The 2017 International Jazz and World Music Festival got under way in Nanjing Friday evening, in which a range of eclectic performances delighted a near capacity crowd, but it was a highly unconventional trio of musicians from France who were the highlight of the night.
With its opening ceremony taking place, as it has for the past several years, at the Nanjing Culture and Arts Centre, the festival shall over the next 10 days travel to four other cities in Jiangsu, no doubt to the delight of local fans of jazz and world music.
Those who get to see the French group Boréale perform shall be the luckiest ones.
The band’s biography compares Boréale to the North Pole, where the meridians of the continents converge; Boréale unites the axis of compositions in folk, dance and world music from the four corners of the Earth.
Such a formula runs the risk of producing music that is entirely derivative, or a mix that cannot really find its true music identity. It is a testament to the band members that their creativity has yielded a sound that is entirely new. In a world in which every conceivable combination of music; genres, notes, chords and arrangements, has been tried, it is a rare thing indeed to come across a sound as unique and refreshing as Boréale.
Yet, perhaps the true star of the show was not the band themselves, but their range of instruments, and how they chose to employ them. On chromatic button accordion and classical guitar, Rémy Tatard; on percussion and bass, Léo Danais; and on cornemuses, steel drums and flutes, Boris Trouplin.
Of particular note, Danais’ use of a cello bow to play bass, and Trouplin’s entrance to the concert, from the rear of the hall, barefoot, progressing toward the stage playing a cornemuse, part of the family of French bagpipes.
Throughout the seven performances at the festival’s opening ceremony, a video wall behind the bands presented a dazzling array of motion graphics. While we could have done without the gaudy, hallucinogenic, light tunnel animations, the urban time lapse scenes at times were the perfect accompaniment to a jazz performance, a genre that, after all, is tied deeply into the very heartbeat of many a city.
The 2017 International Jazz and World Music Festival runs until 24th October, in the cities of Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuxi, Huai’an and Lianyungang in Jiangsu Province.