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One of the more amusing aspects of traveling the Brittany region of France was hearing people’s reactions when you tell them you’re from South Africa. Responses included: “Mandela!” “Trevor Noah!” A bad rendition of ‘Waka waka’, a good rendition of ‘Asimbonanga’ and an enthusiastic, “Ah, BCUC!”
That last one surprised me initially but it shouldn’t have – BCUC have just completed an extensive European summer tour with the bulk of the performances happening in France. Their tour kicked off with a set at the legendary Roskilde Festival in Denmark on 30 June and ended at the Festival du Chant de Marin in Paimpol, Brittany on 12 August.
I started planning a roadtrip through Brittany with my mom back in January – say what you want about fate but I definitely felt guided by it when planning the trip. The coincidences are too many and too personal to list, but BCUC played a role too. A photo of mine was used for their tour poster which was a great honour and amazingly they turned out to be playing the Paimpol festival on the same night we were attending. Watching them felt like coming full circle and was a very special experience.
Taking place every two years, the Festival du chant de Marin (Sea Shanty Festival) is a huge 3-day event featuring music (traditional Breton as well as international artists from all over the world), dancing, parades and loads of boats at Paimpol’s port. BCUC played the closing slot on the main stage on the Saturday night, and the atmosphere was electric. I tried to get closer to the stage but it was impossible, the crowd was too intense. I even heard people singing along which was unexpected and amazing. There were also several cheers when the band mentioned some of the other French shows they’d played – I think it’s safe to say that the tour went well and they made a big impression.
They’re a big group and physically dominate any stage, but they felt especially commanding and tight with the weight of the tour behind them. Like a well-oiled machine they blazed through their set with intense energy and held the audience spell-bound.
Their size and presence make BCUC a perfect festival band and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re back in Europe next July, but I really hope they stop by Cape Town before then!