A leading festival should speak for itself, Amsterdam Roots Festival does that through different languages and a variety of styles of music from all over the world. Through this fascinating pallet of diversity, it creates an image of our global society, both here and abroad. The festival presents artistic talent emerging from the exciting middle ground between tradition and innovation. It is especially in this overlapping area that cross-overs between cultures and styles spark to life.

The Amsterdam Roots Festival is a festival with a long history of big names, innovating collaborations and an ever-increasing public. In the 35 years of the festivals’ existence it has grown in its diversity and has become one of the most intriguing and exciting music festivals in the Netherlands.

In 1983, the first Africa Roots Festival took off in the Melkweg, a pop venue in Amsterdam, as a ‘festival for inspired music lovers’. The concept of world music did not yet exist, but in the inner circles stories started to circulate about exciting and danceable African pop music. Slowly the names of the musicians, such as: Fela Kuti, Franco, King Sunny Adé, Salif Keita, Manu Dibanga became household names. Artists that were already reaching millions of Africans.

In 1987, as part of, Amsterdam Cultural Capital, the Amsterdam Roots Meeting ’87 took place: A big scale event throughout the city with music from all over the world. As a result, this festival, reached a new audience: the foreign locals of the Netherlands. It could no longer be denied that; the world music that is so popular in other parts of the world was now becoming known to the Western listeners.

From this, the first World Roots Festival evolved: a musical journey through the most diverse cultures and styles. In ten years, World Roots has taken place at various locations: besides the Melkweg, the Concertgebouw has also offered a stage for ‘non-western’ artists and in the Vondelpark open air concerts were held, until 1998. The decision was made to merge the program of the World Roots Festival, the Sugar & Spice program of the Holland Festival and the Tropen Instituut into a new festival: the Amsterdam Roots Festival.