Event Review: Africa Now @ OGR (Turin, Italy; Saturday 22nd September to Thursday 18th October 2018)

africa now

In recent years, Turin has gained quite a reputation in the music world for its electronic/dance-oriented scene, being the host city of Italy’s largest electronic music festival, Club to Club. Nevertheless, the city has much more to offer, with new upcoming events and festivals popping up year after year.

One of them is the newborn Africa Now – a new music festival exploring the sounds of contemporary African music. Hosted in OGR – Officine Grandi Riparazioni, a gigantic 18th-century train repair workshop factory – the festival occurred in three separate gigs, one every two weeks, so as to give to each act the relevance it deserved.

The festival kicked off on September 22nd with a gig many were waiting for: music legends Tony Allen and Jeff Mills joined forces to present their upcoming album Tomorrow Comes The Harvest. The gig seemed divided into two parts: in the first half it was Allen’s organic grooves that led the music, while in the second half Mills’ quantised hammering drums were in charge. It was a 90-minute-long jam session with the two exploring the potential of their rhythms intertwined – an exciting yet tricky challenge. At times the result of the two grooves together felt like a totally new and compelling way of making music, but to many people’s disappointment, Allen and Mills fell out of sync cyclically, making it difficult for the crowd to stay with the flow. 

Two weeks later, it was time for another music wonder-couple: the Grammy-nominated Malian duo Amadou & Mariamwho have been together for 20 years – as musicians and as husband and wife. Accompanied by a full band, the two warmed the crowd’s hearts from minute one with an energy-filled performance led by the irresistible groove of their music and their voices, festive and soothing at once. The love and energy the two brought on stage spread through the spacious hall of OGR, making people dance and jump joyously and also immerse in the slower songs.

The band was preceded by Sonoristan, the music project by Italian guitarist Riccardo Onori and trombonist Gianluca Petrella – and followed by Turinese DJ couple Afronautica.

The festival’s last appointment was on October 18th with a great feast on the notes of Bombino’s unique desert blues. Before him, Italian guitarist Adriano Viterbini of Bud Spencer Blues Explosion came on stage with Cuban percussionist, trumpeter and singer Jose Ramon Caraballo Armas. The two played beautifully together in an evocative and touching performance that left the audience hypnotised and speechless. A few minutes after the end of their performance, Bombino came on stage with his band, all dressed in traditional Tuareg clothes. In less than a minute, the Nigerian musician inflamed the hall of OGR with his characteristic electric guitar riffs and incessant North-African rhythms that made the crowd dance and cheer enthusiastically for two good hours of musical ecstasy. To everyone’s surprise, he was later joined on stage by Viterbini for a brief yet intense few minutes, a beautiful moment in which two visions of the blues blended together.

Once the gig was over, some people – still electrified by the performance – stayed to dance a little more to the closing DJ set, while others went home in the cold night with the warmth of the African sun in their hearts.

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