The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians performing on stage

Celebrated global artists lead contemporary music programme at Brighton Festival 2022


Acclaimed international performers, including Grammy-nominated jazz trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire; the celebrated Orchestra of Syrian Musicians; and incendiary Latin jazz big band New Regency Orchestra; top the bill at this year’s Brighton Festival, from 7-29 May. As audiences return to the joys of live music, an exciting contemporary music programme showcases global artists from Italy to Syria, and from the USA to the UK.

Trumpeter and band leader Ambrose Akinmusire brings his inimitable funk, hip hop and classical style to Brighton for a Brighton Festival Exclusive on 21 May. Following previous collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Robert Glasper, his latest album for the legendary Blue Note label, on the tender spot of every calloused moment, once again showcases his unique kaleidoscopic vision. Joining the Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet is Alina Bzhezhinska, composer, band leader and founder of HipHarpCollective - a one-woman powerhouse on a mission to bring the harp to the fore of contemporary music.

In a Brighton Festival Exclusive, the critically acclaimed Orchestra of Syrian Musicians celebrate the power and joy of Syrian music and culture with beautiful strings, contagious rhythms, and soaring vocals. Having collaborated internationally with Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz, Africa Express, and the Liverpool Philharmonic, the UK-based members of the Orchestra will reunite at Brighton Festival on 11 May for a life-affirming musical performance not to be missed.

One of the few women oud players in a traditionally male-dominated field, Rihab Azar graduated from the Conservatoire in Damascus in 2014.  Based in London, though remaining strongly connected to her Syrian musical roots, Azar’s collaborations with London Sinfonietta, Stile Antico and Cantata Dramatica have seen her perform on stages from the Royal Albert Hall to St Paul’s Cathedral. Brighton Festival welcomes her to All Saints Church on 26 May for a journey of classical and contemporary Syrian and broader Middle Eastern music.

The UK’s New Regency Orchestra is a big band on a mission to reinvent the music of the Afro Cuban musical saints. Over the past year, this incendiary twenty-piece ensemble have torn up the big-band rulebook, gathering endorsements from legendary DJ Gilles Peterson along the way. Taking their inspiration from New York’s melding of Jazz and Latin from the 1950s to the 1970s, New Regency Orchestra adds a contemporary London spin to mirror the effervescence of that scene. On 15 May they’ll perform Afro-Cuban classics to a standing Brighton Festival audience, free to move to their blistering jazz energy.

Two of the most revered acts in global music, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino and Justin Adams & Mauro Durante, bring a vibrant take on the fiery Southern Italian folk-dance music, the Taranta, to Brighton Festival on 18 May. After triumphant shows at WOMAD and the BBC Proms, seven-piece virtuosos CGS will stage their new show featuring spellbinding dancer Silvia Perrone. Adams – a long-term Robert Plant collaborator - & Durante’s latest collaboration, Still Moving, is a stripped-down meeting of Desert Blues and Italian was hailed an ‘album of the year' by Songlines in 2021.

Brighton Festival is returning to full capacity in 2022, with an extensive international programme of over 150 events, taking place across Sussex from 7-29 May.

For the first time this year, Brighton Festival welcomes two Guest Co-Directors, Syrian architect and author Marwa Al-Sabouni and Tristan Sharps, Artistic Director of Brighton-based theatre makers dreamthinkspeak. Marwa and Tristan have chosen the theme of Rebuilding as the inspiration for this year’s programme, exploring it from two different yet complementary perspectives.