Rokia Traoré, Hailu Mergia and Majid Bekkas join the ‘world highlights’ at Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2018

With the recent addition of Rokia Traoré, Hailu Mergia and Majid Bekkas to its array of headliners, Copenhagen Jazz Festival underpins its soon to be 40 year old tradition of presenting global music in Copenhagen.

Acts such as Milton Nascimento, Egberto Gismonti, Oumou Sangeré, Tinariwen, Anoushka Shankar, Abdullah Ibrahim, Arturo Sandoval, Concha Buika, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and many others have all visited the festival since its initial edition in 1979 – and this summer Copenhagen Jazz Festival hosts yet another celebration of global music with a long list of international profiles.


Rokia Traoré (ML)

The daughter of a diplomat, Rokia Traore travelled with her family across Africa and Europe as a child and soaked up influences from Algeria, France and Saudi Arabia into the music of her native Mali. Inspired to play guitar after hearing her brother’s Dire Straits and Pink Floyd records, Traore followed the traditions of the griot (an African type of troubadour) but developed a smooth, soulful vocal style punctuated by great, impassioned wails and cries. Singing in French, English and the West African language Bamako, she started performing regularly while at university and toured with Ali Farka Toure before releasing debut album Mouneissa in 1997. Mixing the hypnotic rhythms of Africa with electric guitar riffs and ancient instruments, her follow-up Wanita (2000) was named as one of the critics albums of the year by the New York Times and Bowmboi (2003) won her a BBC3 World Music Award.

Recognised as a leading star of African and World Music, Traore took part in Damon Albarn’s Africa Express project in 2012, played with Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones on the soundtrack to the play Desdemona and worked with PJ Harvey’s producer and guitarist John Parish on acclaimed fifth album Beautiful Africa (2013).

On July 8 she will perform at Jazz by the Sea for the 40th edition of Copenhagen Jazz Festival.

Rokia Traoré (ML) – Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2018
July 8, 8:00 PM, Jazz by the Sea / Kulturhuset Islands Brygge – Read more / Buy tickets


Hailu Mergia (ET)

The life of Hailu Mergia is the story of an incredible comeback: The Ethio jazz legend was forced into exile by the dictatorial regime in Ethiopia who was hostile to the music and ended up driving cabs for almost 30 years.

Now, Hailu Mergia’s amazing account is finally coming full circle: After the blogger, DJ and label owner Brian Shimkovitz had tracked down Mergia in Washington DC (by far the biggest Ethiopian community outside of the motherland), he brought out three fantastic reissues of the keyboardist’s older materials. The maestro started to perform publicly again late in 2013 with sold out venues and amazed fans over three continents. Now Awesome Tapes From Africa, Shimkovitz’ imprint, is releasing “Lala Belu”, Mergia’s long-expected comeback album of all new music. The album has received amazing reviews by Pitchfork, The Guardian and All About Jazz.

Hailu Mergia (ET) – Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2018
July 11, 9:00 PM, Huset-KBH – Read more / Buy tickets


Majid Bekkas (MA)

For two nights at Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2018, Moroccan guembre player and vocalist, Majid Bekkas, will perform together with two of Sweden’s most recognized jazz musicians, Goran Kajfeš and Jesper Nordenström, and the Danish jazz giant Stefan Pasborg. Even though Majid Bekkas knows his guembre to the fullest, he also has a classical music upbringing and is a professor at the music conservatory in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

Trumpeter Goran Kajfeš draws influences from many different corners of the jazz genre, which can be heard through his African and Middle Eastern inspirations combined with his take on futuristic jazz and classical minimalism. His album “X/Y” was hailed by The Independent as Jazz Album of the Year in 2011. Jesper Nordenström is a true master of the keys and Stefan Pasborg is one of the most acclaimed drummers in Denmark.
The meeting between these four musicians in Jazzhus Montmartre is a unique chance to experience an unorthodox constellation that is sure to surprise you.

Bekkas/Kajfeš/Nordenström/Pasborg: Magic Spirit Quartet – Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2018
July 10 + 11, 8:00 PM, Jazzhus Montmartre – Read more / Buy tickets


Copenhagen Jazz Festival’s international headliners also include Pharoah Sanders, The Roots, Brad Mehldau Trio, Jeff Beck, Mulatu Astatke, Seu Jorge, Carla Bley, Melody Gardot, Tower of Power, Charles Lloyd & The Marvels feat. Bill Frisell, Kurt Elling feat. Marquis Hill, Monty Alexander Trio, Richard Galliano, Enrico Pieranunzi, Judith Hill, Gilad Hekselman, Meschiya Lake, Tank and the Bangas, Christian Sands, Michel Camilo & Tomatito, Guinga and many others.

The grand 40th edition of Copenhagen Jazz Festival takes place on July 6-15 at 120 venues all over town. Check out the announced concerts and plan your very own festival at