Back2Black Festival 2010

By Felicity Clarke, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – Bringing together a diverse mix of musicians, writers, artists and thinkers from around the world, from August 27th the Back2Black Festival 2010 presents a three day fusion of African influences and contemporary pop expression in Brazil and beyond.

US neo-soul singer Erykah Badu headlines on Saturday night, photo by Erinc Salor/Flickr Creative Commons License.

With debates, music and art, the festival is a vital meeting of politics and culture with artists including Erykah Badu, Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart and Carlinhos Brown.

Building on the success of last year’s inaugural event that featured appearances by Bob Geldof and Youssef N’Odour, Back2Black 2010 will take over Estação Leopoldina, a train station in the center of Rio de Janeiro, with a conference and three stages of musical performances on Friday 27th, Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th of August.

Kicking off the proceedings on Friday evening is a debate on Human Rights and Civil Society with acclaimed Nigerian author Chris Abani, who was imprisoned three times for his writings, and the first female vice-president of Malawi, Joyce Banda.

The conference continues on Saturday with Eurythmics producer Dave Stewart, South African poet, musician and UNICEF ambassador Zola and Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, discussing the role of creativity in development.

On Sunday, the focus turns to literature, music and image, with a discussion panel including the Mozambique author Mia Couto, considered one of the most important Portuguese-language writers of the 20th century.

The festival’s musical line-up also goes some way to demonstrate the exciting diversity of African influences in global pop today. Among others, Friday sees Bahian musician Carlinhos Brown, who became internationally famous in the 1990s as leader of the group Timbalada, play the main Train Station stage while ZAKEE, a Philadelphia producer that has worked with M.I.A and Spank Rock, will be DJing on the Urban Stage.

Headlining the main stage on Saturday night is Grammy award-winning neo-soul superstar Erykah Badu. With her unique blend of jazz, R&B and hip hop combined with intelligent lyrics, Badu burst onto the scene with her acclaimed debut album Baduizm in 1997.

Badu has continued to simultaneously seduce and challenge fans ever since and this year caused controversy with the video for Window Seat in which she undresses walking along a Dallas, Texas sidewalk until she is naked at the point where President Kennedy was assassinated, falling dramatically to the ground as a gunshot ends the song.

On the Urban Stage on Saturday, Dave Stewart will be performing with singers Judith Hill, Nadirah X and his debate cohort from Friday, Zola.

South African poet, musician and actor Zola will be taking part in the debates and performing, photo courtesy of back2blackfestival.com.br.

Rounding off the festival on Sunday is Brazilian singer Elza Soares, named “Best Singer of the Millennium” by BBC London in 2000, and hugely influential blues musician Taj Mahal, while the Urban Stage is given over to DJs of the Baile do Viaduto de Madureira, considered the best and most traditional black baile funk in the city.

Alongside the bigger stages there will be an open space with emerging artists such as nineteen-year-old MPB singer Natasha Llerena and modern jazz group Quinteto Nuclear. Visually, the station is being adapted for the event by artists Vik Muniz and Gringo Cardia, with the space also including book stalls, bars and lounges.

The multi-faceted approach to the event is reflective of the organizer’s aims to create an exciting cultural meeting ground and stimulate thought and discussion. Explaining their outlook, Back2Black originators Connie Lopes and Júlia Otero say that “with its debates and attractions, Back2Black raises current and relevant themes. Our starting point is Africa – the arrival is the rest of the world.”

Tickets range from R$50 for one-day Urban Stage passes to R$200 for full three-day passes. For further details and ticket outlets visit back2backfestival.com.br.

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