World music. That global hodgepodge of sounds. That pancultural patchwork of musical traditions. Your typical World Music act finds rock instruments living side by side with esoteric ethnic relics. Futuristic electronic beats become the backdrop for ancient melodies. This is a music that can make congruent the most disparate modes of musical expression. Where African rhythms meet Gaelic sensibility, and where boisterous Balkan folk collides with the zen inflections of the far East.
This May, Maltese music lovers will have the opportunity to experience world music in all its many glorious guises. Following the success of its maiden voyage last year, the Malta World Music Festival will return on May 18 and 19 at Fort St Elmo in Valletta with a jamboree of artists and musicians hailing from all over the world.
The crowning jewel in this year’s line-up is arguably Grammy-nominated collective Afro Celt Sound System who will be headlining Friday night’s concert. The outfit fuse electronica with traditional Irish and West African sounds. Since releasing their debut album back in 1996, Afro Celt Sound System has been at the forefront of bringing worldbeat to the masses. Their presence on Maltese shores is testament to the scope of artistic director Renzo Spiteri and team’s vision, that of creating a truly world class event to rival any overseas. Friday’s bill is completed with performances by Cushion and Refugees for Refugees. Local band Cushion draw heavily from the Indian tradition, with dominant sitar licks and eastern vocalisations. The latter is a band of 10 musicians who are actual refugees originating from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tibet. The band’s sound builds bridges between the musical heritage of their respective homelands.
Festivalgoers can expect to lose themselves in the mystical medieval melodies of chart topping Spanish artist Ana Alcaide, who will kick off Saturday night’s festivities. With her bewitching vocals and her trusty nyckelharpa – a sort of harp-like violin – Alcaide has garnered praise in the world music scene for her contemporary interpretation of archaic Spanish and Mediterranean song.
Alcaide will be followed by TRAD.ATTACK!, a trio of musicians who give Estonian folk music traditions a 21st century makeover. Finally, the night will be capped off by a set from Electrik Gem. Guitarist Grégory Dargent and his motley band of instrumentalists – which includes oud, gadulka and tarhu players – merge sounds from the Balkans, the Middle East and the Orient as an attempt to musically transcribe the modern multifaceted Mediterranean metropolis.
With six hugely diverse acts performing over two magical nights, the Malta World Music Festival promises to take attendees on an expansive musical journey across time, cultures and place.
The Malta World Music Festival is organised by Festivals Malta, supported by the Ministry For Justice, Culture and Local Government, Valletta 18, Farsons and MSV Life.