x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Much more music

In brief The National looks at world music festivals from the Byblos International Festival to Barranquijazz 2009.

Lebanon's signature festival goes by the Greek name of the Mediterranean city Jbeil, lest visitors forget that the former Phoenician port was once a gateway for trade between Greece and other points in the Middle East. Byblos presents world-renowned rockers, jazz artists and the like (two British bands, Keane and Jethro Tull, are scheduled this year), but in much the same way that local architecture is a mix of ancient and modern (the stage at Byblos is set in front of a 12th century castle), the festival's programmers are also known for pairing acts of different genres and histories. See www.byblosfestival.org; tickets are priced from $40 (Dh 150).

Although it's just over an hour's drive north from the hustle of New York City, the bucolic splendour of Caramoor seems almost a world away. Caramoor matriarch Louise Bigelow Rosen and her husband Walter, long hosts of chamber ensembles, opera and symphony orchestras on their sprawling estate, were also patrons of Leon Theremin, an inventor whose namesake instrument emitted the trippy sounds now synonymous with American B-movies about aliens and UFOs. In recent years, Caramoor's weekend programming has expanded to include a vibrant mix of jazz and global music; the mandolinist Bela Fleck and the Malian singer Oumou Sangare are making appearances this year. See www.caramoor.com; tickets are priced from $15 and $35 (Dh55 and Dh128).

The American funk pioneer Sly Stone once wrote a song championing egalitarianism entitled Everybody Is A Star. One could easily imagine that phrase being the motto of the storied festival held at the foot of the Swiss Alps on Lake Geneva each year. The term "star-studded" only hints at the calibre of performers invited to take the stage at Montreux, and even though the fest has yet to drop the "jazz" from its title (and the main performance venue is named for Miles Davis), its programmers have long since embraced the absolute biggest names in pop from every corner of the globe. If you want an idea of what a good percentage of the western world is listening to in any given year, it's the place to be. See www.montreuxjazz.com; tickets priced between $65 and $83 (Dh240 and 305).

An air of mystery still surrounds this gathering in a border hamlet in easternmost Austria's Oberpullendorf district in spite of its 28-year existence and the continued presence of the world famous Latvian violinist, Gidon Kremer, its founder and resident superstar. Lockenhaus's organisers disclose the theme for each fest (this year's focus is the music of Haydn) as well as the list of performers well in advance, but what audiences will hear once they arrive isn't mapped out until just days before, once Kremer and company arrive in town and start rehearsals. Such spontaneity garners its share of surprises. See www.kammermusikfest.at; tickets from $38 (Dh140), full festival pass $593 (Dh2,178).

Don't be fooled by the clunky title. Jazz Festival 55 is the new (and perhaps temporary) name of America's legendary Newport Jazz Festival, now contractually retooled by its founder, the impresario George Wein, after the financial meltdown caused its key sponsor, the Japanese electronics company JVC, to abandon the festivals it had supported in Newport, New York and Chicago. While the Chicago and New York festivals have died off, the 55-year old Newport festival soldiers on. The seaside New England town that hosts it will no doubt be just as welcoming when the festival headliners, Tony Bennett and hip-hopper Mos Def, pass through. See www.jazzfestival55.com; tickets from $15 (Dh55), two-day passes $125 (Dh450).

Cairo hosted the first Conference of Arab Music back in 1932, solidifying the city's place as ground zero for music production throughout the region. (That icons Umm Kulthum and Mohammed Abdel Wahab launched their careers in the city didn't hurt matters either.) The palatial Cairo Opera House is at the centre of cultural exchange for one week each summer, as tradition-based musicians from as far away as Japan gather and jam with each other. While visiting the music confab, however, it's also good to check out the growing number of fine DJs and jazz artists in the clubs beyond the prestigious concert hall. See www.cairoopera.org; tickets range from $5.35 to $36 (Dh20 and 130) depending on the performers.

What began in 1970 as a small event for 1,500 people on Worthy Farm in south-west England - with a bereaved crowd that had just learnt of Jimi Hendrix's death two days earlier - has become the largest greenfield music festival in the world. Over the years Glasto, as it's sometimes known, has attracted stars from a variety of musical genres, including David Bowie, Jimmy Cliff, Leonard Cohen, The Cure and Jay-Z. Sometimes heavy rains have made the viewing area a muddy mess, but one way or another people will continue to trek to the festival's famous Pyramid Stage. This year's scheduled performances include Neil Young, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Tom Jones, Black Eyed Peas and Baaba Maal. See www.glastonburyfestival.co.uk; weekend tickets are $284 (Dh1,044), which includes camping.

Colombia, now considered by many to be the salsa capital of the world, teems with so many music festivals in September that you could hop from Cali to Medellin to Bogota to Cartagena and come across fantastic Latin music. In recent years, however, the city of Barranquilla, on the country's Caribbean coast (also the birthplace of Shakira), has distinguished itself with a fine jazz festival that specialises in swinging music with the proverbial "Spanish tinge". Unerringly conga-driven and percolating, what its acts have in common (this year features, among others, Cuban powerhouses Giovanni Hidalgo and Orlando "Maraca" Valle) is that they play jazz that doubles as dance music. See www.barranquijazz.com; tickets range from $20 and $45 (Dh101 and 227).

Music is an essential component of Fesman, the short title for the World Festival of Black Arts. The fest celebrates the highest expressions of creativity throughout the African diaspora, which explains why stars like Youssou N'Dour, Cesaria Evora and the US jazz pianist Randy Weston are just a small sampling of a stellar list of headliners in theatre, film, fashion and letters. The sprawling fete is not an annual event; this is only the third. The first took place in 1966 and the last one was in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977. See www.fesman2009.com/en; ticket prices to be announced.

One part rave and another part marathon beach party, Sunburn grew out of the enormously popular trance music affairs that sparked a major dance scene in India five years ago. It's not subtitled an "electric circus" for nothing: DJs make the pilgrimage to Sunburn from just about everywhere on the globe, some with the latest breakbeat mixes on their hard drives while others spin on turntables. The heat, the bohemian atmosphere and the south-east Asian locale combine to produce a singularly evocative getaway. See www.sunburn-festival.com; ticket prices to be announced.