The second edition of the Malta World Music Festival is about to make a jubilant return on the 18th and 19th of May at Fort St. Elmo in Valletta. This year’s highlights include Grammy-nominated collective Afro Celt Sound System, who will be headlining Friday night’s concert.

Over the two nights, six international acts hailing from all over the globe will showcase the diversity, breadth and vivacity that the modern world music scene – from contemporary interpretations of archaic musical forms to purer expressions of folk traditions. “This will surely be a festival like no other,” Artistic Director Renzo Spiteri promises.

Cushion, who will be flying the flag for Malta, will kick off the festival on Friday night. This local Indian fusion outfit draws heavily from the Indian tradition, with dominant sitar licks and eastern vocalisations, all backed with keyboard ambience and pulsating bass and drum patterns. Their live performances often include professional dance choreography, fire juggling and buugeng acts.

Afro Celt Sound System, formed by Simon Emmerson back in 1996, are a European and African based collective who’ve been a ground-breaking force in music ever since the beginning. With sales now topping one and a half million albums and two Grammy nominations to date, Afro Celt Sound System has been at the forefront of bringing worldbeat to the masses having performed at concerts and festivals all over the world.

Friday night’s line-up is completed by Refugees for Refugees, a band of ten musicians under the leadership of the Belgian oud player Tristan Driessens. The band’s members are actual refugees originating from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region of Tibet. “From last year, this socially engaging festival has been given a rather tempting new look,” Annabelle Stivala, director of Festivals Malta, explained.

Chart-topping Spanish artist Ana Alcaide will open Saturday night’s festivities. Ana has played a pioneering role in the introduction and popularisation of the nyckelharpa in Spain. Rooted in ancient traditions yet resolutely modern, her compositions deftly blend musical styles from different cultures.

The performance will be followed by TRAD.ATTACK!, a trio of musicians who play their own interpretation of Estonian folk, which fuses rock, folk and bagpipe music. TRAD.ATTACK draws inspiration from archive recordings of the great Estonian folk singers and instrumentalists who created and performed music for work, leisure and festivities in olden times.

The festival will draw to a close with a set from Electrik GEM! Guitarist Grégory Dargent and his motley band of instrumentalists. It includes oud, gadulka and tarhu players, merging sounds from the Balkans, the Middle East and East Asia as an attempt to musically transcribe the modern multifaceted Mediterranean metropolis.

The Malta World Music Festival is organised by Festivals Malta within the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government, with the support of Valletta 2018, Mapfre MSV Life and Farsons. More information is available on the official website.