The Passerine to make its debut at Shrewsbury Folk Festival


Refugees and migrant musicians from Sudan, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Israel and India have been named in the line up of a new world music ensemble that will make its debut at this year’s Shrewsbury Folk Festival.

The Passerine band, led by folk duo O’Hooley & Tidow, will present fresh arrangements of new and traditional music that will explore and celebrate diverse world cultures during its premiere on the festival’s Bellstone stage on Sunday August 27.

The musicians involved in The Passerine are:

– Belinda O’Hooley (UK/Ireland) – musical director/vocals/piano/accordion

– Heidi Tidow (UK/Ireland/Germany) – musical director/vocals/foot percussion

– Sarah Yaseen (UK/Pakistan) – vocals/guitar/darbouka

– Shurooq Abu Nas (Sudan) – vocals

– Avital Raz (Israel) – vocals/guitar/tampura/glockenspiel

– Arian Sadr – (Iran) – daf/goblet drum

– Mina Salama – (Egypt) – oud/ney/vocals/nailute/kawala/duduk/kanun/mandolin/udu-drum

– Vijay Venkat – (India) – violin/flute

– Performance poet Dean Atta (UK/Jamaica/Cyprus) will join the ensemble as narrator and relate new and existing work at the performance.

The Passerine, which means songbird, is one strand of the festival’s Room for All project that will celebrate cultural diversity and highlight the plight of refugees and immigrants. Room for All came as a direct response to the racial hatred and opposition to refugees, migrants and other cultures that emerged during the Brexit campaign.

Belinda O’Hooley said: “The musicians have been handpicked by us. We all have a story about how we came to be in England and how our ethnicity has shaped our experiences and lives; whether we were born here to migrant parents or migrated here ourselves.”

Heidi Tidow added: “The Passerine will include stories of flight to safer havens, away from conflict and political oppression, as well as the experience of xenophobia and racial prejudice within the UK. Above all, however, it will be a celebration of the wide-ranging and amazing culture in the UK today.”

Room for All also includes a programme of education and outreach work in the rural county that has relatively little exposure to world music and dance. It is being part funded by a £95,000 investment from Arts Council England. Shropshire Council has awarded the festival a £1,000 Arts Revenue Grant. It follows on from the festival’s successful All Together Now programme that focused on introducing a new audience to world music and dance during 2015 and 2016.

This year’s festival is from August 25 to 28 at the West Mid Showground and tickets are available at

Belinda and Heidi introduce The Passerine: