African beats come to London, with help from Brazil

Fri Jun 15, 2012 7:39am EDT
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By Angus MacSwan

LONDON (Reuters) - If African music is often wildly joyful and uplifting, its myriad variations were largely born from a history of slavery and suffering, imperialism and immigration.

It's a songline that stretches from South African townships to the Mississippi cotton fields and the favelas of Brazil to the streets of Brixton.

The stories and glories of African music and its global off-shoots will be celebrated in London from June 29-July 1, when a host of singers and players from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean come together for the Back2Black festival.

The three-day carnival will be hosted by Gilberto Gil, an elder statesman of Brazilian music, who has held the event in Rio de Janeiro for the past two years and has teamed up with the Barbican arts centre to bring it to the British capital.

The halls of Old Billingsgate Fishmarket will reverberate to the beat of funk, reggae, dub, hip-hop, samba, blues and jazz from artists such as South African Hugh Masekela, Mali's Amadou and Mariam, U.S. R'n'B star Macy Gray and Nigeria's Femi Kuti.

"One thing about African music, it's so eclectic. It involves different rhythms, chanting. You might not buy the records but it's the kind of music everyone can enjoy," Gray told Reuters in a telephone call from Los Angeles.

"It's also about politics and freedom. That makes it interesting - you get someone else's view of the world," said Gray, who performed at the Rio de Janeiro festival last year.

The idea to hold Back2Black in London arose when the Barbican approached Gil about performing there.   Continued...