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Africa Express presents...

The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians


Image credit: Damon Albarn onstage at The Roundhouse London, 2010, with members of The Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music © Mark Allan

Glastonbury Festival Guest Artist Biographies


London born actor and MC, Bashy, most recently landed a starring role in US drama 24: Reboot and was named one of Screen International’s ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ in 2012. Since the release of his debut album Catch Me If You Can in 2009, the former Brit School alum has collaborated with fellow grime artists, Skepta & Kano and has set his dizzying flows in new and meaningful contexts such as a special gig in Lagos held in celebration of the life & music of Fela Kuti.

Bassekou Kouyaté

Longtime collaborator of Damon Albarn and Africa Express, Bassekou Kouyate, has performed all around the world. The Malian Ngoni player began playing the string instrument at the age of 12 and was the winner of the 2008 BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music ‘Album of the Year’ and ‘African Artist of the Year’.

Bu Kolthoum

Syrian Hip hop artist and producer Bu Kolthoum is renowned for his unapologetic, raw lyrics which often deal with human suffering including the plight of refugees, war and death. A current resident of Jordan, Kolthoum has worked with a number of local artists and has built a following for himself within the Syrian community in Jordan and around the world through his music.

Damon Albarn

Damon Albarn is a Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, producer and composer whose eclectic musical style and observational lyrics have made him one of the UK’s most influential and consistently interesting musicians. Alongside Baaba Maal, Albarn co-founded Africa Express, the collective of African and Western musicians in 2007.

Eslam Jawaad

Jawaad was the first Arabic hip-hop artist to create and record tracks in classical Arabic known as ‘foos-hha’ and as a result is recognized as the father of the style he coined ‘Foos-Hop’. Born in Lebanon to Lebanese and Syrian parents, Eslam moved to London to pursue a career in music. He has previously worked with Damon Albarn, and is featured on The Good, The Bad & The Queen’s track ‘Mr. Whippy’, in which he verses a description about London in Arabic.

Faia Younan

Syrian singer Faia Youanan is best known for the YouTube sensation ‘To Our Countries’, featuring her sister Rihan, the video has surpassed 3 million views to date. Following the success of their video, Faia and Rihan were invited to perform at the opening ceremony of the Carthage Film Festival.

Julia Holter

Julia Holter is a critically acclaimed American singer, songwriter, producer and artist. Her latest album Have You in My Wilderness became her most successful charting release to date, peaking at no. 3 on US Official Top Charts and was titled no. 1 and credited as the Album of the Year in Mojo and Uncut, no. 2 in Q Magazine and no. 4 in The Sunday Times and Guardian.


Progressive MC Kano rose from the East London grime scene at the turn of the millennium winning Best Newcomer Award at the Urban Music Awards 2004, and 4 MOBO nominations the following year. He was announced as one of ‘London’s Heroes of 2005’ by Mayor of London Ken Livingstone. His most recent album Made in the Manor was released early this year and entered the UK Album Charts at number 8, becoming Kano’s highest charting album to date.

Lotfi Bouchnak

Lotfi Bouchnak is a Tunisian singer, oud player, composer and public figure. Considered one of the best tenors in the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab world, Bouchnak has been dubbed Tunisia’s Pavarotti and is one of few artists to have performed regularly at the Cairo Opera House since 1992.


Malikah is the first Arab female MC to reach Middle Eastern NJR radio network’s Top 20 Chart. The Lebanese hip hop star got her big break as a contestant on MTV Arabia’s first season of the TV show ‘Hip HopNa’, since then, Malikah has recorded with producers Fareed ‘Fredwreck’ Nassar on the season’s opening track and opened for Snoop Dogg, who was featured as a co-producer on her previous record.

Mounir Troudi

Mounir Troudi is a Jazz and Sufi music singer from Tunisia. Troudi appeared on several albums with jazz trumpet player Erik Truffaz, before releasing his own debut album Tawassol in 2010. He also performed at the Tabarka Jazz Festival in 2000, the Montreal International Jazz Festival in 2005 and Vienna’s Jazz Festival. His most recent album is titled Songs from a Stolen Spring.

Noura Mint Seymali

Iconic Mauritian musician and singer Noura Mint Seymali began her career aged just 13 supporting her step mother, a singer, on vocals. With the influence of her ancestral musical heritage, she mastered the Ardine, a 9-string harp traditionally played by women. Since then she’s been touring the world with her band featuring accompaniment from her husband Ardine on electric guitar and the traditional, guitar-like Tidinet.

Rachid Taha

Rachid Taha’s latest album Zoom, released in 2013, was produced by guitarist Justin Adams and featured guests Mick Jones and Brian Eno. The Algerian singer and activist resides in France, his unique sound is attributed to his use of the Mandolute, a mixture of the traditional Oud with European fretted instruments

TĀLĀ is an Iranian London-based female producer and singer song-writer known for her influential modern pop with electronic sounds as well as combining her Iranian background. Her most recent record MALIKA was released in 2015.

Baaba Maal

Baaba Maal is an internationally acclaimed Senegalese singer and guitarist born in Podor, on the Senegal River. He is well known in Africa and is one of Senegal’s most famous musicians. Maal accompanied Mumford & Sons on their South African Gentlemen of the Road tour and released the EP Johannesburg in collaboration with the band. Earlier this year Baaba Maal released his 12th solo album The Traveller which was accompanied by a UK tour and headline slot at Senegal’s Festival Blues Du Fleuve.

Paul Weller

The Jam guitarist and ‘Modfather’ of the 1970s and 80s mod revival, Paul Weller won the 2009 BRIT Award for Best Male Solo Artist, as well as 2010 NME’s Godlike Genius Award. In 2010, Weller was presented the Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement award. His 2010 album Wake Up the Nation was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.


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