After its debut last year, London’s Blaze Festival is back for a second summer. Based at the Barbican, this year it also takes in events at other venues, including the venerable Wilton’s Music Hall and the Hackney Empire.
Stretched out over six weeks, there’s a hell of a lot on offer from some of the most groundbreaking artists from around the planet. There’s so much to choose from that it’s difficult to pick out just a few potential highlights, but with geography in mind here’s a taster of what we’d recommend…
The first event of the festival belongs to trumpeter Guy Barker. He’ll be celebrating and exploring British big band music with a bunch of special guests and will also feature a tribute to the late Sir John Dankworth (19 June – Barbican Hall).
Taraf de Haïdouks (meaning ‘band of outlaws’) is a Balkan gypsy band discovered in their village in south western Romania in 1989, since when they’ve gone on to considerable success. They’ll be performing alongside the Boban Markovic Orkestar, also a Balkan gypsy band that draws inspiration from Klezmer, jazz and Latin styles with an infusion of funk (21 July – Hackney Empire).
Alarm Will Sound is a 20-piece chamber orchestra from New York. They’ll be recreating the electronic soundscapes of experimentalists like Aphex Twin and Autechre in a Grade II listed music hall. Promises to be like nothing you’ve ever seen before (24 June – Wilton’s Music Hall). They’ll also be on hand to help out Brooklyn band Dirty Projectors perform their 2005 album The Getty Address in full before the Dirty Projectors go on to play a more orthodox gig, likely to include tracks from last year’s breakthrough album Bitte Orca (25 June – Barbican Hall).
Bassekou Kouyatė and Ballakė Sissoko are two of Mali’s most successful musical exports; the former a lauded ngoni player. Meanwhile Sissoko knows his way around the 21-string kora and will be pairing up with French cellist and bassist Vincent Sėgal ahead of the release of their collaborative album (2 July – Barbican Hall).
Songwriter and political activist Caetono Veloso is a very famous man in Brazil. He’ll be playing songs from new album Zii e Zie (3 July – Barbican Hall).
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu is the most globally successful indigenous Australian musician on the planet. Formerly a member of Yothu Yindi, the melodic lullabies on his solo effort Gurrumul won him a heap of awards Down Under and earned him a spot on Later… with Jools Holland. The night will also feature Cape Verde singer Mayra Andrade, already a familiar face to Barbican audiences (24 July – Barbican Hall).
And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the other delights lined up. It’s almost criminal to not mention the Caribbean-themed concerts, or the Philip Glass/Kronos Quartet rescoring of the 1931 classic film Dracula, or the final event featuring screenings of 13 of Andy Warhol’s “screen tests” accompanied by live music from Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips.
A privilege for those of us living in London, Blaze is a bold festival to be savoured.
For comprehensive listings of the Blaze Festival, running from June 19 – July 31 2010, visit barbican.org.uk/blaze