A global soundtrack along the River Thames
From left: Sengalese master Baaba Maal, disco divas the Scissor Sisters, and a member of Wantok Musik, a band that will preform with Sing Sing, a Polynesian supergroup.
London has long had a reputation for being the entire world in one city and on the weekend before the Olympic Games begin, it's getting a truly global soundtrack.
The free, two-day BT River of Music Festival will bring together musicians from around the world to play on stages that will flank the mighty River Thames. Each of the six stages, spread out along the north and south banks of the river, will represent a region of the world.
The Battersea Park stage will represent Asia; Trafalgar Square and Somerset House will both feature Europe; the Tower of London will represent the Americas; Greenwich Old Royal Naval College will showcase Oceania; and the London Pleasure Gardens will be the place to be for African music.
The event, which takes place 21 and 22 July, will feature a handful of familiar names – disco divas Scissor Sisters and jazz legend Wynton Marsalis will be representing the Americas, Senegalese musician Baba Maal and Benin’s Angelique Kidjo will play on the Africa stage, the Kronos Quartet will perform for Asia and soul singer Beverley Knight will be helping to represent Europe.
But the festival is also featuring several artists that aren't household names. From singer-songwriter Telek from Papua New Guinea to Homayun Sakhi, a stringed instrument player from Afghanistan, the River of Music is presenting something truly different.
There's also the opportunity for collaborations that might otherwise not have had a chance to get off the ground. London dance band Transglobal Underground is playing on the Asia stage with musicians from the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia on Sunday. Another hook-up on Saturday sees Welsh folk group 9Bach playing with the Australian Aboriginal group The Black Arm Band Company.
And with Sing Sing, one of the acts playing on the Oceania stage, the festival's organisers have managed to create a Polynesian supergroup with 24 representatives from the 18 island nations taking part.
"If Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend embodied indigenous London music in the 21st Century, then BT River of Music represents the city’s status as a global cultural capital," the UK newspaper The Independent wrote. And unlike other UK festivals, this is one where you don't have to worry about your tent disappearing into the mud.