It was so good to be back at the world of musical wonders that is WOMAD….this year was the 30th Anniversary of the festival which starts on Thursday night if you don’t mind paying a wee bit more. Once again the sun came out. Once again I hardly knew anyone on the bill and once again it tended to be the ‘unknowns’ who shone.
One of my ‘knowns’ was the amazing Linton Kwesi Johnson who was backed by the Dennis Bovell Band. He played a great set including ‘Want fi go rave’, ‘It noh funny’, ‘Fite dem back’, ‘Sonny’s lettah’, ‘Forces of vichtry’……everyone a reggae gem. LKJ was super cool, introducing each track with a bit of banter….most songs seemed to have been written in support of some campaign or other – a wonderful performer, a wonderful man!
The night finished with a New Orleans Brass Band ‘The Soul Rebels’ who evoked a real party atmosphere that our kids liked a lot….
First on the main stage was the SA legend that is Hugh Masekela. He’s got a great sense of humour and when they start playing those Soweto rhythms the crowd just went mad dancing. He got us all to sing along “I’m sure you’re all from Soweto!”.
Southsea islanders ‘Narasirato’ play pan pipes whilst running about like a bunch of mad things – very entertaining….and nothing like the Fast show….
My favourite bit of WOMAD (besides camping with family and friends) is the Workshops where you get to see the acts in a relaxed atmosphere, giving them time to chat about their instruments, playing style ….etc. We saw the ‘Peatbog Faeries’ at their workshop and really enjoyed them. We found out why there are so many fiddle players on Skye, and that their guitarist spent 6 months with Ali Farka Toure learning his guitar style…before chopping the top off a finger in a gardening accident “I can still hold a pick so that’s ok”.
Next up we got to see ‘Hollie Cook’ who’s the daughter of (Sex Pistol) Paul Cook. She spent sometime working with the Slits and had a great stage prescence. The reggae sound she was pumping out sounded like the best 70’s reggae you can think of. Looking forward to getting her album. Maybe she can use the cash to get some new tights 😉
Having seen the Peatbog Faeries already, Sledge and I went to see ‘The Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra’…..loud and trashy but they seemed pretty predictable, so we joined the others at the Peatbog Faeries main stage performance instead for a dance.
Resplendant in their kilts, they pulled of a great set and had everyone jumping around doing reels – great stuff. Then Lee went to get a signed CD and the finger lacking guitarist chatted her up! (according to Lee that is).
We saw a wee bit of the Manganiyar Seduction by Roysten Abel which we heard one wag describe as ‘Slum Dog Celebrity Squares’ before another reggae legend – Jimmy Cliff.
He did a great set of greatest hits that included ‘Miss Jamaica’, ‘Wonderful world, beautiful people’, ‘The harder they come’….etc….etc. He charmed the crowd late into the night. You forget how many great songs he’s done…..a genuine superstar! Got to hear a bit of ‘Seth Lakeman’ on the way back, but the Radio 3 stage was too crowded and I didn’t have the energy to try and get close – “I’ve had my monies worth already!”
The kids love the ‘Steam Park’ with loads of old fashion fair ground rides (and we love them too!). Matty (9) is a bit cautious when it comes to daredevil rides but Sally (7) has no fear at all and wants to go on the scariest straight away!
Our first act of the day was ‘Chrissy Crowley’, a Canadian fiddle player who was broadcast live on Radio 3. They played a bit of the news over the speaker system before she started which brought laughter from the crowd and cheers when good weather was forecast.
‘Vadoinmessico’ were an intense indie band who were obviously deep into what they were doing…..but we needed a drink. Bumped into Barbara at the bar who plays with Ana Luisa in the band ‘Mestisa’. She raved about Raghu Dixit who we’d missed “He was brilliant – I don’t think I’ll see anyone better than him today”. Thus we decided to catch him at his workshop.
We got there a bit early so popped in on another workshop, this one with ‘DakhaBrakha’ from the Ukraine. They spoke through an interpreter and told tales of why there’s so many witches in the Ukraine. What a wonderful sound they made – not heard anything like it before and difficult to describe but the vocals of the 3 tall hatted ladies blended in a way that sent you light headed!
The ‘Raghu Dixit’ Workshop was pretty full so we put out a mat and sat on the floor at the front. Raghu talked about his backing band saying the violin and flute player were classically trained and as such, could always make fills or solo’s for any songs he came up with “They make it so easy. I’ll show you – who wants to play a song?” – I shouted “She does!” and pushed Ana Luisa up. She protested for a wee while then got up and played a Chilean love song……just fab!
Where else would that happen? They went on to do a Metallica cover when a guy asked about their influences….making him come up on stage to sing of course. A great, great set.
The next act again held me entranced in a way I didn’t expect. ‘Kimmo Pohjonen’ is a Norwegian who, it turns out, had played on Fri night with ‘DakhaBrakha’ (Oh how I wish I had seen that!). He plays accordian but like nothing you’ve heard before. For one tune he’d sampled tractor noises and somehow wound them together into a symphony that once again had me picking my jaw off the floor whilst laughing like a drain. He even got an encore – not many acts during the day get one of those!
Next up was ‘Cornershop’ who I love and was really looking forward to….but after a morning of wonders, they seemed like a pedestrian, 4×4 rock band. Everyone had a good dance to “Brimful of Asha” though!
‘Femi Kuti’ rocked the main stage then ‘Ska Cubano’ had everybody smiling (with lyrics like “Mambo, mambo, mambo, mambo, mambo, mambo – ska!” what’s not to like).
Kelma by ‘Rachid Taha’ was one of the first ‘World Music’ tracks I remember being really excited by (did I hear it on Kershaw or Peel? – “It was on mine” Andy informs me). Another Algerian Rai great ‘Khaled’ closed things on the main stage – those beats are so infectious.
Back at the tent we stayed warm with rum and coke and doing Ana’s ‘Penguin Dance’ before heading to see Leeds own ‘Biscuit Head & the Biscuit Badgers’ – members of whom Sledge and Ana Luisa had given a lift down to.
Mollys bar was rammed with party people and we had no chance of getting near the front so stood on tables at the back. Wacky 20’s inspired songs about the love of cheese and David Attenborough had the place jumping……
2 weeks before WOMAD, I’d had a head injury whilst sailing off the west coast of Scotland breaking my cheek bone (if you ever need stitches and you’re on the island of ‘Islay’ – go see Dr Matt at the tiny A+E unit there – he does a great job!). Unfortunately that meant a Hospital apt on Monday which meant leaving on Sunday (“Boooooooooo!”). Thus we were taking down the tent and packing the car until 2ish and had to leave about 7.
We saw ‘Joe Driscoll & Seckou Kouyate’ who are a New Yorker singer songwriter and Guinean Kora player respectively. I hadn’t seen much Kora plaing this year and it’s a sound I love. You surely need more than ten digits to play it properly though…..
I’m also a sucker for Cajun music (the 2-step is a dance I CAN do!). The ‘Pine Leaf Boys’ did a great job at getting the crowd going. We’d seen the accordian players family at a previous WOMAD (the Savoy family) and he was just as entertaining. Had all of us dancing around.
Keb’Mo’ does ever so smooth blues…..smoother than smooth. Again I was really looking forward to him….but it seemed a bit ordinary…..
‘The Barons of Tang’ were completely extraordinary. One song (“a mutant tango”) had the band going wild then suddenly freezing, waiting for the drummer to start again…he meanwhile opened a bag of crisps and slowly ate them, before starting the madness again. Not sure what sort of sax one of the women was playing but it was almost as big as she was.
We ended our festival with ‘DJ Yoda & the Trans-Siberian March Band’. DJ Yoda did a solo set first that scratched discs and videos at the same time – very clever and our kids loved it. Then the band came on to do the horns of dance classics like “Push it” and “Jump Around” live.
And then it was time to go. ‘Orquestra Buena Vista Social Club’ played as we left. I was gutted not to see ‘Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters’ (Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara in his backing band) but there you go – a fab, fab weekend!
Bob the Chiropodist