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'May the Party Be Beautiful': Congo Hosts 11th Edition of Pan-African Music Festival

© Photo Twitter / @UBrazzavilleOpening ceremony of the 11th edition of the Pan-African music festival, FESPAM, at the Stade Alphonse Massamba-Debat in Congo on July 15, 2023.
Opening ceremony of the 11th edition of the Pan-African music festival, FESPAM, at the Stade Alphonse Massamba-Debat in Congo on July 15, 2023.  - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 19.07.2023
The roots of the Pan-African Music Festival, also known as FESPAM (its French acronym), can be traced back to the mid-1990s, when the event was first organized. The festival is held every two years in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. However, since 2015, the country has not hosted this large-scale music event.
The Pan-African Music Festival is back in Brazzaville as its eleventh edition opened on Saturday evening, at the Alphonse Massamba-Debat stadium, the venue for the largest stage of the event this year and in 2003.
In 2023, the music festival is held under the theme of "Congolese Rumba: soaring from the base of identity towards the vertices of humanity's heritage." This edition is the very first to be organized after the inscription of the Congolese rumba or African rumba on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage in 2021.
The event features musicians from all over the continent, as well as local Congolese stars from various musical genres. At least 17 countries are represented at this edition of the event.
President Denis Sassou Nguesso attended the opening ceremony of the festival. His speech to a stadium full of music lovers was followed by gigantic fireworks that lit up the sky to the cheers of the crowd.

"I declare open the eleventh edition of the Pan-African Music Festival," the president said, adding: "May the party be beautiful!"

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FESPAM shows will take place in five venues in the capital, Brazzaville, until July 22. For this year's edition, the festival organizers have also set up sites in working-class neighborhoods, such as Mayanga, on the other side of the Djoue River.
The week-long festival provides an opportunity for the city to host the great names of African music, as well as local groups and solo artists. This year, performers include Ferre Gola, a musician, singer, and songwriter from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Roga-Roga from Congo-Brazzaville. Moreover, the audience can enjoy performances by Gospel choirs.
Many music lovers who attended the first days of the event have expressed their excitement and joy to return to this festival.
"It is really a joy for us that FESPAM is coming back to Brazzaville. We will relive the show produced by artists from all corners," one of them told media.
As the city's stadiums host major concerts, Brazzaville's Palais du Parlement serves as a venue for an exhibition of traditional musical instruments. The exhibits, among others, include the royal drums of Ghana, the traditional violin of Togo, and the musical bow of Angola.
Congo has not organized the Pan-African Music Festival since 2015 due to the economic crisis in the country and the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.