African and Caribbean beats from France

Rochefort’s ‘Sites en Scenes’ Open Air Concert

Saturday night photos

Sunday night writing

I’m sitting outside, with the drum pounding through the loudspeaker and r -everberating round the open space alongside the batiments of Rochefort. The beat is so strong, I can almost feel the vibrations through the soft blades of grass under my bare feet.

The Caribbean rhythm, from the Martinique singer Kali is bringing back memories for me of Cuba – sitting out in the cool evening air under a clear blue sky that’s fading to a golden haze during the last moments before the sun sets, a refreshing breeze blowing gently across the pages of my journal (and inadvertently turning them too), whilst quietly sipping a margherita; the only difference now is I have a bottle of Bordeaux’s finest to sip instead. (Ok, so maybe not the finest, but certainly rather tasty!).

With dusk reigning in and the music just that bit livelier, the crowd nearest the stage are beginning to get involved; with arms waving in unison to the familiar chorus phrase and gently bobbing heads swaying with the music.

Further back, small groups are sat in clusters; families or friends, with children darting in between much less interested with the band than their own games of chase.

Then there’s the odd couple here and there, having a dance and clapping enthusiastically when one song reaches an end and a new rhythm takes over.

Adolescent girls are swinging their hips in time, unknowingly flirtatious, just having fun together.

A slightly drunk single guy attempting to dance but instead of a smooth reggae, a more disjointed series of jerks even Crouch would be proud of.

A lady of modest age and attire, who until now had been modestly and quietly sat next to her husband on deck chairs they thoughtfully brought along with them, is now vertical with modest hips twisting, shoulders moving up and down with the beat, elbows shaking self-consciously with the rhythm, trying to encourage her husband to dance.

He’s not interested; not particularly with his wife or with the music; laid back, arms crossed in a defiant way, glancing one way then the other, any way but to the stage.

The wife ignores him, but can’t quite ignore the fact that someone (anyone) may be watching and so continues with the modest hips shakes and shoulder bobs.

And the lady with the tight white trousers and bright orange sweater. She has it to flaunt – the huge head of tight black untameable curls, the large breasts and sizeable behind – and she flaunts it well. She doesn’t give a damn about who may or may not be watching her. She’s just enjoying the moment; the music; the song; the beat. We all are.

Yesterday was the same setting and a similar crowd, but the beat was an African one and the quietly sipped refreshment was a beer. Rather than bringing back memories of past travels, my mind wandered excitedly with expectation and anticipation of what Africa will have to bring, just months from now. The singer, Mounira Mitchala, a striking lady from Chad, with a powerful voice and evocative presence on stage, was joined by three musicians, a guitarist, bassist and drummer. Together, in the dimming light, I could easily forget I was in still in France and not in the depths of the Sahel – that is to come later.

(Written on 26th July,  my last of two nights in Rochefort, France.)