Tag Archives: Musicport Festival

Musicport Festival 2019 Announces Day Tickets on Sale & New Additions to Line-up

World music and folk event Musicport Festival has released Tier 3 and day tickets together with new additions to the line-up: comedian John Hegley, Manic Chord Theatre, Jo Freya, Annie Whitehead & Jennifer Maidman and Talaro (Gambia /Czech Republic). The festival will take place at Whitby Pavilion in Whitby, UK, October 18th-20th, 2019 (Plus On Tour to villages October 21st -25th).

Friday Night

Misty in Roots; LO’JO; Warsaw Village Band; Jasdeep Singh Degun; Peace Artistes: Talaro; Mambo Jambo; Napoleon IIIrd; Manic Chord Theatre.

Saturday full day

Orchestra les Mangalepa; Catrin Finch and Sekou Keita; Lemn Sissay; Banco de Gaia; Amira Medunjanin; Reem Kelani; Orchestra that Fell to Earth; Sarah Jane Morris; Jim Moray Trio; Varldens Band; The Lake Poets; Riccardo Tesi; Martin Stephenson; John Hegley; Anne Niepold; Reg Meuross/Twelve Silk Handkerchiefs; The Hut People; Katie Spencer; Jo Freya Annie Whitehead & Jennifer Maidman; Jay Johnson.

Sunday full day

Aziza Brahim; Peatbog Faeries; Moussu T et Lei Jovents; Belinda 0’Hooley; Holy Moly and the Crackers; The Little Unsaid; Me and My Friends; Rafiki Jazz; Commoners Choir; Harry Gallagher; Rebecca Riley; Joe Solo; Joshua Burnell; Don’t Feed the Peacocks; Rosie Brown; Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage: The Far Side.

Plans are being made to involve 20 schools in workshops and events in the lead up to the event and the village tour is beginning to take shape with 8 concerts in villages surrounding Whitby with acts including Andy Irvine (Eire), Poor Nameless Boy (Canada) and Moussu T E Lei Jovents (France) performing in small venues on a pay what you feel basis for local residents.

More details at www.musicportfestival.com


Musicport Festival Announces 2017 Program

British world music festival Musicport has announced its 2017 lineup. The festival takes place October 20th – 22nd, 2017 at Whitby Pavilion, West Cliff, Whitby.

This year’s program includes:

Afro Celt Sound System: masters of Celtic fusion.

Benjamin Zephaniah & The Revolutionary Minds: Pioneering dub reggae poet, writer, social commentator and music maker with new album “Revolutionary Minds.

Trio Da Kali (Mali): A Malian super group with an impressive roster. Singer Hawa is the daughter of the great Kass Mady Diabaté, still one of West Africa’s great voices. Lassana Diabaté, formerly with Toumani Diabaté’s Symmetric Orchestra, is a master of the ancient West African wooden xylophone, the balafon, while ngoni player Mamadou Kouyaté is the eldest son of the instrument’s greatest exponent, Bassekou Kouyaté.

Tcha Limberger’s Kalotaszeg Trio (Hungary): A trio showcasing specifically the folk music played by Gypsies in a small region of Transylvania with a universally respected cultural heritage. The three main repertoires played are Hungarian, Romanian, and Gypsy. Led by the remarkable fiddler Tcha.

Kefaya: Ecstatic Indo-prog led by the virtuoso talents of Giuliano Moderelli & Al McSween both who trained at Leeds College Of Music. Winner of Songlines 2017 Newcomer Award.

Maia Barou (Japan/France): The daughter of a Japanese painter and a French author/producer, the flute is her first instrument but she sings using a special technique from a small island in the South of Japan, mixing it with modern and electric sounds.
Maarja Nuut (Estonia): Charismatic fiddler and singer from Northern Estonia. Her music combines traditional dance tunes, songs and stories with live electronics to create an intricate layered soundscape in a space where minimalism and experimental music meet the village musical traditions of pre-war Europe.

Joanne Harris & Storytime Band: The internationally acclaimed author of Chocolat brings a new live show to the festival, featuring dark tales from her forthcoming collection and projections, original music and song from the band she has been a member of since college.

Amaraterra: A London-based group of expatriates from Salento in southern Italy, whose songs in the pizzica dance style speak of love, longing and passion.
Andy Kershaw: A late night DJ set from the broadcaster journalist and foremost advocate of the type of music Musicport promotes.

Maya Youssef

Maya Youssef Trio (Syria): Virtuoso Syrian kanun player Maya whose virtuosity and unique innovative approach to playing the kanun, originally a traditional instrument, have expanded her audiences to international platforms.

Rafiki Jazz: A UK ensemble spanning four continents with refugee artists at its heart.

Jamie Smith’s Mabon (Wales): One of the UK’s finest Celtic music acts.

Omar Puente’s Cuban Sextet: Omar is a Cuban-born violinist and jazz musician, currently living in England.
Fistful of Spookies: UK contingent of the phenomenon that is the Spooky Men’s Chorale. The Spooky Men’s Chorale emerged the Blue Mountains of NSW fifteen years ago and armed with no more than their impressively cavernous vocal chords, a nice line in deadpan, improbable facial hair and an ill-matched set of hats, have been gleefully wooing audiences throughout Australia, NZ and the UK ever since.

Himmerland (Denmark): A group of five travelling musicians who come from Denmark, Poland and Ghana, in West Africa who met in beautiful wide-skied northern part of Jutland called Himmerland. They compose their own music and infuse it with all the different traditions that run in their blood and travel the world performing it.
Bollywood Jazz Project: A joyous collision of styles as virtuoso jazz musicianship meets the technicolor drama of Bollywood for a journey through cinematic sound and created developed here in Yorkshire.

Orchestra of Samples Addictive TV perform their latest audio visual. The duo has won international acclaim for the project described as “a glimpse into the very essence of music” and “ingenious and compelling”. 200 musicians from more than 25 different countries are sampled, combined and reimagined into extraordinary unique fusions that cross multiple styles and cultures alongside live musicians.

Pete Williams & His Band: Founding member of Dexys Midnight Runners, Pete with his band of merry Midlanders deliver songs of mystery, imagination, love, loss, joy and memory that come down on you like a ton of feathers.

Ian Prowse: All-Liverpudlian musical hero and frontman of both Pele & Amsterdam and a solo artist of renown who has worked with Elvis Costello, John Peel & Christy Moore amongst many others in his long career.

Rory McLeod & The Familiar Strangers present internationally popular performer Rory’s songs in a fresh and exciting new musical environment and bring a musical depth and range to compliment Rory’s outstanding talents as wordsmith his engaging and earthy performing qualities.

Kathakali Theatre Company: (India) Drama, dance, music and ritual are combined in the classical Indian art form kathakali. Featuring eminent artists from Kerala, South India. Stunning both visually and aurally this sacred theatre erupts on stage with striking images that expose the magical world of South India.

O’Hooley & Tidow: A West Yorkshire duo who we have seen develop from the start and who have now become one of the must-see acts on the circuit.

Hardeep Singh Kohli: Comedian, broadcaster, journalist, and chef. In addition to being a BBC Radio 4 favorite, Hardeep’s broadcast credits include shows ranging from Celebrity Masterchef & The One Show to Question Time & This Week. He has also won a BAFTA for his work as director. Here he’ll run cookery stage and DJ.

Bob’s Blundabus: The double decker bar & venue home to clowns, storytellers and comedians and our onsite fringe venue.

Grace Petrie: Folk singer, songwriter, and activist from Leicester who first exploded on to the national protest scene in 2010 with the emotive anthem Farewell to Welfare, which captured perfectly the spirit of the new wave of dissent in austerity Britain.

Bar Steward Sons Of Val Doonican

Hattie Hatstar: Acoustic-comedy-punk-folk-cabaret

Leasungspell: Teesside poet Bob Beagrie’s epic poem set in the wilds of Northumbria in the year 657 AD.

More information at Tel: 01947 603475 to book or visit: www.musicportfestival.com

headline photo: Trio Da Kali


Musicport Festival 2016 Announces Partial Lineup


World music event Musicport Festival 2016 has announced many of the artists scheduled to perform October 21-23, 2016.

The Friday night headliners include The Magic Numbers, world famous jazz guitarist Martin Taylor, and Black Umfolosi from Zimbabwe. Other acts on Friday include Moscow Drugs Club, Jamie Smith’s Mabon (Wales) The Peace Artistes & Geoff Berner (Canada)

Saturday lead acts include The Mahotella Queens from South Africa, piper Kathryn Tickell & The Side; broadcaster & Chancellor of Manchester University Lemn Sissay, Sarah Jane Morris (of The Communards, & more, fame) and DJ Don Letts of Big Audio Dynamite and 6Music. Other Saturday acts include Jackson Reed (South Africa), blues and acoustic singer-songwriter Sean Taylor, Rory McLeod and the Familiar Strangers & Indian blues fusion band Michael Messer’s Mitra. Whitby pianist Jess Wright will be joining forces with percussionist and Young Musician of the Year finalist Delia Stevens.

Sunday headliners include Lynched, the Dublin band nominated for three Radio 2 Folk awards in 2016; Soupsongs Live led by trombone legend Annie Whitehead performing the songs of Robert Wyatt; John Smith, the Devonian guitar maestro and singer; and Coope Boyes & Simpson on their final tour.Other Sunday acts include fine bluegrass band Ragged Union (USA), rising English folk star Maz O’Connor, young flutist Maïa Barouh (Japan/France) with her band, Icelandic folk band Árstíðir and acclaimed tango singer Martin Alvarado (Argentina).

Tickets are currently £99 for full weekend (11-18s half price & under 11’s free) and single day tickets will be on sale in August.

Visit www.musicportfestival.com for more information.


British World Music Festival Musicport Announces 2015 Program


World music indoor festival Musicport 2015 is set to take place October 16t– 18 at Whitby Pavilion Complex in the seaside town of Whitby in North Yorkshire. The festival has announced its 2015 program that includes some of the leading international acts playing alongside some of the finest local and regional acts. It is an inclusive festival that has the feel of an outdoor summer festival but all indoors under one roof , including an indoor camping option to complete the festival experience.

The 2015 artists scheduled so far include: Fanfara Tirana meets Trans-Global Underground (Albania/UK), Dub Colossus (Ethiopia/UK), Soweto Gospel Choir (south Africa), Terry Hall (the Specials- Dj Set), Tromboronga salsa orchestra (Spain), Varldens Band (Sweden), Afrikan Boy (Nigeria/UK), Frigg (Finland), Demon Barbers Xl, Najma Ahktar (India/UK), Duke Special (N. Ireland), Kora Band (USA/UK), Hut People & Jess Morgan/ Ben Rogers (Canada), Keith James (songs of Nick Drake), O’hooley & Tidow, Maalstroom (Netherlands), Will McNicholl & Luke Selby, Richard De Soussa, The Cajun Roosters (EU), Blue Rose Code (Scotland), Naomi Bedford & Paul Simmonds/ Paul Armfield (Songwriter In Residence).

Musicport will also be hosting The Yorkshire Gig Guide Grassroots Awards on the Friday of the festival featuring several Yorkshire acts on the North Sea Stage. Workshops comedy and film programs are still to be confirmed.

Tickets for the full weekend are £99 (£95 concession) with under 18s half price and accompanied under 11s free.

Tel 01947 603475 www.musicportfestival.com

Indoor camping at Brunswick Centre is also available at £30 for three nights


Musicport World Music Festival, the Indoor Festival with the Outdoor Spirit

Nitin Sawhney
Nitin Sawhney

The year is flying by furnishing us with a new set of musical memories, thrilling discoveries of unsigned talent on Glastonbury’s fringe stages, grooving to great dance bands from Africa at WOMAD or simply chilling with a beer and the Sunday papers on the Larmer Tee lawns. Just as you heave a sigh and mourn the end of the festival season, vex not…there’s one more festival that will give you the chance for a final fling, to lift your spirits before the nights start to draw in, in earnest. It’s also the perfect excuse to escape the city for the weekend and continue the very English and Victorian passion for a trip to the seaside by rail, for concerts, dancing , a paddle in the waves and of course the enjoyment of fish and chips, whilst strolling along the seafront promenade, weather permitting.

Musicport World Music Festival takes place every fourth weekend in October, in the East Yorkshire coastal town of Bridlington, birth place of aviatrix Amy Johnson, home to artist David and since 2009, Musicport’s new home. Occupying the newly refurbished Bridlington Spa complex, Musicport transforms the space into an indoor program of music, dance, workshops, a children’s festival offshoot and also world cinema courtesy of Scarborough film society.

Months of planning and hard work see creative visions materialize as food stalls and traders arrive early to set up their pitches, sound systems are given the traditional one two one two and Cloudbase, purveyors of fine music and vibes, are entrusted with creating a festival ambience. The Art Deco Ballroom featuring a glass domed ceiling and sprung wooden dancefloor, will become the main stage, the surroundings and balconies draped with fabric and more colors than the brightest sari.

Bunting and huge white fabric covered hoops covered in are hung in readiness for the Cloudbase visual protections. Names on contracts are becoming a reality as the artist reception and green room are set up in readiness for Musicport’s well renowned top notch artist hospitality. This bodes well for music lovers as Jim McLaughlin, the festival’s director believes in a strong correlation between brilliant performances and the provision of good food and hospitality.

Brimming with music from local and international artists let the musical adventure begin. Its all under one roof, “the indoor festival with the outdoor spirit” includes everything we love whilst leaving behind the choice chemical toilets, crowded tents with overpriced beer, long treks between stages, knee deep mud and rain we loathe.

To give you a flavor of the music you can expect, here’s the low down from last year’s festival…. but first take a deep breath. Here we go…… Those arriving early were treated to a special performance in the foyer from Newcastle based Soznak aided by dancing from the Urban Gypsies. Rafiki Jazz from Sheffield opened the main stage to be followed over the weekend by performances from Nitin Sawhney, The mighty Misty in Roots on their only UK date, a rare appearance from the recently reformed Congolese supergroup Les Quatre Etioles, John Peel favorites the Ukranians on their comeback tour, Leeds based Chumbawumba, polyphonic singing from Bulgaria’s Bisserov Sisters, Pacific Curls from the southern hemisphere, jazz inflections with the masterful Adriano Adewale Group, Sudanese Voodoo grooves with Rango, a colorful spiritual Sunday morning awakening with the Tashi Lhunpo monks, Eliza Carthy’s favorite singer in the world Julie Murphy with Fernhill, trancey afro blues from Songlines music award winners Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara.and the Pan African band the African Jazz All stars……. Whew, you can breathe out now..…. but that’s not all.

The South Sea Stage conveniently placed near the upstairs bar and café, is where you’ll make those musical discoveries, never to be repeated, unrehearsed pure impromptu moments that just blow you away. Names chalked up on a blackboard both programmed artists, booked months ahead and last minute hopefuls. Notable performances came from Karen Tweed now one of the most sought after accordionists in Europe, Dicky Deegan man and uillean pipes at one and The Hut People who’s debut the previous year created one of the festival’s surprise sensations.

Are you exhausted yet?….well, there’s more. As the name suggests its polar opposite, the North Sea stage has commanding views across the waves, next stop Norway. The perfect backdrop to wonder what music the Yorkshire coast’s most famous seafarer, Captain James Cook, may have encountered on his voyages.

If ever there was an award for the hardest working stage, this is probably the most deserving, accommodating over twenty acts plus workshops. The sound engineers have an ear for acoustic perfection but often with less than twenty minutes to mike up, sound check and turn the stage around. It was here that Robert Maseko and the Congo Beats gave a memorable late night acoustic performance and where Paula Darwish, introduced the audience to an eclectic fusion of Turkish, Kurdish, English and Arabic music with her Country and Eastern Band. Other treats included Fiona Katy Roberts harp playing and the upcoming Liverpudlian singer songwriter Delta Maid.

English festival audiences are notorious for wanting to sit down at concerts and the venue provides a number of sitting opportunities. Chairs and tables around the outer edges of the ballroom, raked seating in the upper tier but the piece de resistance, the pearl in the shell is the venue’s hidden gem. Not at all obvious from the plain exterior, the Spa has its own self contained, revamped two tier Edwardian theatre with state of the art sound and lighting but importantly, 950 soft red velvet covered seats. Festival weary could rest aching backs and tired legs whilst listening to the “saviour of English roots music” Jim Moray; Mamane Barke the last surviving master of the ancient African instrument the Biram or Carmen Souza who mixes traditional Cape Verdean melodies with twists of contemporary jazz.

And once those weary legs are rested you can dance into the small hours with festival residents Cloudbase or one of the guest dj’s who have in the recent past included: DJ Monkey Pilot of the Whirly Gig, The Outernationalists, Mad Professor and the Ariwa Posse, The Flying Chilli Beats and Banco De Gaia and when the festival straddles two time zones, there’s an extra hour of dancing on a Saturday night as the clocks go back and British summer time ends.

Now in its eleventh year, never in their wildest dreams could the originators of Musicport envisage the festival growing to what it is today. Talk to Robert Maseko and he soon recounts with fond affection that gig back in the late nineties that started it all. Jim and his wife Sue were running the Old Chapel in Robin Hood’s Bay as a café, bookshop and occasional venue where Lunasa and Wood, Wilson Carthy had provided previous concerts. It was the booking of Robert Maseko and his band that provided the turning point. After a sell out, Jim and Sue realized there was an audience for African music.

Revved up after the gig the trio returned to the McLaughlin home in Whitby where fuelled by positivity, they drank tea and talked until the dawn chorus. A decision was made and there would be a world music millennium celebration at Whitby’s Pavillion . With strong support from the community, there would be no going back and the cultural landscape would alter permanently. The Musicport festival was born with a line- up that included Robert Maseko and the Chaka Chaka Zouk, Labi Siffre, Susaar, Viva Flamenco, Charanga Del Norte, Imbizo, Banoffi and Manchester Adventist gospel choir amongst others.

Its slow organic growth and strong community links have ensured that the festival has retained the spirit of its humble beginnings. Festival goers warm to its friendly atmosphere, skilful programming and resistance to corporate interference. The fact that the festival now has considerable pulling power to attract the very best in international artists is just a bonus.

For Jim McLaughlin Musicport’s director, its about providing something for everyone, “it’s the joy of seeing how music connects people and if we provide the right environment we can slot other bits and pieces in and stretch the boundaries”. And like the waves that form its logo the festival has never stood still, creating support for a number of spin off concerts all year round at venues throughout Whitby as well as commissioning special collaborations for the festival.

This year’s festival takes place on 22nd- 24th October with headline acts to include Angelique Kidjo, Invisible System, Jah Wobble, Imagined Village, Alejandro Toledo and the Tombelinos, Richard Hawley and Norma Waterson.

This article formed the background to a piece commissioned by Songlines Magazine in the UK.

More at www.musicportfestival.com


Musicport World Music Festival 2009 Celebrates its 10th Anniversary

Nitin Sawhney
Nitin Sawhney

Musicport Festival 2009 promises a wide range of international, national and regional artists celebrating 10 years of bringing the best in global music to the Yorkshire coast. This year’s eclectic line up mixes many artists who are new to the festival with some previous special guests. With the successful transition to its new venue at the recently refurbished Spa Complex in Bridlington undertaken last year this year Musicport 09 is set to be the biggest and best yet.

The 10th anniversary will be a celebration of the last ten years as well as pointer towards what the future holds in store for its loyal audience that has grown year on year. This year the festival is back in its traditional half term dates and takes place over the weekend of 23-25 October 2009. The line-up so far includes music, dance and spoken word traditions from countries as diverse as Tibet, New Zealand, Chile, India, Malawi, Jamaica, D R Congo, Sudan, Philippines, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Cape Verde, Bulgaria, Niger and Brazil as well as many excellent UK based artists.

The festival includes the multi-talented Nitin Sawhney (at the forefront of the Asian Underground movement), regular Radio 4 comedian/musician Mitch Benn, the classic roots reggae of Misty in Roots, the gentle Maori music of Pacific Curls, the lead singer of The Inspiral Carpets, the only living master of the traditional instrument of the fishermen of Lake Chad in Niger Mamane Barka, stunning Flamenco music & dance, the best African jazz ensemble, BBC Radio 3 World Music Award winners Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara.

Also featured are: top ambient DJ/producer Banco De Gaia, the haunting polyphonic singing of the Pirin mountains in Bulgaria by the Bisserov Sisters, the political folk harmonies of Chumbawamba, the amazing spectacle of Sufi music and whirling dervishes of Forever Haqqani, the award-winning English musician Jim Moray, dub poet Jean Binta Breeze. From Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalists (& Musicport regulars) The Urban Gypsies, the trance-inducing Sudanese acoustic dance music of Rango as well as a host of local musicians and performers

The festival has 4 stages all in one gloriously restored Art Deco venue overlooking Bridlington’s extensive South Beach sands. With workshops, spoken word events, film, children’s events, festival market , DJ room and food court the festival offers an all weather alternative to the outdoor summer festivals and is many peoples chance to recapture and rekindle that festival spirit (and paddle in the sea) before the nights get way too long.

Line-up (subject to contract):

Nitin Sawhney
Misty In Roots
Mad Professor Ariwa Possee
Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara
African Jazz All Stars
Banco De Gaia
Abdullah Chhadeh & Syriana
Sumayo Flamenco
Pacific Curls (New Zealand)
Les Quatre Étoiles (Congo)
Mitch Benn
Batanai (Zimbabwe)
Jim Moray (England)
Jean Binta Breeze
Carmen Souza (Cape Verde)
Rafiki Jazz
The Hut People
The Ukrainians
Forever Haqqani (Sheikh Ahmad Dede & His Whirling Dervishes)
Mamane Barka (Niger)
Rango (Sudan /Egypt)
Tom Hingley
Bisserov Sisters (Bulgaria)
The Balkanatics
Tashi Lhunpo Monks (Tibet)
Jack Mapanje (Malawi)
La Romeria De Santa Fortuna (Chile)
Adriano Adewale Group (Brazil/UK)
Samay (UK/India)
Fernhill (Wales)
Mother India – MI21 remix
Maalstroom & Jo Freya (UK/Netherlands
Guy Buttery & Nibs Van Der Spuy (solo & duo)
DJ Monkey Pilot
Union Central
Ian Clayton & Boff Whalley
Flying Chilli Beats
Bon Appetit
Eddy John
Urban Gypsies
LK Dance (Phillipines)
Delta Maid
Andrew Lowe
Karen Tweed & Reg Meuross
Country & Eastern Band
Martin Stephenson

This year’s featured cause is Love Music Hate Racism.

Ticket Prices There are cut-price full weekend tickets £79.50 available until August (Then they go up to £89.50). Day & session tickets go on sale on 1st July. There is an official campsite (charged separately) and an abundance of B & B /self catering accommodation within easy walking distance of the venue

Ticket Line 0845 3732760. www.musicportfestival.com


Musicport World Music Festival 2008

musicport_2008-300Musicport 2008 notches up a gear as they publish their list of forthcoming events in the run up to this October’s festival.

The first event on 17th May, was a runaway success with Belinda O’Hooley, who by all accounts turned in a stunning set supporting Jim Moray.

Acts confirmed so far, for the festival, which takes place at the Spa in Bridlington on October 17/18/19th include: Toumani Diabate, The Levellers, Rolf Harris, Ska Cubano, Etran Finatawa, Ivo Papasov, Billy Cobham and Asere, Reem Kelani , Moussu T et Lei Jovents, Warsaw Village Band, Bob Brozman, Carmen Souza, Lani Singers from West Papua, The Young Coppers, Zoe Rahman Project, Papa Noël & Adan Pedorosa, Martin Simpson, The Outernationalists with more in the pipeline.

Momentum, for the three day festival in October will continue to build with further events throughout the summer, which will include concerts from Martin Stephenson, Albert Nyathi & Imbongi and Chumbawamba at Whitby’s Coliseum. Music and ale trains will also be running every Friday evening from 18th July – 6th September where you can travel from Whitby to Middlesborough and back, accompanied by the best in local music talent and fine ales.

Now in its ninth year, Musicport is enjoying a reputation as the best indoor World Music festival in England if not the world, it has quickly outgrown its much loved home on the Whitby seafront. Whilst it is now known by its new trimmed back name Musicport, in preparation for the new festival venue at Bridlington Spa, the main administrative centre and the heart of the festival will still be in Whitby.

The Spa in Bridlington has been the beneficiary of a £19.4million makeover and offers some fine sea views and promises to be a great new home for the festival. To be the first to experience the new venue, make your way over to the official launch night party for Musicport World Music Festival on the 4th July where Leeds based South East Asian outfit Samay, will be supporting TransglobalUnderground. It will be a great night no doubt.

To keep up to date and for further details and ticket information for the main festival or any of the other events in the run up, go to the website: www.musicportfestival.com and register for news updates.


Whitby Musicport. World Music festival on England’s beautiful north-east coast.

A sold-out annual world music festival with 40+ bands and artists appearing over one weekend, in its fourth year of operation, but few outside of north-east England seem to have heard of Whitby Musicport. Why?

On England’s North Sea coast, nestled in a dramatic cleft between two high cliffs, Whitby’s long natural harbour is watched over from the south by the gaunt ruins of the town’s 7th century Abbey. Across in the park above West Cliff, Captain Cook’s statue gazes seaward and grows white-haired with seagull guano.

Just below squats Whitby Spa Theatre & Pavilion, the principle venue for this weekend’s activities. The unprepossessing red-brick and glass structure is thoughtfully hidden away from the view of all but returning trawlermen and day-trippers.Whitby is a warm, welcoming town, jammed to the gills with tourists in high

When I last visited, to see Cuban singer Yusa, in April this year, this quintessential fishing port was host to a different kind of festival. Every shop, pub & restaurant carried the sign ‘Whitby welcomes goths’. Must be a Dracula thing. Now it’s late October and the return of the dread British Winter Time, the town draws in another group of specialist music enthusiasts, all flapping cotton and pink extremities in the bracing onshore breeze. It’s interesting to
note that there is a coterie of festival-goers who camp for the weekend, although with facilities away on the edge of town, and an arse-biting north-easterly, it feels good to be ensconced in a nearby hotel.

Within the blank interior of the municipal entertainment complex, softened by Cloudbase’s many-hued fabric surroundings and moving-image focal points, Friday evening kicks into gear when Bombay Baja strike up with their boisterous, swaggering, Bollywood brass band sound. All set for the weekend, then.

There’s food on sale here, too. Not your hatch-served microwave burgers, but three fine stalls dispensing a rich variety of ethnic & veggie foods. Even the Pavilion café, after representations from festival-goers last year, is serving Fair Trade coffee. Supper over, and a fine & moving performance by ex-pat Russian Gypsy outfit Talisman leads to the evening’s main course. “Hallo Weeeetby!”. The Spanish/Argentinian band with close links to Manu Chao have just
released their debut CD ‘Viaje’. On this one-off visit from Barcelona (for the band’s first-ever UK gig), GoLem System squeeze out a tight, springy, bouncy sound with a dub/latin/reggae base which is just irresistible. Yummy.

Whilst The Pavilion is the main focus of Musicport, The Resolution (a fine pub down in the old town) draws a large audience to its upstairs room with acoustic stage. It’s one of the regular year-round venues which the Musicport team use, and will soon become the base of their operations, thanks to a generous £26,000 Arts Council Yorkshire grant, which is to be spent on installing a state-of-the-art
sound & lighting rig. For Musicport weekend, entry to this venue is free-to-all.

Many of the visiting artists appear on the Resolution stage and also get involved in the workshops which run throughout the day on Saturday & Sunday.

Children’s workshops abound, and a variety of activities take place in the Pavilion as well as the neighbouring Intermission Café and Royal Hotel.

Back at The Pavilion, Saturday is in full swing. For an inveterate festival butterfly like me the fact that Musicport has the one main stage is a godsend, I’m not constantly flitting from one stage to another, desperately trying to miss nothing, thereby missing much. Aside from one trip to the comfortable little theatre stage, to see Julie Murphy perform her outstanding updated Welsh
traditional music with the help of ace acoustic guitarist Dylan Fowler & the inimitable Danny Thompson on double bass, I’m firmly fixed in the main hall.

This year’s innovation of a smaller stage alongside the main stage, featuring acoustic performers whilst the main stage changes sets, works exceedingly well.

Throughout the afternoon, from the Bosnian Gypsy group led by sisters Téa & Mirela (formerly Szapora), to a moving & riveting acoustic performance from American slide specialist Spencer Bohren & English blues guitar maestro Martin Simpson, there is a sense of growing anticipation.

An atmosphere of respect and awe heralds the arrival of Ustad Mahwash and her accompanying Ensemble Kaboul. The gentle, all-enveloping sound of their Afghan classical music begins to build, bringing in bowed, plucked & struck strings, harmonium, woodwind and percussion. As she sits, swathed in a heavy rug wrap, the musicians at her feet, Mahwash looks small and unremarkable, a friendly-looking middle-aged lady. It’s when she sings that the audience’s attention is drawn and held by this singer’s stately and magical performance. An hour in the company of this award-winning troupe goes by in an instant and we’re left, slack-jawed and
fancying supper.

A brief but violent evening thunderstorm rushes past, to leave the setting sun raking over the cliff-top, creating a warm red haze on the horizon, as a high tide rages spectacularly against the sea wall below. In the main hall the ever-effervescent Ali Slimani, easily the best raï singer/dj this side of the Channel, is mashing up the dancefloor. Folk Devils record stall is doing brisk business with his latest album, ‘Espoir’. Tonight happens to be the first time I’ve seen Transglobal Underground, despite having been a fan for eons. Sadly, they’re here
without Natacha Atlas on vocal. But Transglobal’s stage show is legendary, with a mélange of world music genres hurled into the band’s boiling melting pot, bubbling over with infectious dance beats. We trip on into the early morning with a dreamy late night session from Cloudbase. Not to worry, the clocks go back tonight, there’s an extra hour in bed.

Sunday morning, and a wickedly persistent north-easterly sends churchgoers scuttling. Not the sort of weather for hanging around on the streets of a Yorkshire coastal resort. The festival shuffle stirs into life, delivering huddled masses to the various venues for a daytime schedule of folk & traditional music.

With a multiplicity of workshops there’s plenty to see & do and by five’o’clock it’s already dark outside. Thank goodness for Kékélé, here to brighten one of the gloomiest days on the calendar with their effortless Congolese acoustic sounds. This is the band’s second trip to Musicport in two years and they’re fast becoming local favourites. The children’s Lantern Parade, heralding long nights ahead, is an atmospheric and fitting close to the audience-participatory activities and leads us nicely into the final session with talented new British singer/songwriter Virginia McNaughton. Penultimate on the 2003 bill is one of Congolese music’s brightest new stars, Robert Maseko. His Congobeat play the best kind of classic rumba/soukous. The band know exactly how to pace their
music and they’ve immediately got a willing crowd in their collective palm. The weekend climaxes with a memorable gig from the rip-roaring Dhol Foundation, tonight with the added delight of dancers showing those with energy reserves how it should be done.

Driving back across the moonless moorland it’s time to reflect on the weekend. Although different from its summertime counterparts, Musicport has a wonderful atmosphere and is building a great reputation which lacks media coverage mainly because the event always coincides with the annual world music business seminar
& showcase WOMEX, which inevitably draws media & artists away. The solution? How about a mid-late September scheduling for Musicport? It’s just that I can’t help thinking about those poor campers.

Dave Atkin, November 3rd 2003

Whitby Musicport annual world music festival is a not-for-profit volunteer-run organisation. Thanks to the sheer hard work of a dedicated team led by Jim McLoughlin the near impossible is pulled off with considerable aplomb. With six stages & workshop venues, 40+ artists, a host of stewards and helpers, the margin for error is broad. Congratulations to Jim & crew. To quote the Governor
of California: “I’ll be back….”.

Artists appearing at Whitby Musicport 2003 were as follows:

Transglobal Underground, Ustad Mahwash & Ensemble Kaboul, Kékélé, Ali Slimani Band, Julie Murphy with Dylan Fowler & Danny Thompson, Charanga del Norte, Talisman (formerly Loyko), SALT the band, The Dhol Foundation featuring Johnny Kalsi, Lion Train, GoLem System, Spencer Bohren & Martin Simpson, Téa & Mirela (formerly Szapora), Modeste Hugues, Robert Maseko & Congobeat, Davide Sanna, Bombay Baja, Mas Y Mas, Josephine Oniyama, Eduardo Niebla, Saaz, Tuup, Martin Fletcher, Samba do Porto, Nick Burman & Dordiseal, Encuentra Latino Salsa Workshop, Nkosana,
Mighty Zulu Nation, Mambo Jambo, Seize The Day, Shiva Nova, Ben Melo Band, Hot Ashes, Banoffi, Virginia McNaughton, Kwame D, Streetworthy, Cal Williams, Piffko, Nick Hall, Dark Horse, Paul Marshall, Seikou Susso, Elaine Palmer, Tuesday Sometimes, Dan Webster Band.