The summer’s most ambitious music festival takes place simultaneously across six London landmarks along a stretch of the Thames this weekend, giving a perfect excuse to travel on the Thames Clipper like you’ve always talked about.
The BT River of Music will turn the Tower Of London into a disco, bring music to Battersea Park and London Pleasure Gardens will be given a chance salvage its reputation after the debacle of Bloc Weekender.
Each venue will host music from a different continent; Greenwich Royal Naval College has Oceania, The Americas are bunkered at the Tower and Europe has two, Somerset House and Trafalgar Square – which although not exactly on the river does — er — have fountains and it will probably rain.
Sadly there isn’t an Antarctica stage, but you can experience some of the southern continent by watching Penguin Café at Somerset House – the nearest thing to there is to a polar band.
The worldwide line-up is breathtakingly varied, from the mainstream successes of Scissor Sisters, Baaba Maal and Jools Holland’s boogie woogie to the exciting world music talents of Kayhan Kalhor and Seckou Keita.
Tickets are free, well, there’s a three quid charge for being sent an email, but it will be worth it to experience such a unique event in our city. There are still plenty of tickets for the Africa, Oceania and Asia stages left to grab, and production tickets have just been released for the sold out Tower Of London show on Sunday, which is by far the best venue, just for the possibility of seeing a Beefeater dancing.
Whichever stage you’re heading to, the music will be exceptional, so we’ve picked our five recommended acts form each continent to get you in the mood.
Seckou Keita: Africa @ London Pleasure Gardens, Docklands, Saturday 12pm
The Senegalese kora player is remarkably cutting edge. He uses original tunings to give the traditional harmonies of the instrument a contemporary feel, yet still honours the music’s international roots. As a drummer he incorporates exhilarating rhythms for a truly breath-taking sound with a raw edginess.
Telek: Oceania @ Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, Saturday 2.40pm
Hailing from Papau New Guinea, Telek revolutionises traditional Papuan string band music with Melanesian rhythms to create contemporary, often trip-hoppy, pop grooves. His jubilant triple harmonies and western inflections never hide his legendary everyday storytelling.
Ondatrópica: Americas @ Tower Of London, Sunday 3.35pm
This collaboration between Colombian musician, Mario Galeano, and English producer Quantic morphs the raw tropical funk of South America with a gritty sound of London to reaffirm the region’s cutting edge groove. They’re joined by an array of South American musicians to create a contemporary Buena Vista Social Club.
General Elekriks: Europe @ Trafalgar Square, Saturday 6.50pm
Taking the French pop ideal of Air and taking it for a working holiday around America to hang out with Quannum and Blackalicious led Hervé Salters to create brilliantly funky vintage hip-hop electro pop. There’s a subtle groove to his sprightly noir melodies which sound like a Citroen 2cv with funk hydraulics.
Kayhan Kalhor: Asia @ Battersea Park, Saturday 4.15pm
As a child the Kurdish Iranian composer received the best Persian tutelage in Tehran, and although now resident America, his music, mainly based around the Kamancheh — an upright Persin violin — still embodies his folk roots. His subtle incorporation of western classical structures gives a truly international appeal which Grammy nominations prove, yet stays assuringly traditional.