Essential 10: Festival Bands

This article originally appeared in Songlines #128 (June 2017) p114. Download a pdf here.

Summer is just around the corner and that can mean only one thing – it’s officially festival season! Here are just some of the bands that will have deputy editor Alexandra Petropoulos dancing in her wellies

Shamstep EP
(47Soul, 2015)
This crew of international musicians who can all trace their roots back to Palestine, took the festival scene by storm in 2015 when they first released this debut EP. Their live shows get any crowd grooving to their urban reinterpretations of Arabic music, full of winding synths and political messages. This summer they’ll be bringing their shamstep style to several festivals including BoomTown.

Alsarah & The Nubatones
(Wonderwheel Recordings, 2016)
This is the second album from the Sudanese-American singer and it’s dripping with irresistibly loping rhythms and an East-African retro-pop aesthetic. The album asks questions that are as heavy as the beats, like ‘what is home?’ Catch them live this summer at Glastonbury, WOMAD or the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival. A Top of the World in #123.

Eliza Carthy & the Wayward Band
Big Machine
(Topic Records, 2017)
Folk’s wayward daughter returns in fine form, backed by a monster of a big band for her latest album. The 11-piece make some serious noise with big choruses, freewheeling brass and ferocious strings. This is Eliza Carthy reinvented, and she’s set to fill the Bellowhead-shaped hole at various festivals – like WOMAD and Towersey – this summer. A Top of the World in #125.

Raghu Dixit
Jag Changa
(Wandering Minstrel Records, 2014)
Everyone’s favourite lungi-wrapped Indian guitarist enlisted some friends (including banjo player Abigail Washburn) that he’s made along his incredible journey to stardom for this album. But it’s at his energetic live shows that audiences properly fall for Dixit, so be sure to catch him at Camp Bestival or Underneath the Stars. A Top of the World in #104.

(Big Mann Records, 2017)
This five-piece are the product of the Glasgow session scene, boasting members from groups like Barrule, Cara, Mànran and RURA. Mohsen Amini (concertina), Adam Brown (bodhrán), Tomas Callister (fiddle), Adam Rhodes (bouzouki) and Ryan Murphy (uilleann pipes) will hit the festival circuit hard this summer, performing at countless festivals including Sidmouth Folk Week and HebCelt Fest. Reviewed in #126.

Anthony Joseph
Caribbean Roots
(Strut, 2016)
The poet and spoken-word artist released this, his strongest album to date, last year. Overflowing with Caribbean flare, effortless groove and funky bass lines, Caribbean Roots sees Joseph covering topics both political and personal in his stories. Calypso and soca get their moments to shine among the jazz and funk here, so get ready to shake your booty at Green Man or Shambala festivals. A Top of the World in #121.

Jupiter & Okwess International
Hotel Univers
(Out Here Records, 2013)
The Congolese ‘rebel general’ Jupiter Bokondji shook the world with this, his debut, back in 2013. It is a vibrant set, brimming with funk, rock’n’roll and sizzling Congolese rumba. With a recently released EP and a full album on the way, his already exhilarating live shows are sure to pack some surprises for his fans at Shambala and Africa Oyé. A Top of the World in #94.

(Lau Scotland, 2017)
Folk trio Lau – Kris Drever, Martin Green and Aidan O’Rourke – look back at the last ten years of music making with this retrospective album. And an excellent decade it’s been; they’ve amassed countless accolades including a dizzyingly-high number of BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Celebrate their impressive career with them as they hit up festival stages across the UK including HebCelt Fest and Cambridge Folk Festival. To be reviewed in #129.

Oumou Sangaré
(No Format!, 2017)
The doyenne of Wassoulou music releases her first album since 2009 – and it is well worth the wait. Mogoya is still rooted in tradition, but with the help of French collective A.L.B.E.R.T. it has a tastefully updated flair that you’ll find it hard to resist if you catch her at Shambala or WOMAD. A Top of the World in this issue (p59).

Songhoy Blues
(Transgressive, 2017)
These Malian wonder boys made waves with their debut Music in Exile, which brought the world beefed-up desert blues: Ali Farka Touré meets Chuck Berry. Their anticipated follow-up is due out in June, and based on the first single, ‘Bamako’, punters at Glastonbury, Beautiful Days and Doune the Rabbit Hole festivals have a cracking show to look forward to. To be reviewed in #129.


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