One could be forgiven for believing they were at a typical European summer festival last weekend at the Acacia Jazz Festival.
The unyielding heat, stretched out beer tents, the plethora of
international delicacies, a playground for animated kids (many whom had
their face painted in supernovae of colors), and the lavish green garden
scenery, all provided the backdrop for a weekend that was dedicated to
the multifarious genre of jazz.
Tucked in amongst houses and
embassies around Bole road, the Floral Tropical Gardens provided a
magnificent outdoor venue for this series of concerts. It was like
stumbling upon an oasis in the middle of a sandy urban desert, swinging
to the rhythms of jazz.
The two-day event played host to a
multitude of bands and styles that encompass the vast diversity that
jazz has embraced. The genre is a blank canvas for cultures and
movements to impose their own styles and trademarks and this was evident
at the festival, with groups such as the Cuban influenced Eshi Havana,
German avant-gardists Der Rote Bereich, and while the likes of Nubian
Arc, the Addis Acoustic Project, the delightful Munit Mesfin, and
Starting at 11 a.m., Saturday’s line-up included
Jazzmaries, 251, Urban Vibes, and the legendary and still-kicking
Express Band. The festival’s second and final day lasted well into the
night (and past the reported closing time), featuring Munit and Jorg,
Addis Acoustic Project, Der Rote Bereich, Eshi Havana, and Zeritu, who
was backed by the jovial collective of the Zemen band.
due respect to all the artists that made the weekend memorable, a
special mention should be attributed to Munit, as well as her talented
guitarist Jorg. She exuded an effortless charm and plenty of charisma
that demanded the audience get up on its feet and start moving. Plenty
of jokes and shout-outs to her family mirrored the familial atmosphere
of the festival and while it is tough and wholly unfair to claim a
favorite moment from the weekend, on more than one occasion was it
overheard that her performance was a favorite.
In the bright and
arduous afternoon sun, the crowd was happy to sit on the lush grass
space facing the stage. As the night began to obscure the light and the
temperature dropped, the energy level quickly rose and dancing and
jubilation extended into the rest of the night.
It was only the
second annual installation of the Acacia Jazz Festival but it was
quickly evident that there will be more, with some online sources
claiming up to five thousand people having turned up. As long as they
keep the verdant and arboreal surrounds, we already look forward to next
By Henry Guyer