Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2016 Sept-Oct Contents English marketing wallahs may have manufactured the
term as a genre moniker in the late 1980s, but world
music was arguably born when WOMAD (an acronym
for World of Music Arts and Dance) staged its inaugural
1982 festival in Somerset.
Since its debut at Shepton Mallet’s Bath & West
Showground all those years ago, the Peter Gabriel-fronted
franchise has hosted festivals across the globe — from
the USA to Russia, from Abu Dhabi to Singapore, and of
course most successfully in Australia, as WOMADelaide.
After re-establishing itself at Reading, just a few miles
down the M4 from London, the WOMAD mother ship
returned in 2007 to England’s wonderful West Country,
where it’s now happily ensconced in idyllic surrounds at
historic Charlton Park, near Malmesbury in Wiltshire,
over the last weekend in July.
Located in corners of a leafy and spacious arena, each
of the seven stages creates a different ambience –
from archetypal big festival experience to blissed-out
arboretum vibe. The Siam is housed under a striking
blue marquee, with space inside to swing elephants. The
Big Red Tent is where inveterate dancers head, in the
knowledge that they’ll find acts guaranteed to get their
feet moving, floor space permitting.
In between the tents is the Open Air Stage, which
accommodates the headline acts and can be accessed by
thousands of punters simultaneously. The more intimate
BBC Radio 3 stage – dedicated to the late revered
broadcaster Charlie Gillett - specialises in more esoteric
acts and exotic instrumentation, as exemplified by the
Hanoi Masters of Vietnam and an equally extraordinary
group of throat singers from Tuva, the Alash Ensemble.
Both trios impressed on their first appearances offshore.
WOMAD UK REVIEW
WEST AFRICANS WOW AT WOMAD
There was no problem hearing any of the Friday acts.
Indeed, with the front-of-house sound absurdly loud,
punters straying within 20 yards of the stages were in
danger of being blown away. Veteran US soul singer
Charles Bradley and indie troubadour champion John
Grant, who both drew huge crowds, could be heard half-
a-mile away. (Thankfully, on Saturday the sound situation
had moderated, greatly enhancing the enjoyment of
punters with sensitive ears).
West African-born Spanish chanteuse Buika fared better,
sound-wise, on the main stage on Friday, even though her
performance was decidedly more cranked up than her
concerts at WOMADelaide a couple of years ago. The
multi-piece Grit Orchestra produced majestic music in
praise of the late Scottish visionary Martyn Bennett, in
between feedback of Hendrixian proportions.
In the Siam Tent, Western Saharan desert blues
songstress Aziza Brahim provided a passionate precursor
to the scintillating interlocking electric guitars of a
magnificently taut new Malian act, Bamba Wassoulou
Groove, made up of some stunning young stringbenders
and several former members of the legendary Super Rail
Although West Africans stole the show again on
Saturday, the much anticipated revival of the Songhai
collaboration between Mali’s kora maestro Toumani
Diabate and the Spanish guitar playing brothers Juan &
Josemi Carmona sadly turned out to be an anticlimax.
Not only was the band’s show abbreviated to just half-a-
dozen numbers after a late arrival and set-up, the sound
mix was mediocre at best, with kora unclear and the
entrance of several vocalists missed.
The day had started promisingly for the African
contingent with a well-balanced set from Senegal’s
Diabel Cissokho and his band on the BBC stage. Baaba
Maal’s long-time kora player was followed closely by
some skankin’ reggae from his compatriot Meta Dia on
the Open Air Stage, out front of New York-based band
The Cornerstones. A few hours later on the same boards,
Maal masterminded a characteristically slick 75-minute
show with his well-drilled band that culminated with a
walkabout in the audience. Back at the Beeb venue, a
trio of Malian musicians melded surprisingly well with a
Breton fiddler and other French folk players in N’Diale.
Another of the day’s discoveries (the essence of festival
going) was the drolly named Hackney Colliery Band, who
played a brilliantly arranged and performed combination
of covers and originals, featuring some of London’s most
talented young brass instrumentalists in dynamic unison.
At least twice the size of its Australian offspring,
WOMAD 2016 was an event of Olympian proportions,
boasting 90 artists from 50 nations spanning six
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