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Llais Festival 2024 announces first wave lineup

Wales Millennium Centre (WMC). Credit: Matthew Horwood

A LIFE ENHANCING LINE-UP OF GLOBAL VOICES is set to make waves on CARDIFF BAY as WALES MILLENNIUM CENTRE announces first confirmed acts for LLAIS (9–13 October 2024) – one of the world’s most unique festivals dedicated to the instrument that we all share – THE VOICE

All those craving connection and a joyful, enriching experience this Autumn are invited into the halls and spaces of one of the finest auditoriums in Europe to escape into CATE LE BON’s crackling musical brain, transcend earthly bounds with GANAVYA’s South Asian incantations, or get lost in hypnotic desert grooves of Somali icon SAHRA HALGAN. From the a cappella harmonies of SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK and the microtonal majesty of LE MYSTÈRE DES VOIX BULGARES to a quarrymen’s choir accompanied by instruments fashioned from slate and oak… IT CAN ONLY BE LLAIS.

This year, we proudly present LLAIS as part of CARDIFF MUSIC CITY FESTIVAL (27 September – 20 October 2024), a city-wide extravaganza bringing three boundary-pushing weeks of gigs, immersive happenings, residencies, installations and pop-ups to all parts of Cardiff. CARDIFF MUSIC CITY FESTIVAL is supported by the Welsh Government and Cardiff Council.

Llais Festival Highlights:

  • UK PREMIER of a very special performance to launch her seventh studio album by sonic alchemist CATE LE BON
  • Rare live performance by JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN performing songs from her forthcoming new album
  • Transcendental jazz and ambient experimentalism from New York-born and Tamil Nadu-raised vocalist GANAVYA
  • Hypnotic desert rock from Somali singer and freedom fighter SAHRA HALGAN
  • Acappella legends SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK join the festival for their only UK appearance in 2024
  • LE MYSTÈRE DES VOIX BULGARES returns with “Voices and Strings” in collaboration with composer Georgi Andreev and Quarto Quartet.
  • Grammy-nominated Irish sean-nós vocalist IARLA Ó LIONAIRD joins forces with pianist and composer CORMAC MCCARTHY
  • TAFOD ARIAN (Silver Tongue) – lost hymns, a celebration of the roots of Welsh sacred music and a 50-date chapel tour led by folk singer LLEUWEN
  • A CELEBRATION OF BAY JAZZ – The Butetown Bay Jazz Heritage Festival returns after a 12-year absence to celebrate its 15thanniversary
  • LE GATEAU CHOCOLAT – Negro-Spirituals and Black Queer excellence with the  opera singer and cabaret diva like no other
  • COLORED: THE UNSUNG LIFE OF CLAUDETTE COLVIN – an immersive experience adapted from Tania de Montaigne’s account of teenage bravery and defiance in segregation era America
  • THE WELSH MUSIC PRIZE will once again be a part of this year’s festival with a celebration of Welsh music made over the past year

Wales Millennium Centre’s Chief Creative & Content Officer, Graeme Farrow said: 

“Fittingly for a venue situated on the edge of a harbour that has for centuries rung with voices from across the world, the richly diverse and global line-up assembled for this year’s festival celebrates the incredible versatility of the human voice and its power to move and heal.”

“The perfect expression of the inscription cut so boldly into the copper facade of the Wales Millennium Centre that speaks of an industrial past, a poetic soul and a shining future, Llais says so much about who we are and who we could be.”

“With the audience sing-alongs which have become a much-loved feature of the festival, and those thrilling moments of planned and serendipitous communion between artists – often meeting for the first time – it is becoming clear that Llais is as much about congregation and connection as it is about the voice.”

“This year we’re thrilled to be part of Cardiff Music City Festival – together we are redrawing what a festival can bring to audiences across three inspiring weeks of innovative and joyful experiences that pay homage to our vast musical landscape.’’ 


The first wave of artists features three fearless female voices, who have each carved out distinct musical trajectories. Sonic visionary CATE LE BON returns to Wales from her Joshua Tree home to play selections from her back catalogue and songs her forthcoming new album – a cosmic dreamscape born of lockdown isolation, conceived in the remote desert and recorded (largely by herself playing each instrument) in a terraced Cardiff house with long-term collaborator and co-producer Samur Khouja. The stellar producing talents of this highly idiosyncratic writer, singer, performer and multi-instrumentalist are in demand from such leftfield luminaries as St. Vincent, Wilco, Devendra Banhart and John Grant. For this very special live performance in the majestic Donald Gordon Theatre, she will be collaborating with opera director ADELE THOMAS. For 30 years, JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN AKA Joan Wasser has carved out a singular career, as a session musician, creative foil and serial collaborator with artists including Anohni, Rufus Wainwright, Sufjan Stevens, Daniel Johnston and Lau. Crossing musical genres effortlessly, Joan Wasser’s music has been described as “soulful adventurism – a voice so wondrous and moving it makes everyone else’s seem ordinary and mundane” (The Guardian).  This rare appearance sees Joan Wasser performing songs from her forthcoming new album in the Donald Gordon Theatre and will be supported by ISLET, the Cardiff-based quartet known for their genre-bending sound and joyful live shows.

Musician and cultural icon from Somaliland, SAHRA HALGAN is also a self taught nurse, who earned the name ‘Halgan’ – The Fighter – during the brutal war against the dictatorship in the 1980s. An uplifting yet reverent mix of Afrobeat, Tuareg and Ethio-jazz, Halgan’s music is filled with the soul, courage and love that has defined her eventful life and made her an icon in Somaliland. Her infectiously danceable third album ‘Hiddo Dhawr’ (‘Preserve Culture’) is also the name of the cultural centre she founded in 2013. Sahra Halgan will be whipping up a storm in the Weston Studio.


Ancient vocal traditions are revered and reinvented in equal measure throughout LLAIS. GANAVYA’s sun-kissed interpretation of South Asian pilgrimage music singing style left the audience spellbound when she performed as part of the Sault Collective’s feted London show in 2023. Her newly released album “like the sky I’ve been too quiet” produced by British jazz artist Shabaka Hutchings sets Ganavya’s ornate Tamil vocals to breathy woodwind flutes, and the bubbling electronic textures of multi-instrumentalist Leafcutter John. IARLA Ó LIONAIRD’s exquisite and resonant voice has echoed around the worlds greatest concert halls, attracted the likes of Robert Plant, Nick Cave and Sinead O’Connor and graced film soundtracks of The Gangs of New York, Hotel Rwanda and Brooklyn. In a very special performance for LLAIS, one of the foremost interpreters of Ireland’s ancient sean-nós tradition is joined by renowned pianist and composer CORMAC McCARTHY for a very special performance in the intimate and acoustically perfect BBC Hoddinott Hall. The Donald Gordon Theatre becomes experimental soundlab with the Premier of Llwch a Llechi (Dust and Slate) a live audio-visual project by composer and multidisciplinary artist GWEN SIÔN exploring connections between music, landscape, tradition and ritual. This wild sonic adventure features an ensemble of 10 orchestral musicians, one of Wales’ oldest choirs CÔR Y PENRYN (originally formed as a quarrymen’s choir for workers at Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda), and live electronics, including Siôn’s hand-built instruments made from recycled natural materials (slate, oak and yew).


Two legendary a cappella groups from very different global traditions make special appearances in the Donald Gordon Theatre this year: SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK will embrace the audience with their infectious blend of soul, empowerment and the harmonies that have thrilled global audiences for over 50 years. LE MYSTÈRE DES VOIX BULGARES, the internationally-renowned close harmony choir founded over 70 years ago in Soviet-era Bulgaria and revered by artists ranging from Elizabeth Fraser and Kate Bush to David Bowie, will perform cherished favourites and new songs composed for the choir and QUARTO QUARTET by the Bulgarian composer GEORGI ANDREEV.


The LLAIS audience becomes a devoted congregation as the mystic and spiritual dimensions of the human voice resonate through the venues and spaces of the Wales Millennium Centre. In a rapturous  ode to the famed ‘Sing Spirituals’ led by ground-breaking Black American sopranos – Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle at the Carnegie Hall in 1990, the Cabaret venue becomes a church to song as LE GATEAU CHOCOLAT – drag artist, opera diva and cabaret sensation – blurs the lines between spirituality or religion, and the spiritualism of self to deliver a Sunday Service in the Cabaret space, in collaboration with renowned Musical Director Allyson Devenish (NitroVoX).


LLAIS is a place where forgotten stories are unearthed and retold. From the lost traditional hymns to electronic renditions of 19th century “hwyl” sermons, TAFOD ARIAN (SILVER TONGUE)  is a celebration of the roots of Welsh sacred music in the Weston Studio. This visionary collaboration between Welsh musician LLEUWEN STEFFAN and THE NATIONAL EISTEDDFOD OF WALES sees LLEUWEN perform lost traditional Welsh hymns, found in archive of the Museum of Welsh Life, as part of a tour that includes stops at 50 chapels across Wales. Excluded by the all-male hymn book committees of their time, these sacred songs were passed on orally and became lost with time and secularisation. They have been dormant for decades. Until now. COLORED: THE UNSUNG LIFE OF CLAUDETTE COLVIN – an immersive experience specially designed for BOCS, the centre’s dedicated space for immersive experiences and extended reality – adapted from a biographical essay, written by Tania de Montaigne, traces the story of Claudette Colvin Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old Black teenager, who refuses to give up her seat to a White passenger nine months before Rosa Parks.


Founded as THE BUTETOWN BAY JAZZ HERITAGE FESTIVAL by Patti Flynn and Humie Webbe in 2009, the festival takes up residency in the Cabaret space as A CELEBRATION OF BAY JAZZ and celebrates the cultural heritage of Butetown and the musical diversity of Tiger Bay, with artists from a range of genres including local Cardiff legends JACKY WEBBE, LEIGHTON JONES, CHRIS HODGKINSON QUARTET, CIYO BROWN, LILY WEBBE & KIZZY CRAWFORD and LI HARDING.


Taking place in the Donald Gordon Theatre, and featuring live performances from some of this year’s nominees and Triskel award winners, THE WELSH MUSIC PRIZE will once again be a part of the festival with a celebration of Welsh music made over the past year.