2018 Norfolk arts preview: the best jazz, folk and world gigs not to miss

Blowzabella, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Chouk Bwa Libète and Talisk. Photos: Submitted

Blowzabella, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Chouk Bwa Libète and Talisk. Photos: Submitted - Credit: Submitted

Folk legends Blowzabella celebrate 40 years, Portico Quartet perform their latest album, The Young'uns tell The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff and there is a return of international stars Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Chouk Bwa Libète

The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, February 26

Drums, poetry and trance from Haiti's vodou heartlands with this traditional Haitian Mizik Rasin ensemble. Their music rises in waves of percussion, vocals and dance, authentically inspired in the moment and communicating nothing but the unique joy of this shared spontaneity. With deep roots in the religious rites of West African Vodún, their repertoire blends traditional songs with compositions by lead vocalist and poet Jean-Claude 'Sambaton' Dorvil. The celebratory power of their sound has already ignited audiences at major festivals around the world.

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Diss Corn Hall, February 24

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The legendary folk ensemble celebrate 40 years of their inimitable, drone-based wall of sound with a new album and a visit to Diss (one of their favourite venues). They compose dance music influenced by English and European folk traditions. Many of their tunes are 'standards' in the British/European folk repertoire. The line-up includes Andy Cutting on diatonic button accordion; Jo Freya – vocals, saxophone, clarinet; Paul James – vocals, bagpipes, saxophones; Gregory Jolivet – hurdy-gurdy; David Shepherd – violin; Barn Stradling – bass guitar; Jon Swayne – bagpipes, saxophone.

Raghu Dixit Project

Open, Norwich, March 15

Often hailed as India's biggest musical export, Raghu Dixit's unique brand of infectious, happy music transcends age, genre, and even language. His music is strongly rooted in Indian traditions and culture and is presented with a very contemporary, global sound. From playing to over 100,000 people in his home state to Glastonbury, an appearance on Jools Holland and even playing for the Royal Family, he has done it all. The Raghu Dixit Project is his dynamic, ever changing group of collaborations that give his compositions a fresh twist. A definite sight at their concerts is the jumping and dancing.


Diss Corn Hall, March 17

Nominated in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Faustus are three of the leading lights of their generation: Benji Kirkpatrick (Seth Lakeman Band, Bellowhead), Saul Rose (Waterson:Carthy, Whapweazel) and Paul Sartin (Bellowhead, Belshazzar's Feast). They have a plethora of experience between them, brought together theirs is a virtuosic display of musicianship and testosterone. Their last album Death and Other Animals was the result of being artists in residence at Halsway Manor, the 15th Century building nestling on the flanks of Somerset's Quantock Hills that houses the National Centre for Folk Arts.

The Young'uns - The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff

The Cut, Halesworth, March 28

Twice BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners and FolkEast festival patrons the Young'uns present a timely tale of a boy who walked out of poverty, a teenager who stood up to racism, a soldier who fought fascism and an old man who inspired a new generation. From the shadow of the Teeside shipyards, to the banks of the Thames, from Cable Street to the Spanish Civil War, Johnny Longstaff bore witness to some of the most defining moments of the early 20th century. The story is told with the Teesside trio's trademark harmony and humour.

Portico Quartet

Norwich Arts Centre, April 5

Sending out echoes of jazz, electronica, ambient music and minimalism, Mercury Prize-nominated Portico Quartet has always been an impossible band to pin down. The group have created their own singular, cinematic sound over the course of four albums, from their 2007 debut Knee-Deep in the North Sea. Now rebooted as a quartet after a brief spell as the three-piece Portico, the group will visit to perform material from their latest album, Art In The Age Of Automation.


Norwich Arts Centre, April 17

One of the fastest rising bands on the UK folk scene and nominees in the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards' Horizon Award, and winners of the 2015 Young Folk Award. Mohsen Amini (concertina), Hayley Keenan (fiddle) and Graeme Armstrong (guitar) create a captivating, energetic and dynamic sound that, in just a couple of years, has earned them multiple award wins and a growing following. Atop their collective titles, Amini was the 2016 BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, adding to a trophy cabinet that far belies their years. So too does their touring history, though – with appearances at world-leading festivals including the Cambridge Folk Festival.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Norwich Theatre Royal, May 16

Norfolk and Norwich Festival marks the return of one of the world's greatest and most distinctive groups. For over 50 years the legendary a cappella male choir have invoked the soul of South Africa with their intricate rhythms and harmonies and powerful, uplifting songs. They shot to global stardom after featuring on Paul Simon's Graceland album, and have been touring the world ever since. Their last release was their Grammy-nominated 2016 album Walking in the Footsteps of Our Fathers.

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