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'A magical place': Enjoy global sounds at Esperanzah! festival

10:23 01/08/2017

Marseille hip-hop outfit IAM make their sole Belgian appearance this year at the Esperanzah! world music festival in Floreffe Abbey to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their cult album L’École du Mictro d’Argent as well as new album Rêvolution.

The extensive line-up also includes multi-instrumentalist folk duo Pierce Brothers from Australia and American jazz grandee Gregory Porter. Set in a historic site overlooking the river Sambre, the three-day event moves to the rhythm of original music and a brighter and greener philosophy of life.

Since 2002, Esperanzah! has been stirring the conscience of thousands of festival-goers. Founder and director Jean-Yves Laffineur shares his vision and explains the event’s vision.

"The inspiration for Esperanzah was a concert by Manu Chao: I wanted to replicate his positive stage energy on stage in the setting of a festival. I thought of Floreffe Abbey as a venue because it’s such a magical place and has a great atmosphere.

"I had worked in the social sector so this was the source for the ethos of the festival’s progressive philosophy. At that time we didn’t talk about sustainable development, but more about political and social responsibility. We have always been concerned about informing youngsters about ethical questions, and this year we’re running the campaign Des Ponts Contre Leurs Murs (Bridges Against Their Walls), which tackles migration and closed centres, the fiftieth anniversary of the occupation of Palestine, and diversity.

"The festival has evolved in its ecological character and social equality; when it was set up this was an area that no other event occupied. Naturally, the musical programme has progressed, becoming more modern while remaining faithful to its original musical style. Esperanzah is about discovering di erent and often unknown styles of music and artists. There are three stages, each with a different identity and ambiance: the best traditional sounds and rhythms from around the world; contemporary musicians from developing countries; headliners and festival favourites.

"One of my favourites is the BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) collective from a Soweto township in South Africa. The sextet produce a hallucinating sound which is a mix of rock, percussion, soul, rap, psychedelia and traditional harmonies. “The festival also runs parallel activities. Street theatre developed slowly but now has an important role, as does our mini documentary film festival and village for kids."

Esperanzah! festival, 4-6 August, Floreffe Abbey. This article first appeared in WAB (Wallonia and Brussels) magazine

Written by The Bulletin