From Mashrou' Leila to Marcel Khalife: a guide to all the music at Hay Festival Abu Dhabi

From the electro-pop beats of Mashrou’ Leila to the serene harp of Catrin Finch, the festival is a boon to music lovers, as well as book lovers

FILE PHOTO: Lebanese band Mashrou' Leila performs in Washington, DC, U.S. June 13, 2016.   REUTERS/Yeganeh Torbati/File Photo
Powered by automated translation

Much like its international counterparts, the Hay Festival Abu Dhabi is set to feature a range of performances spanning an eclectic array of music.

The acts chosen to take the festival stage all come with their own stories that creatively express the region’s present and past. With all concerts held in various venues across Manarat Al Saadiyat, here are the key gigs not to miss out on.

Tuesday, February 25

Souad Massi

A pioneer of the region's independent Arabic music scene, Algerian Souad Massi'has always been inspired by the tumultuous events of the region. Her fight for creative expression began while fronting the trailblazing rock band Atakor in the early 1990's.

With Algeria falling into civil war and her politically charged material proving too controversial at home, Massi fled to France and launched her career as a fiercely creative folk singer. Her latest album Oumnia is an affectionate love letter to her homeland and is full of traditional folk songs, with lyrics by Algerian poet Ait Menguelet.

Show runs from 7.30pm to 9pm. Etihad Garden Stage. Tickets are Dh100 from

Mashrou’ Leila

A group that was formed during one evening jam session, Mashrou' Leila are the perfect act for the festival's first late night concert. Established in 2008, the group has gone on to be at the forefront of the Arabic independent music scene with pulsating songs that marry evocative and socially conscious Arabic lyrics, with cutting-edge electro sounds. This is a concert to stimulate the mind and move the body.

Show runs from 10pm to 11.30pm. Atrium. Tickets are Dh50 from

Wednesday, February 26

Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita

Who knew that a harp could rock? This revelation will be one of many at this concert from Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita. It may read as an unusual pairing, but together on stage the duo perform music that is loose, rhythmic and joyous.

Show runs from to 11.30pm. Etihad Garden Stage. Tickets are Dh100 from

Thursday, February 27

Mahmoud, Marcel and I - Concert

Two generations of Arabic music artistry come together for a tribute to a cultural giant. Lebanese singer and oud virtuoso Marcel Khalife will be joined by his son, Bachar Mar-Khalife (on piano and vocals), as they perform songs inspired by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Expect some of the pieces presented in a new way, however, with the younger Khalife leading a young and cracking band of jazz and electro music players.

Show runs from 9.30pm to 11pm. Etihad Garden Stage. Tickets are sold out but you can register your interest on

Friday, February 28

The Silent Party

Rooftop Rhythm's popular silent disco party comes to the Hay Festival for its closing night. The way it works is simple: come down, choose a set of wireless headphones and dance to mix of reggae, Afrobeat and Arab fusion provided by locally based spinners including DJs Dyme, Hiddy and ALLAD.

Show runs from 11pm to 2am. Atrium. Tickets are sold out but you can register your interest on