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Latin sounds in a French mine

by Daniel Brown

Article published on the 2008-11-06 Latest update 2008-11-07 18:30 TU

Artistic Director, Carlos Acciari(Photo: Daniel Brown)

Artistic Director, Carlos Acciari
(Photo: Daniel Brown)

Music, environment and the rights of the indigenous Wichi population in Latin America are at the heart of  the Normandoux Festival, a two-month cultural gathering in the French village of Tercé, some 20 km from Poitiers. World Tracks looks at this unique festival set in a disused stone quarry.

Latin sounds in a French mine

07/11/2008 by Daniel Brown

“This is a magical place,” says Christine, one of several hundred locals who attended the first-ever festival nicknamed La Carrière.

“I came here for the first time three weeks ago and I felt I was transported to another world. Just look at those stone walls there, and all this water. It’s all in a natural basin, shrouded in silence. What a great idea!”

The Normandoux festival combines nature with Latin American music, architecture and work by Argentine carpenters. The result is a remarkable experiment in the heart of France.

Christian Richard is the mayor of the nearest village, Tercé: “The cultural programme invented by (festival director) François Pin comes ten years after we campaigned to keep the quarry open. French law is formal: when a quarry closes it must be buried, so it does not present a danger to the public. I was against this, because this is part of our archeological, historical and cultural heritage going back to 1855."

"That’s why the town hall built a belvedere overlooking the quarry lake ten years ago. We also had posters telling the story of this quarry that was shut down in 1995.”

Five years ago, Pin fell in love with this quarry and decided to do something with it. The success of the first festival has guaranteed that there will be a 2009 follow-up edition.

“We must maintain a cultural programme that’s open to all age groups, underlines the Tercé mayor. “Take the music we’re listening to now, it’s perfect. But it can also be African, Chinese, French or European, why not? And there should also be a concert for the youth. There should be something for all tastes. It’s what you call tolerance.”

The Normandoux festival is not just about music, of course. There are also artistic installations, films, photo and video exhibitions and storytelling sessions. It is the music programme designed by bass player Carlos Acciari, that attracted the most plaudits. Acciari’s own band Sonora Brasilis headed a vintage line-up featuring the likes of  Raul Barbosa, Maria Teresa and So Do Samba.

Acciari is already at work on next summer’s music content, and promises a rejuvenated reflection of Latina music from Europe and South America.

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