By Chesney Hearst, Senior 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. During the three days of music (November 15-17th), the event will fill its new home of Barra da Tijuca’s Cidade das Artes, spreading into the venue’s outdoor space with more than thirty live music performances, exhibitions, debates and film screenings.
This year’s musical lineup again features legendary national and international artists including American singer-songwriter Bobby Womack, the Nigerian Femi Kuti, son of musician and afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, Milton Nascimento and Criolo alongside Tony Allen, Fela Kuti’s former drummer.
A series of talks during the festival also features some very special guests in the form of Reverend Jesse Jackson and Gilberto Gil.
The previous four editions of Back2Black took place in the atmospheric old train station Estação Leopoldina, and this will be the festival’s first time in the Cidade das Artes and the first international music festival to be held in the venue since its official opening earlier this year.
“After I became familiar with the Cidade das Artes, I realized the potential of this magnificent area,” said Connie Lopes, managing director of event producers Zoocom. “We left the city for the contemporary in order to activate and occupy this complex of rooms, open spaces, gardens and lakes with the diversity and swing of black culture.”
Divided up into sections, the shows plan to fully utilize Cidade das Artes’s impressive space. The Palco Rio (Rio Stage), with its 5,000-person capacity, will serve as the main arena, with the 1,300-capacity Cidade das Artes auditorium known as the Grande Sala (The Great Room), holding four intimate shows. The venue’s Teatro de Câmara theater and an outdoor space known as the Palco Estrombo stage will also host shows and talks.
On Friday, November 15th Congolese rapper/singer Baloji will open the festival as the first performer on the Palco Rio stage. Known for combining African rhythms with a myriad of musical elements, Baloji will be joined by Mc Marechal, considered by many to be a pioneer of freestyle rap in Brazil.
Nigerian singer and guitarist Keziah Jones will follow with his bluesy sounds interspersed with a little funk and São Paulo native Criolo follows, joined by Fela Kuti’s ex-drummer Tony Allen.
Femi Kuti, eldest son of the aforementioned Nigerian musical legend Fela, will play with his band The Positive Force at around midnight. Also on opening day, influential MPB (Brazilian popular music) artist, Milton Nascimento will play in the Grande Sala (8:30PM).
On the second day of the festival, Cape Verdean singer Mayra Andrade will open the Palco Stage, followed by the Senegalese Orchestra Baobab (9PM). An all-star tribute to the famous South African singer and 1960s civil rights activist, Miriam Makeba, will follow (10:30PM).
Five-time Grammy Award winners, The Blind Boys of Alabama will also play in the Grande Sala (8:30PM), and the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Gilberto Gil will discuss the theme of Democratization and Development in Africa in the Teatro de Câmara (6PM).
For the final day of the festival, American R&B legend Bobby Womack will open the Palco Rio stage followed by an all-star tribute to godfather of soul and pioneer of funk, James Brown. The Grande Sala welcomes a tribute to Vinicius de Moraes and Nigerian/Spanish singer Buika beings her pop-infused Flamenco to the stage to close out three days full of the rich culture of a great musical force, Africa.
What: Back2Black 2013
When: November 15th-17th
Where:Cidade das Artes
Avenida das Américas, 5300 – Barra da Tijuca
Tickets: Prices range from R$35 to R$200 and are available at Tickets for Fun (www.ticketsforfun.com.br).
For additional information about Back2Black, see the official website (back2blackfestival.com.br).