- Latest Reviews
- Creative Projects
24 - 27 July 2014
As ever expansive, first time sold out in Charlton Park, WOMAD 2014 was taking place, amid blazing sun, it was already being referred to by the repeat festival goers in its midst as a WOMAD of WOMADS, as much for its ability to transport them to far-flung lands via music oozing ambiance and colour as for the calibre of its world-class, world-wide musicians. Visitors looking to learn about cultures formerly unknown to them start by attending gigs performed by native musicians, some on hand made instruments, from lands they’ve never been to, and/or may have enjoyed visiting in the past. Further insights about countries and individual performers are offered via intimate Workshops and Taste the World and All Singing, All Dancing Tents where festival goers are able to enjoy further chances to ‘get up close and personal’ by assimilating background information as musicians speak of their personal histories and that of their countries, tasting home cooked food as groups and individuals prepare and share local dishes and engaging with artists through playing instruments and/or dancing, often, alongside of them, learning new ways of doing all of the aforementioned in the process, affording genuine opportunities for mind expansion, encouraging a greater, world view. Therein lies the true beauty of this annual festival aka global village, its’ ability to dissolve boundaries!
At the beginning, especially if you go on Thursday, the four night festival weekend can feel a bit like school summer holidays, which, though deceptively long at the outset, are soon something you never want to see the end of as you get into stride with them. By festival’s end, you’re already looking forward to next year…Which, you should plan for NOW, as it seems WOMAD may FINALLY be getting the recognition it deserves, thanks to the ceaseless efforts of Peter Gabriel, who co-founded it and, Real World Records, THE world music label, celebrating twenty-five years this year!
Thursday’s WOMAD weekend began with boiling sun as we erected our brand new, factory folded tent hitting the grounds by late afternoon, greeting old friends, the bright blue Siam Tent and Open Air Stage, both standing tall amid porta loos, tea and cake stalls, curry and pizza tents and bars. Above all were the famous WOMAD flags, a fluttering two to one, earth tones in front, sky in back.
Malmesbury School Project with AMJ 7 – 7:45 PM Open Air Stage (UK/Cuba/Colombia/South Sudan) Though it’s a tradition for the children of Malmesbury School to start each WOMAD on Thursday evening with a performance collaborated on with WOMAD musicians, singers and dancers, there was nothing traditional about the program this year. Enthusiasm was the byword in all the children did, singing, at times acapella, dancing exuberantly, displaying musicianship beyond their years, most notably, on electric guitar, with alternating Cuban, Colombian and South Sudan flavours, at times, melded together, making for an amiable, multi-culturally exciting start to WOMAD 2014!
Strolling the grounds of WOMAD, you’re always bound to discover something new. This year there was a brand new stage in Society of Sound, a dome/igloo shaped structure with superb sound quality, courtesy of Bowers and Wilkins, which hosted talks and DJs all weekend long to demonstrate the amazing acoustics of the space, as well as afford glimpses of long playing, spinning history….
Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni ba (Mali) 9 – 10:15 PM) Open Air Stage This rocking group are living their dream and it’s always a dream listening to them! With a group consisting of husband and wife, both of whom sing, wife in beautifully hypnotic fashion, with Bassekou on lead ngoni, brothers, a nephew, sons and loads of rhythmic interaction, the group soared one infectious number after another over the crowd, amplifying their intent with potency and meaning, namely to put their glorious music and ngonis on the map! Their enjoyment when playing is nearly as infectious as their loping, textured music and the delighted crowd cheered them on, getting more and more interactive with the rhythms as their great set progressed. A fabulous opener for what turned out to be a very fabulous WOMAD 2014!
Found us raring to go, but sandy eyed, due to lack of sleep as a woman camped behind us had chosen to chat all night to a captive, one man audience in her tent, one of the built in hazards of camping…Not to be deterred, we made our way cross the festival grounds, down the road towards the historic host town of Malmesbury, crossing a field on the way, leading into a lovely green chine with a bubbling stream, the path of which carries you right into town, via the back of the ancient Abbey. After strolling round, reacquainting ourselves with the old market town and picking up snacks, we hopped aboard a bus with WOMAD cross the front, amid throngs of happy festival goers.
Clinton Fearon – 1 – 2 PM – (Jamaica) Open Air Stage – Originally bassist for Reggae legends, The Gladiators for many years, Fearon has since come into his own, singing in a richly warm, slightly gravelly voice with a knack for personalising whatever he is singing about, while accompanying his words with knowing, intricate guitar styling born of experience. Everyone happily danced along as Fearon and his band lead us through a stirring group of classic tunes, some from his Gladiator days, others personal favourites he and his group rhythmically shared with their reggae loving audience.
Sondorgo – (Hungary) 2 – 3 PM – Siam Tent – These five multi-instrumentalists played at alternatingly rapid and mellow paces, interspersing home influences via tamburitza, the main instrument of which is the tambura, a distinctive sounding, smaller version of the mandolin, and a seemingly endless selection of other, more recognisable instruments, touching on a wide group of styles and genres, skilfully mashing them together, offering the appreciative crowd a stand out style of their own. No wonder they’re known as ‘one of Europe’s most versatile and exciting bands.’
The Good Ones – (Rwanda) 4- 5 PM – BBC Radio 3 Charlie Gillett Stage – Gently lilting, beautifully harmonic music, wafting to their audience straight from their hearts, the four musicians comprising this band truly function as one, creating harmonic music and rhythms as stirring as a cooling breeze on a hot summer’s day. Although one band member broke his foot in the lead up to the trip, he refused to stay home, which was good, as the other three musicians refused to come to WOMAD without him. Standing throughout the concert, he kept time, percussively speaking, by clapping two boots together, which he had on his hands, while singing! This trip marked the first time they’ve ever been out of their country, as well as the first time they’ve ever been in the UK, or, on a plane, and we were fortunate enough to be at their WOMAD debut. Playing together since the ‘70’s, they called themselves ‘The Good Ones’ to remind themselves that there’s still good in the world, after all.
Manu Dibango – (Cameroon/France) 6 – 7 PM – Siam Tent – One of the true fathers of African soul-funk, eighty year’s young Manu Dibango emerged onstage like the true king he is, back-up singers and band ready, and blew his sax, nearly blowing the minds of his devoted audience in the process. Classics abounded, as his regal notes sliced the air, shedding light on his long, illustrious musical career in the process. A true original, who’s cut a path for many younger, not necessarily brighter stars to follow. Dancing was definitely mandatory, as was the long awaited encore, ‘Soul Makossa’!
Goran Bregovic and His Wedding and Funeral Orchestra (Serbia/Bulgaria) – 9:30 – 11 PM – Open Air Stage There were plenty of reasons why we enjoyed this band’s set, number one among them the fact that we couldn’t stop dancing to everything they played, and we had plenty of company of all ages all around us in the ample fields before the Open Air Stage! Tongue in cheek, cheery delivery on each bouncing number from former punk Goran Bregovic sent the message out to his audience - have fun, dance! Balkin music is lively, that’s true, but this band was easily lively enough for two!
Richard Thompson (UK) Siam Tent – 11:00 – 12:30 AM – An enormous crowd over spilled out onto the grass around the Siam Tent in response to this appearance of singer/songwriter and, guitarist extraordinaire Richard Thompson, who was openly, very glad to be back at WOMAD. Thompson’s self-penned songs are drawn from a variety of styles, most notably rock, folk and blues and his lyric writing capabilities are very well regarded too. Bluegrass inspired, ‘Ride’ was a particular crowd-pleaser. Though Thompson’s skilful, diverse set held the appreciative, late night crowd enthralled.
Following a cold shower, I took up a post at a table on the WOMAD grounds, near the Siam Tent, opposite the first set of huge, fluttering flags. A security alert, overheard on a guard’s radio, warned of ‘a hole large enough for a small child’s leg to fit in’ in front of one of the bars, and a female visitor chatted loudly to a loved one via her tablet. The day was reaching full swing, with guests vacating the press camp behind me and a flurry of day trippers flooding onto the already sun-heated arena grounds.
As a seemingly endless stream of young ladies strolled by in a series of sequinned, spangled, figure-hugging eclectic outfits proportionately in keeping with the season, I was feeling decidedly old school, emphasis on old. But any feelings of that ilk were as short as the skirts passing by, as this was Sat. of WOMAD 2014 and there were still two days and nights of music before me!
Peter Gabriel at Society of Sound on 25 Years of Real World Records – 11:30 am – We joined a few members of the press and a large number of festival goers waiting outside of state of the art, brand new, British hi-fi experts Bowers and Wilkins’, Society of Sound Tent to hear WOMAD co-founder (1982) Peter Gabriel, this year celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Real World Records, the label he founded specifically to help world musicians, in conversation with Mark Cole of BBC Radio 4’s The Shed. When Gabriel appeared on the Society of Sound Stage, we joined those applauding him with a sense of gratitude for his years of worthy work well done. In answer to a query about his relationship with Bowers and Wilkins, whom he has been working with ‘since 2006 or 07,’ he stated that ‘a lot of musicians spend their lives trying to make things sound good, and though we love the fact that everything is accessible now, or should be…cost is a factor’. He added, ‘MP3’s…are dissatisfying for a lot of people making the noises, and those who want to get inside the sound…’so it’s great they (B & W) are here with this amazing setup.’ ‘Neil Young in the States is also passionate about the same sort of thing,’ he continued. Cole interjected, confirming that ‘the sound is astounding here.’ Gabriel quipped, ‘I’ll do anything for a good stereo system’, going on to say, ‘Like many musicians we work hard to get things sounding right…the world of hi-fi was a strange world outside of the music-making I was used to.’ Cole asked what we all wanted to know, ‘Is this the future of the festival?’, referring to the crystal clear bespoke sound in the tent, a first for Bowers and Wilkins, not yet available elsewhere, adding, ‘This is so different, ‘citing Reading, ‘when he couldn’t hear what people were saying on stage’. ‘‘It is different’, Gabriel agreed. Recounting the official launch of the music side of Real World in Paris in 1989, Art side in Italy, the same year, Gabriel went on to discuss the ways in which Real World’s recording processes have been ‘non-traditional.’ Rather than have separation between engineers, producers and artists, Gabriel explained, it’s Real World’s practice to have them all co-create in the same space, to ‘remove walls’ between them, so to speak, jokingly commenting that it sometimes ends up as a ‘giant, bring your own studio, playpen’.
Being able to hear an exclusive new track by Gabriel never heard publicly before, entitled, ‘Words with God’ was a genuine pleasure, despite the fact that, by his own admission, he’d forgot to bring the ‘hi-res’ version. In response to the question of when he became interested in World Music, Gabriel cited a Dutch radio station he’d listened to on shortwave, and the intriguing grooves heard there. One thing leading to another, eventually some friends, also into world music said, ‘Let’s try to put on a festival.’ Initially, they ‘lost a lot of money and learned a lot’. By their own admission they also ‘used to ‘highjack artists and get them into the studio right after’. Although today, it may be possible for anyone so inclined to make recordings after a fashion in the privacy of their bedrooms, for Gabriel, ‘there’s ‘still something about getting great musicians in a great space with equipment.’ Things being what they are these days, ‘The (Real World) residential studio is now a thing of the past,’ Gabriel admitted, ‘so it’s been tough’. But, despite the trend towards home recording, a decision we have to make ‘as consumers is whether we think everything should be out there for free’ or the artists deserve some kind of payment. The answer to that should be obvious to those wishing to help support their musical artists of choice.. When it comes to the question of advances in technology, Gabriel had this to say: ‘The first wave can be dehumanising, but the second wave can be super humanising.’ It’s a matter of balancing the idea that you can ‘get anything from anywhere, anytime, which is brilliant,’ and the fact that technology has ‘made it more difficult for little artists and labels’. A young girl’s question of what type of music Gabriel favours was met with the one word answer, ‘good,’ as he went on to explain the ways in which his own musical taste has expanded over the years. Stay tuned… A special, anniversary 3 CD Real World 25 set will be released Sept. 29th!
Siyaya – (Zimbabwe) 12 – 1 PM – Siam Tent – The last portion of this earnest group’s set was animated and, moving enough to make sure we didn’t forget them! Singing, sans instruments, of the realities of being everyday people fighting the good fight, street, in ways we couldn’t possibly understand, yet we were with them, all the way! Hope to catch up with them again someday soon.
Septeto Santiaguero – (Cuba) 1 – 2 PM – Open Air- Full on, seven piece multi percussive, red hot rhythmic band, automatically inspiring hip swaying response. Rhythms, with the vibrant sway of palm trees at their core, tempered with layer after layer of enlivening beats, intermingling in ways that sound both traditional and somehow, new at the same time. The happy crowd fairly pulsated as they played! We had to change our shirts after this set, not just because of the scorching sun!
Amjad Ali Khan with Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan (India) – 2 – 3 PM Siam Tent The great sarod master with his two sons, also on sarod, who by their sound are masters in the making, mesmerised and none of them read music technically, but play, according to their instincts, one presumes, and the resulting music is deeply mysterious and soulful, and never, the same twice, as it is spontaneous! Spontaneity, a beautiful thing in itself, can be all the more profound in music, as it is here. The audience seemed to be carried along on their wave of blissful imaginative meandering, which, lead us back to the place we started by the end, though we were the better for the journey.
Kobo Town – (Trinidad/Canada) 4 – 5 PM – BBC Radio 3 Charlie Gillett Stage – Steel band and calypso are inseparable and the two are intertwined in the music of Kobo Town, infectiousness, squared! After catching part of their set on the Charlie Gillett Stage, and mourning the fact that we’d only caught the end, we happily bumped into them again in the All Singing, All Dancing Tent where they were encouraging dancing, as if anyone needed encouraging when they were playing! Close range, joy all round, welcomed us to the inner circle of Kobo Town’s Calypso/Steel Band sound!
Afrikan Boy – (UK) 5 – 6 PM Big Red Tent – loud, young and brash, stayed a bit, then, made a dash!
Mulatu Askantke (Ethiopia) 7 – 8:15 PM – Open Air Stage – Music full of intrigue and cool edged grooves, sometimes reminiscent of ‘shaken, not stirred,’ 007, attracted Ethiopian music lovers as well as a formerly hidden, trendy set. Coolsters in the making, all of those listening and inventing moves as they did so, matching the man who made the Ethiopiques what they were, an amazing group of eclectic musicians…The intrigue continues with Askante on vibes and the vibes are right for dancing.
Fat Freddy’s Drop (New Zealand) – 8:15 – 9:30 PM – Siam Tent – We found what we heard of this band inventive and decidedly heavy grooved, funky, with jazzy overtones, with traces of rock, but we only caught the end of their set, as we’d been singing and dancing with Kobo Town…Which, we’ll never forget!
Youssou N’ Dour et la Super Etoile de Dakar (Senegal) 9:30 – 11 PM – On the Open Air Stage before a massive crowd, Youssous N’ Dour was in fine, strong voice, as it carried across the grounds, stirring our ears at the back of the crowd, before diffusing into the night air. Songwriter, singer, percussionist, sometime actor, politician; in short, a true champion…We have fond memories of N’Dour, as a young man in a white robe, with a couple of other musicians, doing a stunning gig at Chestnut Cabaret, a venue which holds 200 people at best, in Philadelphia in the mid-90’s, knowing then that he would be a huge star. It’s happened and it’s still obvious his stardom is well warranted.
Elemotho – (Nambia) 11:15 – 12:30 am – BBC Radio 3 Charlie Gillett Stage – Elemotho and his band’s set was recorded for BBC Radio 3, much to his delight, as he played his guitar and, the audience for all it and, they were worth! Elemotho’s English was great, his personality, large and sunny - ‘oh, the love, the love’…’First time in the UK, you know, officially,’ the latter statement of which drew a big laugh from the crowd. It was really exciting being in the audience that night, as we were right down front, and we could see Elemotho and his band’s show close up and share their great joy at being there. Not one to shrink from social comment, ’The System is a Joke’ was about the corrupt government system in his country, though it could well stand in for that in any number of others…Another socially aware song, ‘Dose of Reality’ was precluded by Elemotho proclaiming ‘Love is the answer, hate is the cancer’ before warning us when there was going to be one swear word in the song, adding that it was necessary in that case. I couldn’t have agreed more, given the song’s subject matter, though by contrast, the song had a light, reggae beat. Solid cheering by the end of Elemotho and his band’s flute enhanced, rock influenced set. ‘Good to be here,’ respect…’
Cinton Fearon – (Solo) (Jamaica)– 12:30 – 1:30 am – Siam Tent – As we’d enjoyed Clinton Fearon’s roots reggae set with his band on the open air stage on Friday, and there were so many artists to see, we decided to forgo Fearon’s solo set, but by happy accident, wound up seeing and, loving it anyway! The only potentially unhappy part of that accident was that as I’d crossed my wires the night before, due to tiredness, we’d missed Seckou Keita with harpist, Catrin Finch, whom we would have loved, having savoured Keita’s sublime playing at Brighton’s first and only ‘annual’ Kora Festival a few years ago. That said Fearon steadily rocked the house with only his guitar for company, sending the crowd out into the night air with relaxed smiles on their faces. After watching and, loving his sets with his band and his solo set, I have to say that Clinton Fearon is now one of my musical heroes!
Art in the Arboretum, Greenpeace, wandering, wondering…Wandering over to the Arboretum on Sunday morning, we decided to check out the Art side of WOMAD and were left bemused. What was Neville Gabie intending with his ‘Experiments in Black and White’? At any rate, the films, looping on outdoor screens had a swing, attached to a tree between them, and festival goers were taking advantage of that, and it was novel seeing a film of a man in a black suit, pouring white paint into buckets, splashing it all over in the process, with a mirror image film of him in white, pouring black…In addition to Gabie’s artistic experiments, Greenpeace had a tent in the Arboretum area, with moving accounts, told by the activists who’d experienced them, of the strong arm of the law coming down on those who begged to disagreed and sought to peacefully protest against issues adversely affecting our environment – a real eye opener, in more ways than one…The new (to us at least, not having been at WOMAD 2013) was the LOVE sculpture, covered in personalised locks with hearts bearing dedications. Made of red metal, the silvery hearts on the letters sparkled in the sun. Also in the Arboretum was Ecotricity, an energy company utilising wind and solar power, only our attempts to locate an open stall for them proved unsuccessful, possibly because we were too early! We understand Ecotricity teamed up with WOMAD last year and we hope to join them once our present over-priced, fossil fuel based energy contract expires next spring. Till then, batteries abound. Frank Water, with stalls and carts all across the grounds, with cold, clean water on tap and consistently friendly people at the helm were a welcome site all sweltering weekend long, which we gratefully visited time and time again! They’re on an urgent mission we all need to share, namely, ‘to fund clean water projects in developing countries across the world,’ so be sure to invest in a Frank Water bottle as soon as you arrive at WOMAD 2015 and when you do, please spread the word!
The Magnolia Sisters (USA)– 12:00 noon – 1: 00 PM – BBC Radio 3 Charlie Gillett – Louisiana, home of gumbo and a wide variety of great music lent us ‘Cajun Royalty’ in the form of The Magnolia Sisters, three fabulous musicians with a healthy dose of sassy humour in their bayou tinged delivery. Two stepping their way through a fabulously infectious set, full of rhythm and blistering, rocking rolls, the enthusiastic crowd clapped and cheered this Grammy nominated trio on accordion, guitar, bass, fiddle and of course, vocals, sung in Cajun French and English. Staying still was not an option!
The Magnolia Sisters, BBC 3 Charlie Gillett Stage, WOMAD 2014
Photo by John Couzens
The world being a kaleidoscopic globe, when it’s tough to know where to begin, memory steps in. Out of countless memorable moments, before musicians playing Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sun this weekend emerged Madagascar’s Justin Vali and his Malagasy Orkestra on Open Air Stage in a prime, 1 PM Sunday slot. Vali himself described their music in a BBC Radio 3 interview, conducted at the festival as: ‘a meeting of different instruments, different musicians from different parts of the country, from the eighteen tribes, all of them are masters of their own instruments and masters of their own places there. All the instruments played by Malagasy Orkestra are related to the tribes, they’re all different…’No wonder choosing one of Vali and his Orkestra’s many polyrhythmic grooves to move to was the ultimate dancing challenge of the entire weekend! By happy accident, we were treated to a second helping of this group’s fascinating music during a wander, when we re-encountered them later that day playing at Taste the World Tent prior to cooking for a rapt crowd. Having already partaken of some tasty home-cooked samples that morning, we abstained, especially as what we’d heard and seen already had been food enough for the soul…
Another plus to seeing and hearing musicians from far-away places we know not of is the fact that we’re then privy to genuine news related to socio political situations in said places. In Madagascar, Justin Vali described the state of the environment there as a tragic situation, with 90% of their forest gone. The more we hear of so called distant discord in various parts of the world, the more we realize that we are truly, all one people and we must stand united if positive changes are to occur.
The Chair – (Scotland’s Orkney Islands) 2:00 – 3:00 PM – Open Air Stage – This hearty eight piece band congenially filled in during the 2:00 – 3:00 PM slot on the Open Air Stage for delayed Oliver Mtukudzii and the Black Spirits rather than the 11 to midnight slot they were meant to take on the much smaller Charlie Gillett Stage. Following a spirited Scottish reel, the Chair’s humorous front man told the crowd they’d ‘find their houses if they went to John O’ Groats and kept going’, adding that what turned out to be a very lively number he was about to sing next, was ‘about what most Scotch songs are about – people dying and being miserable.’ The bouncing, whooping crowd was anything but before their heady, vibrant mix of fiddles, banjos, accordion and drums, tradition with a twist - bits of klezmer, blues, dub and what have you, as long as it makes for a rollicking mix! Mtukudzii and the Black Spirits late in arriving, wound up filling the closing spot on the BBC Radio 3 Charlie Gillett Stage, which was actually, fitting, as African music has always been such an integral part of WOMAD.
Vincio Capassel & The Post Office Band (Italy) – 5:00 – 6:00 PM – Open Air Stage This rousing band spread spaghetti westernised wedding music across the grounds in front of the stage as audience members swung each other around, yelled, clapped and, literally, kicked up their heels, with many a can-can row in full swing. Talk about mixing cultures! Whenever the band slowed down a bit into one of their heavy, crawling numbers, possibly, their own composition, there were cries for more of the ‘wedding’ numbers they’d been playing, Ramones fast, soppy sentiments and all. Ciao baby!
Procession – A smoke breathing dragon, multi-coloured frog and, flying carrot were just a few among a whole cast of marchers, musicians and characters who entertained the crowd as they made their way across the grounds, drummers, dancers and high steppers in tow.
A WOMAD tradition and one that just keeps getting better and better as more and more people join in and more and more issues, ecological and others are included in the steadily rolling mix, as the crowd claps and cheers!
Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys (Canada’s Prince Edward Island) – BBC Radio 3 Charlie Gillett Stage 6:30 – 7:15 PM As if we hadn’t whooped and gotten down enough for Italy’s Post Office Band, from maritime Canada, Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys, in what turned out to be the grand finale of a six week, international tour, burst onto BBC 3’s Charlie Gillett Stage, with, among many other amazingly executed numbers, their own take of ‘Listen to the Mockingbird’, part cartoon, 100% virtuoso, topped off by MacKeeman’s surprisingly energetic hoofing, a cross between clog and tap dancing! Another particularly rousing number saw agile MacKeeman, foot astride one side of the big bass, contentedly fiddling away, as though representing fiddlers through the ages, appropriate in light of his film worthy life-story, in which he, as young boy, determined to become an expert fiddler took lessons amid a group of elder musicians, in which he jokingly stated, ‘the youngest, apart from me, was in his sixties.’ The cheering crowd gamely danced along to one infectious, furiously paced number after another from Gordie and his Boys, who knocked us out as he rapidly danced across the stage while he and the band played at a dizzying pace. Can’t get enough of that fiddly stuff…!
Les Ambassadors (Mali) 7:15 – 8:30 PM – Open Air Stage This seminal gig was truly, a West African reunion to sigh for, such distinctively unique rhythms and grooves defying anyone within listening range to stay still. With legendary Salif Keita back on the mic, along with other stellar musicians from the ‘golden age’ of both bands he sang with in the ‘70’s and early ‘80’s - Les Ambassadors and Bamako’s Super Rail Band, both of which Cheick Tidiane Seck, also here, played keyboard for, now, multi-instrumentalist for this reformed group, and, Amadou Bagayoga, with them back then, as part of the duo, Amadou and Mariam, joining forces once again.
Grooves rehashed? Not a chance, as this group, along with the other musicians joining them here, served up elevated, timeless classics of a depth and warmth rarely found and we were there, savouring, swaying and celebrating this reunion!
Adrian Sherwood – My Life in Dub - Society of Sound – 8:30 – 9:30PM – A seminal DJ, stirring sound quality on roots tracks, coupled with pulsating, animations, synched to the beats, in an ambient space, lit in soft tones of blue, dancing alongside thirteen year olds, elderly folks and everyone in between, obviously loving the sounds they were moving to. WOMAD’s unified ambiance at its best!
Songboy Blues – (Mali) 9:30 – 11:00 PM – Ecotricity in the Arboretum – As reoccurring foot problems, a hang-over from a debilitating illness which prevented me from attending WOMAD 2013 reared their unwelcome pains on Friday, we’d missed The Jolly Boys from Cuba, the only other band we’d planned on seeing in the Arboretum. That said, all else was forgotten as we connected with this up and coming young band from Timbuktu, following in the footsteps of their forebearers, Tinariwin and more recently, Tamikrest, offering a unique blend of hard rocking music shot through with traditional sounds, creating something new, powerful and uniquely their own. A packed crowd, ignoring initial cries to ‘sit down’ as we all excitedly got to our feet when the group began, dancing along to the entire set of this, by the end of it, smiling broadly group. In all my years of going to WOMAD, I’ve never heard a crowd scream louder at the end of a set, so much so that the announcer couldn’t even be heard, but as we were right up front, we saw him mouthing the words, ‘I’m glad to be at a loss for words.’ Us too and we’re very glad to have been there in the thick of all that happy madness! If this is any indication of their future receptions, Songboy Blues will go very far indeed…
Chorus by Ray Lee – By chance, as we made our way from the Arboretum to the Charlie Gillett Stage, we came upon the final performance by Ray Lee’s other worldly installation, ‘Chorus’, made of metal, lights, sensors and sound modules, spinning like spindly spacecraft, seemingly, calling to one another in the night, via variously resonating and intermittently merging frequencies, their red eye like lights blurring as they spun. The crowd lingering below seemed mesmerised and it wasn’t long before we were too. From what we’ve seen, Lee’s been taking this installation round the country, to festivals and town squares but with nothing but darkness as a backdrop at WOMAD, at risk of sounding biased, we felt that must be the best place for it yet. More art of this ilk please, we’re into alien experiences, the more ethereal the better…
Oliver Mtukudzi & the Black Spirits – 11:00 – 12:00 AM - BBC Radio 3 Charlie Gillett Stage Beauty, power and delicacy co-exist in this strong artist’s music, a musician with 60 albums to his credit and a history spanning the independence and subsequent problems of his native Zimbabwe, right up to the present day.
Melodic guitar, sway inducing rhythms, storytelling vocals, and his own ‘Tuku’ style, forty years on, Mtukudzi only seems like an aging man, as in reality, he and his music are truly, ageless. A very apt way to end a WOMAD we’ll never forget. Hope you’ll be dancing along next year!