In Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 July a once-in-a-lifetime two-day free festival of live music welcoming you to London the weekend before the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
River of Music is one of the most ambitious musical events ever staged in the capital, and offers the UK’s residents and visitors a unique opportunity to sample a kaleidoscope of the world’s most vibrant music. BT River of Music is part of the London 2012 Festival, the spectacular 12-week nationwide celebration running from 21 June until the 9 September, bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best of the UK.
Established, award-winning and emerging artists from every part of the globe will be performing
on stages at six iconic sites along the length of the River Thames, each hosting music from a
different continent. Their performances range from distinctive artistic collaborations, major artists working with local community groups from across the United Kingdom and emerging artists creating work many for the first time at a major event.
BT River of Music is part of the London 2012 Festival. It is supported by National Lottery
Funds through the Olympic Lottery Distributor and Arts Council England and is produced
Tickets for BT River of Music are free, but there will be a small fee of £3 per
ticket towards ticketing and administration costs. Tickets will be available weekly
stage by stage from Tuesday 15 May onwards. Sign up now to be the first to hear
when each stage becomes available at www.btriverofmusic.com
One of London’s most beautiful public spaces, full of hidden secrets and home of the Peace Pagoda (with its resident monk), this stage will house performances and extraordinary collaborations from artists across Asia.
The classical tabla virtuoso, Zakir Hussain is an international phenomenon. Son of legendary Indian percussionist Ustad Alla Rakha (Ravi Shankar‘s tabla player), Zakir Hussain has worked with George Harrison, Charles Lloyd, John McLaughlin and the Grateful Dead among many others. For BT River of Music he is joined on stage by a group of musicians from across the Scottish and Irish musical traditions including Patsy Reid, John Joe Kelly, and Michael McGoldrick . This performance was created for BT River of Music and premiered at Celtic Connections in Glasgow.
Gong Linna is a pioneer in her homeland. This Chinese singing sensation mixes the traditional opulent music of her country with modern western harmonies, creating contemporary Chinese music full of innovation and prowess.
Khyam Allami is master of his instrument, the oud. His distinctive collaboration sees him join forces with a band of musicians from contemporary and traditional Arabic music disciplines from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt and Iraq for a performance project that is rich with confidence and pride in his Middle Eastern roots. This performance premieres at the Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival before coming to BT River of Music.
UK dance outfit Transglobal Underground mix styles and rhythms with an invigorating
disregard for musical genres and technological barriers. In Transit is a brand new
collaboration with some of the most exciting artists from across the Gulf States. Produced
by British Council and Musicians Incorporated, this project premiered in Dubai to
From Pakistan Asif Ali Khan is a hugely popular and talented Qawwali maestro. He
has developed his own distinctive groove, combining traditional sounds with
innovative styles. Surging rhythms blend with hypnotic verse to give his music a hip,
contemporary edge yet remaining loyal to his homeland traditions. Asif comes
together for a special collaboration with singer- songwriter from Bangladesh
Sanchita Farruque for BT River of Music.
Charismatic clarinettist Arun Ghosh leads on Global Sounds, a project that
explores musical traditions from around the world with young instrumentalists from
Morpeth School in Tower Hamlets. He is known for his vibrant fusion of Indian themes and
club culture grooves, all spiked by the heat-of-the-moment improvisation.
Kronos Quartet perform at the BBC Proms and bring two world-class collaborations to BT
River of Music: the first with the outstanding Afghan rubâb player Homayun Sakhi and the
second with the Emmy Award-winning Vietnamese composer / zither player Van-Anh Vo.
Somerset House is a spectacular neo-classical building in the heart of London, sitting between the Strand and the River Thames. Since opening to the public in 2000, Somerset House has produced a distinctive public programme that annually draws over two million visitors to the site, providing a centre for arts and culture in the heart of London. The varied, year-round programme includes an open air film and concert season and ice rink, as well as temporary exhibitions focusing on contemporary fashion, design, art and architecture, family workshops and free guided tours. In September 2009, Somerset House became the new home of London Fashion Week. For BT River of Music its glorious courtyard will be filled with spectacular performances and distinctive collaborations
Andy Sheppard’s Saxophone Massive will set the tone of excitement for BT River of Music; a fanfare of saxophonists of all ages and abilities, the sound of 200 saxophones from across the UK and Europe will burst forth from every corner of the courtyard of Somerset House.
Portuguese Mariza is a global icon who has seduced worldwide audiences with her
awesome singing, charismatic stage presence and powerful blend of traditional fado
and contemporary music.
A boogie woogie demon, Jools Holland boasts a charismatic personality, accessible
music and impeccably good taste. Renowned for his hit show Later…with Jools, and
recognised for his abundance of performances and collaborations with world-class
talent, Jools is one of the UK’s most well-respected and well-loved musicians.
For BT River of Music, he brings his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra to Somerset
House for a night of brilliant entertainment and stunning musicianship, featuring
an array of incredible talent including special guest Gregory Porter.
Heavily inspired by soul greats such as Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin, Beverley
Knight is regarded as one of Britain’s greatest soul singers. For BT River of Music
she will be bringing a special collaboration to Somerset House.
Penguin Cafe’s music has infiltrated daily life from films like Napoleon Dynamite to
countless theme tunes. Their sound is at once familiar and new, combining acoustic
power with a beguiling, feisty charm.
Trafalgar Square is literally the centre of London. Like the Square itself, our performances and collaborations from across Europe are distinctive and individual bringing to life both the old and new Europe.
Amira is an enchanting young singer from Bosnia creating gorgeous new songs that are rooted in the sevdah tradition. For BT River of Music she has drawn together musicians from Serbia, Greece, Turkey and six other countries reaching out across the past conflict lines of the Balkans.
Kathryn Tickell is a striking composer and performer who takes traditional folk to contemporary heights. For BT River of Music she has created JigHop. The performance will include an inventive mix of traditional music, fresh compositions, scratch DJ and dance.
Leading Norwegian brass band The Brazz Brothers combine a similar instrumental virtuosity with a deep understanding of the brass tradition, creating a distinctive mix of traditional and modern jazz with folk music from across the world. For this one-off performance they invite to the stage one ‘brass sister’ from every Nordic and Baltic country, resulting in a 14-piece Scandinavian brass extravaganza titled Brazz Brothers and Sisters.
A world-class gypsy band, Budapest Bar have garnered critical acclaim for their brilliantly imaginative re-invention of chanson, jazz, Brazilian music, film themes and gypsy traditions,
inspired by the evocative Budapest café culture of the 30s and 40s.
If one man embodies the kaleidoscopic new musical world of the ‘user-generated’ age
it is Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi. For BT River of Music he collaborates with
Robert Lippok, of electronic trio Rococo Rot.
Matthew Herbert is one of electronic music’s most versatile and prolific proponents.
For BT River of Music, he has created a Russian Big Band from scratch, who will
premiere new compositions featuring found and recorded sounds connected to
Russian people. The sounds of hundreds of Russian babies, will be transformed into
an exciting new piece of music, and performed by Matthew Herbert’s Russian
Big Gay Sing is an en masse sing-along to all-time favourite anthems from ABBA to
Queen and The Sound of Music. Dress up, over-indulge and sing your heart out in
this pop-tastic extravaganza.
Soul singer Ben l’Oncle Soul offers a wild celebration of everything that’s thrilling about the classic soul revues. An arena artist in his home country France, he combines Ray Charles-style R&B, Motown groove and Stax-y horns with reggae and hip-hop.
AMERICAS STAGE TOWER OF LONDON
The Tower of London is a World Heritage site and one of the most iconic London landmarks. Nestled next to the Thames, the Tower of London hosts the stage celebrating the melting pot of music from the Americas.
The infectious glam-pop band Scissor Sisters originated on the New York club scene. Scissor Sisters’ release The Magic Hour (out on May 28 on Polydor), possesses a big heart, some killer dance moves and some simply gigantic tunes. The new free on-demand digital channel The Space will be streaming this performance live on Saturday 21 July.
Musical director and trumpeter Kevin Robinson leads Soul Caribbean through a fresh mix of energetic rhythms and sparkling reggae and ska grooves. Artists from every single Caribbean island will come together, re-arranging old classics and driving them into the 21st century.
British musician and producer Will Holland aka Quantic and Mario Galeano, the creative mind behind the band Frente Cumbiero join forces with musicians from Mexico and Venezuela to create Ondatropica, a celebration of cumbia.
Roberto Fonseca grew up as the pianist within Buena Vista Social Club and has emerged as one of Cuba’s finest talents. He has grabbed Cuban music by the horns and drawn it, hot, stylish and sultry into the 21st century. He will bring together musicians from Argentina and Uruguay to create new music inspired by the candomble traditions.
Naturally 7 take classic close-harmony style to stratospheric new heights, mixing beat
boxing with rap, soul, pop and jazz. Their fresh use of the voice and astonishingly
versatile talent have garnered diverse fans including Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Jay
Leno and Brian Eno.
Aurelio Martinez is a composer, singer and guitarist who brings the sounds of his
ancestor’s Garifuna tradition vividly to life. Garifuna is a melting pot of African,
Caribbean Indian and Central American elements brought together when
slaves escaped to the Caribbean coast centuries ago. Aurelio creates soulful
music that’s bursting with energy.
One of the world’s finest musicians and composers, Wynton Marsalis returns to
London with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Swinging from New Orleans
roots to bebop to modern jazz, the ensemble are renowned for their tremendous
musicality and drive.
OLD ROYAL NAVAL COLLEGE, GREENWICH
The twin domes of Sir Christopher Wren’s riverside masterpiece, the Old Royal Naval College provide a suitable stunning backdrop for the setting for the theatrical and dramatic performances BT River of Music is bringing from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
Making their debut performance in the UK, The Barons of Tang are an Australian group with phenomenal gusto. Lashing tango, hard hitting guitar riffs, blasting beats and massive horn arrangements come together in a mix that is smothered with a Balkan feel. This is a band brimming with a theatrical on-stage presence. For BT River of Music they team up for a special collaboration with Arthur Jeffes (Sundog, Penguin Café).
The Black Arm Band Company are an award-winning group of singers, musicians and songwriters who celebrate Australian indigenous music as an instrument of identity, resilience, and a call to freedom. In collaboration with alternative Welsh folk group 9Bach they spearhead a new project, Mamiaith – Mother Tongue, focusing on the preservation of language and culture through music and song.
Encompassing hundreds of voices, four massive singing hubs, original compositions and exciting performance opportunities, Coastal Voices is a large scale participatory choral project that brings communities and people of all ages across Dorset and Devon together. Singers from the region will join Australian-born violinist and composer Sonia Slany to perform her arrangements of Nick Cave songs.
Green Fire Islands is a creative and inspiring show that integrates Maori and Irish music,
dance and poetry of old with the stories of today. For BT River of Music, dynamic
guitarist and musical director Steve Cooney leads a stellar ensemble of the leading
lights of both contemporary and traditional musical circles from Ireland and New
Zealand in an in-depth discovery of musical connections between two island
Sing Sing is a phrase from Papua New Guinea meaning a music party celebration of
song and dance. Since the 1990s the Sing Sing concerts have brought together some
of the most important singers, musicians and dancers from the Oceania region in
unique performances to explore shared traditions. For BT River of Music
David Bridie’s Sing Sing brings together musicians from 18 different nations in
the Australasian region. Performers include Australian singer/songwriter
Frank Yamma whose soulful ballads relate the struggles and hopes of the indigenous people.
LONDON PLEASURE GARDENS, DOCKLANDS
Join us at an amazing new Festival site in the heart of Docklands, London Pleasure Gardens. For over 200 years pleasure gardens were central to London social life. Now this tradition is re-invented and injected with a cutting edge 21st century culture in the heart of Olympic East London as London Pleasure Gardens plays host to a fantastic array of talent. From Africa’s greatest stars to emerging new voices, this stage will witness a weekend of incredible live music, following on from the Bloc festival two weeks earlier.
Super-band Staff Benda Bilili collaborate with Zao bridging a gap much bigger than the few miles of Congo River that separates their respective hometowns of Kinshasa and Brazzaville.
Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara expand on their work together to form The Invisible Republic of JuJu, a larger collective that will welcome a selection of artists from North Africa to the mix.
Zimbabwe-born Shingai Shoniwa oozes cool, so it goes without saying that indie-rock and soul band The Noisettes do too. Steeped in soul, dizzy on disco and awash with stomping electro-rock their galloping funk grooves remember the days of blues and jazz greats. They lead on a collaboration
that draws on her Zimbabwean heritage, as artists from across Southern Africa come together
to join The Noisettes on stage.
Muntu Valdo looks at what it means to be a Cameroonian living and working in the
UK in partnership with musicians from across Central Africa creating a compelling
live sound that takes the riches of his heritage and culture and pulls them into the
Some of Africa’s greatest musical stars create special one-off projects for BT River
of Music. Angelique Kidjo sees the Manchester’s World Voices Choir join her and
her band onstage. Hugh Masekela draws together singers from all the countries
that surround South Africa, and Baaba Maal, who is hosting the Africa Utopia
festival at the Southbank Centre, comes to BT River of Music to close our Africa
stage on Saturday night.
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