This is the sound of tomorrow: two nights of new music from Europe

This is the sound of tomorrow: two nights of new music from Europe

Conchita Wurst / credit: Jansenberger Fotografie

The EIF and British Council present a pan-European musical collaboration featuring Conchita Wurst, Matthew Herbert, Karine Polwart, Ramy Essam and others

**UPDATE 11 Aug**
Syrian trio Basalt will no longer be supporting after being unsuccessful in their visa application. The concert will go ahead with a specially recorded introduction by Conchita and Basalt, with a film of their performance. The International Festival has issued an open invitation to Conchita and Basalt to perform later at this year's Festival. If this is not possible, the invitation will be extended to the 2018 International Festival.


If your peace has been interrupted lately by the sound of political leaders in Britain and America desperately winding back clocks, maybe it's time for some musical relief. The Edinburgh International Festival's Spirit of '47 programme is a celebration of the very essence of the festival spirit, international cultural collaboration, and at its heart is the New European Songbook, two nights of music from all over Europe and beyond, celebrating movement, diversity and cultural change – or, to be blunt, migration.

The Songbook project brings together emerging and established musicians from Britain, Syria, Ghana, Argentina, Austria, Iran, Egypt, Albania and Switzerland, in two concerts where cultural differences can be put to work and celebrated. It's an initiative of the European Broadcasting Union, the people who bring us Eurovision, so it should come as no surprise that one of the stars of the Fri 11 programme is Austria's own Eurovision diva, Conchita Wurst. The singing sensation bewitched the 2014 audience with 'Rise Like A Phoenix', hands down the greatest LGBT empowerment ballad ever to have not featured as a Bond theme; here, Ms Wurst is backed by Basalt, a Syrian indie trio based in Vienna. Also performing on Friday are Britain's innovative composer-performer Matthew Herbert with Iranian percussionist Arian Sadr; Portuguese Fado singer Carolina with Argentinian jazz bass master Demian Cabaud; and Egyptian rocker Ramy Essam, whose 'Irhal' ('Leave') was an anthem of the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

The Sat 12 concert is no less diverse. Scotland's Karine Polwart's broke through to the wider public with her 2016 show Wind Resistance, a hit of last year's EIF; it's going to the Dublin Theatre Festival in October, and returning for a limited Festival Theatre run in November. In the Songbook concert, Polwart is paired with Naa Densua Tordzro, a Glasgow-based singer and artist originally from Ghana. Syrian classical violinist and composer Shalan Alhamwy performs with Syrian singer Rasha Rizk, whose work spans genres from opera, traditional Syrian music and hard rock. Swiss jazz singer-songwriter Scilla Hess, whose big-band song 'Champagne and Sugar' has won a slew of international and US awards, appears in a small group with the fine Albanian jazz pianist Markelian Kapedani, whose music is an invigorating blend of bop with Balkan motifs. Finally, there's a performance from Mala Youssef, a virtuoso of the Syrian qanun, a zither-like instrument.

The concerts are presented by BBC Radio 3's Sarah Walker. Both concerts are being streamed live by BBC Arts Digital online, and are being recorded for later broadcast.

New European Songbook, The Studio, Fri 11 & Sat 12 Aug, 7pm, £19.

New European Songbook

Unique collaborations between established European musicians and artists recently arrived in the continent bring you the newest sounds of Europe today. Respected European musicians join artists already celebrated in their homelands who have recently travelled to Europe, to create new musical dialogues, showcasing the…

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