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.
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
"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.