EDINBURGH’S summer of festivals will be brought to a spectacular end by one of Britain’s most iconic dance music acts - after The Orb confirmed they are heading for Leith Links.
The electronic music and “ambient house” pioneers will be headlining the Edinburgh Mela with an African drumming group they performed with to tens of thousands at Glastonbury over the weekend.
However the “big top” circus tent at the festival, the traditional finale of the capital’s festivals season, will have a capacity of just 1500.
Unlike Glastonbury, which now costs more than £200-a-head, a ticket for the Edinburgh Mela will be just £4.
Alex Paterson’s ground-breaking London outfit - formed 25 years ago - have been booked as part of a major rethink of the event under new director Chris Purnell, who was hired after making a huge success of the equivalent event in London.
He has vowed to transform the long-running festival, launched in Meadowbank Sports Centre in 1995, into Scotland’s major showcase for cutting-edge world music and dance.
Acts from Cuba, West Africa, Brazil, Senegal, Spain, Kenya and China are all confirmed in this year’s Mela line-up, along with a clutch of big-name artsts from South Asian, the traditional major draw at the event.
Other highlights include a spectacular new dance version of Romeo and Juliet from South America an outdoor show on India’s myths entirely performed by dancers on stilts. Surinder Rattan, Mumzy Stranger and DCS will be among the acts sharing the bill with The Orb.
*Ghanian “master drummers” Kakatsitsi, previous crowd-pleasing favourites at the Edinburgh Mela, are making just two festival appearances with The Orb - the one in Leith, with the other at Glastonbury.
Mr Purnell, at the helm of the event for the second year, has told The Scotsman he wants to see the event given the same standing and resources as the city’s other major festivals to help build on this year’s programme, which he described as “Scotland’s biggest and best celebration of world music and dance.”
He said: “When I took over the reins last year we promised we would raise our game and we are delivering on that promise. Our mission is to attract the best quality acts from the World scene, turning the Edinburgh Mela into the premier destination for artists and audiences alike, and this year’s programme puts that into action.”
Paterson, speaking exclusively to The Scotsman, said: “We’re as busy as ever at the moment as this is our 25th anniversary and are playing a lot of festivals this year, including big events in Lithuania and Finland before we come to Edinburgh.
“But this is the only other one we’ll be doing with Kakatsitsi so it should be a pretty special show, and we’re not doing our full British tour until October.
“I’d say around 80 of the performance at the Edinburgh Mela will be familiar to fans of our material, but people should still expect the unexpected.”
Paterson, who formed The Orb with Jimmy Cauty when the pair when DJing in London, added: “I’m really looking forward to coming up. I don’t think we’ve ever done anything at all at the Edinburgh Festival before and our previous gigs have been in clubs. I’m really looking forward to checking out Rosslyn Chapel when I’m up.”
Steve Cardownie, the city council’s festivals and events champion, said: “It’s wonderful to see a festival which has grown up from the city’s diverse communities into one of the highlights of Edinburgh’s summer establish itself on a grand scale.”
Mr Purnell said he wanted to see the Edinburgh Mela, which traditionally attracts around 30,000 over its two days, “on the cutting edge of creativity” and “eating at the top table” with the city’s other major cultural showcases. Its current public funding is less than £300,000.
He added: “While this is our most diverse and internationally reaching programme yet, and one which we
hope will bring in an even broader audience, our roots in the South Asian communities and an increasing range of diasporas always provide us with inspiration, and we are driven by the
incredible energy and creativity which that rich heritage brings.”
The Edinburgh Mela runs from August 31-1 September.
Mela highlights: A global fusion of music and dance
Indigenous People: The Orb join forces with drumming outfit Kakatsitsi to revive their Glastonbury show.
Star Crossed: Brazilian capoeira meets Argentinian tango in a passionate new dance reinvention of Romeo and Juliet.
The Typist: A spectacular new flamenco show featuring Spanish dancer Felipe de Algeciras, who starred in The Mask of Zorro film.
Thermal and a Quarter: One of India’s top indie-rock outfits, who have supported the likes of Guns N’Roses, Deep Purple and Jethro Tull.
100 Years of Bollywood: Some of the best-loved highlights will be recreated throughout the festival site by singers, dancers and musicians.
Gori Choudhury: The Bangladeshi-born singer, who has performed with Ravi Shankar and Kula Shaker, is one of the Bengali music scene’s biggest names.
Crucible: Classically-trained Indian dancers take to stilts for a spectacular outdoor show portraying an earth goddess, a divine being and gods of fire and water.