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UpBeat - From village bar gigs to full-blown festivals

UpBeat - From village bar gigs to full-blown festivals

From village bar gigs to full-blown festivals, there’s going to be a lot for music-lovers to enjoy during the next few months. Our music columnist Roger Moss investigates...

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No matter how much we like to get out and support live music during the winter period, for many reasons – as the recent snowy period proved – it’s simply not always possible. And when audience numbers dwindle, venues must think long and hard about the economics of booking live acts, however talented. But if winter tends to be a lean period for musicians, when people start to come back out of the woodwork, and the first of a new season’s visitors arrives, the whole mood suddenly changes. Quiet nights by the fireside fade into distant memories, the days grow longer and opportunities for lovers of live music begin to expand considerably. It’s a good feeling – and if we all get out and support our local regular venues and we’ll not only get to see and hear some great acts, but will also help to keep the music flowing and encourage those of us who make it strive to raise our sights.

Talking of which, if you sense that maybe the time has come to broaden your musical outlook, look no further than the heart of la Charente. Summer in France is Festival Season, and the region kicks things off each year with what has become an important fixture on the musical calendar (and not just locally). Angoulême’s Musiques Métisses, now in its 37th year, began as a showcase for jazz and musical improvisation from France and elsewhere, with some impressive artiste line-ups, including Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Stéphane Grapelli, Muddy Waters, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Buddy Guy, and countless other big names. Over the years, however, a subtle shift has taken place, in response to a steady growth in fans of World Music. Among the eclectic roll-call of artists who have already played in previous poly-cultural editions are Sly & Robbie, Johnny Clegg, Salif Keïta, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Youssou N’Dour and Dee Dee Bridgewater.

This year’s event runs from 25-27th May, and the line-up includes: Blitz The Ambassador (Ghana/USA), Inna de Yard (Jamaica), Amadou & Mariam (Mali), Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa (Morocco), Lo’Jo & Guests (France/Ile Maurice), Staff Benda Bilili (Congo), and more besides. In fact, Musiques Métisses has become such a key event for both artistes and music professionals from around the world that each year event programmers from France and overseas come to Angoulême to discover new talent, sign contracts and set up national and international tours. ‘Exotic’ is putting it mildly – so you’d better take your sunglasses! Meantime, you’ll find more details, including ticket sales-points and lots of practical information here: www.musiques-metisses.com

Hot on the heels of this colourful festival curtain-raiser come a succession of other major annual events, including Cognac’s Blues Passions (whose programmers this year have signed Sting, Tom Jones, Hugh Laurie and Belgium’s Selah Sue, and broadened things with the slightly less-bluesy Cranberries). More details as they emerge here: www.bluespassions.com.

So, keep your eyes and ears open to keep up to date with what’s happening – and help make it a successful summer for everyone involved by helping us (and the venues) spread the word. And above all, enjoy your music! .