Wednesday 02 August 2017


The New European Songbook presents new music from across our continent in two wide-ranging concerts at the International Festival and British Council’s Spirit of ’47 season.

Each night sees a diverse selection of musicians come together to perform some new pieces of music for the first time. The eclectic bill includes diverse artists such as electronic music pioneer Matthew Herbert, Eurovision star Conchita Wurst,award-winning folk musician Karine Polwart and Egyptian rock musician Ramy Essam.

The concerts showcase a range of musical styles including traditional, folk, pop, classical, opera, jazz and electronica.

They also reflect the changing face and sound of Europe, where mass migration of peoples has brought new influences, talents and styles to the continent. Musicians from across Europe will share the stage, some who are established and others who have recently made Europe their home.

New European Songbook is co-commissioned by BBC Arts Digital and Radio 3. The concerts will be live streamed by BBC Arts Digital and also recorded for later broadcast. BBC Radio 3 will broadcast the new works over seven evenings beginning on Friday 11 August. The concerts will be hosted by BBC Radio 3’s Sarah Walker. 

Performing on Friday 11 August:

·         Prolific UK music producer and artist Matthew Herbert with Iranian fusion musician Arian Sadr 

·         Austrian pop artist and Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst with Syrian trio Basalt

·         Portuguese Fado singer Carolina with Argentinian jazz musician Demian Cabaud

·         Egyptian rock musician Ramy Essam, best known for his Tahrir Square performance during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution

Performing on Saturday 12 August:

·         Award-winning Scottish folk singer-songwriter Karine Polwart with Ghanaian multi-genre artist Naa Densua Tordzro

·         Syrian violinist Shalan Alhamwy with fellow Syrian jazz performer Rasha Rizk

·         Swiss jazz and pop artist Scilla Hess with Albanian composer and pianist Markelian Kapedani

·         Syrian Qanun virtuouso Maya Youssef will also perform

Tickets are now on sale and available from Hub Tickets on 0131 473 2000 or at

 An initiative of the European Broadcasting Union, New European Songbook is supported and co-commissioned by six European broadcasters, including the BBC Arts Digital and Radio 3 (UK), ORF (Austria), WDR Klassik (Germany), RTP (Portugal), RSI (Switzerland) and France Télévisions (France).

 New European Songbook line-up

 Friday 11 August

Matthew Herbert (United Kingdom)

Matthew Herbert is a prolific and accomplished musician, artist, producer and writer whose range of innovative works extends from numerous albums (including the much-celebrated Bodily Functions) to Ivor Novello nominated film scores (Life in a Day) as well as music for theatre, Broadway, TV, video games and radio.

Arian Sadr (Iran)

Arian Sadr plays Tonbak (Persian goblet drum) and Daf (a circular frame drum). He moved to England from his home country Iran in 2003 to study music and music production, during which time he created his own original fusion style. Sadr has performed with Music Action International at the End Sexual Violence in Conflict event (hosted by Angelina Jolie), with musicians from BBC Philharmonic, at Manchester Imperial War Museum as part of Asia Triennial, and with Manchester International Roots Orchestra.

Conchita Wurst (Austria)

Conchita Wurst is an Austrian pop recording artist and drag queen portrayed by Thomas "Tom" Neuwirth. Wurst came to international attention after winning the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 as Austria's entrant with the song "Rise Like a Phoenix".

Basalt (Syria)

Basalt is a Syrian trio formed in 2016 in Austria, consisting of guitarist and vocalist Amjad Khaboura, guitarist and vocalist Noor Eli Khoury and bass player Almonther Alshoufi. They perform a mix of styles including alternative, oriental, blues and rock.

Carolina (Portugal)

Carolina is one of the new voices of Fado in Portugal. Traditional in style, and boasting a voice with an unmistakable timbre and strong presence, Carolina possesses the highest degree course from the singing conservatory as well as a wide experience on the stage.

Demian Cabaud (Argentina)

Demian Cabaud is an Argentinian jazz musician living in Portugal. He received a scholarship from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. He has played with the likes of Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano, Mark Turner, Bill McHenry, Rich Perry, Rick Margitza, Seamus Blake, Maria Schneider, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Jason Moran, Sheila Jordan, John Hollenbeck and is a regular member of the prestigious Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos.

Ramy Essam (Egypt)

Ramy Essam is an Egyptian musician, best known for his appearances in Tahrir Square in Cairo during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 His song “Irhal”, which urged Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to resign, gained great popularity among the demonstrators and is referred to as the anthem of the revolution. In 2011, it was selected by Time Out as the third-most world-changing song of all time. He currently sings hard rock songs, one of the few singers in Egypt to sing rock. On 9 March 2011, when the Egyptian Army forcibly cleared the square, he was arrested and tortured. In October 2014, Essam was offered safe city residence for two years by the Malmö Municipality of Sweden. Known as ‘The voice of the Arab Revolution’, he has gone on to perform around the world and has recently released a duet with PJ Harvey.

Saturday 12 August

Karine Polwart (Scotland)

Karine Polwart is a Scottish singer, songwriter, composer and essayist. Her songs combine folk influences and myth with themes as diverse as Donald Trump’s corporate megalomania, Charles Darwin’s family life and the complexities of modern parenthood. She also sings traditional songs and writes for theatre, animation and thematic collaborative projects. Polwart is four times winner at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, including twice for Best Original Song. Polwart performed her show Wind Resistance at Edinburgh International Festival 2016.

Naa Densua Tordzro (Ghana)

Originally from Ghana, Naa Densua Tordzro is a multi-genre artist living and working in Glasgow. A native speaker of Gha, Twi, Akan as well as English, she has lived as a member of the diaspora in the United Kingdom since 2006. She sings and plays with the resident bands of Pan African Arts Scotland, the Hi Life Band and Hesu, blending modern and traditional Ghanaian music with Scottish traditional songs.

Shalan Alhamwy (Syria)

Shalan Al-Hamwy  is a violinist and composer, born in Homs, Syria and currently living in Belgium. His music features a fusion of different musical effects and elements of classical, jazz and Arabic music.

Rasha Rizk (Syria)

Rasha Rizk, born in Damascus, Syria has performed a variety of music including Oriental, opera and jazz all over the world including Beirut, Amman, Qatar, Kuwait, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Morocco, Paris, Frankfort, Athens and multiple Syrian cities. She has played the first witch in Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, the role of Jumana in Michiel Borstlap’s opera Ebn Sina, and Micahella in Georges Bizet’s Carmen. In addition, she has performed at Doha Jazz Festival in 2004 and Dubai Jazz Festival.

Scilla Hess (Switzerland)

Scilla Hess is an award-winning jazz and pop artist. Originally from Switzerland and now based in Los Angeles, Hess is an experienced vocalist. performer and songwriter working in many genres of music including pop, jazz, cabaret and burlesque, inspired by artists such as Amy Winehouse, Etta James and Adele.

Markelian Kapedani (Albania)

Markelian Kapedani, pianist, composer and arranger, is one of the most significant representatives of the cultural and social renewal of Albania in the years immediately following the fall of the Berlin Wall. One of the fundamental characteristics of his art is to merge ‘formal’ Western music with popular motifs of the Balkans together with a strong jazz imprint.

Maya Youssef (Syria)

One of the finest Syrian musicians of her generation and a virtuoso player of the 78-stringed plucked zither known as the Qanun, Maya Youssef graduated in both Arabic and Western classical traditions from the University of Damascus and since 2012 has been living in London, where she is studying for a PhD and has performed at the BBC Proms and worked with Damon Albarn. 

New European Songbook broadcast partners

The concerts will be live streamed by BBC Arts Digital online and also recorded for later broadcast, through an initiative of the European Broadcasting Union, supported by BBC Arts Digital and BBC Radio 3. The concerts will be presented by BBC Radio 3’s Sarah Walker. BBC Radio 3 will also broadcast the new songs performed over seven evenings beginning on Friday 11 August.

Notes to Editor

Media Contacts at Edinburgh International Festival
Liz Wallace, Media Relations Manager, 0131 473 2020 / 07708 795 320 / 
David Mullane, Communications Officer, 0131 473 7017 / / / Join the conversation – #edintfest #Spiritof47 / @edintfest

Media Contacts at British Council
Mary Doherty, Senior Press Officer/Corporate Communications, 0207 389 3144 /
Jordan Ogg, Communications & External Relations Manager, Scotland, 0131 524 5738 /

Notes to Editors


New European Songbook
The Studio
11 & 12 Aug 7.00pm
1hr 15mins approx.
£19 (fees apply)
Tickets are on sale from Hub Tickets on 0131 473 2000 or at


New European Songbook

·         New European Songbook forms part of Spirit of ’47, a co-curated programme celebrating 70 years of international cultural collaboration by the International Festival and the British Council. The 11 day season of events features performances, screenings and talks from all over the world.

Spirit of ‘47

·         Spirit of ’47 is a co-curated programme celebrating international cultural collaboration by the International Festival and the British Council. The 11 day season of events features performances, screenings and talks from all over the world.

·         Spirit of ‘47 marks the 70th anniversary of the International Festival and is inspired by the founding principals of the first Festival; the British Council was a co-founder of the International Festival.

·         In 1947, a group of visionary figures including first Festival Director Rudolf Bing, Henry Harvey Wood, Head of the newly formed British Council in Scotland and leaders from across Edinburgh, conceived of an arts festival that would welcome people from all over the world to the Scottish capital, in a celebration of cultures and people.

·         Spirit of ’47 champions the optimism and continued resonance of this partnership, bringing together an eclectic line-up of artists from Syria to Stirlingshire. In 2017, this open spirit asks questions of national identity, global citizenship, conflict and migration.

·         The programme offers a rare opportunity to hear a diverse range of cultural perspectives from over 20 nations, featuring artists from Scotland, England, USA, Ukraine, Lebanon, Cuba, China, Jamaica, Palestine, Chile, Argentina, Syria, Portugal, Germany, Iran, Pakistan, India and more.

·         Artists include writer and performer Azade Shahmiri (Iran), author Paul Auster (USA), theatre directors John Tiffany, Vicky Featherstone and David Greig (UK), sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar (India), Mercury Prize winning Benjamin Clementine (UK), Qawwali singer Faiz Ali Faiz (Pakistan), Scottish folk singer-songwriter Karine Polwart, and Turner Prize-winning visual artist and musician Martin Creed. Special events celebrate fresh playwriting from around the world, European musical collaborations and an afternoon of film, music and discussion examining the current conflict in Syria.

Edinburgh International Festival

·         The Edinburgh International Festival is an unparalleled celebration of the performing arts and an annual meeting point for peoples of all nations. Committed to virtuosity and originality, the International Festival presents some of the finest performers and ensembles from the worlds of dance, opera, music and theatre for three weeks each August.

·         The International Festival continues to attract people both locally and from across the globe, with audiences from 84 nations attending last year’s cultural celebration in Edinburgh.

·         In 2017 the International Festival celebrates its 70th anniversary. The International Festival was established in 1947 to ‘provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit’ through a shared celebration of artistic excellence and cultural exchange. The 2017 programme celebrates 70 years of outstanding virtuosity and innovation, and explores how the Festival’s founding ideals still resonate today.

  • The 2017 International Festival runs from Friday 4 to Monday 28 August, welcoming 2,020 artists from 40 nations to perform in Scotland’s capital city.

British Council

·         The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

·         The British Council work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

·         Founded in 1934, the British Council is a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. The majority of its income is raised delivering a range of projects and contracts in English teaching and examinations, education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. Eighteen per cent of funding is received from the UK government.


The British Council was a co-founder of the International Festival.