Warsaw’s Cross-Culture Festival

Warsaw old town

Warsaw is a city alive with different cultures, and the energy generated by this is palpable. This energy is also alive and well in the music scene, with artists who are genuinely passionate about the music they create. From gigs and concerts to full-on festivals and lively clubs – there’s no shortage of music events in Warsaw, and the scene booms year-round.

One such event is the Cross-Culture Festival, which has thus far hosted artists from over 60 countries. Check out our guide to what’s coming up this year.

World music in the Polish capital

The Cross-Culture Festival is a week-long celebration of music from around the globe – namely Iran, Nigeria, Mauritania, South Korea, Pakistan and Turkey. Now in its 11th year, the 2015 festival will run from the 21st – 27th September.

Held in the city center, just in front of the Palace of Culture and Science, the festival is just a 10-minute car journey (or 20-minute walk) from the Radisson Blu Sobieski Hotel, Warsaw. The Palace itself happens to be the tallest building in Poland, so be sure to save some time to catch the spectacular views from the top.

The performers at this festival tend to be musical ambassadors for their nations. Cultural identities are represented through the form of intricately organized song and stellar performances.

The Cross-Culture Festival line-up

There’s an array of talent lined up for this year’s festival – here are just some of the performers set to grace the stages.

Warsaw Cross Culutre Festival act, Kayhan Kalhor
Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Kayhan Kalhor & Ali Bahrami Fard

Kayhan Kalhor & Ali Bahrami Fard kick the festival off at 7pm on the 21st. A multi-instrumentalist who can improvise with ease, Kalhor has collaborated with the New York Philharmonic and is considered a great representative of Iranian music. He will share his love for ancient traditions in a performance with fellow Iranian Ali Bahrami Fard, a master of the ancient stringed percussion instrument, the 96-string dulcimer.

Warsaw Cross Culture Festival act, Geomungo Factory

Geomungo Factory

What do you get when you blend traditional Korean sounds with modern musical arrangements? Unique, enchanting music. A geomungo is actually a traditional six-string Korean instrument belonging to the zither family. The band own several, and use them to create folky, yet poppy sounds. Don’t miss them.

Warsaw Cross Culture Festival act, Seun Kuti

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

Human rights activist – and founder of Afrobeat – Fela Anikulapo Kuti, was Seun Anikulapo Kuti’s father, so it’s clear that an aptitude for creating powerful music would be in the genes of this Nigerian musician. Seun played in the Egypt 80 band with his dad when he was younger, becoming the frontman when Fela sadly passed away in 1997. Their fusion of Afrobeat, jazz and funk carries messages of solidarity for equal rights in Africa – this is truly inspirational music.

Other acts to keep your ears out for include Noura Mint Seymali (who combines roots music with accents of blues, hip-hop, flamenco, reggae and funk), Sain Zahoor (who performs a form of Sufi street music known as qawwali) and Şivan Perwer (a charismatic performer whose political lyrics have stirred generations of listeners). Have a read through the full programme to ensure you don’t miss a beat.

Family fun and workshops

Make sure you also catch the festival’s Concert for Children. This is a day dedicated to families, and will feature African stories presented with background music from the Dembele brothers and Amadou Foli. There’ll be a chance for games, learning, singing and drumming.

There’ll also be a sprinkling of workshops throughout the festival, hosted by musicians, vocal teachers and stage performers. Whether you want to learn how to play a few notes or would rather pick up tips on how to command an audience, you’ll find something to suit. You could even try your hand at raga and tala improvisation (that’s Indian melody and rhythm – just one of the many things you’ll find out).

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