Edinburgh International Festival launch: Contemporary music returns to Leith Theatre

While anyone who attended last year’s socially distanced semi-al fresco series of contemporary music concerts would have been grateful for the EIF’s ingenuity and resources in creating a bespoke tented pavilion in Edinburgh Park, there was no doubt it produced an out-on-a-limb halfway house gig experience.

This year, the Festival’s contemporary music strand returns to its atmospheric spiritual home in Leith Theatre – with the honourable exception of the honourable and exceptional jazz composer and bandleader Herbie Hancock, who makes his EIF debut at the Playhouse.

Hancock is a prime example of a world class boundary-blurring artist, spanning funk, fusion and electro sounds. Meanwhile, his spiritual descendants, the veteran Detroit DJ/composer Jeff Mills and the playful bassist/DJ/producer Squarepusher both feature in the Leith Theatre programme, alongside crossover ensemble The Cinematic Orchestra and current jazz heroes Sons of Kemet, led by the visionary saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, who appeared in the 2021 line-up in his far-out Comet Is Coming guise.

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Acclaimed spoken word artist Kae Tempest is another EIF returnee, while indie veterans Arab Strap and rave ceilidh stars Niteworks are familiar Scots faces on a wide-ranging bill, encompassing US singer/songwriters Ezra Furman and Lucy Dacas, French-Cuban sister act Ibeyi, Johnny Depp’s favourite Romanian gypsy supergroup Taraf de Caliu and rising stars such as Nuyorican rapper Princess Nokia and Brooklyn-based Pakistani neo-sufi vocalist Arooj Aftab, whose presence in the programme are a sign of the Festival’s desire to continue to reach out to new audiences in its 75th year as it continues to expand.

Special atmosphere: Leith Theatre is a favourite for musicians and fans. Picture: David Wilkinson

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