WATCH: Strong music programme throughout Brighton Festival 2023

Emerging performers and ground-breaking pioneers come together in a boundary-breaking music programme at Brighton Festival, from May 6 to 28.
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This year’s Guest Director, critically acclaimed musician, producer, DJ and broadcaster Nabihah Iqbal, invites everyone to Gather Round in an ambitious celebration of community, collaboration and the joy of shared experiences. On 15 May, Iqbal will perform as part of SUROOR, a shapeshifting musical collaboration with sound artist and musician Raheel Khan, musician and sound artist Paul Purgas and multi-disciplinary artist Imran Perretta. No two shows are the same and anything goes.

From dawn till dusk over Brighton Festival’s opening weekend (6-7 May) Invisible Flock’s immersive installation The Sleeping Tree will surround audiences with the sounds of the Sumatran rainforest. Using field recordings from 3-month-long study of the jungle, the installation changes hour to hour as it follows the path of a family of endangered Siamang gibbons as they wake, roam, and sleep. On 7 May, Iqbal and Invisible Flock will collaborate live within the installation for a unique sound performance highlighting the connection between humans and the forest as a living, breathing entity.

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Iqbal will also explore the power of music and the ways in which it connects us with BBC broadcaster Anita Rani (9 May) and poet and activist Linton Kwesi Johnson (14 May) for two evenings of music, discussion and joy, Glory to Sound.

Nabihah Iqbal, Brighton Festival 23 Guest Director. Photo credit Shahir IqbalNabihah Iqbal, Brighton Festival 23 Guest Director. Photo credit Shahir Iqbal
Nabihah Iqbal, Brighton Festival 23 Guest Director. Photo credit Shahir Iqbal

Elsewhere Different Folks on 20 and 21 May will celebrate the heritage and diversity of folk music across an entire weekend at Brighton Dome’s Concert Hall. Headliners include one of folk’s most innovative figures, Martin Carthy, with a career spanning over 50 years, alongside his daughter, Mercury Prize-nominee Eliza Carthy. Beloved folk and blues musician Shirley Collins MBE will bring her Lodestar Band to her home county of Sussex. Also appearing are Stick in the Wheel, fusing folk, electronics and psychedelic guitar; Angeline Morrison, whose latest album The Sorrow Songs: Folk Songs of Black British Experience won The Guardian’s Folk Album of the Year; and Laura Groves, who mixes traditional song writing with electronic layers.

The All Sounds at All Saints series celebrates music without boundaries, bringing together a broad range of genres and artists for evening performances. Artists include a solo outing for Sons of Kemet’s Shabaka Hutchings, who will be exploring the Japanese shakuhachi, followed by Otto Hashmi, fusing unlikely bed-fellows electronica and the recorder. Leading early music performer Liam Byrne, Radiohead favourite Clare O’Connell and Brian Eno collaborator Tom Rogerson will bring together traditional and modern sounds for an ethereal performance on 10 May. On 11 May classically trained and go-to cellist for FKA twigs, Lucinda Chua, will explore R&B and chamber pop; followed by the downtempo rhythms and ambient electronica of Bristol’s t l k, described by the BBC as ‘one of the city’s most exciting experimental artists’. Closing the week on 12 May are string duo Belladeste, modern classical composer James Maloney and pianist Pelin Pelin.

Multi-Grammy nominated sitarist, Anoushka Shankar will bring her unique sound to Brighton Dome’s Concert Hall on 14 May, showcasing her command of melding traditional ragas with sounds ranging from Spanish flamenco to electronica. Support comes from Petit Oiseau, a boundary-breaking project that brings together Indian classical musician Jatinder Sing Durhailay, graceful master of the dilruba, a 300-year-old bowed instrument, with synthesised accompaniment from Suren Seneviratne.

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Mercury Prize Winner, Talvin Singh will perform a Brighton Festival Exclusive show on 23 May. Renowned for creating bridges between Indian traditional music and contemporary electronica. He is supported by Scottish-Indian protest musician Kapil Seshasayee, whose R&B-influenced second album Laal tackles Bollywood's dark underside.

In a Brighton Festival Exclusive, vocalist/composer BISHI will partner with Trans Voices, the UK’s first trans+ choir for Celestial Voices {Swargiya Awaz} on 26 May. Celebrating Bishi’s recent album, the voice and electric sitar-led Let My Country Awake, the performance will also include the world premiere of a new piece inspired by the life of 19th century trans memoirist, Herculine Barbin.

Promising a visually stunning and deeply immersive evening, on 25 May Brighton Festival presents the World Premiere of a collaborative performance between local leftfield pop musician Evadney and Berlin based Infinite Vibes, a multidisciplinary artist using AI and machine learning to explore the depths of the human experience.

Brighton Festival opens and closes with two club nights at Brighton’s iconic Concorde 2. On 7 May, Notting Hill Carnival mainstay Aba Shanti-I, veteran industry heavyweight Dennis Bovell MBE and Nabihah Iqbal celebrate UK bass culture. To end the Festival on 28 May, drum 'n' bass's first superstar Goldie unleashes his timeless breakbeats for an incredible night alongside Rinse FM's resident RIZ LA TEEF and London-raised, Bristol-based Medic MC.

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A Certain Ratio (6 May). Pioneers of punk-funk, A Certain Ratio, will take to the stage in support of their latest album, 1982. They are joined by Holy Tongue, a dub and post-punk collaboration between percussionist Valentina Magaletti (Vanishing Twin) and producer Al Wooton (TRULE Records).

Metal Box: Rebuilt in Dub (7 May). A founder member of Public Image Ltd, Jah Wobble helped forge their uncompromising sound. Now the visionary bassist reimagines their 1979 post-punk masterpiece Metal Box in dub and with more expansive arrangements. Support comes from Blurt (poet, saxophonist and puppeteer Ted Milton).

Maisie Peters (Fri 12 May). Maisie Peters has an innate gift for storytelling, crafting relatable, diary-entry songs which have racked up over half a billion streams worldwide. Having won over the likes of Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers and Sam Smith, she has progressed from busking on the streets of Brighton to headlining her own U.S. tour. Part of The Great Escape at Brighton Festival.

Arlo Parks (Fri 13 May). In Arlo Parks’s world, words are as useful as photographs. The 20-year-old from West London - who burst onto the scene with 2018’s Cola - uses poetry as her song writing compass, weaving vivid imagery and sensory touches throughout the stirring, honest stories that make up her already-rich body of work. Part of The Great Escape at Brighton Festival.

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Tenebrae: Joby Talbot Path of Miracles (13 May). Virtuoso a cappella choral ensemble Tenebrae will perform composer Joby Talbot’s dazzling Path of Miracles, which tells the story of the pilgrims’ path to Santiago de Compostela. This rendition is a vocal tour de force, evoking both the physical challenges of the journey and the spiritual rewards upon arrival.

Sarathy Korwar + Karma Sheen (Tue 16 May). One of the most original voices in the UK jazz scene, Sarathy Korwar returned in 2022 with his Indo-futurist album KALAK, where once again he showed his ability to translate South Asia's communal rhythms and practices into ground-breaking electronica. London-based Hindustani psychedelic rock group Karma Sheen are spearheaded by Sameer Khan, who melds the classical music traditions of Pakistan with Sufi-inspired lyrics, plus 60s and 70s psychedelia.

Kassem Mosse, plus Flora Yin-Wong (Fri 19 May). Kassem Mosse burst on to the scene with his self-titled debut on queer-collective label Mikrodisko in 2006. Three critically acclaimed solo albums followed, as he evolved his style by stripping it bare, exposing its core and extracting warm free-flowing jazz and avant-garde characteristics. Flora Yin-Wong is a producer, DJ and writer from London, currently on an artist residency in Kyoto exploring instrument building and shrine maiden traditions.

Findom + Lunch Money Life + Handle (20 May). Three of the best representatives of post-punk's new generation, plus an installation from Bristol-based audio-visual artist Purple Taiko. London-based no-wave-meets-industrial jazz act Findom, aka Financial Domination, has members from as far afield as Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Manchester. Five-piece Lunch Money Life combine unhinged punk energy, club dynamics and the tightness of a well-drilled jazz-fusion group. Completing the line-up is Manchester's Handle, who dispense with guitar in favour of bass throb, drums and keyboards, inspired by A Certain Ratio and Liquid Liquid.

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Damir Imamović (22 May). A debut UK appearance from the celebrated Bosnian Sevdah musician, performing songs from his forthcoming album, released this May. A form of Balkan blues, Sevdah means ‘beautiful sadness’. The style emerged at the same time as Portuguese fado, Argentine tango and American jazz. Imamović is a trailblazer who enriches the traditional Sevdah repertoire with his own compositions on contemporary themes.

London Symphony Orchestra with Yuja Wang (26 May). Renowned conductor François-Xavier Roth will lead the London Symphony Orchestra in Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No.3, a new piece written especially for Chinese keyboard sensation Yuja Wang.

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