Coming Soon: The big band of folk bellow it out

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The Independent Culture

Folk seems far too quiet, cosy and small a word to comprehensively sum up the eclectic and exuberant big band sound made by the English group, Bellowhead.

So it’s hardly surprising that they feel more comfortable under the more expansive umbrella of world music. But should you wish to work out for yourself exactly what kind of music they play, there are plenty of opportunities to catch them live later this month and throughout February. A selection of the 14 dates they have lined up includes St David’s Hall, Cardiff (029-2087 8444) on 27 January, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London (0871 663 2500) on 14 February , the Cambridge Junction (01223 511511) on 15 February and the Concorde 2, Brighton (01273 673311) on 16 February.

Another London-based world music talent, Natacha Atlas, is doing a short tour in support of her sublime recent album Ana Hina, on which she moves away from her more club-based music to a fairly restrained take on traditional Arabic music. Joining her will be the Mazeeka Ensemble, who also played on the album. They’ll be at the Salisbury Arts Centre (01722 321744) on 28 January, St George’s, Bristol (0845 402 4001) on 30 January, the Union Chapel, London (08700 600100) on 1 February, and the Norwich Arts Centre (01603 660352) on 2 February.

The Malian couple Amadou & Mariam, currently world music’s most effervescent stars, will be bringing their punchy Afro-pop/rock to a handful of venues around the country at the end of February. Their new album Welcome to Mali rocks a lot harder than their previous Manu Chao-produced success Dimanche à Bamako so there’s every chance they’ll be blowing the roof off the Concorde 2 in Brighton (01273 673311) on 25 January, Koko in London (0870 432 5527) on 26 January, Bristol Academy (0117-927 9227) on 28 January, and the Picture Playhouse, Edinburgh (0131-524 3333) on 1 March.

Finally, a couple of one-off gigs worth mentioning. The stylistically unpredictable Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu is accompanied by the Italian group the Arke String Quartet at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London (0871 663 2500) on 26 February. And the never disappointing Ska Cubano will be compelling a cooler-than-thou Camden crowd to get up a sweat at the Jazz Café, London (0870 060 3777) on 22 January.