They describe their sound as ‘Turkobilly’ – a fusion of Turkish and hillbilly music – but there is more to the Brickwork Lizards than that.

One of the most unusual, talented and eclectic acts to have emerged from Oxford’s rich musical melting pot, Brickwork Lizards are unlike anyone else.

Their music conjures up images of Egyptian cafes and Syrian souks, of gypsy campfire sessions, raucous Russian reunions and klezmer-fuelled wedding knees-ups. Yet it’s also very ‘Oxford’.

“The band’s sound has been described as world music and, of course, tagged as ‘Turkabilly’ – but that doesn’t do justice to the full range of musical styles and influences,” explains guitarist Spencer Williams.

“There’s also rap, ‘speakeasy’ swing jazz, Balkan gypsy, klezmer, vaudeville, psych-rock, country and other Middle Eastern traditions. The list goes on.

“Our sweep of influences is so wide, you’d struggle to sum the band up. It’s fair to say that Brickwork Lizards might exist in a genre of one.

“Ours really is a world of music: a globe-spanning, genre-defying blend of traditions and fusions from various points in time that, over the 13 year lifetime of the band, make up the entity we know now.”

Like all good things, the band came together as a result of good luck and perfect timing – beginning with Tarik Beshir – who plays an Arabic lute called an oud – moving from Egypt to Oxford in 2004.

A chance meeting with singer and rapper Tom O’Hawk a few months later saw him playing at Tom’s open mic night at the Turf Tavern.

Spencer takes up the story: “Tarik and Tom got talking after the session and had one of those ‘bromantic’ moments when they realised they were both huge fans of the 1930s harmony group The Ink Spots – so much so that they decided to start meeting up regularly to listen to and learn to play Ink Spots songs. And that was the start of it all.”

The band started playing in mid-2005 with Tarik, Tom and Garry Curran on guitar. A couple of months later, and just in time for the band’s first gig, they were joined by Louisa Lyne on cello and Dan Glazebrook on percussion.

Bruce Douglas joined on bass guitar and additional percussion a year or so later.

In 2008, Andrew Mack joined on drums and Garry left the band, being replaced by Johnny Hinks on guitar until 2010 when he also left and Spencer took over.

Steve Preston, who had made the odd guest appearance on trumpet, also gave in to pressure and joined the band for good, playing both trumpet and keyboard.

Bruce moved onto percussion to support Andrew’s drums, and in 2012, Ian Wilde joined as bass guitarist – leaving in 2014 to be replaced by Malachy O’Neill on double bass.

Spencer continues: “As the band had the beginnings of a string section with cello and double bass, introducing violin was an obvious next step so in 2015, Sophie Frankford came on board.”

Sophie is currently in Cairo, with her place reserved by violinist Jules Smith. The pair will continue to share violin and viola duties.

Guest artists include Dan Glazebrook on conga and percussion, Giles Lewin on violin and dancer Aimée Payton.

On Friday, the collective convene to perform the new album Haneen – the follow-up to previous outing Zaman.

“The new album has been five years in the making,” says Spencer. “It’s taken this long to select the tracks, hone the arrangements and get eight people – plus guest musicians – into a studio for long enough to do justice to the songs, some of which had been played live for a year or two before.”

He goes on: “The album’s title Haneen translates as a feeling of nostalgic yearning.

“It essentially means ‘longing’ which is the underlying theme of the album. Between original material we’d written, and rearranged and re-imagined covers, the album pays homage to great traditions, some of which have almost completely disappeared. Songs like the Ottoman Hijaz Zeybek and Hijaz Mandira, Yah Rayah, which is a re-imagined Algerian classic warning citizens of the dangers of emigrating to the ‘promised land’ of France, and some that hardly get written these days, like the slow ballad-esque album closer Old Fashioned Song.”

There’s also a version of a song popular in Shakespearean England called The Food of Love, first recorded by the band as part of a project to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.

“It’s a song which was sung by the crowd when condemned prisoners were brought out to be hung,” Spencer says. “It was a very popular hit at good hangings!”

He says the album had an underlying theme of rebelliousness and uprising – partly prompted by the Arab Spring and other world events.

“There’s a more expansive sound to this album,” he goes on. “There are more instruments and new people and the breadth of influences which have come into the band has changed too.

“Before we were rigidly 1930s-40s Arabic, but now there’s stuff from all over the place, even Peru.

“The core of the band is still Tarik’s vocals and oud, but we’ve all brought our own ideas and are definitely a world band.”

The band will play the album in its entirety.

“It’s the kind of thing bands do when they’ve been on the road for 20 years,” he laughs. “But people will be able to hear it how it’s meant to be heard. It’s not a concept album but the way it is sequenced is important. There will also be one or two old favourites and new songs which will feature on the next album, which at this rate will be out in another five years!”

The show, which will also feature some guest artists, follows a spectacular concert at St Giles Church, Oxford, last month. The gig, the finale of the popular Jazz at St Giles series, saw them packing out the church, with outbreaks of dancing in the aisles to their radical re-imaginings of courtly dances of the Ottoman sultans, Cairo cafe music and English hanging music.

“Even if people don’t know the tunes, the rhythm and music is joyous,” says Spencer.

“That’s the attraction... it’s got a timeless appeal – and is impossible to resist. We always enjoy getting people up and dancing.”

* Brickwork Lizards launch their album Haneen at The Bullingdon, Oxford, on Friday. Tickets from