From Bhangra to Helicopter Opera – Explore The Birmingham Music Scene

Musical extravaganzas to look forward to in Birmingham as part of the Cultural Olympiad


From the Brum Beat scene of the 60s giving us The Spencer Davis Group, The Move and The Moody Blues, through the thriving 80s reggae scene of Steel Pulse and UB40, the birth of heavy metal thanks to Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, and The Streets, Broadcast and Felt for good measure, Birmingham is a city with vibrant musical roots.

The UK’s second largest city celebrates those roots this summer with a range of exciting musical events taking place as part of the UK’s Cultural Olympiad.

The London 2012 Festival got underway this month as a culmination and celebration of the Cultural Olympiad, designed to showcase the cultural talents of the host and visiting nations, and Birmingham plays a major part.

Offering up some of the most spectacular musical offerings in the festival programme, including one hugely ambitious world premiere, here are some of the highlights taking place in and around the city over the coming months.

The unabashed highlight of the festival takes place from 22nd August at the Argyle Works on Great Barr Street. Here the Birmingham Opera Company will stage Karlheinz Stockhausen’s monumental opera, Mittwoch aus Licht – complete with helicopters.

The notoriously challenging five-hour epic has six parts, which have never before been staged together. In the first ever realisation of Stockhausen’s ultimate musical vision, the result promises to be truly spectacular.

Featuring two full choirs, octophonic sound, leading musicians, Radio 1 DJ Nihal, flying solo instrumentalists and requiring two separate performance halls, the opera culminates in a string quartet performing in separate helicopters, with the whirring blades intended to become part of the music.

The London 2012 Festival promised to be a once-in-a-lifetime festival, packed with once-in-a-lifetime performances, and if this isn’t one of them, I’ll eat my hat.

Another aim of the festival is to celebrate the arts and culture of all 204 Olympic and Paralympic nations. With 25,000 artists from all 204 countries performing over the course of seven weeks, Birmingham welcomes New York bhangra group Red Baraat to the UK for the first time.

This brassy nine-piece fuse together jazz, funk, Latin and go-go, with a heavy dose of North Indian bhangra. Fresh from wowing the crowds stateside at the TED Conference in California, NY’s Lincoln Centre, the Chicago World Music Festival and the prestigious Montreal Jazz Festival to boot, a good time is guaranteed. Hot-foot it down to Birmingham Town Hall for this free gig on 7th September.

From 7th to 9th September, head for Birmingham Town Hall to sample even more of the talented world music artists flocking to our shores for the festival. Mandala is set to be an uplifting event, blending South Asian dance, music and large-scale 3D projections.

Live contemporary and classical dance takes place outside the town hall, with vibrant 3D projections onto the hall and Nottingham Council House. With live music from Talvin Singh, featuring the music of the legendary Anoushka Shankar and Zakir Hussain, alongside performances by Devika Rao and Aakash Odedra, there are three nights of non-stop dancing in the streets to look forward to.

And if you’re looking to stay in Birmingham this summer, consider the Crowne Plaza Birmingham NEC for a great value accommodation option.

(photo credit: 1)


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