Just when you were convinced that all of Paris had wished you a smug bonnes vacances and set off for the beach, the Parc de la Villette in Paris’ northern 19th arrondissement comes to the rescue with its Scènes d’été (Summer scenes) set up to entertain those left behind in the capital during the summer months.
Predominantly a series of free outdoor concerts every weekend through July to the end of August, the festival also hosts workshops, from instrumental and dance classes to cooking lessons, all on the grounds of the park.
300m² of flooring has been installed in the park to host the artists and their respective creative spaces so that the audience is no longer external to the workings behind the performance, but involved in all aspects: from the construction of the instruments to learning the choreography of traditional dances from around the world. The audience becomes involved in the entire experience, making this a uniquely interactive event.
The six weekends host a different theme, each a combination of international cultures. From the 23-26 August, for example, the organisers have chosen to dedicate the weekend to celebrating the clarinet, drawing on influences from South Africa to Bali via the Ivory Coast and Eastern Europe, which of course would not be complete without a complementary sprinkling of performances and workshops on choreography from Burkina Faso.
Last weekend’s performances included Maâlem Omar Hayat on the “Prairie du cercle” stage and two collaborations: one with local group “XXème tribu” (from the neighbouring 20th arrondissement) specialising in New Style hip hop, and the other with jazz musicians Vincent Segal (cello), Mehdi Haddad (oud) et Mokhtar Samba (drums). Omar Hayat is a true master of entertainment, a figurehead of contemporary Gnawa music, and although the stage space isn’t huge, his energy is.
I’m especially looking forward to this weekend’s performances (18-19 August). With the thermometer set to explode into the thirties, staying inside is out of the question. Scènes d’été has thankfully prepared another melting pot of talent under the title “Brakka Time” so that we can soak up both some sunshine and music. Brakkaest, a combination of the Swahili words Bra (the beginning) and Ka (the infinite, spirit), is an African musical style. It is both a mindset and a musical technique, taking its urban influences from different époques.
Finishing the weekend with a stomp, artist So Kalmery’s “Brakka Live Show” on the Sunday evening will be an interactive concert-event with three workshops exploring rhythm, dance, vocal harmonies, choreography and improvisation.
And if Saturday’s percussion, dance and singing classes make you hungry, come back on Sunday for some Togolese cuisine lessons. You don’t need to leave Paris to go around the world this summer. Like the organisers state, “Ceux qui partent en vacances vont finir par le regretter !” (Those who go off on holiday will be missing out!)