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Yorkshire Festival brings the world to the Howard Assembly Room


  • Mbongwana Star splice Congolese rhythms with searing electronics
  • Malian singer, songwriter and guitarist Rokia Traoré returns
  • German prepared pianist Hauschka channels John Cage, plus special guests
  • A Hawk and A Hacksaw fuse the traditions of Eastern Europe, Russia and Turkey
  • Eliza Carthy looks back on her career so far with an eleven-piece band of folk luminaries


The Songlines Series brings the Yorkshire Festival to the Howard Assembly Room this summer, with five concerts from legendary international artists in June and July presented in association with world music bible Songlines magazine.



Congolese icons Staff Benda Bilili played an unforgettable show at the Howard Assembly Room in 2012. Rising from their ashes, Mbongwana Star open the Songlines Series with their thrillingly warped, electronically-enhanced new take on traditional rhythms on 22 June. Their 2015 debut album, From Kinshasa, was an unlikely but utterly glorious combination of Congolese styles and scorching post-punk. They stop off in Leeds on their way to this year’s Glastonbury Festival, with support from rising New Zealand singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Estère.


Mbongwana Star credit Florent de la Tullaye

Having given one of the most electrifying performances ever seen in the venue on her 2013 visit, Malian singer, songwriter and guitarist Rokia Traoré makes a triumphant, sold out return to the Howard Assembly Room with her new album Né So on 23 June. She has also just announced her appearance at this year’s Glastonbury Festival.

German prepared pianist Hauschka (24 June) wedges toys, screws, bits of wood and other assorted foreign objects into his instrument, coaxing out sounds of arresting, spectral beauty that weave together techno, electronica and ambient music with the spirits of John Cage and Erik Satie. A classically-trained musical omnivore, he has moved from Chopin to hip hop, through film music and a project with To Rococo Rot’s Stefan Schneider, before developing his astonishing vocabulary on the piano, expanded further with electronics and contributions from a host of illustrious collaborators. He will be joined in concert by a hand-picked bill of fellow innovators.

A Hawk and a Hacksaw


A Hawk and A Hacksaw are violinist Heather Trost and accordionist/drummer Jeremy Barnes (also of cult indie legends Neutral Milk Hotel). They came together over a shared love of Bartok in their native New Mexico, where Barnes had returned after an unlikely stint as a postman in Leicester, and Trost was playing in an Albuquerque klezmer orchestra. Fired by their deep affinity for the music of Eastern Europe, they have recorded albums in the Czech Republic, Romania, and in Hungary during a two-year residency there.


Three of their records have been released by Horsforth’s Leaf Label, so A Hawk and A Hacksaw’s appearance at the Yorkshire Festival on 29 June will be a homecoming of sorts, channelling the joy and melancholy of centuries-old Ukrainian, Hungarian, and Romanian musical traditions in their inimitable, awe-inspiring way. Support comes from York Americana group Boss Caine.

Eliza Carthy steers her Wayward Tour in the direction of Leeds to close the Series on 2 July. Twice nominated for a Mercury Music Prize and a multiple BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards-winner, she looks back on her stunning career with a set of traditional material drawn from her chart topping retrospective double album, Wayward Daughter. She will be backed by her eleven-piece Wayward Band, including legendary musicians from the ranks of Bellowhead, Edward II and Peatbog Faeries.

A biennial celebration of the arts, the first Yorkshire Festival was first staged to mark the Grand Départ of the Tour de France in 2014. This year’s 18-day celebration features concerts, theatre, events and exhibitions across the region from 15 June to 2 July.


Yorkshire Festival’s Artistic Director Matt Burman comments:

"We're delighted to be working with Opera North Projects and Songlines on such an inspiring series of world-class performances by some of the finest musicians from around the county and across the globe. We hope this is the first of many brilliant and engaging projects that Yorkshire Festival and Opera North might curate and create together, bringing the very best international artists to audiences in Leeds and Yorkshire".

Tickets for all events at the Howard Assembly Room are available from the Box Office on 0844 848 2727 or online at


Eliza Carthy - credit Elodie Kowalski