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Pepper Pots home - Black Music Festival 2010
Salt is a small town close to Girona that boasts of being both the birthplace of Pau Masó i Fàbrega, an activist, writer and baker, whose bread croutons inspired Dalí, and the home of a remarkable number of otters. But as lovely as otters are, and as pretty as the town is, there aren’t too many reasons to visit Salt, unless you happen to be a big fan of black music, because every March, the town holds its annual Black Music Festival.
Now, Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans, Salt? It doesn’t exactly slot neatly into place alongside those famed homes of blues, rap, funk and soul. Despite this, every year the Catalan town pays homage to these genres with concerts, film screenings and workshops.
Acts come to Salt to perform every type of black music and this year is no exception. Londoners US3 (March 12th), who you might remember from their jazz-meets-hip-hop track ‘Cantaloup’ and their heavy use of the Blue Note Records’ back catalogue, are headlining. Flamboyant bass guitarist TM Stevens (March 20th) is also on the bill. Stevens, who caught his break after James Brown insisted on him doing vocals as well as guitar on a track, is billed alongside female drumming sensation Cindy Blackman. In a markedly man’s world, Blackman has carved out an impressive career including working with Lenny Kravitz after auditioning over the phone.
Another highlight is Spanish group The Pepper Pots (March 13th) whose sound is nothing new but rather is a near-perfect version of groups like The Ronettes. Also on the programme are The Steepwater Band with Marc Ford (March 7th), who pitch up in Girona to play their rootsy rock‘n’roll, while there’s ska from Skatalà (March 26th) and funk from Mothergroove (March 12th).
Mixed in amongst the concerts are film screenings: this year they’ve scheduled Soul Power by Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, which documents the music festival that accompanied the legendary ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa. Hailed by many as a forceful showcase of black empowerment, some of the biggest names were booked to play including James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers and Sister Sledge. Also scheduled is the Martin Scorsese-directed documentary The Blues. Feel Like Going Home, which examines the roots of the genre in the Mississippi Delta and the connections between it and the musical traditions of Africa. --KM
Black Music Festival: Various venues in Salt (Girona), March 5th to 26th, www.blackmusicfestival.com
How to get to Salt from Barcelona: By train to Girona then local bus or taxi; by car, take the AP-7 motorway until exit 7, then follow the C-65 to Salt.