The 23rd Istanbul Jazz Festival kicks off with a special project on Monday, 27 June. The creative member of Blur and Gorillaz, and one of the most productive names of the rock music, Damon Albarn, the conductor Issam Rafea, and The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians will inaugurate the festival on Monday, 27 June at 21.30 at Cemil Topuzlu Open Air Theatre.
Artists from Britain and Syria will be joined by performers from Algeria, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Tunisia and the United States. Among those performing are the Algerian singer and one of the most renowned rai music performers Rachid Taha; one of the most shining poet singers of our days, Julia Holter; Senegal’s outstanding musician, singer and songwriter, Baaba Maal; a musician from Mali who was nominated for the Grammy Best Traditional World Music Album in 2011, Bassekou Kouyaté; one of the most prominent rap singers and producers of Syria, Bu Kolthoum; rapper of Lebanese-Syrian origin, Eslam Jawaad, the “Queen of Arab Hip-Hop” Malikah, jazz and Sufi music singer from Tunisia, Mounir Troudi, known as the master of a 9-string harp ardine Noura Mint Seymali and young producer TALA who blends R&B, electro and Middle Eastern influences, will join Damon Albarn as guests when The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians comprised of 50 musicians, featuring current and former members of the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music, take the stage for a rare concert to showcase Syrian and Arabic music. Surprise guests from Turkey will also be performing at the concert that will gather together diverse cultures, sounds and music. Mike Smith who has toured, arranged and orchestrated for Damon Albarn for more than 20 years, will be the music director of this special project.
Damon Albarn first played with Syrian conductor Issam Rafea at the Damascus Opera House in 2008. Albarn later worked with Rafea and members of the orchestra when they appeared on the Gorillaz track White Flag which debuted at an Africa Express concert in Paris. The musicians, together with Rafea, later joined Gorillaz on their 2010 ‘Escape to Plastic Beach’ World Tour which included shows at the 11th century Citadel in Damascus, Syria, as well as dates in Lebanon and across Europe and North America. Within the Africa Express project, which also involved producers such as Lil’ Silva, Brian Eno, Metronomy, Django Django and Ghostpoet, Damon Albarn has carried out a unique collaboration with The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, formed of conductor Issam Rafea and other musicians who were forced to flee their country.
6 special concerts in Europe
Africa Express presents… The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians + Damon Albarn will play a number of dates across Europe this summer including the premiere in Holland Festival on 22 June, Glastonbury on 24 June, Southbank Center on 25 June, Istanbul on 27 June within the scope of the 23rd Istanbul Jazz Festival, Roskilde Festival on 29 June and Köln Philharmonie on 30 June. Performing a limited number of concerts and coming to Istanbul after appearing at the Holland Festival, the Royal Festival Hall and Glastonbury, this special project is presented by Africa Express as a joint commission of 14-18 NOW and the Holland Festival.