Couleur Café

27 - 29 June 2014


Time has passed since Couleur Café first packed in its souks, restaurants and musicians into the Halles de Schaerbeek, the former covered market located in the heart of Brussels and now a flourishing European Cultural centre.

In 1990, year of the first Couleur Café, the idea was to offer a tolerant and exotic festival dedicated to fusion music, a festival that would also be set against in social fabric of Brussels’ colorful backdrop rather than amidst a no man's land field. The music line-up of the time mainly consisted of African and Afro-Cuban artists. It was an instant success drawing a crowd of 5300. The ingredients of the perfect Couleur Café cocktail were already there with its bright souks and decorations, world food stalls, craftsmen and blazing brass bands. Along with its ever-growing success, the festival expanded and broadened its musical horizons notably by including more and more urban music on the roster.

Over the years, the roster became even more wildly eclectic, offering the perfect setting for the latest discoveries from abroad and also on the Belgian music scene. Couleur Café remained faithful to the world beat though. As the years went by, the party side of the festival and its many different facets kept expanding, most remarkably in the breadth of Cool Art Café, a thematic exhibition devoted to the plastic arts, and the spread of non-musical activities such as dance lessons, demonstrations of freestyle, and NGO involvement…

In 1994, Couleur Café moved to Tour & Taxis, one of the most beautiful industrial sites in Europe. Nowadays, Couleur Café can no longer be rightfully described as a world music festival but more like a festival that proposes a full array of music styles coming from all over the world. With more than 50 concerts on 3 stages over three days, Couleur Café offers the best of r&b, hiphop, world, dubstep, afro, soul, funk, reggae, ragga, dub, dancehall, reggaeton, latin, salsa, rock, electro… There is also a dance floor featuring electronic music where festivalgoers can also feel the force of the musical mix.

Couleur Café is an apt reflection of the city it calls home, Brussels, with its cultural mix that makes travelling the world as easy as looking out your front window. Although today it welcomes more than 75,000 people – 3,000 of them are also staying on our camping - over three days, Couleur Café maintains a human scale. Independently organized and managed by Zig Zag, a non-profit organization, Couleur Café preserves its vibrant party atmosphere 24 years after it started.

Notable dates

  • 1990: First edition of Couleur Café Festival, a three-day feast with mainly black music takes place in the (then unrestored) Halls of Schaarbeek. 5,300 Visitors.
  • 1994: Couleur Café moves from the Halls that have become too small to house it to the industrial site Tour & Taxis. Each year an increasing number of people discover the festival that offers another view of the world. Aside from world- and African music, the programme now also offers latin, blues, funk, acid-jazz, hip-hop, basically every sort of music that somehow has black 'roots'.
  • 1996: New record: 16,000 visitors.
  • 1999: There are 50,000 lucky folks on the site while thousands of disappointed faces on the street see a sign saying ‘sold-out’.
  • 2000 and 2001: rearrangement of the site and the stages, more comfort and room to move for the audience.
  • 2002: Record attendance of 60,000 people, an enormous increase in the number of Flemish and adolescents, and again thousands of disappointed visitors without a ticket are confronted with a ‘sold out’ sign.
  • 2003: Time for a new move on the site and a reorganisation of the stages. For the first time there is a real dance tent (Electro World) where semi-live acts (DJs and musicians) alternate with DJs or sound-systems. Result: 67,000 people.
  • 2004: 15 years of Couleur Café with, amongst other things, a fashion show: Moda Mundo.
  • 2005: New record with 70,000 visitors and two days sold-out.
  • 2006: 72,000 visitors and an unforgettable edition with the presence of James Brown (his last Belgian show) and Tracy Chapman.
  • 2007: 72,500 people and an edition that makes international news due to a minor outbreak of fire on the site, one which is readily dealt with by the organisation.
  • 2008: An excellent edition with around 67,000 visitors over the 3 days.
  • 2009: As gift for the twentieth anniversary, Camping Zen opens its doors to festival visitors arriving from outside of the Brussels Capital Region. Spot on! Record attendance of 78,000 people and the launch of the unique open-air stage to replace the TITAN tent.
  • 2010: For the first time there are 2 days sold-out in advance: 75,000 music lovers enjoy the tropical heat and the rich musical programme.
  • 2011: 2 days were sold out again: Friday and Saturday. More than 76,000 people grooved in the heart of Brussels during the memorable concerts of - amongst others - DJ Shadow, Selah Sue, Dub Inc, Ziggy Marley, Janelle Monae en Alborosie.
  • 2012: Again more than 76,000 Couleur Café visitors, all in a new setting, with a fourth new stage called Phoenix. All Combi , Friday and Saturday Tickets were sold out in advance. Headliners like Pulic Enemy, Stephen Marley, Nas, Erykah Badu, Caravan Palace, Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club ft. Omara Portuondo and Jessie J made this happen. The unique tattoos at the entrance and audiovisual 3D projections were much appreciated.
  • 2013 : the year we could welcome 82000 fans to the festival. An absolute record! Back to 3 stages + the Dance Club tent. This 24th edition’s line-up is impressive: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Die Antwoord make a fist, Wyclef Jean, Faithless and Matisyahu finally play at Couleur Café. Fantastic gigs by Patrice, Wax Tailor, Jimmy Cliff, Nneka, Maceo and Xavier Rudd..