By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Once again celebrating the best of African and Afro-Brazilian culture and heritage, the Back2Black festival returns to Rio this weekend, at the city’s prestigious Theatro Municipal (Municipal Theatre) starting Friday, May 25th.
The line-up is packed with both Brazilian and international luminaries, including Gilberto Gil, Mariene de Castro, as well as artists from further afield, such as Sona Jobarteh, a singer and kora player from the Gambia.
The night will be hosted by Cape Verde singer and composer and former Minister of Culture, Mário Lúcio, as well as Bahian composer and instrumentalist Letieres Leite, who will be conducting two orchestras: his award-winning Orkestra Rumpillez and the ‘Ensemble de Cordas da Orquestra Maré do Amanhã’ (String Ensemble of the Tide of Tomorrow Orchestra).
The two main composers will then bring on guests such as Gilberto Gil, fresh from his residency at Copacabana’s Theatro Net, as well as other Brazilian artists such as the Carioca singer and ballerina Natasha Llerena, and fellow Carioca and Latin Grammy nominee Mart’nália.
Another highlight of Back2Black this year will be Bahian musician Mariene de Castro, who performed at the 2016 Rio Olympics closing ceremony, and British-Gambian singer and kora player Sona Jobarteh will also be performing.
Interviewed in a local media outlet, Connie Lopes, the director and founder of the festival, commented, “In Brazil, at the hands of Back2Black, a pioneer in the motivation to join the world to celebrate Africa, this day is remembered for the first time, with the size and visibility that Africa deserves. Celebrating, we exercise gratitude, fight forgetting and challenge injustices.”