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L’Afrique avant tout: Se souvenir du 31ème Festival International Nuits d’Afrique

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Members of the “kompa-happy” Full Sèvis. Photo by Danilo Navas

The evening of Friday the 21st of July could hardly be dissolved into the bottle-green darkness of the cool Montréal night without a proverbial doffing of the hat to the Moroccan pop-star, Abdel Kadiri, who brought his picture-perfect act to the main stage, complete with a DJ and beautiful dancers who sent his show heavenward and his audiences, who were singing along with him, into such rapturous applause it’s a wonder that he could complete even one of his songs. However, with a bottomless reserve of patience and charm and a disarmingly crocked smile, Mr Kadiri made it truly an evening to remember. A multiple award winner at the latest Sylis d’or de la musique du monde, Abdel Kadiri belongs to the same raï tradition that gave us the famous Algerian, Cheb Khaled and true to form also pulled off a memorable version “Didi” the raï anthem with which Khaled rocked the world in the summer of 1991. Abdel Kadiri also showed how versatile a singer he is, singing old and new songs in Arabic and French as well with his singular, natural mode of expression. Mr Kadiri also deserves credit for firm, intelligent shaping of this enterprising and rewarding recital, a major factor in the success of the evening at the Scène TD-ICI Musique venue.

Raï music star Abdel Kadiri. Photo by Danilo Navas

Montréal is the most populous municipality in the province of Quebec and the second-most populous in Canada. Originally the city was called “Ville-Marie”, or “City of Mary”. Archaeological evidence demonstrates that First Nations native people en route from Africa, of course, making the torturous route over hundreds, perhaps thousands of years from there, hugging the northern and southern European coastline they finally occupied the island of Montreal as early as 4,000 years ago. By the year AD 1000, from essentially fishermen, they had turned agriculturalists and started to cultivate maize. Within a few hundred years, they had built fortified villages. The Saint Lawrence Iroquoians, an ethnicity distinct from the Iroquois nations of the Haudenosaunee then based in present-day New York, established the village of Hochelaga at the foot of Mount Royal two centuries before the French arrived. Archeologists have found evidence of their habitation there and at other locations in the valley since at least the 14th century. The French explorer Jacques Cartier visited Hochelaga on October 2, 1535, and estimated the population of the native people at Hochelaga to be “over a thousand people”.

This year (2017), Montréal is celebrating 375 years since its founding by the French traveller and colonist. But in a sense the city owes a very large part of its cultural riches to the African, whose travels date back to Homo ergaster who may have been the first human species to leave Africa and fossil remains show this species had expanded its range into southern Eurasia by 1.75 million years ago. According to paleontologists Spenser Wells and Mark Read who published The Journey of Man – A Genetic Odyssey in 2002 (Random House, ISBN 0-8129-7146-9), Paleo-Indians originated from Central Asia, crossing the Beringia land bridge between eastern Siberia and present-day Alaska. Humans lived throughout the Americas by the end of the last glacial period, or more specifically what is known as the late glacial maximum, no earlier than 23,000 years before present. Details of Paleo-Indian migration to and throughout the American continent, including the dates and the routes traveled, are subject to ongoing research and discussion. However, until new information is accepted we must accept these dates. Estimates range from 40,000 to around 16,500 years ago. The routes of migration are also debated.

The traditional theory was proposed by Ds William Fitzhugh, Ives Goddard, Steve Ousley, Doug Owsley and Dennis Stafford who’s “Paleoamerican” palimpsest has been archived in the Smithsonian Institution Anthropology Outreach Office. The doctors suggest that these early migrants moved when sea levels were significantly lowered due to the Quaternary glaciation, following herds of now-extinct pleistocene megafauna along ice-free corridors that stretched between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets. Another route proposed (in The Scientific American) is that, either on foot or using primitive boats, they migrated down the Pacific coast to South America as far as Chile. Any archaeological evidence of coastal occupation during the last Ice Age would now have been covered by the sea level rise, up to a hundred metres since then. The recent finding of Australoid genetic markers in Amazonia supports the coastal route hypothesis by Ewen Callaway in “‘Ghost population’ hints at long-lost migration to the Americas: Present-day Amazonians share an unexpected genetic link with Asian islanders, hinting at an ancient trek” (Nature News, 2015).

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Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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