This is the tenth anniversary of Songlines Encounters Festival, which brings rising stars, premiere performances and new collaborations to play in the superb acoustics of Kings Place in London. As we’re celebrating a special birthday this year, we’ve got an extensive line-up with superb artists from Africa, America, Asia, the Middle East, various corners of Europe and the UK. Besides the numerous excellent multi-instrumentalists, expect lots of powerful vocalists.
For tickets: www.kingsplace.co.uk/sef ; +44 (0)20 7520 1490
There is a 25% discount for Songlines subscribers†
From Kentucky in the US, Joan Shelley is a singer-songwriter drawing inspiration from many traditional sources. On her latest album, Like the River Loves the Sea, she sings of ‘flora and fauna, of seasons changing and years departing and the ineluctable attempt of humans to make some small sense of it.’ This ties in very nicely with Kings Place’s year-long Nature Unwrapped season.
Book tickets: https://www.kingsplace.co.uk/whats-on/folk/joan-shelley/
The clashing otherworldly harmonies of Bulgarian singing are one of the musical glories of Europe. And thanks to the irrepressible Dessislava Stefanova, London has its own multi-national Bulgarian choir, which has just released Songs of Forbidden Love. Man falls for cousin, girl meets dragon, granny imagines grandad in a sexy coat. Haven’t we all been there?
The five-strong string band VOŁOSI are one of the hidden treasures of Polish traditional music. Combining two classical and three folk musicians from the south of the country, they create a distinctive sound with a dramatic stage presence. A thrilling discovery.
Kayhan Kalhor is one of the world’s great instrumentalists and the foremost ambassador of Iranian music. He’s known as a kamancheh (spike fiddle) player, but for this groundbreaking duo with fellow Iranian Kiya Tabassian, he’ll play the setar for a rare opportunity to see what two superb players of the delicately plucked Iranian lute can do. Tabassian, a former pupil of Kalhor, has done diverse collaborations around the world.
Kayhan Kalhor & Kiya Tabassian also play at the National Centre for Early Music, York on May 28 and Turner Sims in Southampton on May 30.
Championed by DJ Gilles Peterson, Electric Jalaba take Moroccan Gnawa music into contemporary new territories while maintaining a respect for its spiritual roots. At its heart are the ecstatic vocals of gimbri (Moroccan lute) player Simo Lagnawi with the four Keen brothers on guitars and electronics, plus Dave De Rose on drums. Expect deep grooves with incandescent fire.
The Turkish vocalist has taken the world by storm with music infused by psychedelia, surf rock and grunge. On top of it all, she delivers a powerful vocal punch and is an electric figure on stage. The Songlines review of her album said: 'An Istanbul iteration of The Fall, sandblasted by Hawkwind by way of Link Wray.' She won Best Artist in last year's Songlines Music Awards.
This glorious vocal sextet from France’s Massif Central sing in Occitan, but you certainly don’t need to understand that language to enjoy their polyphonic singing, heart-warming harmonies and propulsive percussion. They describe their music as a search for universal folklore, rooted in their region’s deep troubadour traditions.
Cameroonian singer Blick Bassy’s album 1958 was one of Songlines’ picks for the Best Albums of 2019. It’s a homage to one of his country’s resistance fighters, Ruben Um Nyobè, who was killed by the French in that year. It’s a powerful statement that sheds light on a little-known period of French colonial history. A riveting singer, Bassy will perform as a duo for this concert.
The Wolf of Baghdad is a stimulating ‘memoir of a lost homeland’ by animator and musician Carol Isaacs (London Klezmer Quartet), reflecting on her Iraqi-Jewish heritage. The performance features a beautifully animated film with live music on vocals, oud, qanun, ney, accordion, cello and percussion. A superb evocation of a vanished world.
Q&A The performance will be followed by a discussion with Carol Isaacs about the inspiration behind this work.
One of our album picks of last year was Elaha Soroor's Songs of Our Mothers (see #154), which she recorded with 2017 Songlines Music Awards Newcomer winners Kefaya. Elaha Soroor isn't her real name, it's a pseudonym meaning Goddess of Happiness because she didn't want repercussions on her family in Afghanistan. Read more about her in our Introducing piece in #151. The album is a beautiful collection of traditional Afghan women songs, updated and arranged by Kefaya.
† When booking tickets, subscribers can use the discount code printed on this issue’s mailing envelope. Already recycled it? Email email@example.com to request the code. Limited to 30 tickets and excludes Online Saver tickets. Available online, by phone and in person.