WOMAD Festival, Charlton Park 23-26 July 2009

Womad 2009

Ive been going to Glastonbury on and off since the 80s and used to go to the Leeds festival but am ashamed to say that this was my first WOMAD. Lee suggested it. Matty and Sally are 6 and 4 and my ex iona was taking my eldest Marisa (12) so why not.

We got there on Thursday, set up the tent in the rain, which then passed leaving a lovely rainbow that appeared to come out of the Charlton Park stately home of the Earl of Suffolk. We were camping with Marisa and her mum, Andy, Ana Luisa and their kids Valantina and Agustin, Mariella (ALs sister) her twins Gaby and Matty and their friend and Derek and his daughter Roshni Between us we had all we needed to camp comfortably.

Womad 2009

Thurs night saw Jamaican stalwarts The Skatalites play a wonderful set of Ska favourites to a bouncing crowd. Guns of Navarone, Simmer Down and Youre Wondering Now were particular highlights.
Womad 2009 skatalites

We managed to bounce away the night with Sally and Matty on our shoulders…..

Womad 2009 kids

Friday saw the arrival of WOMAD gurus Guy and Claire, our London pals who we never get to see enough. We started with a trip round the kids field where Sally and Matty had their faces painted, played on crocodiles made of old tyres and harnessed their juggling and Diablo skills.

Womad 2009 facepainting

I nearly got the hang of juggling with clubs Sledge could do it already! In the main arena, we had a go on the dodgems in the steam powered fair Matty is a mental driver!

Womad 2009 dogems

The music began with Los Desterrados who play Judeo-Spanish music from Jews who were exiled from Spain This is a 12th Century love song lively stuff but after a few tunes I had itchy feet.

Womad 2009 Los Desterrados

The beauty of WOMAD is that everything is just a short walk away (unlike Glasto where you can be a good hours walk from where youd like to be). So off to the main stage where Victor Deme had us all dancing with his Burkina Faso tunes.

Womad 2009 victor deme

It was so hot by now that I had to buy a cowboy hat to keep the sun off my neck (only a fiver). This was followed later by a long coat from the Oxfam shop (only a tenner) for that full-on Clint Eastwood look! Another nice touch was seeing our landlord for the week end the Earl of Suffolk and his good lady wife say hello, describing the festival as the most exciting thing that’s happened to them.

Womad 2009 earl of suffolk

My favourite stage was the BBC Radio 3 stage, which was just outside the arena in the woods. Hanging out under the trees to escape the sun we blissed out to Parisian Chanteuse, Hindi Zahra, who gave a low key chilled out acoustic set.

Womad 2009 Hindi zahra

The Songlines tent was next to the stage. At a previous Glastonbury Id met one of the owners whos the cousin of my mates Andy + Amber. A quick text exchange told me he was called Paul and so I introduced myself and had a good chat. Sally got some Helium balloons and I got the latest edition of Songlines with a CD featuring Ali Farka Toure in Andy Kershaws kitchen cant wait til hes back on the radio!

Ethiopian music was represented by Dub Colossus who were hard to characterise but had the Big Red Tent rocking.

Womad 2009 dub colossus

The last act I saw before retiring with the kids for the evening was Dennis Bovell and his Dub Band. The man behind LKJs forces of Victory has to be given some respect. Guy and I were soaking up the sun and the vibes whilst dancing our socks of. In the 80s we invented something called Lovers Rock

Womad 2009 dennis bovell

Lee went out in the evening and saw Solomon Burke who was apparently on top form! I managed to get to sleep when the kids did and so had a lovely long sleep.

Having enjoyed the end of Victor Demes set the day before, we started Saturday with his more chilled out set at the Radio 3 Stage for the midday kick-off. We were informed that this was his last engagement on a 15 month tour, but not by Victor whos English extended to We love you like many of the acts, French was his preferred language.

Womad 2009 victor deme

On our way to the big red tent we bumped into Vicky Beere, the trombone player I raved about from the cuban big band. Hope it won’t be too long before I hear her play again

Womad 2009

In the Big Red Tent next was one of my favourite acts of the week-end, Zimbabwes Zambezi Express. Its a show that was condensed from a stage production featuring traditional Zulu dancing, township jazz and spectacular skipping rope tricks (somersaults and leap-frogging whilst skipping!). Wonderful stuff.

Womad 2009 zambezi express

We got a taste of Etran Finatawa from Niger (a mix of artists from two conflicting tribes) before seeing the virtuosos that are Spiro. Intricate folk music, that sounds like trance, as the instruments weave around each other. The guitarist had the longest fingers Ive ever seen dont imagine theres a chord he cant play.

Womad 2009 spiro

We popped in to see Rachel Unthank & the Winterset on our way back to the tent to get the kids fed and watered. As a lover of the Geordie accent I thought Id love them but didnt make it to the end of their set maybe I was a bit far back..

Womad 2009 rachel upthank

Lee and I were both keen to see Peter Gabriel so decided to take Matty and Sally down to the arena in our wheel barrow and stake out a spot infront of the mixing desk. Oumou Sangare was on, berating the crowd in a good natured way If you laugh at my English I go.

Womad 2009

Had a quick look at Ana Luisas favourite act Orishas (Gorgeous Cuban men!) who do hip hop with a Latin tilt. She swears though, that she wasnt the one who threw her knickers up on stage One of them picked up the thongs and put them on over his trousers said Sledge and he still looked cool!

Womad 2009 orishas

As Peter Gabriel came on, Matty fell asleep in the wheelbarrow and Sally underneath it wrapped in coats. Claire & Guy and Iona & Marisa joined us as we made a human shield around them which was lucky when the Steve Hackett look-a-like guy in front of us collapsed backwards in a drunken stupor before being led off by his mate.

Womad 2009

PG started a bit slow plugging his new Scratch my back idea where he gets an artist to cover one of his songs and he covers one of theirs. This ones by a young artist called Paul Simon and he did Boy in the bubble accompanied by a bank of strings and lots of bubbles from the audience. He then did a Magnetic Fields track. Hope he does Salisbury Hill says Iona. I wrote this one on a hillside says Pete Was it Salisbury I shout. This one features a cat Was it called Salisbury?

Womad 2009 peter gabriel

After a slow start his set picked up with Steam No self control Red Rain Games Without Frontiers and introduced San Jacinto with a story of its American Indian roots. As ever PGs visuals are always worth watching. The stick people background to the wonderful Big Time was hilarious and the heat camera visuals were rather creepy. And yes he did do Salisbury Hill whilst skipping in a Morris dancing stylee with his band following behind.

Womad 2009 peter gabriel

The concert was to promote his Witness.org charity that supplies video cameras and mobile phones to parts of the world where human rights are abused so locals can film whats going on and post it on the net. One such lady was Natalia Estemirova, a Chechen who had posted 2 films and was murdered two weeks ago. Her picture adorned the backdrop as he started his final song Biko, a song that never fails to raise the hairs on my arms. Thankfully the kids stayed asleep and we wheeled them back still Ho-Ho-HoooooooNah-Nah-Nah-Nahing to Biko.

Womad 2009 peter gabriel

Sunday started overcast but dry. We caught some fab Cajun tunes care of Sarah Savoy & The Francadians that had us all dancing around. I was taught the chords for Sex pistol tunes and Black Flag and realised theyre the same as Cajun ones. Sarah graphically described what these Creole songs were about and slipped in a couple of Hank Williams numbers for good measure. She even did a cookery spot later in the day showing how to make Jambalaya at the Taste the world tent.which I never got to maybe next year.

Womad 2009 sarah savoy

Next up on the main stage was the awesome Che Sudaka who are from Barcelona via Columbia and Argentina. A mad performance had us jumping around like madmen Guy showed stamina of someone half his age as his high stepping dance and Richard Jobson-esque kicks brought admiring stares from all around.

Womad 2009 che sudaka

Then the rain started and didnt stop until Monday morning. I met up with Marisa & Iona and Derek & Roshni at the front of StylOStyl 3 dancers who were classically trained as well as doing break dancing, and 3 musicians playing some wicked grooves. Some of it was a bit too freeform jazz for me but the dancers couldnt be faulted even their sweaters were cool (well, they are French).

Womad 2009  styl o styl

We then had a wander, got the kids a bubble sword and let the run riot whilst listening to Mec Yek.

Womad 2009

Saw an interview with The Ethiopiques talking about their beginnings in military bands I was in Haile Selassies body guards band. As the rain poured, 17 Hippies raised spirits with a mix of Germanic-Balkan craziness that reminded Iona of the Pogues in their hey-day.

Womad 2009 17 hippies

We hung around for the start of Nneka before heading back with the kids. It was Lees turn to stay home so after a chapter of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (my Rip-Tear-Kill! was a bit too much for Matty who woke scared in the early hours) I put on some dry clothes, waterproof pants and was back out again.

Caught some of Youssou NDour who was very good and very funny before hitting the fair again with Agustin we went for the biggest scariest ride and screamed like girls the whole time great fun!

Womad 2009 youssou n dour

One thing I always hope for at a festival, is that Ill bump into someone I know, but didnt plan to. This happened as I walked passed a guy I recognised and he looked at me twice Youre Samba arent you! Samba was the pal of the guy who scolded his foot at Glastonbury. Apparently he had it dressed at the hospital and they sent him back.

We popped in to see Roy Ayers but quickly left when we realised it was Jazz-fusion.not our favourite.and caught Ba Cissoko from Guinea on the Radio3 stage who was AWSOME! Driving Kora to a dub bass had me jumping around again. The last song had a heavy metal kora solo never heard anything quite like it must find some stuff by these guys!

Womad 2009 ba cissoko

Agustin was exhausted so Sledge took him home whilst I checked out The Ethiopiques intrigued having heard the interview I got to the front..and about 12 white French guys came on playingJazz-Fusion (!). So off I went exploring bits of the site Id not done yet including an African drum stall. Had a great chat with the owner and was very close to buying one. Id been entranced by a guy playing a calabash earlier in the festival with just his hands and a shakey egg, but I was down to my last few quid

The last act I saw was again one of my faves Darbar Morchang Party were 5 guys from the Thar desert in Rajasthan (a place where Ive slept under the stars). The 3 in the middle played Jews harps in a Trance like fashion with a Mridangam player and their super serious master playing some clacky things. I could have listened all night.

Womad 2009 Darbar

Back to our huge tent, where we sat inside chatting and drinking til the wee hours. Sledge became my favourite science guru as we talked sewage Did you know that now we have nice beaches by not pouring our sewage into the sea, there are less fish in the North Sea and cleanliness Supermarkets insist that the Veg on the shelves has only a certain amout of micro organisms on it which means lots of washing and waisting of energy, when the cheese in the same supemarkets has much higher levels in it wheres the sense in that!

Packing up Monday morning there was none of the panic to leave the site early that you get at certain other festivals. I was quite sad to leave but I will definitely be back next year can I get my ticket now?

Bob the Chiropodist

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