Formed in 1986, Festival International de Louisiane is a community-based, non-profit arts organization that provides a free family event celebrating the French cultural heritage of Southern Louisiana-primarily a combination of French, African, Caribbean, and Hispanic influences. Celebrating the 27th anniversary of Festival International de Louisiane the last weekend of April in downtown Lafayette, La., it delivered with over 100 musical performances.
Festival International won the About.com Readers Choice Best World Music Festival winning two years running. It's a well deserved award for an underdog since most of the big world music festivals in the U.S. are in large cities, but Lafayette holds this celebration of international music and culture, with a local musical focus.
Bringing in 400,000 people with the six musical stages, six food areas, and three arts and crafts areas gave festival goers plenty to do over the five days. The event built from one musical venue to all six on the final two days, and takes in downtown Lafayette, with access to the local clubs, restaurants and art galleries during the festival. Musical performances from reggae legends the Wailers, New Orleans' Trombone Shorty, Mali's Fatoumata Diawara, Canada's La Vent du Nord and Lafayette's Marc Broussard were among the festival favorites.
What I like most about this festival is that it is very accessible. Barring a huge turnout for the Wailers you had access to a view of each artist from very near the stage. Many of the performers were scheduled a couple of times over the event so you would not have to miss them in case of a conflict or if you simply wanted to see them a second time. What I heard from many of the artists was a sincere appreciation of the festival and how much they enjoyed playing at the event. Plentiful selections of CDs from the artists were available and many had the proceeds going directly to the performer. I was able to get up close and personal with dozens of musicians at the autograph table.
With strong lineups and free admission, the festival is gaining in popularity and has been growing, despite the fact that the dates conflict with the first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Many festival-goers find their way to do each for a couple of days since only two hours separate the events. Some of the International performers are scheduled at the two festivals or play clubs in New Orleans over the week following.
All photos by Mark Silverstein.