Music review: New European Songbook

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Edinburgh International Festival: A very genteel show to have arrived in Edinburgh with its own built-in controversy, the New European Songbook was a two-part showcase of artists and collaborations from across Europe, presenting music from a range of cultures, often those of new residents of the continent who have arrived from the Middle East.

The Studio


Subtitled Sounds From a Continent in Flux, an early demonstration of the truth of that title came with the eleventh-hour refusal of visas to Syrian trio Basalt, which was due to perform its song Small House with the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest winner for Austria (Basalt’s new settled home) Conchita Wurst. Instead, the quartet gave an impassioned video message, and a video of the very timely and impassioned folk-rock track was played.

Amid a slightly halting studio floor set-up – the 80-minute concert was being broadcast online by BBC Arts – there were also evocative performances from Portuguese Fado singer Carolina, in collaboration with Argentinian jazz guitarist Demian Cabaud, and gravel-voiced Egyptian protest singer Ramy Essam, whose song Irhal became a popular anthem during his country’s 2011 revolution

The finale was provided by the none-more-British electronic producer Matthew Herbert, in collaboration with the mesmerising, elemental sound of the Iranian-born, Manchester-settled Arian Sadr’s tonbak goblet drum, and a brass trio and vocal duo for the soulful, upbeat protest song Silence.