montreal-based Afro-Caribbean jazz band Makaya. Formed in 2006, the quintet includes percussionist Cydric Féréol, guitarist and singer Jude Deslouches, bassist Nicolas Bédard and congas player Emmanuel Delly. Caribbean rhythms blended with jazz and Creole during their MIJF set; the band has also performed at Montréal’s Creole Festival and released their first album in 2009.
AfroDizz was one of the most sensational bands at MIJF 2016. This Montreal group is anchored by jazz guitarist Gabriel Aldama, who is deeply influenced by Nigerian Afrobeat maestro Fela Kuti. The eight musicians delivered a superb set of Afrobeat, jazz and funk. Their albums include Kif Kif, Froots (2006) and Sounds from Outer Space.
More about the festival at www.montrealjazzfest.com