The world is about to arrive in London. But it’s not just athletes and their entourages that other countries are jetting in – they’re also sending their musicians.
This weekend bands and singers from across the Olympic nations will perform as part of the free BT River Of Music festival.
Featuring at least one artist from each of the 205 competing countries, the huge global gathering will take place across five stages, each representing a different part of the world and each set alongside (or at least near) London’s most defining natural landmark: the Thames.
Tickets are free but space is limited, so you have to register in advance.
Trafalgar Square & Somerset House
Europe gets two sites (don’t ask why, that’s just the way it is). Performing under Nelson’s watchful eye will be the likes of electronic maestro Matthew Herbert – fronting a Russian big band no less – and Guillemots frontman Fyfe Dangerfield on the Saturday. The following day’s highlights include Kathryn Tickell and the Sage Gateshead’s JigHop, plus irresistibly upbeat gypsy band Budapest Bar.
Somerset House gets some of the festival’s biggest names, including Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, and soul luminary Beverley Knight (both Sunday). Saturday looks similarly promising, featuring Portuguese star Mariza and exuberant instrumentals from our very own Penguin Café.
Tower Of London
Scissor Sisters and jazz icon Wynton Marsalis are the big hitters on this stage (both Saturday). But there’s plenty more to get excited about – namely Buena Vista Social Club favourite Roberto Fonseca, who will be bringing together musicians from Cuba, Argentina and Uruguay on Saturday. Also keep an eye out for Aurelio Martinez, who on Sunday will be treating Londoners to a performance of Garifuna – music created by Central America’s black population.
The prospect of soothing Asian music in one of London’s most picturesque parks makes this an appealing option. Indian tabla player Zakir Hussain will stage a collaboration that marries South Indian sounds with those of Scottish and Irish tradition on Sunday, which also features Middle Eastern group Alif Ensemble, renowned string outfit Kronos Quartet and British fusion pioneers Transglobal Underground.
London Pleasure Gardens, Docklands
None other than Senegalese superstar Baaba Maal will be heading up the Saturday bill at this ambitious new East London site. Also performing that day will be two guitar maestros: King Sunny Ade and Justin Adams, who will be joined by North African ensemble The Invisible Republic of JuJu. Among Sunday’s draws are British indie outfit The Noisettes – but with a twist: singer Shingai Shoniwa will be exploring her Zimbabwean heritage with a series of African collaborations.
Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
Australia is to provide many of the highlights for this stage, set next to Christopher Wren’s splendid Naval College. Billed as “underground heroes”, The Barons Of Tang will make their debut UK performance on Sunday, followed by Aussie performance group The Black Arm Band Company, in a collaboration with alternative Welsh folk outfit 9Bach. Wantok Musik Sing Sing is one of Saturday’s highlights, joining musicians, poets and dancers from 18 different nations in the Australasia region.