Montreal, the city of 100 festivals, was to celebrate this August the 10th anniversary of one its most recent cultural events, Orientalys Festival. Although there won’t be any food stands nor big stages erected on the Old Port this year, you can rest assured that great beats are still on the menu thanks to a selection of over 50 online shows and activities, broadcast on the festival’s own virtual platform from Sept. 10 to 13, 2020.
As we saw in past Safe&Sound columns, for the time being, digital is the new normal, and artists, as well as festivals, have to re-invent themselves to try and meet their public in virtual gatherings.
A new virtual platform
This is why Orientalys decided to invest in a brand new online platform designed to support live streams, as well as several simultaneous video screenings, explained Emily Aouad, Head of Programming and Communications for Orientalys.
While 65% of the virtual experiences will be filmed live in outdoor or indoor venues, Aouad said the public won’t be allowed to attend in order to avoid any risk of crowds, which could result in a possible expansion of the pandemic.
The festival’s team has been working day and night to offer a virtual edition “as if you were here”, Aouad said. Although some shows or activities were pre-recorded, establishing a connexion with Montreal festival-goers has always been at the center of the preoccupations.
For example, most foreign artists featured in this online edition have performed in late July at Paris’ Le Cabaret Sauvage (The Wild Cabaret) during the special event Festival des Confinés. Because of the travel ban, international artists couldn’t fly to Montreal, so the Parisian world music venue has agreed to an exclusive recording of its live shows – with a physical audience, s’il-vous-plaît.
The repertoire of the French artists is made up of protest songs interpreted in the traditional Bohemian punk-rock style that is popular with the French youth. Imagine a circus-like atmosphere, or a village fair, and people singing, dancing around and pounding like teenagers.
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💥J-1 avant notre week-end spécial : Festival des Confinés – 24.25.26 Juillet 2020 ! 🎵Au programme : @sidi_wacho, @souad_asla @lacaravanepasseofficiel @felocheofficiel @larmee_mexicaine @sandrankake et bien d'autres 🌞 🕒15H00 à 23H00 🍻Bar & 🌭Restauration sur place 😷 Port du masque obligatoire à l'entrée
Gipsy for a day
Quebec festival-goers who love East European music will be glad to reunite with the long-established band Les Gitans de Sarajevo – founded in 1998 by two childhood friends who met again in Montreal – or Oktopus, made up of eight classically-trained musicians mixing Klezmer with Quebecois traditional riffs.
La Caravane Passe was chosen to kick off the Orientalys festival on Sept. 10 with its cheerful mix of Gypsy jazz, Balkan brass, alternative rock, and a pinch of punk and electro. Highly festive, they have recorded a series of hilarious lockdown videos to cheer up their fans during the pandemic.
This means “a furious desire to dance” and sing to Roma violins and clarinets, but also understanding “the perspective of the migrant”, he adds, “without big words or moralism.”
A tribute to Rachid Taha
Feterman co-authored and produced the last album by legendary Algerian rocker Rachid Taha, released after his death in 2018. Taha’s made a huge success with his own version of The Clash’s hit, Rock the Casbah.
On Sept. 12, virtual festival-goers will be able to sing along Rachid Taha’s songs when his former band takes the stage. L’armée mexicaine (“The Mexican Army”) will be paying a tribute to the late rocker. Alongside his faithful musicians will be the visceral voice of the Algerian singer Sofiane Saidi, who comes from Oran, the land of raï beats.
The third French band, called “Collectif Déconfiné”, will play rebellious, social songs in the same style. The festive collective includes members of La Rue Kétanou and Massilia Sound System, two extremely popular bands who have been around for the last 20 or 30 years, joined by members of Mon Côté Punk.
Another very famous Algerian singer passed away this year: Idir, who always championed his Berber culture. The songs that the Montreal band Berbanya (meaning “Berber rhythms’) has been performing over the last decade tell stories of the great Berber people whose territory stretched throughout North Africa, from the Mediterranean Sea to Egypt, and all the way south to the Nile River. They will play the repertoire of the great Idir and songs from their own album.
Tibet meets France meets Scandinavia meets India
In a very different style, but still very much based on an identity search through exile and travel is a band that navigates on less chartered waters. A band that was born following very special musical encounters.
A travelling Tibetan musician and dancer met a French violinist who had explored Northern Europe and they in turn met a percussionist who studied in India and the Middle East. Together, they are Kyab Yul-Sa, which means in Tibetan “Land of Exile”.
The trio got great reviews in Europe for their inspired, soothing compositions. It was to perform a tour in Canada this summer… Well, you know the rest of the story. Luckily, they are offering a show exclusively filmed for Orientalys virtual festival-goers. If you want to see them performing live, it is just a matter of patience: there are good chances they can finally meet the North American public next year – if the coronavirus allows.
In the same lines of more quiet, Asian music, and at the exact opposite of La Caravane passe, Emily Aouad suggests paying attention to Montreal’s only Japanese chamber music ensemble, Matsu Take (meaning “Pine and Bamboo”).
To enjoy a quiet atmosphere, you might also want to watch a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, or follow the harmonious calligraphy performed by a Maroccan and a Japanese master as two musicians transcend their art with improvisations on an oud (Oriental ancestor to the European lute) and a shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese guitar).
Cooking workshops filmed in the home kitchens of Algerian, Iranian and Syrian Montrealers, and Oriental, Indian or Afhani dance workshops are also available so you can learn how to move your hips to the music.
Read our previous Safe & Sound music columns:
- US and Canadian festivals team up for a month of virtual world music shows
- Montreal’s Mural Estival closes the summer with street art and music
- “Fait Vivir”, a road movie about Canadian music gypsies in Colombia
- Music industry delegates meet online at a new global conference in Toronto
- Brazilian artist Diogo Ramos sings his love for Quebec, diversity and freedom