Music at Manchester International Festival 2021

Johnny James, Music Editor

A vibrant programme of live music has been announced for the 2021 edition of Manchester International Festival (MIF). Featuring artists from across the genre spectrum – some of them hotly tipped, others legendary – the programme runs from 1st-18th July and spills across the city, from Manchester Central to Cathedral Gardens.

Here we select our top picks from the biennial festival’s live music series, starting with an artist ubiquitously labelled ‘The voice of a generation’: Arlo Parks. A huge hit album, three Brit Award nominations, a sell-out US tour; the 20-year-old singer-songwriter is going places – and coming to Manchester for her largest headline show to date at Manchester Central.

Rooted in Rhyme sees MIF team up with Unity Radio and Manchester Hip Hop Archive for a journey deep into the heart of Manchester’s hip hop underground. The packed line-up takes in everything from urban pioneers to emerging grassroots talent, including DJ Semtex, SVMI, Culps, Lady Ice, Rago Loco and Victoria Jane.

From hip hop to dance. Techno pioneer and Haçienda legend Laurent Garnier joins MIF for the UK premiere of Off the Record, a Gabin Rivoire film about club culture, and the part that Garnier played in it over an extraordinary 30-year career. Both Laurent and Rivoire will be in conversation in a post-screening Q&A with two fellow former Haçienda DJs, Dave Haslam and Jon Dasilva.

From helping to sculpt the 90’s Britpop scene to co-creating the world’s first virtual band, Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz, The Good, The Bad & The Queen) occupies a special place in British music. A longstanding friend of MIF, he returns this year to perform a rare solo set spanning his extensive songbook, including his latest project The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows.

Finally, MIF launches a new collaboration with the pioneering Lagos-based festival Homecoming for a one-night showcase of the most exciting music from Africa, the diaspora and beyond – with Nigerian Afrorave star Rema and hotly tipped Afrobeat act Midas the Jagaban performing live, plus a set from Manchester-based DJ–producer Anz.

Here are our picks