Belgian festival Couleur Café celebrates music from across the globe in a three-day fiesta. The predominant focus is on Afro-Carribean music in its many forms, be they traditional African genres or modern styles pioneered by artists from around the world.
Each year, the lineup welcomes acts from a vast array of nations, whose musical styles draw from all manner of influences and traditions. We've dug a little deeper into these, exploring what each country represented on the lineup has to offer.
Naturally, as the festival takes place in the Brussels, there are plenty of Belgian acts on the Couleur Cafe lineup. Under the banner of its ongoing Be.Focus project, the festival shines the spotlight on exciting domestic talent.
Giving special place to the country's vibrant rap and hip-hop scene, the festival is once more presenting Niveau4, their concept that unites promising Belgian rappers in an exhilarating one hour set.
Caballero & Jeanjass, performers last year as part of Niveau4, have this year graduated to an hour-long set of their own. Elsewhere, one of the biggest names in French-speaking hip-hop Romeo Elvis, exciting rising star Coely, veteran of 'conscious hiphop' Scylla and Congoloese-born Baloji, who marries western rap with the central African sounds of his birth-nation, will all perform.
Beyond rap, the festival also welcomes reggae band Pura Vida, electropop duo Compact Disk Dummies, soulful singer-songwriter J. Bernadt, the diverse unpredictable DJ stylings of Lefto, and the Afro-influenced percussion collective Sysmo.
Dubioza Kolektiv are a unique force to be reckoned with; bold and uncompromising, they gained plaudits across the Balkan region around a decade ago thanks to their stand against the nationalist establishment. The band say that their take on traditional music is shaped by the war in their region that changed their lives forever, and their exploration of political ideas in fresh ways is presented in a fusion of rap, funk, rock, ska and traditional Balkan flavours.
Combining traditional sounds of Brazilian bossa nova and samba with modern reggae, ska and hip-hop is Flavia Coelho. Her upbeat rhythms and gorgeous melodies are irresistibly catchy.
Pioneers of Cuban hip-hop, Orishas helped to give the genre its own identity by introducing traditional Afro-Cuban percussion into their performances and music. Relocating to France at the turn of the millennium, the band helped to bring the sounds of rap Cubano to a wider global audience.
La Dame Blanche is another Cuban rapper, but one whose influences are drawn more from the surrounding nations than the traditional sounds of Cuba, including reggae, dancehall, and cumbia – a dance style that is widespread across Latin America.
As their name suggests, Tomi & Su Timbalight draw heavily on the Cuban genre of timba. The modern genre combines very clear elements of salsa, rumba and other traditional Cuban music styles with modern of North American funk, soul and jazz. A hugely high-energy melange of instrumentation and musical styles, it is not for anyone who favours minimalism and simplicity.
Mbongwana Star's 2015 album From Kinshasa met to universal critical acclaim from music journalists across the world upon its release. Post-punk and bluesy basslines, traditional Congolese rhythm and vocals, spaced-out electronic sounds, and elements of psychedelia make the music a melange of Western and African, and the result is a hugely intriguing and engaging sound.
Behind Belgium, France can boast the most performers on the lineup ar Couleur Cafe. Like the Belgian contingent, rap and hip-hop are heavily represented, be it MCs Kery James, Demi Portion and Vald or DJs Birdy Nam Nam and Guts.
Big-band Deluxe also incorporate hip-hop into their sets, but extend their style to pop, electro, swing, reggae, funk and jazz.
Patrice is German musician, born in the country to a Sierra Leonean father and German mother. This European and African mix shaped his musical upbringing, listening to the pan-African music of his father but also engaging with Western pop, hip-hop and punk through his interest in skating. Having formed afrobeat/reggae band Bantu, he now makes what he calls 'sweggae'.
His nickname 'The Bob Marley of Africa' should tell you all you need to know about Alpha Blondy. After meeting Rastafarians during his studies in the USA, he became passionate about the music that often accompanied the religious beliefs. On returning to Africa, he began to perform, putting an African twist on the traditional reggae sound, and singing in his native language of Dioula and another Cote D'Ivorian language Baoulé (as well as French and English).
Now a UN Peace Ambassador, he fights against poverty, social injustice, disease and to promote women's sufficiency and religious tolerance, all issues that are present in his music.
One of the most influential music exports and a huge influence on the music and ethos of Couleur Café is reggae, borne out of Jamaica. Its reach is undeniable, shaping music, culture and even religion across the world.
Scene pioneers and performers at this year's festival Toots & The Maytals are true legends of ska and rocksteady, and are credited by many with popularising the name 'reggae' in their 1968 single Do The Reggay.
Modern stars Damian Marley and Kabaka Pyramid are conscious and politically engaged musicians, built in the mould of reggae's greats (almost literally in the case of the former, as the youngest son of Bob Marley).
Known as 'The Songbird of Wassoulou', Oumou Sangare is one of Mali's most respected musical exports. She is a master of the genre that takes its name from the historic geographical region of its origin, and that many cite as the origin of American blues music.
Performed mostly by women, the often passionate and emotional lyrics in Wassoulou deal with issues such as childbearing, polygamy and the perceived roles of women in society. These are issues that Sangaré has spoken out about, as a strong advocate of women's rights and a vocal opponent of child-marriage and polygamy.
Lamomali, although formed and fronted by French musician Mathieu Chedid, is a project rooted in an exploration and love of Malian music. Legendary Malian musician and kora player Toumani Diabaté, his son Sidiki, and singer Fatoumata Diawara had a huge input in the album's creation.
A Rastafarian and reggae musician, what sets Martiniquais Yaniss Odua apart from many other reggae singers from the Caribbean is his language. Rather than the Jamaican patois that might be immediately associated with the genre, Odua sings in French.
Despite still being only 38, he can boast a quarter of a century in music having released his debut album aged 13.
Jungle By Night are an instrumental collective, specialising in afrobeat, jazz and funk fusion. Their credentials are undeniable, having worked with Seun Kuti – son of Fela Kuti, the most revered afrobeat musician of all time – and been labelled 'the future of afrobeat' by members of Fela Kuti's band.
Rapper and singer Ronnie Flex is part of an award winning Dutch rap collective New Wave, and his solo rap and RnB draws on dancehall infused pop rhythms. His performances with Deuxperience Band, however, allow for a more stripped back and intimate experience, featuring live guitars, percussion and vocal harmonies.
Emir Kusturica is a filmmaker, actor and musician who in the 1980s was at the forefront of a movement called 'New Primitivism', an irreverent and deliberately insincere movement that had echoes of western-punk. Now performing with The No Smoking Orchestra, he carries on the attitudes of the movement in the devil-may-care, Serbian punk outfit.
If any act on the Couleur Café lineup best sums up what the festival is all about, it may well be Batuk. Celebrating global sounds, the trio merge modern house with diverse elements of African dancefloor rhythms, prominently the likes of Angolan kuduru and Cote D'Ivorian zouglo. Additionally, the lyrics often address nature, family, politics, pain and emotion as opposed to simple hedonism that is often associated with modern electronic music.
Swedish-born, London-based soul singer Fatima has released music both on Floating Point's Eglo Records and on legendary jazz label Blue Note. Her stunning voice and gorgeous melodies have seen her praised as one of the neo-soul's most exciting talents.
A trumpet player and composer, Daniel Dzidzonu makes music that is inspired by traditional songs of West Africa, 20th century jazz, and afrobeat of recent years. Introduced to music by the brass band his father led – who performed at church services, weddings and funerals in his native Togo – he took up the trumpet and, now based in Brussels, has honed a unique style that brings a modern party style to the traditional roots of his sound.
Lianne La Havas was born in London to a Greek father and a Jamaican mother, but her music is seemingly more inspired by US soul, jazz and R&B. In fact, she cites the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu in shaping her decision to star singing.
Soul and jazz are also present in the music of South London rapper Loyle Carner, whose instrumentals – in the classic hiphop mould – draw from samples. These are punctuated by his honest and emotive lyrics that address personal loss and pain, showing a vulnerability that is often absent from modern rap music.
The USA is, of course, the home of hiphop, and their representation at the festival reflects the diversity of the genre: east-coast trio Flatbush Zombies, jazzy hip-hop veterans The Roots, XXL Mag 2016 freshman Lil Dicky, and exciting rising star Princess Nokia.
Also performing are soulful instrumentalist and singer JMSN, and Sango, a producer who combines elements of rap, trap, RnB, house, disco and Brazilian funk in his music.
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