Mary Tutwiler

Love your festival? Check it out

by Mary Tutwiler

It’s sunny, it’s warm, robins are flocking on the lawn, who cares if it’s January, it’s spring in Acadiana. And spring says one thing (aside from crawfish): Festival International. The festival’s line up this year includes Afrobeat standout Seun Kuti and Eqypt 80, Cambodian/US fusion band Dengue Fever and the Crocodile Gumboot Dancers of South Africa.

Sean Kuti, younger son of Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti, has been playing with his father’s raucous band, Egypt 80, since he was eight, and took over the horn-laden 16-piece ensemble after his father’s death in 1997. Look for West African rhythms injected with hip-hop grooves and a dose of James Brown soul. Cambodian vocalist Chhom Nimol hooks up with a five member Los Angeles indie rock band to raise the temperature in the fusion band Dengue Fever. Nimol recreates the pre Khmer Rouge pop of the 1960s, mashed up with psychedelia, spaghetti western guitars, the lounge groove of Ethiopian soul and Bollywood soundtracks. Like spirituals sung by slaves in the American south to signal, in code, the route of the Underground Railroad, gumbooting was born as a way to overcome forbidden communication by tribal members in the gold mines of South Africa. Deep underground, the slapping and stomping of feet clad in rubber boots turned into an art form, providing the rhythm for songs of tribulation. Today, the rich harmonies of South African music are often accompanied by the dance steps of groups like the Crocodile Gumboot Dancers. Click here to see the entire list of festival performers.

Festival International, since its inception in 1986, has been a free festival. To help support the five day music, food and arts romp in downtown Lafayette, the festival sells pins. A five dollar donation buys a yearly pin, each one adapted from the current poster. This year poster artist Kate Ferry, and designers Anne and Curtis Darrah collaborate to create the 2009 festival pin. The UL Cinematic Arts Workshop filmed a video for the festival to encourage attendants to buy a pin. Called Love Your Festival. Buy a Pin, you can watch the informercial here: