Essential 10: Festival Bands

This article originally appeared in Songlines #120 (Aug/Sept 2016) p98. Download a pdf here.

essential101It’s not summer in the UK until you’ve spent a weekend in your wellies and sun hat at a festival. Here are ten acts Alexandra Petropoulos is looking forward to seeing at Larmer Tree, WOMAD, Cambridge and Shambala festivals

01 Afriquoi
(Wormfood Records, 2015)
This is the excellent debut from the London-based Afro-dance project Afriquoi, whose music takes in everything from house and drum’n’bass to Congolese rumba and the West African griot tradition. They are sure to get booties shaking at WOMAD and Shambala. Reviewed in #112.

02 Afro Celt Sound System
The Source
(ECC Records, 2016)
The much-loved fusion band return after a decade of radio silence with an excellent, reinvigorated sound. While the line-up has changed a bit, including the new face of Scottish Gaelic singer and piper Griogair, original founder Simon Emmerson and kora and balafon player N’Faly Kouyaté still remain at the helm of a band that have grown into something bolder and bigger than before. Catch them at Larmer Tree or Cambridge Folk Festival this July. A Top of the World in #118.

03 Blick Bassy
(No Format!, 2015)
This album sees the Cameroonian guitarist strip back his sound for an intimate affair that truly shows off his subtle, earthy voice. There are touches of bossa nova and jazz as well as rhythms that span the African diaspora. The perfect music for a (hopefully) sunny stage at WOMAD or Shambala. Reviewed in #109.

04 Hot 8 Brass Band
Vicennial: 20 Years of The Hot 8 Brass Band
(Tru Thoughts, 2015)
This is perfect summer music – hot and heavy brass that makes you crave a large, cold glass of sweet tea while you shake your thing in the streets of New Orleans. They have been going for 20 years and this album shows off all the music that makes them so fun. They’ll be hitting the festival circuit hard, playing at Larmer Tree, WOMAD and Shambala this year. A Top of the World in #113.

05 Le Vent du Nord
(Borealis Records, 2015)
The Québécois quartet have been keeping their French-Canadian traditions alive for 13 years and appropriately Têtu is a celebration of Francophone culture. Their upbeat tunes soar, supported by the warm singing of all four members as well as an impressive instrumental line-up between them including the distinctive hurdy-gurdy, fiddle, bouzouki, Jew’s harp and mandolin. Their joyous music will be sure to capture audiences at Cambridge Folk Festival and WOMAD. A Top of the World in #108.

06 Leyla McCalla
A Day for the Hunter, a Day for the Prey
(Jazz Village, 2016)
This is the second solo album from cellist and one-time Carolina Chocolate Drop. She again draws upon her both her Haitian heritage and the music of her adopted home of Louisiana for an excellent set of tunes sung in French, English and Creole. Leyla McCalla will perform at the Cambridge Folk Festival in July. A Top of the World in #119

07 Melt Yourself Down
Last Evenings on Earth
(Leaf Records, 2016)
This London-based group are a fusion band of the best kind – one that mixes their various influences so well that it’s hard to know where one ends and the other begins. This is a densely textured affair that encourages its listener to simultaneously groove along and listen closer. They will bring their first-rate fusion to Larmer Tree Festival. A Top of the World in #119.

08 Anoushka Shankar
Land of Gold
(Deutsche Grammophon, 2016)
As the daughter of the legendary Ravi Shankar, sitarist Anoushka has always sought her own path. Here she offers a broad narrative that is at its heart a meditation on refugees and displaced peoples. Land of Gold is a sublime set that takes in a contemporary, jazzy sensibility. After an excellent set at a grey and muddy Glastonbury, crowds at WOMAD and Shambala can expect an equally effortless show. Reviewed in #118.

09 Sidestepper
Supernatural Love
(Real World, 2016)
Colombia’s electro-cumbia pioneers strip back their music for a slightly more acoustic approach. The beats are still there, but there is more emphasis on the textures of instruments. After performing a stellar show at last year’s Shambala, they are sure to bring summery vibes to Larmer Tree and WOMAD this July. A Top of the World in #115.

10 Dele Sosimi
You No Fit Touch Am
(Wah Wah 45s, 2015)
Bandleader and keyboard player Dele Sosimi has been proudly carrying Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat flag. This album captures something of his fiery, energetic shows that Shambala punters have to look forward to. A Top of the World in #109.

PLAYLIST Listen to my curated Apple Music playlist at


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