An International Anniversary
● By Aimee Cormier
By Wynce Nolley / Photos Submitted By Festival International de Louisiane
In 1986, a small group of Lafayette’s community leaders got together with a shared vision of creating a new music festival that would bring a variety of unique and emerging international performers to their corner of Southwest Louisiana.
The idea was to build and maintain a free, community-supported musical exchange that would not only complement the area’s diverse Francophone heritage, but also expand it through the inclusion of musical cultures from around the world.
The original organizers sought to produce an annual visual and performing arts festival that would celebrate the French cultural heritage of South Louisiana, which is predominantly an amalgam of French, African, Caribbean and Hispanic influences.
Thus, Festival International de Louisiane was born with the enduring mission of enriching the local community with a celebration of its native cultures through performing arts in addition to educating the public of the historical achievements and artistic expressions of related global cultures all while expanding Louisiana’s reputation as a world arts and culture destination.
Now 30 years later, Festival–as it is colloquially referred to–has grown by leaps and bounds offering not just local and world musical performances, but workshops, theatre, international cuisine and other forms of performance arts. The family-oriented event is held each year in Downtown Lafayette with a committed loyal audience comprised of local, regional and global patrons that return year after year.
As the largest outdoor, free Francophone event in the U.S., Festival places special emphasis on highlighting the connections between Acadiana and the Francophone world. Every year, artists from Europe, Africa, Canada, the Caribbean and the Americas are invited to share their talents with the community.
Since its creation, Festival International de Louisiane has become famous as a prime host of some of the most unique world musicians and performances in the United States and has welcomed several popular artists such as Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Black Joe Lewis, The Wailers, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and Buddy Guy to perform on its numerous stages.
In recognition of Acadiana’s premier festival celebrating its 30th Anniversary, Festival is welcoming back some of its all time favorite performers from around the world along with some new additions.
“This is our 30th anniversary and to honor our roots and history we’ve brought back some returning artists that have played festival before,” says FIL Marketing Director April Courville.
One of those artists making a comeback is DéDé Saint Prix from Martinique who plays island folk music and sings in both French and Spanish. “A lot of our longtime festival goers will remember him,” says Courville of the longtime Festival veteran. “So we’re really excited about him coming back.”
Another returning artist is the Waifs who are a female fronted folk group from Australia that have become one of the most requested bands returning to Festival, according to Courville. The Burundi Drummers, who were once staples in the inaugural days of Festival, will be returning as well.
One of the new bands making their debut this year at Festival is a trio of sisters from Israel called A-WA.
“Festival goers who see A-WA’s performances will be among the first people to see them perform (in the U.S.),” says Courville. “They’ve got back-up dancers that dance and they harmonize and they’re beats are really energetic so it’s going to be something really great especially for the young people.”
Another new group that will be performing this year is international French music sensation Charlélie Couture who has been collaborating with several local musicians.
“Anyone that listens to French music or is familiar with music that comes out of France is going to know his name, so we’re really excited to have him,” says Courville. “In the fall, he actually worked on this large project with several local musicians out of Louisiana and a lot of them are from Lafayette. So Festival fans are going to be able to see the fruits of that project, which is just tying in our connection to France with the French music that we have here in Lafayette.”
This year’s Festival will also feature an artist in residence program with Guadalupe / France native Pascal Danae who will be arriving prior to Festival in preparation for a collaborative project with Cedric Watson, Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes of New Orleans and Leyla McCalla of Haiti who can all sing in Creole French.
“The artist residency is actually called L’Union Créole,” says Courville. “They will be doing their individual shows, but what they perform together will be the product of their collaboration for the residency. So it will be a Creole project where they all sing and work together to create original pieces.”
This year’s Festival International lineup also includes Alpha Blondy and the Solar System, Rocky Dawuni, Chic Gamine, The Garifuna Collective, Pierre Kwenders, Tarace Boulba, Bélo, Boogat, Daby Touré, Delgrés, Cimarrón, Lo’Jo and many more.
In addition, the lineup features several of Louisiana’s local musicians including Sonny Landreth, Chubby Carrier & The Bayou Swamp Band, Sweet Crude, Bonsoir Catin, Brass Mimosa and Cedryl Ballou & The Zydeco Trendsetters.
Festival also welcomes back its Festival Passes, which are now broken into two tiers: Lagniappe and Bon Temps. Each pass has its own perks including access to private rest stops, express beverage lines and special Pass Zones that act as exclusive VIP areas at the festival complete with a private bar and ample shade.
Festival International’s family friendly atmosphere also has activities for children at Scéne des Jeunes including special performers for children. There’s also the Courir du Festival 5k Run, which will be held at 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 23, that welcomes festival goers to run, walk or skip to the finish line at Scène Chevron.
The Blue Moon Saloon will also be hosting the Official Rhythm and Roots After Hours Shows to keep the party going each night of Festival after 9 p.m.
Art galleries will also be open and stocked with pieces from local and world artists and craftsman at Marche du Monde and March des Arts, which will offer virtually everything from pottery to jewelry to musical instruments.
As always, admission to Festival International de Louisiane is free, but remember to help keep this festival free by purchasing a commemorative pin, poster or Festival Pass. The 30th Annual Festival International de Louisiane takes place Wednesday through Sunday, April 20-24, in Downtown Lafayette. For more information, including the full lineup and schedule, visit