Monday, May 18, 2009

Africa Day 2009 in Limerick

Africa Day yesterday, though the weather gods didn't take much notice, bringing us a deluge of Limerick rain, rather than the more appetising and warming climes from faraway African lands.

Despite the on/off showers, it was heartening to see hundreds of local people come out to support this Irish Aid-sponsored event, held behind City Hall, in the shadow of King John's Castle.

A riot of colour - a bazaar if you will - greeted you on arrival, as food stalls, information tents and drumming groups dotted the inner sanctum of city hall and the delightful green space out the back.

Wandering through the festival, one was greeted by the hip-hop stage first, located conveniently across from the food stalls; the juxtaposition of fine Africa food, tinged with bouncing hip-hop made for a wonderful assault on the senses.

Further up through the festival and right in front of the Castle Tavern was the main stage, situated up against the back wall of the castle and boasting stunning views across and down the river. Surely one of the most picturesque spots in the city and a new festival venue? More on that anon.

As I arrived, the delightful Cathy Davey was just beginning her set, sprinkling favourites from her Tales of Silversleeve album with new, seemingly darker material from her forthcoming release, due to be recorded this summer.

A large crowd had gathered to hear Ms Davey, but were ultimately rewarded by a rain shower towards the end of the set.

Undettered, they remained in situ for Congolese guitarist Niwel Tsumbu - due to play at Electric Picnic this year - who impressed with his eclectic blend of rumba, jazz and flamenco inspired African rhythms, complete lyrics in his native Lingala.

Offaly native Mundy took to the stage next, warming up for a big finish with material from his less than inspiring recent release Strawberry Blood. However, when you can finish with the anthemic July and mix a cover of MIA's Paper Planes with the biggest hit of last year - Galway Girl - and receive this kind of reaction, you have to be doing something right.

Chatting to On The Beat back stage, Mundy seemed relaxed and happy, something he put down to the recent birth of his first child, a girl. Mundy said he thought Africa Day was a "a great thing. It is great to see the merge of two cultures and even to be asked to be involved in something like this - which is a bit different to what I would normally play - it is nice to be a part of something."

He added: "I was doing my rain dance, but I think July is what brought the good weather back out."

The Offaly man was followed by the Children of Soweto - a real highlight on a sodden afternoon. This trio of exuberant African performers gave us a lesson in gospel and acapella hymns, celebrating the core beauty of South African history through poetry and the pulsating rhythms of traditional dance and music. Fantastic.

Finally, the excellent and energetic Republic of Loose drew proceedings on the main stage to a close. Despite the rainfall, this seven-piece trio drew a smile from the sizeable, hardy crowd that stuck out the rain to see them - quirky frontman Mick Pyro doing his best to get the crowd bouncing, and succeeding.

A superb day all round, Irish Aid are to be congratulated for sponsoring such an event, one that drew two core cultures together, sprinkled liberally with diversity and positivity.

Word around the site was that this could be an annual event - possibly at least for the next three years - while local promoters are gearing up to use the site for a big commercial gig later in the year. The site can potentially hold up to 3,500 people On The Beat was told.
Let's get to it!
(pics courtesy of Don Moloney/Press 22)

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