It was pretty much pandemonium when Montrealers cheered on Ivory Coast reggae hero Tiken Jah Fakoly at his sold-out concert at the Olympia earlier this year.
Fakoly called for peace and reconciliation among all Ivorians – a message he will take back to Montreal as godfather of this year’s 26th annual Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, in the city he considers something of a second home.
“When I am in Montreal I feel very much at home,” Fakoly said on the eve of his last Montreal concert. “There is a love affair between us.”
That likely has everything to do with Fakoly’s all-time favourite concert, which he headlined at the 2002 “Nuits d’Afrique” festival shortly after he contracted malaria in Africa.
Fakoly was so sick, he was bedridden in his Montreal hotel room for 72 hours popping Larium pills. On the fourth day, Fakoly didn’t know if he would have the strength to even make it to the outdoor “Nuits d’Afrique” stage.
But 10,000 diehard Reggae fans stood there waiting for him – a vigil of sorts.
“I willed myself on stage and I sang a great concert,” Fakoly recalled. “I was so happy. In (all my) years of performing, that concert is the one that has most marked my career.”
This year, “Nuits d’Afrique” is presenting a record 91 shows and workshops, given by more than 500 artistes from 32 countries.
Since its inaugural edition in 1987, the festival’s founding president and artistic director, Lamine Touré, has sought to establish, “Nuits d’Afrique” on equal footing with Montreal’s bigger festivals.