October 20, 2013

Coconut palms, buckets of kava and reggae beats - Fest Napuan

This weekend is when the Fest Napaun takes over Port Vila. This has to be one of the best music festivals in the world. Attracting local and international acts, the atmosphere of this festival is unforgettable. Entrance is always free, and the locals converge on Saralana park (next to the Cultural centre and museum). Stalls are erected selling food from different islands, the Tanna bread cakes are particularly recommended, while Kava is brought in buckets from the Chiefs Nakamal.

Sipping on a BYO glass of chilled French Sauvignon Blanc while palm trees wave and local musicians perform is a great way to spend an evening. The crowd is relatively subdued, in a quiet, polite, Vanuatu kind of way, but always rewarding the performers with genuine applause after each song.

The festival is staged over a number of days, with the first day dedicated to string bands. String bands perform music based on Ukulele driven harmonies. Cool when I first saw it performed, I even tried to find a CD such was my initial taste for it, I will now run a million miles at the first Ukulele strum. Aaargh!!! What ruined it for me was staying next to one of the main sites for the Independence day celebrations. String bands descend on Port Vila from islands across Vanautu. Fascinating and fun for the first few days, but after 5 days of Ukulele strumming day in day out (it was literally 24 hours a day) and little sleep I felt myself going mad…

The day I love is the last, Sunday, when all styles of music are played, often finishing with Vanuatu band blong Tanna, Naio (pictured live at the festival above). One of the best reggae bands i have heard, mixing reggae beats with pacific rhythms. Check out their ‘New Day’ album from the small music shop behind Digicel in the main street of Vila, a great CD almost impossible to get outside of Vanuatu. They are not represented well on the web, but the odd video appears on youtube but does not do them full justice.

 Naio always get the crowd to their feet, swaying, singing and dancing, and the park remains full well after their the roadies have cleared away the gear, as the audience continue to laugh, talk and drink kava in the warm night air.

(For more music, interviews and reviews check out the Behind the Amp site).

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