About Amsterdam Roots

Ask me where I’m Local

For almost 40 years a lot of different people have come together at the Amsterdam Roots Festival. People from the neighborhood, the city, the surroundings, corners of the Netherlands and beyond. People with all sorts of lifestyles, ages and backgrounds. People who are new to the city and people who have lived here all their lives. Everyone is welcome to enjoy Amsterdam Roots Festival together.

Through music, circus, dance, theater, conversations and spoken word, artists tell their story about their roots. Amsterdam Roots makes a place for traditions and developments from all over the world, but also sees what happens close to home. New generations are emerging for whom it is natural to have roots in different places and to incorporate their roots in their art. Through music, circus, dance, theater and conversations, our artists can tell their story in an environment where everyone feels free and safe to be themselves.


Amsterdam Roots Festival is a festival with a long history of great artists and innovative collaborations. In 1983 the first edition took place in the Melkweg, under the name "Africa Roots Festival". Many artists who had an audience of millions in Africa and little fame in Europe performed here: Franco & OK jazz, Fela Kuti, King, Sunny Adé, Salif Keita, Manu Dibango and Youssou N'dour.

As part of Amsterdam Cultural Capital in 1987, the Amsterdam Roots Meeting '87 took place: a large-scale festival at various locations with music not only from Africa, but from all corners of the world. This gave rise to the first World Roots Festival: a musical journey around the world along the most diverse cultures and musical styles.

In ten years World Roots developed further and new halls and theaters were added. Besides the Melkweg, concerts were organized in the Concertgebouw and the Vondelpark, among other places. In 1998 it was decided to merge the program of the World Roots Festival and the Sugar & Spice program from Holland Festival and Tropentheater into Amsterdam Roots Festival. Since then, Amsterdam Roots Festival takes place annually in different venues and theaters and is grandly concluded with Roots Open Air in the Oosterpark.

In 2017, the format of Amsterdam Roots was expanded, from a world music festival to a multidisciplinary festival with circus, dance, theater and programs that provide more context in addition to music. All these different art forms complement each other and increase the impact. In this way we can do justice to the diversity of stories and bring new experiences to a wider audience. Amsterdam Roots focuses on art forms that are musical, physical and connect audiences such as music, dance and circus and on art forms that tell stories, raise awareness and stimulate conversation such as theater, storytelling, spoken word and in-depth programs.

"The Dutch capital boasts a number of music festivals but none as long-standing, socially inclusive and friendly as Amsterdam Roots (…)” - Jo Frost, Songlines Magazine

Click here for the full article in Songlines Magazine, issue #154, January/February 2020